Thank you Bullit for sponsoring today's post and providing valuable insight.
Saying “no” at work has widely been considered one of the worst things you can do for your career. Many of us are warned that turning down new projects will make us look like slackers. Parents, mentors, and career advisors tell us to be the first one in and the last one out each day. Be eager for more responsibility and people will notice your hard work. So why is it that Sarah in Marketing leaves the office every day at 5:00pm on the dot and is still getting a promotion before you?
We don’t personally know Sarah in Marketing, but there’s a good chance she’s learned how to say “no” to certain obligations that might be holding you back. There comes a point where no matter how motivated you are, you can’t take on any more work. We all have limited capacity, and once your plate is full there’s no going back. Saying yes and overloading your workload when you really can’t WILL lead to burnout. Aside from burnout, it'll increase negativity, exhaustion, and stress. All of which have significant health risks and won’t further your career (or make you happy!). Saying yes isn’t the one thing that’s going to get you ahead of Sarah.
In fact, there are times it's perfectly fine to say no at work. It may make the difference between staying sane and crashing and burning.
5 Times To Say “No” At Work:
…and some steps later on for how to do so diplomatically.
It's busy work.
… and you're boss is asking you to stay late for it ?.
There’s paying your dues, and then there’s staying late at work on a Friday to finish going through your boss’s receipts for her expense report. If this is your first ever job or internship, receipt duty may happen once or twice. But if you’re well into your job and finding yourself totaling up Panera orders at 7pm on a Friday, it’s time to say no. That “extra” extra work is what quickly leads to burnout or demoralization.
Having interests outside your job is what makes you human. Having to sacrifice those interests for the “good of the company”? Not so great. Of course, if it’s the end of the quarter and all hands on deck, you shouldn’t just cut loose for your kickball game and leave the work to everyone else. But for something that you can easily catch up on the next day? Make it known that you need to prioritize your life.
It's not ethical
This should be obvious, but recent current events indicate that it bears repeating. You should not do anything at work that violates your ethics, values, or morals. There’s a particular way to handle these types of requests: “‘Yes, you could come up with some excuse, but that doesn’t stop the next request…Read your employee handbook and possibly talk with human resources to come up with the right way to say no,’” writes careers expert Sharlyn Lauby.
It's in the way of your other work
Being amazing at your job comes with one particular pitfall: when you’re competent, people want you to do all of the things. Showing that you’re amazing at work inevitably leads to… more work. Which is great, because people see you as reliable, dependable, and someone who’s going places. But maybe not for another hour until you finish these 15 decks… ?.
That said, every job comes with a job description. It’s up to you to play referee with what comes across your desk. Don’t let more work get in the way of your other work. If you find you’re taking on alternate tasks that have nothing to do with your real priorities, make sure to take a step back. Performance evaluations tend to happen vis a vis your formal job description, and it would be a shame to get to the end of the year and realize you’ve been off track for months.
You're not the best one for the job
It’s thrilling to take on new projects and tasks that help you learn a skill you’ve never tested before. And often, this is the most valuable professional development out there!
That said, the best leaders are those who know their limits. As one expert writes, “there are those other daunting tasks and assignments that make your mouth hang open and your mind go blank—you have absolutely no idea where to start. You just know you don’t have the skills or expertise to get this done right… while pushing yourself to try new things is always recommended, there comes a time when you’re actually just getting in the way.” You’ll be seen as a more competent leader, team player, and reliable employee if you know your limits and respect the rest of the team’s time and energy by turning down something you just can’t accomplish.
It doesn't add to to the goals of the company.
Organizations big and small go through a goal-setting process each year. Guess what? They’re not doing it for the practice. When organizations bring together employees to determine a consensus on annual goals, it’s to make sure everyone’s work aligns with achieving that goal.
That makes sense at the time, but in practice, managers and coworkers get distracted easily. It’s your responsibility to make sure the work you’re doing is as high-impact toward the company’s goals as possible. “When you receive a proposal that may be a distraction, the best thing to do is hear it out fully and then directly and politely explain why it's not a fit for the company at this time,” recommends Alexandra Friedman and Jordana Kier, cofounders of LOLA.
Ready to start saying no? Follow these three tips to do so diplomatically.
How to say “no”at work:
Don’t be dismissive.
“Acknowledge the importance of their ask, but show them the relative prioritization of their ask in your world. You can do this by sharing with them what’s currently on your plate and what you’ve already committed to deliver on.” – Fortune
Do think things through.
