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How to (and when to) say no at work

06th December 2017

You arrive at your job on time, or maybe even early. You turn on your computer, take out your To Do list and set out your goals for the day. Everything seems achievable. It’s going to be a productive day. Then, someone asks you to do something. What should you do?

Say no.

Why it’s good to say no

If you’re a people pleaser you’ll find saying no tricky. Saying no in the short-term can seem awkward but in the long term you and your colleagues will benefit.

Saying no to reems of extra tasks will result in better work and meeting of deadlines. It’ll also help increase your confidence to stand up for yourself and reduce any risk of work stress or burnout

When to say no at work

It goes without saying that if you only ever say no it won’t be long before your boss & colleagues get annoyed. If you’re unsure about a request, ask yourself – if you say no will there be consequences?

As a rule of thumb say no when you think your other work will suffer, if you’re uncomfortable with a request or if you don't have the skills to complete the job.

For example, if you’re asked to create a complex Excel doc. but never use Excel  - say no. Or if you already have a long list of important to dos and someone asks you to do something that isn’t time sensitive, say no or offer to help at a later date.

How to say no at work

Even if you can’t do something you should never just say no. Put yourself in your colleague’s shoes and:

  • Be honest and, if possible, offer a specific alternative solution.
  • Be empathetic and offer to help in the future.
  • Have a response in mind so that you don't fall into your usual "no problem" answer. Rather than saying no straight out say something softer such as, "my schedule is full today."
  • Stick to your decision. Extensive research has shown that people who stick to their original decision are happier. 

Saying no means you value your time and know your skills. If you find yourself saying no quite often then maybe it’s time to ask for help upskilling or for help with areas you’re struggling with, then you can get back to having stress free productive work days. 

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About the Author

Niamh Keenan

Content Marketing Executive

Group Marketing

I am a Communication Studies graduate with years of experience in client relations, digital content and print media. Although my experience is varied my goal is always the same. To provide information in an engaging and informative way – whether that be through blog posts, email campaigns to job seekers or social media posts

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