There’s this thing about saying ‘no’. Just because you could do something, doesn’t mean you have to do it.
That said, saying no is not selfish – it simply means you’re in charge of yourself and you’re setting boundaries. The word ‘no’ is the gateway to success and a powerful tool we all should use more often. We’re helping you out with 8 simple ways to help you say no at work, without hurting your career and actually using the word no.
1. Be nice & be clear
Your boss asks if you’re able to take on a little more work. The thing is: you simply can’t.
> Thank you so much for thinking of me for this, but I was planning to spend this day working on <name other projects>. But if you feel this new project is more important, are you comfortable with me prioritizing this project over the others or shall we consider other options as assigning this work to somebody else?
2. Hook someone up
Hey, could you have a look at this document right now?
> Well, unfortunately. I can’t. But I bet Anna can help you out. I’ll hook you guys up.
3. Be honest
Your colleague asks you to help him out with a project you have very little expertise in. You don’t have the time, nor the interest. Whatever you do, you’re not coming up with a fake excuse.
> Thanks for asking me, Ben! Really appreciate it. It sounds exciting. Unfortunately, I’m terrible with <the project>, so I’m afraid I wouldn’t be much help.
4. It’s not personal
Your inbox is flooded with a zillion interview requests by students who want to interview you for their school magazine.
> Thanks for asking! But I’m not doing any interviews while I’m writing my book <or something different>.”
5. It’s timing
Some PR agent asks you if you’re interested in a collab. You don’t have the time now, but you’re not uninterested.
> Hey, that sounds good. I really want to do that. Unfortunately, I’m not available until September. Will you ask me again then?
6. Not you thing
A client invites you to join ‘this really cool, exciting, important opportunity’. You don’t think it’s that cool. Nor exciting. Nor important. How do you say no politely? This one goes in a few steps: 1) express gratitude for the opportunity, 2) Communicate your reason for declining, 3) suggest an alternative.
> Hi there, thank you so much for thinking of me for this. I really do appreciate you reaching out to me, but unfortunately, this opportunity doesn’t fit my brand/budget/schedule or I’ve already done something similar. That said, I might know someone really good would definitely make a great fit. I could hook you guys up. How does that sound to you?
7. Set boundaries
Your colleague asks you to join a big, expensive project and you don’t have the time to work on everything.
> Thank you so much for thinking of me for this. Let me tell you what I can do <lay out exactly what you are happy committing to>.
You have a lot of work load on your plate and your boss (unaware of all the assignments you’re already committed to) asks you to do more.
> Normally, I’d be able to do this, but you may not realize I’ve been engaged on <project> and <project> and I wouldn’t be responsible if I took this on as well. I wouldn’t be able to invest the attention required.’
9. Make a reasonable offer
Saying no, doesn’t mean you’re closing the door forever. If you do want to contribute in a different way, you can say this:
> While I can’t contribute to the whole project, I’d be happy to offer some ideas or help you find someone else who can help. How does that sound to you?