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Five ways to say “no” at work

Have you ever been in a position at work where you feel like you cannot fit one more thing into your day, yet someone has asked you for your contribution on a project that you are either not inspired by or don’t have time for?

This request for your contribution may have come from a colleague or a manager and it feels like you can’t turn down this ‘opportunity’ to show you are a real team player and one that can be relied on.

I recently discussed this very topic in an interview with Jarrad Brooke for his radio station JB For Breakfast on 92.9FM, which you can listen to here.

So the dilemma lies – how do we say “no” at work when we are asked to take on something extra that is either out of our scope or will cause overwhelm due to the added workload?

I don’t mean the big, necessary things that are a part of your role.

I am talking about the situations where your colleagues have said, “could you just help me with this one thing?” or “do you mind if you do this for me please?”

Perhaps it is because it’s in your nature to always say “yes” and people know that about you. Or maybe because you have been brought up to always be polite and of service to others, you find it difficult to turn down a request for assistance.

But when we consciously say “yes” to an unnecessary meeting, task or project that is not within our scope, we are unconsciously saying “no” to producing quality work of our own, such as an important project with a looming deadline.

The trick is to convince others of that.

Here are some statements you can try out to see if they roll off your tongue easily when you are put in one of these tricky situations.

Five ways to say “no” at work:

  1. Thank you for thinking of me for this project. Let me have a look at my current schedule and I’ll come back to you with some thoughts.
  2. Can you have a look at my current priorities and let me know which one can be delayed in order to complete this task for you? Otherwise, perhaps we can look at a future date for me to start once I am on top of what I’ve currently got on.
  3. I’m afraid I simply lack the bandwidth right now to commit to doing this. Please swing back to me in two weeks and I can look at it then.
  4. I’m really stretched thin right now and I have promised myself not to take anything else on until I can give it 100%.
  5. As much as I would like to help you, I simply can’t right now.

If you find yourself constantly saying “yes” to requests that you know are not part of your scope, your interest level or are within the time you have available, learning how to say “no” will be a huge relief.

Not only will this allow you to focus on the activities that light you up, but it will also diminish feelings of overwhelm and stress.

If you feel like you and your colleagues would benefit from more practical strategies like these ones, perhaps you would like to read more about my Resilience Recharge program which includes this type of education.

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