Saying No At Work: Do It Without Guilt

BY Jessica Helinski
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Saying no isn’t easy for many people. It can be especially difficult for those in sales because salespeople are used to negotiating, working on a team, fulfilling needs and wants, and appeasing others. But, saying no is necessary; it can ease stress, help you achieve a healthy balance in life, and give you more control.

UpJourney recently published an article that discusses the importance of saying no. “It can be hard to say no at work,” the article acknowledges. “Most of us think that saying so would upset our peers, or worse, our boss. But then again, we only have a limited amount of time in our workdays, so we can’t fulfill every request that comes across our desk.”

Saying no saves priorities 

The article features insights from business professionals who discuss why saying no can be a good thing, why it should be said more often and how to phrase it without sounding harsh. Here is just one of the many great suggestions:

I’ll get to it if I have time after I finish my priorities”

This suggestion comes from executive coach and author Terry B. McDougall. She also admits that saying no isn’t easy, but it has to be done in certain situations. This is especially true when you have priorities that could suffer if you don’t say no. When you head into work, you likely have a plan of what you need to get done. That can be disrupted when someone comes to you with an “emergency.”

Suddenly, your priorities aren’t priorities anymore, and if you are going to complete your to-​do list items, you either have to work longer hours, or you have to let things go until tomorrow, and either option isn’t good for you,” McDougall points out. This is a situation when saying no may be necessary. 

Is this an emergency?

Now, saying no isn't always necessary. She acknowledges that there are times you should assist a true emergency, but how do you identify those times? McDougall shares a few questions that you can ask yourself before committing:

  • Does this request impact your ability to handle your own priorities?
  • Is this a co-​worker or someone outside your chain of command?
  • Are these requests a result of a lack of planning on the part of the requester?
  • Does your boss not know about or support this request?

If you answer yes to any of these, it’s an appropriate time to say no. And McDougall's suggested response of “I’ll get to it if I have time after I finish my priorities” is an appropriate response. It’s polite and not harsh, plus, you are being honest that you have your own priorities that take precedent. 

You will also find that you are spending your time more efficiently and that people respect your time more because YOU are valuing your time more,” she explains. “Saying no to requests that are not your priority will allow you to say yes to achieving your goals more quickly and reclaiming the power to decide what you do with your time and energy.”

Saying no isn’t easy at first, but the more you do it, the more effortless it will be. Check out all of the other professionals’ tips and suggestions in the article. The more you integrate no into your vocabulary, the more natural it will feel and the more control you'll take back.