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  • How to say ‘no’ at work

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    Published October 18, 2012
    How to say ‘no’ at work
    Saying 'no' at work may not feel right, but it's important to establish boundaries when it comes to your workload and prioritizing projects.

    Believe it or not, there is an art to saying “no.” While some of us are ‘people pleasers’ (we admit it!), it’s important to be able to say no when it comes to your work.

    Being a ‘yes’ person all the time can lead to taking on too much or spreading yourself too thin. Feeling comfortable enough to push back when necessary will allow you to work smarter rather than harder. Respect yourself enough to establish some boundaries and while it may feel wrong to say no to a boss or colleague, there are some simple tips you can follow that will help the prioritization process go smoothly.

    Weigh your options
    When your supervisor or colleague proposes a project or asks for a favour, don't feel pressure to respond immediately. While your default answer may be yes, take a few minutes to consider your options. Examine your current workload. Would taking on another assignment overwhelm you? If so, there’s an opportunity to say no.

    This kind of prioritization means you really have to be aware of what you can and cannot handle. And giving precedence to fewer assignments means you can give the ones you’re working on the attention they deserve.

    Be honest
    When you’ve come to your decision, explain your current situation to your colleague. If an impending deadline is keeping you from taking on an additional project or providing assistance, then say so. That doesn’t mean a long, drawn-out explanation about all your life’s woes. Be concise but honest. It’s likely your colleague will be sympathetic — who hasn’t worked on a tight deadline?

    Part of this tip is to stay clear of the wishy-washy answer, “maybe.” Avoid giving on-the-fence responses as much as possible. While you think it may spare their feelings, it actually may be misleading. A clear ‘no’ means the person can go ahead and finish the assignment themselves or find an alternative solution to get the job done.

    Offer suggestions
    When you can’t help your co-worker solve their dilemma, offer some helpful advice or solutions. Suggest an alternative way for the project to get done in a timely manner. Or, if you have some free time later, let them know: “My schedule is pretty hectic right now, but I’ll have some free time later this week. I’d be happy to work on it then.”

    Suggesting alternatives will make you seem solution-oriented rather than unwilling to help.

    Check-in
    If you can’t find time to help with an assignment, take a moment later on to check-in with your colleague. Stroll over to their cubicle and ask how the project is going. Avoiding them gives off an air of guilt. Connecting with your colleague or boss is a reflection of how much you care about their time and the team’s collective goals.

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