When to Say “No” in the Workplace

Many workers pressure themselves to say “yes” in order to accommodate and serve others. According to The Wall Street Journal, people will say “yes” because saying no makes them more uncomfortable. If there is pressure within a job to say “yes” it can make declining a task even more difficult. However, sometimes there is a line that you should not cross, and that’s when saying “yes” can lead to job burnout.

It is not good to say “yes” when you don’t have the time or energy to follow through with a commitment without compromising your own schedule and existing obligations. For example, imagine you’re occupied with a current project, an upcoming Christmas dinner at your place, your kid’s sports activities, and a book club meeting. You have your schedule and priorities all lined up, and then someone asks if you can help them with their project. In this situation, you may want to help but will have to sacrifice an activity that matters to you. In this case, you should say “no”.

How can you learn to say “no”?
Saying phrases such as, “I’m sorry, I have other priorities right now,” and “I have too much on my plate right now, but I know someone who can help you,” allow you to say “no” without seeming inconsiderate. If you want to be helpful, but can’t do the task that was asked of you, then find an alternative way to help get the job done. This can be done by suggesting a way to do it, or suggesting others who could help.

Who should you say “no” to: only colleagues, never the boss, or everyone?
The answer to this may seem tricky. After all, we already have a hard time saying “no” to others, why would we say “no” to our boss? However, to be an effective leader, it’s important to say “no” to any opportunities that come your way that you honestly aren’t able to handle. This means that you can say “no” to anyone who is asking you to do something that doesn’t work for you, whether it be a boss or colleague. Doing so can actually have the unexpected effect of earning the respect of your boss if done correctly.

How do you say “no” to your boss effectively? It is important that your goals are made known to your boss up front. Then, if you are asked to do something out of alignment with your plan, you need to explain the reasoning to your boss.  This will show that you have the internal direction and focus on discerning what is most productive, which is a great trait in a leader. You definitely want to be proactive and take on opportunities that will benefit you, but being able to identify what is not beneficial is important as well.

How does learning to say “no” contribute to work-life balance?
Saying “yes” all the time can lead to job burnout and unnecessary stress. We all have a pretty good idea of what we can handle and what we cannot. Unfortunately, we can’t do it all and it becomes necessary to say “no.” Saying “no” can help with your work-life balance by allowing you to take control of your schedule instead of letting your schedule take control of you.

Saying “no” when you need to will allow you to have other opportunities for creative, interesting ideas and a stress-free work experience. For more tips on important job skills, try the KnowledgeCity courses: Coping With Stress in the Workplace and Time Management. Get started today with a Free Demo.

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