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How to Say ‘No’ at Work

Do you struggle to say ‘no’ at work?

It’s a simple word. Yet, far too many of us have trouble saying it. Why is that?

Maybe, it’s because you’ve become successful by saying ‘yes’. Every business opportunity, and request that’s come your way has been met with a ‘yes’. Saying ‘yes’ has helped you grow your business and develop your career. But, now it’s time to start saying ‘no’.

As you progress and grow, you become more successful and sought after. More people will want you for projects, but you can’t do everything.

However, as you progress through your career, you become more successful and new opportunities will emerge. More people and more projects will vie for your time.

You cannot do everything and this is when it may be necessary to start saying no to things.

Saying ‘yes’ to projects when you are already at full capacity can be detrimental. You are effectively saying no to completing tasks and projects that you already have to do.

Steve Jobs famously said that “focusing is about saying no”. Focusing on what matters, not just what is in front of you, is the key to driving the success of any business.

Most teams in most businesses set out their annual objectives at the start of the year. These objectives should align with the overall goals of the business. Individual projects and day-to-day tasks should align with these objectives. If a new project or request doesn’t align with your or your team’s objectives then it might be best to push back and say “no”.

Saying no to a senior

If a senior colleague asks you to do something, a flat “no” may not be appropriate. Instead, explain you don’t have capacity and outline current key projects. If the new project is a priority, ask if one of your other projects can be pushed back. Or request help from another member of the team.

When it comes to managing your time, career, and business, over-committing yourself isn’t a sign of success. If you’re struggling to say ‘no’, think of times you have said ‘yes’ and found yourself tired, overworked and under-performing.

If you don’t have time to take on more work, next time simply say, “No, I can’t commit to that due to other priorities.” You don’t need to apologise or over-explain. Just be polite and move on.


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