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How to Say No at Work

How to Say No at Work

There may be times in your career where you are asked to do something you don’t have the time to complete, you don’t know how to do, or you may not feel comfortable working on it. Rather than agree, it may be in your best interest to decline and politely say no. 

However, saying no at work can be difficult, especially when you say this two-letter word to your boss or another executive. So, how can you say no at work, guilt-free — without it affecting your career?

Explain Why

Rather than saying no and ending the conversation, explain to your manager why you are declining. For example, if you already have a lot of work with a fast-approaching deadline, don’t try to add one more thing to your to-do list. Tell your manager that you want to put all of your focus on this one project to ensure it is done well and not rushed. 

Say Thank You

As you decline a project, assignment, or other work from a manager or supervisor, begin by saying “thank you.” Thank your manager for thinking of you and then further explain why you must decline it. If the new assignment must be done, then you can work with your manager to determine your priorities and set new deadlines for the work to be accomplished. 

Be Honest

It is impossible to be an expert at every task, program, platform, project, etc., and your employers and team members know that. If you are asked to complete a project or a task that you know little about or do not know how to execute, be honest. Let that individual know upfront that you do not feel comfortable working on that assignment as you do not have the experience or knowledge to properly execute it. 

You may consider taking this a step further and ask for some extra time to learn how to properly complete the assignment or to work with another individual to help you along the way. This is a great way to show that you are still interested and willing but you are not able to tackle the responsibility on your own. 

Ask to Reframe Your Priorities

Instead of saying no immediately, let your manager know that if you made the new project a priority, your current assignments wouldn’t be completed for a certain amount of days, weeks, etc. For example, you may say to your manager, “If this new project is a priority, I can work on it. However, the current project I’m working on will not be completed for two weeks as I can only focus on one project at a time.” 

By phrasing your response this way, it gives your manager a chance to re-evaluate his decision to have you complete the work and you avoid having too much on your plate at once. 

Saying no to your manager or another supervisor can be intimidating and scary. However, you must be willing to stand up for yourself, especially if you currently have too much on your plate. The above ideas are just a few ways to respond to this tough situation.