How to say no at work, without feeling guilty

How to say no at work, without feeling guilty

For most of us, saying no doesn’t come naturally. It’s more likely to make us feel guilty or uncomfortable.

But sometimes you have to say no at work and set some boundaries. That’s because every time you say ‘yes’ to something you do not have the skills or bandwidth for, you say no to something more important.

Here are a few techniques you can use to learn how to say no at work, without feeling guilty …

Defer your answer

If you don’t know whether to say a definitive ‘yes’ or ’no,’ then defer your answer. There are two ways you can do this:

  • Mention that you have too much on, but ask the person to follow up at another time – this will give you the ability to free up some time down the track. People who are not persistent or patient enough might even ask someone else to do the task instead.
  • Sleep on it – tell them you’ll get back to them the following day. If you allow yourself some time to think then you’ll be able to respond in a way that plays to your best interests. If the answer is still ‘no’ it also gives you time to craft your reasoning.

Say you’re swamped

Thank the person for thinking that you’re the right person for the task. But say that you’re too busy working on X, Y and Z to give it your full attention. Top it off by mentioning that you don’t want to let them down.

Be honest about your limitations

If you don’t have the knowledge or the expertise to do what they’re asking, be honest. If you truly cannot help turn their idea into a success, then saying yes can only lead to disappointment.

Instead, try to refer the person to someone more qualified or better suited to help.

Propose something else

If you are unable to do something someone’s asked of you then offer a trade-off. For example, you may not be able to help the person complete the full task but may offer to help them with part of it.

Speak of the greater good

If all else fails, resort to basic human decency and tell the person that if you say yes you’ll be letting too many other people down. This will stop your ‘no’ from coming across as cold and unsympathetic.

When you say ‘no,’ mean it!

What happens if someone won’t take ‘no’ for an answer the first time? Just stay confident, be polite and repeat what you said until they understand you mean it. And then stick to your guns. If you relent, you’ll find yourself in the same boat as you would have if you’d said yes in the first place. Plus, you’ll be giving off the idea that your “no” is fragile.

So, learn how to say no and mean it!

Need some more help at work?

Try these 10 powerful ways to manage your time, learn what’s really driving your insecurities at work, or read about these 6 lessons from the sports field to bring to work each day.

About Trojan Recruitment

Trojan provides temporary, contract, and permanent employment solutions across Australia. We also offer a range of outsourcing and consulting services.

We are real, we are determined and we are people-focused. So, if you’re looking for a ‘precision fit’ for your organisation, get in touch with Trojan today!

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