Alex Payne, in Don’t Be A Hero:
If someone is working at four in the morning, something is deeply wrong. Figure out what’s broken and delegate the work out evenly across your team such that it doesn’t happen again. Don’t pat your hero on the back for “pulling another late-nighter”.
Every industry has its heroes. Twice this year, I’ve been approached to do an editorial illustration with a deadline of the next day. Both were easy jobs to turn down, because each time I was much too busy to do them well. But I think there’s another compelling reason to turn down opportunities like this.
Everyone acknowledges that saying no manages the expectations your clients and coworkers have for you. But, saying no also manages the expectations they have of your peers. Each time an illustrator, designer, engineer or programmer says yes to a job with a deadline too short, it raises the likelihood of the client perceiving that sort of timeline as acceptable. Some times they’ll know better. Sometimes they won’t. Regardless, the undesirable outlier can easily become the norm if enough people say yes.
I don’t mean to be ungrateful. I’m very thankful for opportunities. And yes, I know work is scarcer now that it has been in the past. But, that doesn’t mean that we should say yes to work that isn’t right for us. More so, it means we should acknowledge that our tolerance for unsatisfactory circumstances not only effects us, but our peers as well.