The Art of Saying “No”

We’ve had several questions about how to say “no” at work. It’s usually not an easy – but almost always important task. We’d like to take a few moments to look are the reasons behind the need to say no to taking on an additional workload or task.

Why you should say no –

  1. No win situation. You simply don’t have the time/expertise/desire to deliver an outcome you can be proud.
  2. You are being manipulated. Somewhere along the line you have had a sense of obligation created. It could have been a birthday recognition, compliment or past favor. If you cannot or do not want to take on additional task for very valid reasons – decline!
  3. You have been placed in the role of “he/she who should be asked”   It’s become apparent that you are the “go to” person for the boss or supervisor to depend on for last minute tasks. Don’t like the role? Learn to say no.
  4. Time required would compromise your production.   Four words that have the ability to cause resentment and reduced production:   “Would you do me a favor?” If time permits – no problem. However, don’t grant a favor at your own expense.
  5. You simply do not want to take on the task. You may have time, you may have the expertise but you simply do not have the desire. Politically, professionally or ethically, you do not want to accept the request. Be true to yourself, you will never regret the decision.

How you should say no –


True conviction never has a problem with providing the sincerity we need to say no. Long winded explanations smack of lack of confidence. Resist the temptation to soften the decline with self-depreciation (I am weak in that area / I haven’t been in the department that long / I don’t want to let you down…) It gives the requester the opportunity to use real or manufactured flattery to change your mind.

Short term you may not generate friendships – but you will generate respect. Going forward, colleagues will appreciate your time and performance. They will know that when you take on an additional task it will be because you have the commitment, expertise and desire to deliver.