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How Do You Say “No” at Work?

In today’s fast-paced, high-tech workplace, it seems like employees have much more to do and much less time to do it. When you’re trying to make a strong impression with your employer and co-workers, you may find yourself facing situations where you want to say no, need to say no, yet you hear yourself utter, “Yes.”

You may think you’re being a hardworking reliable employee by being a yes-man, but truthfully you’re setting yourself up to fail. No one can work 24/7 indefinitely. Eventually you will burn out, overlook a crucial detail or become resentful to those around you. Plus, when you can meet these additional expectations, you’re likely to judge yourself pretty harshly.

When you say yes too much, you risk creating a negative spiral. You can be pulled downward in your job satisfaction, production ability and quality of performance. In order to excel, you have to learn how to set boundaries for yourself, keeping you focused on your priorities and your sanity.

How Do You Say “No” at Work? 1

Saying yes may make you seem like an eager, team player, but saying no can be more advantageous to your career. Here’s how you can say no at work, without those nagging feelings of guilt or insecurity.

Take time to consider if you really can take on the responsibility
Tell the requestor you need a moment to check your schedule before saying yes or no. If you keep a detailed list of your current projects, take a long look at what’s on your plate. If you feel that the quality of your priority work will slip if you take on this extra job, you need to consider a “no” response.

Offer alternative aid
If you really feel like you should help out, perhaps suggest a time in the future when you’ll have more available time. Or, perhaps you can assist with one element of the request, but not the whole task. For example, if you work in payroll, and a co-worker asks you to temporarily take on a few clients, offer instead to do one portion of the payroll responsibility instead of taking on the full load. Again, that’s only if you really have the time, and the request is fair.

Keep it short, sweet and face-to-face
Instead of a detailed and lengthy email that could be misinterpreted, try to refuse a request without laying out all of the details of your project list. If you’re saying no to a co-worker, sharing your workload details may be fine, but a supervisor may choose to rearrange your tasks so you can accommodate him or her. Fewer details can help keep you on track. Plus, a face-to-face conversation is more personal than an email and lets them know you are genuinely concerned, but simply can’t help at this time.

Communicate with respect
No matter how overwhelmed you feel, it’s not the requestor’s fault if you say yes when you should say no. Acting out of stress or anxiety is not only unprofessional, it’s unfair. When speaking with a manager, be sure to explain that you don’t want to say no to the assignment, but realistically you know that you can’t take on additional work. You can ask them to help you prioritize, realizing that now may not be the right time for a new project, but the future very well could be.

For many employees, especially those in temporary or temp-to-hire positions, saying no is the last thing you want to do. But remember, for most employers, it’s not how much you do that matters, but how well you do it. If you exceed production goals on a warehouse floor, but are constantly turning in substandard work, how do you think management will respond?

If you’re looking for a new opportunity to grow as a professional, consider contacting Burnett Specialists and Choice Specialists. Give us a call today!