Many people find it difficult to say no. For senior managers and executives, being able to effectively manage your resources and say no when necessary is a crucial skill. This is the key to staying on track with your goals, as well as looking after your health. People who say yes to every request are setting themselves up for failure. Follow these practical tips and learn how to say no without upsetting colleagues.
Set boundaries and be diplomatic
Here is how to say no in the workplace:
- Allow 24 hours before replying. This is enough time to decide if you really want to take on the request and if you are able to fit what is being asked into your schedule.
- Do not go overboard with the apologies. State your reasons for declining in a polite but direct manner.
- Make the best use of your time. Avoid agreeing to tasks that rob you of your time, i.e. unnecessary committee positions.
- Set boundaries. Let others know when something does not fall under your scope of duties.
8 ways to politely say no
Experienced managers and executives are all too familiar with the problem of being bombarded with requests for advice and help. But how can you politely decline a task, without risking your reputation?
Postponement: “I am buried in work at the moment. Could you please come back to me later?” With this statement, you are making it clear that you are restricted when it comes to time. If they come back again later, you know they are serious about speaking with you.
Referral: “I am not qualified enough to work on this project. However, maybe this will help.” You do not need to give advice on topics that are out of your area of expertise.
Introduction: “I am not the best person to speak to about this topic, however, I know who could help.” Direct them to one of your contacts who is an acknowledged expert in that specific area.
Setting up connections: “You both have the same goals.” Introduce people to others with similar interests. This could become a valuable new relationship for the both of them.
Sorting the wheat from the chaff: “Why don’t you set up a meeting with my colleague.” Delegate the first meeting to a colleague or assistant, who can ascertain what the most relevant issues are.
Kill two birds with one stone: “Other people have asked a similar question. Why don’t we all meet together and go over it.” Instead of always answering the same questions over and over, set up a group meeting.
Refer to your relationships: “Unfortunately, if I help you with that, I won’t have any time for anyone else.” Point out the obligations you have to other people.
Personal development: “I am really sorry to disappoint you. I am making a point of saying no more often this year. You seem especially persistent and it seemed like a good opportunity for me to practice my resolution.”
Decline requests and stress less
Be courageous and say no more often. People who are not afraid to politely decline requests are setting healthy barriers in place and are happier at work. Saying no is something that takes practice: set a goal for how often you would like to say no in the next week and stick to it. Senior professionals will also benefit from strengthening their image by saying no to too many additional tasks.