Executive Coaching Articles

Four Ways to Say No At Work

As you try to manage your current work environment and all of its responsibilities, you may notice how hard it is to say no to new projects or assignments. Most people accept new responsibilities at work without any resistance, feedback, or push back. Often I hear clients say, “It’s only one more thing” or “I can handle it” or “I want to prove myself.” You say yes when you know you should say no.

Here are four ways to say no and provide feedback and push back at work without appearing uncooperative. After applying these tips, you’ll begin to notice a change in your workload, a decrease in the pressure you feel, and an increase in your overall productivity.

  1. Never commit immediately. No matter what type of project or assignment you are given, you always need to take at least a few minutes before replying to the person making the request. First check your calendar and workload. Look at all your projects, priorities, and responsibilities and see if the request can be accomplished within a reasonable time frame. Time, energy, effort, and prioritization need to be considered before moving forward with an answer. So, instead of saying, “Yes, I can do it and get it done tomorrow,” you’ll respond, “I can’t do it right now because I have to complete projects X, Y, and Z by (date), but I could get it done a week from now.”
  2. How critical is this new project or assignment? It’s important to understand how critical this project is in relationship to who wants it done and why is it considered so important. People often state what they need, but it’s not exactly what they want. The need can be based on pressure they are feeling without taking into consideration the big picture and the real sense of urgency. You can determine how critical a project or assignment really is only after you’ve taken a look at all the parameters.
  3. Provide feedback. Provide feedback to the person who is making the request so he has a reasonable understanding of your situation. Share all of the projects and responsibilities you have on your plate. This will give the individual an overall perspective of the situation so he won’t become critical of your push back. He will know and understand the importance of your current responsibilities in relationship to his project and can become an advocate who helps you come up with the best solution possible.
  4. Set up realistic and accurate expectations. The only way you’ll know if expectations are realistic and accurate is by taking into consideration everything that is going on instead of evaluating the situation based solely on the request being made by one person and his need. Allow yourself plenty of breathing space. Don’t expect so much of yourself that all your projects suffer because you took on one more.

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