Learn to say “no” - 5 suggestions to apply at work to be in control!

Updated: 5 months ago
  • 231

Situation with a colleague, “Misha is always running late on assignments. Agreed she’s a senior team lead but I want to be able turn down her requests some times. I just don’t get around it. It’s not fair!”

Does this circumstance seem familiar?

How many us, find it tough to decline someone in spite of knowing that we can’t be involved in the task or help them in any way?

Why does this happen?

Reasons for this to occur could be one or a combination of these - we don’t want to upset someone and try to be nice; we’re not assertive enough and buckle under the pressure; we fear the relationship will be harmed and/or the person is in a certain position, where we just cannot pass off the work.

Basically - we want to please people asking the favour and are ready to oblige even if it’s at the expense of our own time and priorities.

Agreed that helping people is endearing and in work situations one is seen as a supportive team player, but the choice of being able to decline must always remain with us.

Here are 5 suggestions to apply for being in better control of your work/life:

1. Check your schedule and revert

If you cannot furnish a negative response immediately, then, indicate that you’ll review your schedule and respond later. Don’t procrastinate on the revert, earlier you do it, easier it’s for either side to organise completing the task. The time you bought can be utilised to draft an appropriate reply which should be brief, avoiding lengthy explanations.

2. Be genuine and provide a reason

If we end-up making excuses, chances are we’ll sink further into the situation. It’s best to give an honest explanation about why you’re unable to offer support. If the person asking truly understands, they may back-off, else please move on to the next point! (Remember - if you’re not willing to help at any cost, even your excuses will be seen as just that - an excuse!)

3. If reasoning doesn’t work, politely decline

There’s a point when you’ll need to decline. Appreciate those seeking your assistance but politely refuse.

You’ll find that even without a reason, it’s that first breakthrough that’s important with colleagues pushing their way through things.

Knowing you’re someone who always succumbs, they find an easy target. If you decline once, it’s less stress-free with the future requests and the individual realises to not take you for granted.

4. Being unavailable works when the activity is time-bound

This cost-sheet is urgent, client needs it by day-end tomorrow, really need your expertise.”

A firm yet civil response is - “Thanks for considering me for this job but I am on leave tomorrow and have to finish pending tasks before leaving for today.”

If you’re someone whose planned your work calendar effectively, including say a family vacation and if the assignment is an exigency, you’re justified in taking a rain check.

"Saying “no” can be the ultimate self-care" - Claudia Black

5. Suggest alternative member/resources

A department head called me with a request to make an important quality presentation just two days before the due-date. Being in the midst of a crucial assignment, I knew I had to refuse. That’s exactly what I did, but, in a different manner.

I said, “I know this is really something you’d like me do, but am terribly caught up with a training workshop. Do you think you can ask Nita to start editing last year’s presentation, can send her my part of the slides?”

Nita was from the HOD’s team. Being aware that latter had checked on me quite late, she agreed to the alternative offered. We both knew the job would get done, it was just a matter of better supervision in this case.

I remember, when I was beginning my career, the Head-HR wanted me to attend office on a Saturday which was a day-off, to discuss a position. Knowing fairly well it wasn’t urgent, I still agreed. The only way to show my displeasure was by leaving as soon as the meeting concluded, instead of waiting around the whole day.

When one is at a certain level with respect to your profession, saying no is less challenging than when you’re just learning the ropes, especially when you’re approached by a senior leader. However, wait for an opportune moment to give an honest feedback.

We must value ourselves instead of trying to find worth through others appreciation. The first step is not feeling guilty while drawing those personal boundaries.

Being in control and empowered to take decisions starts when you learn to say no!

“It’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important” - Steve Jobs

See other posts by

Share, Like & Follow this Post

Add Your Comment

A Platform committed to make a difference
in the world we share