Can You Say No at Work?
The thought of telling your significant other you’ve been asked to work more hours and sit through excruciating meetings is sometimes too much.
This is a classic case of Catch-22. Saying “No” is hard because you really want to get ahead professionally. Jenna feels trapped and usually succumbs to saying “Yes” every single time.
As Jenna started building a reputation with her company, she knew her work would suffer if she kept saying, “Yes” all the time. If she was going to be measured by the work she did, she needed to focus on the things she could get done and get done well.
The key was figuring out which requests to say “no” to in the first place? It took awhile, but Jenna began to wait before she responded.
Typically Jenna was asked to do additional work or tasks when she was tired or stressed out. And there were plenty of times when she was excited to be part of the project regardless of her workload.
In the beginning, Jenna felt a little awkward about using a very simple approach. Before we go there, keep in mind you have to be selective when saying “No”.
Jenna selectively told her boss that she needed to think about the best approach and would get back to him soon. Sounds pretty gutsy, doesn’t it?
Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated so think through the request first.
Jenna began taking 30 minutes or so figuring how much time would be required for the project. She devised a plan to help her.
First, Jenna prioritized the work she was currently doing and looked at how this new project would fit in. If it didn’t, she was likely going to say “No”.
Second, Jenna tried to figure out if this was a developmental task that will help her grow with the company.
Third, Jenna began asking herself if this would benefit her in the long run. Would it lead to bigger and better opportunities for her?
Fourth, Jenna realized it would easier to say, “Yes” if she could work on the most significant part of the project.
Fifth, Jenna began thinking like her boss to see if someone else could contribute to the task or project in her place.
Sixth, Jenna would look at the importance of a project. If an opportunity presented itself where she could hand off one of her other tasks to someone else, that usually helped a lot.
If there wasn’t a way to say “No”, Jenna was more than happy to say “Yes”. But, do not attempt to send an email. You need to have a conversation with your boss so the message is received, as it was meat to be delivered.
After going through the checklist, if you realize that you can’t commit to a new project, don’t send an email. Instead, have a conversation with the requestor and think of the conversation as a negotiation and a discussion of options.
Here a re a couple of ways you can say “No”:
First, give a valid reason why you cannot help out at this time. For example, “I have an existing project that requires a great deal of my time. I’d be more than happy to supervise X employee”.
Second, “I’d be happy to review the work and provide feedback so that you have more eyes on the project”.
Third, be very clear about what is not negotiable. Sometimes rather than saying “No”, you can agree to be involved in certain elements of the project.
When Jenna began this experiment it felt very strange and awkward. After a while Jenna began to turn down work that didn’t fit, but she did learn that it was important to be helpful on every project she was requested to work on.
This really helped Jenna both professionally and personally. She no longer felt guilty about telling her significant other she had to work an extra 3 hours that night.