No one likes the word ‘no’. No one wants to say it, and certainly, no one wants to hear it. Sometimes when we are in the workplace, there is a pressure to never use the word no. It’s always yes, yes, yes!
This attitude isn’t just exhausting, it’s unrealistic. You can’t always be willing or able to take on new clients, new projects, or new responsibilities – sometimes you need to learn to simply say no.
Here are some ways to say no in the workplace without being hated, judged, or looked down on. It’s okay to say no, sometimes. While you don’t want to always be saying it, sometimes you simply can’t say yes.
Be firm and confident in your no. It is a reflex to be apologetic or overly nice about the situation, but you don’t owe anyone that.
If someone asking you something senses weakness, they might pounce on it. Instead of falling all over yourself apologizing about not taking on a task, be confident but not arrogant. You’ll prevent arguments and save yourself a lot of hassle.
Explain Your Reasoning
No one likes to hear no, but if you don’t give an explanation, you’re going to find the people around you that end up doing the work very annoyed with your actions.
Show your reasoning or the thought process behind your ‘no’, don’t just say no and be done with it. Explain that maybe you have a lot going on with another project, major responsibilities outside of this duty, or something else that you can’t control that won’t let you pick up this work.
You don’t have to be apologetic or awkward when you explain yourself, either. Just be upfront and forward, and most importantly honest. Always give a reasoning for the no, don’t just give a flat no.
You Can Ask for Permission
This is going to sound odd because we’re talking about adults – but in some situations, it may be perfectly acceptable to ask for permission before saying no.
“Look, Boss, you already have me working on X and Y, with Z starting next month. My plate is full, so I would like to turn down this project and focus solely on these that I already have, but if you really think I need to be a part of it, we can make it work. What are your thoughts?”
Be honest and upfront, and put it in your superior’s court. If they insist you take on something, you don’t have much of a choice – but you never had a choice then, either. Any good, reasonable leader won’t give you too much work.
So, you’re stuck not saying no. At least try to bargain your way out of something. There are always tradeoffs in business, so find something that you can shift onto someone else’s plate in you have to take on a big project or new task.
“I see the benefit in me taking on X, absolutely. I also have Y and Z, and I feel I will not be able to properly dedicate enough time to these tasks if I take on X. What are our solutions?”
Be upfront, honest, and confident in these discussions, and you’ll come out ahead.