Meaghan Marshall Career Services - Resume Writing Services. Interview Coaching

How to Say No At Work

By Meaghan Marshall, Sep 27 2013 12:38PM

Are you taking on more than you can handle at work? If you’re feeling overworked and underappreciated then it might be time to learn to say ‘no’.


Saying ‘no’ to a request can be hard, especially in a work situation. We don’t feel we can say ‘no’ to our boss or we want to avoid confrontation with our co-workers. We can’t do it all though, and there will be times when it is necessary to say “no”.


By saying, ‘yes’ when really you can’t you put extra pressure on yourself, causing stress and impacting on the quality of your work. You just end up feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and resentful.


You can say ‘no’ and here is how:


1. Acknowledge the Request


Before saying ‘no’ acknowledge the request demonstrating empathy and understanding. The requestor is going to then feel they have been heard and you have given consideration to their request.


“I recognise this is an important assignment and you will need assistance to get it completed, especially since you are also working on X. Thank you for thinking of me. It would be great to work with you again but unfortunately I am unable to assist this time”


2. Explain why you need to say no


You should then give an explanation for why you need to say no. Watching your tone and body language give a clear and simple explanation without offering excuses.


“I am currently working on Y [pre-existing priority]. I need to focus on this to ensure [positive outcome for organisation]”


3. Make an offer


Even if you can’t completed the task as requested you can probably offer something. This might be an idea, resources, an alternative solution, referral to a colleague or your help at a later stage. Make sure you check with your colleague before providing their name.


“I worked on that project last year and we found it helpful to XXX instead of YYY”


“I know that XX has expressed an interest in gaining some experience in YY. I am sure they would be able to help”


“I have some time available on Friday if you wanted to get together and discuss some ideas”


“Even though I don’t have the time now to write the report I’d be happy to review it for you next week”


When No Isn’t Enough


Some people will not accept no for an answer and continue to ask even after you have told them you are unable to help. These people think they can wear you down and make you change your mind. You need to be firm in your response. Don’t engage in counter arguments simply let them know that you understand what they want but you have told them ‘no’ and that is not going to change.


Don’t Forget ‘Yes’


Once you start being assertive and saying ‘no’ when you cannot take on additional work you will gain confidence and feel more comfortable saying it. Remember to still say yes sometimes. We all have to do things we don’t want and it is important that we support our colleagues when we can. You might find that you need help and you are more likely to find someone willing if you have been helpful yourself. Just remember to keep a balance.



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