How to Say NO at Work

Saying “No” to tasks in the workplace can be very difficult for some people for a multitude of reasons. For instance, you might be fearful of how your boss or co-worker will respond. You may also feel like you are being rude, dismissive, or not a team player. In contrast, saying “Yes” to every task can also be detrimental. You may also find yourself saying “Yes” to other jobs or tasks that are an inconvenience for you.

Surprisingly, saying “Yes” all the time can be very counterintuitive and reduce your overall productivity. It may also leave you feeling resentful towards your team, manager, or workplace. This can lead to you being overloaded by work tasks and on a trajectory towards burnout and exhaustion.

Saying NO at Work

Saying “No” is not always as easy as it sounds. Below are several workplace situations where it may be important to say “No” for your own wellbeing, and some beneficial ways of saying “No” that are less confrontational.

When you are not utilising your skills:

Sometimes you may feel as though the task is not appropriate for your skill set. It is important to offer a different solution in this situation. For instance, a colleague may be better suited to answering the question or completing the task. Doing this allows for maximum utilisation of your abilities and improves team synergy.

Recognising that delegating tasks may be appropriate:

When you are at maximum capacity, it is important to have the courage to delegate tasks to a colleague who is free. When saying “No”, a simple trick is to lead with a positive statement that makes the other person feel validated. For instance, saying something along the lines of “Thanks for thinking I am capable of doing this work” will start the conversation in a positive way. Practice being sincere and let the other person know that you are thankful for them considering you for the task.

Develop a formula:

You may find yourself in an anxiety provoking situation where you need to say “No” to a manager or colleague. Some people find that having a formula prepared can reduce their anxiety and improve their confidence. A simple formula may be starting with validating the concern, saying “No” and then offering alternative solutions or delegating. For example, “I can see this work is really stressing you out and I appreciate you considering me for this task, however I think Tom’s skillset may be more helpful”. Obviously, your formula does not need to be the same as the above. Get creative and develop your own variations!

In summary, learning how to say “No” can have significant benefits for your mental and physical wellbeing. It allows you to practice clear boundaries with your colleagues and optimise your skills and capacity. It also reduces anxiety and stress in the long run. Good luck!

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