Start by “assessing the request first by determining how ‘interesting, engaging, and exciting the opportunity is,’ and then by figuring out whether it’s feasible for you to help,” – Harvard Business Review
Timing is everything.
“What has happened in the office right before this request?” The environment in the office may impact your ability to say no. Even though you know saying no is the right thing, there are also times when it pays to grin and bear it. – Fast Company.
Do a regular gut check. If you’re worried that saying no is having a negative impact on your professional reputation. Rather than waiting for your annual performance review (seven months from now), ask for regular feedback on BULLIT. Our platform makes it easy for peers, mentors, and managers to reflect on your performance, all while keeping you in control. Show, hide, agree, disagree, and comment on anyone’s feedback. Saying no to something doesn’t mean you don’t care about your job. In fact, actively managing your reputation is one way to prove you’re completely connected.
No means no, especially when it means you can say yes to the rest of your life!
To read more about what BULLIT’s all about, check us out: bullit.me/
>>> GIVEAWAY <<<
Bullit was also awesome enough to put together these kickass empowering stickers! Just DM them on IG for your free stickers! That's it!
I've linked the dress I'm wearing first, and then some cheaper options too:
57 thoughts on “5 Times to Say “No” at Work – & 3 Ways to Do It”
Yes yes yes!! Great points. I love your GIFs too. Those badges are so cute!
Really great points! There are always a time to say “No”
So tricky, especially when you are a working mom! I love saying no though, even beyond work situations, its oddly liberating.
This advice is spot on. You’ve made an excellent case for saying “no” to extra work for exactly the right reasons. Yet doing so in a professional, correct manner.
Saying no at work has to be pretty close to the top of the list for difficult things to actually execute. Great tips. Also- discovery Bullit, interesting…
I love this! It’s such great advice. We’re always so afraid to say no and make ourselves look “bad”, when sometimes we just can’t.
This is such great advice. Too often at one of my old jobs I was overwhelmed with the amount of work I had to do just because I couldn’t say no. This definitely would have come in handy back then!
I love this list & it’s so important. Communicating is key and if my boss gives me “busy work” and I don’t have the bandwidth for it, it’s going to keep me from important/client stuff, then I tell her. I might not flat-out say “no,” but i’ll say something like, “I’m pretty slammed with that proposal for XXX so it might be best to have someone else do this who has the time” or “I can do it but I won’t have it until Friday because I have a ton of client meetings and deadlines this week.”
We are all guilty of this, especially as women but until we commit to saying no to the things we don’t want to do everyone will continue to expect us to say yes. Good read.
This is very smart, everyone needs to read this. Saying no and knowing when to say no are huge things to understand
Spot on, my millennial friend. Your work gets watered down if you take on too much. We carry a badge of burden, feeling that we have to do everything in order to be validated.
*p.s. I’m getting those sticks for my daughters and colleagues!
I’ve had to say no to my boss a few times and it has been eye opening. A lot of times it was work that he should have paid someone to do and I was getting paid way too little to do it (he wanted me to design a website and do a lot of tech work for him) that would have required a lot of out of work time. It was hard for me to say no, but I’ve learned work boundaries are so important. If I had agreed to it, I would have likely been stuck with projects like that in the future.
These are some great tips! I am currently my own boss right now so I feel it’s alot easier to say no to myself than if I had to report to someone else.
“Showing that you’re amazing at work inevitably leads to… more work” I had to read this aloud to my friends who were next to me because I resonated with this sooo much! We giggled really hard at the accuracy.
Nothing is worse than when it’s in the way of your other work! I just had a serious meeting with my bosses because something was out of my scope of work + on top of all my other work and it was TOUGH.
xo // http://www.thematerialgirl.co
This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I just had to step back and prioritize my work to realize that there’s no way I could take on a big project right now. I laid out the tasks at hand combined with the work that the project would entail and made my decision to say no. Sometimes being an overachiever can actually hurt you too because then the powers that be come to expect more out of you which makes it harder to say no but you know you have to. I don’t know how I lasted eight long years at another job where everything was damned if you do and damned if you don’t but after 6 of those years, the word NO starting becoming a regular in my workday vocabulary. Your sanity, mental well being, etc. heavily depends on it.
Now that I’ve been at my current job for 6 months I’ve been learning how to say no… or at least tell people they’ll have to work around my schedule. It’s hard because I hate feeling like people are mad at me, but so far it’s working in my favor!
Comments are closed.