Pro Tips for Saying ‘No’ In the Workplace Resources

Everyone wants to be seen as a team player — someone who pitches in when others need help and accepts new assignments when they come down the pike. “Yes” just sounds better than “no,” but sometimes, an offer comes along that’s not worth signing up for.

What should you do in these situations? In a terrific Daily Must post titled “4 Completely Inoffensive Ways to Say ‘No’ at Work (Because “Yes” Isn’t Always an Option),” writer and “Impress Me” columnist Sara McCord shares advice for uttering that tough two-letter word to the various types of people you deal with at your job.

The first type of people, bosses, present arguably the biggest challenge. Your supervisor is one person you definitely want to impress with your willingness to try new things and take on more work, but if you’re simply too swamped, McCord recommends avoiding a flat-out “no.” Instead of saying you’re up to your gills trying to finish the rest of the work he or she assigned, say thanks and indicate you were going to get started on XYZ instead, so you’l have to pass. This way, you show that you were flattered the boss thought of you, and if it turns out the new assignment is more important, the supervisor might tell you to go ahead and put the previous assignment on the back burner.

On the flipside, if you’re the boss, and your employees are offering suggestions for workplace procedures that you can’t or don’t want to implement, it’s important to not simply dismiss their ideas out of hand. That’ll make you seem like a dictator. Instead, McCord suggests you say something like, “I appreciate you sharing those suggestions — and please, keep ’em coming — but in this instance, it’s crucial that we stick with the plan.”

If it’s a coworker you’re saying “no” to, McCord says, it’s no good to us busyness as an excuse. If, for some reason, you accept more work from someone else later on, you’ll seem like a liar. Instead, make an excuse that’s “closer to the real reason” you passed on this project you have no interest in. If it involves creating a presentation, for example, tell your colleague you’re lousy with PowerPoint or spreadsheets, and that they’d be better off grabbing someone else for this particular thing.

Finally, McCord examines situations where a client would like you to change the way you’re doing things. As with the boss-employee situation, you don’t want to shoot their ideas down cold, so make sure you listen to their concerns and explain how your (or your team’s) original idea is the best option at the current time. Offer to take them through the process of how you arrived at Plan A, and how it accomplishes everything they believe plan B will. You’re all trying to achieve the same goal. Make sure that comes across.


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