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How to Say “No” at Work Politely

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You have just resumed at a new place of work, and you feel that saying “yes” to every request made to you will make your coworkers like you. You are scared that saying “no” will put you in their bad books.

A few weeks down the line, you are questioning your decision. Everyone wants you to do things for them. As you try to please them, you are underperforming in your duties.

Being that person who always says “yes” at work doesn’t end well. In this article, you’ll understand why you need to turn down some requests and learn practical ways to say “no” politely at work.


Why You Need to Say No at Work Sometimes

Coworkers Working

Executing your responsibilities to the best of your ability is key to excelling at your job. If saying “yes” to requests will compromise your performance in your duties, why go ahead with it?

Gaining respect at work isn’t about how much you oblige people, but how good you are at your tasks.

The interest of the organization you work for is paramount. If projecting this interest means saying “no” at times, you are on the right track. It’ll earn you the respect of those that matter.

Agreeing to do things outside your job description leads to burnout. Saying no, on the other hand, helps you set boundaries for optimal performance. You channel your energy to the tasks that you are responsible for.

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3 Things to Consider Before Saying No at Work

Employees at Work Station

The workplace is a sensitive terrain. Turning down requests without tact isn’t a good idea. Do it in the best way possible, so you don’t create the wrong impression, especially when it’s avoidable.

Here are 3 things to consider before saying “no” at work.

1. Does the Task Conflict With Your Values?

Different people have different values in the workplace. If the task you’re asked to do conflicts with your values, feel confident refusing to do it. Always remember that if you make your values known and people don’t respect them, then they don’t respect you.

2. Is the Task Part of Your Job Description?

You might be open to positive challenges because they help you grow as an individual and an employee. But you should know when to draw the line.

Taking up responsibilities that aren’t part of your job description will wear you out, you won’t be able to execute the tasks in your job description efficiently. Turn down such requests, otherwise, your primary duties will suffer.

3. Can You Deliver Great Results?

Sometimes, you need to think of the bigger picture before you agree to complete a task that you have been asked to do.

Your schedule or skillset might determine whether you can execute a task well or not. Whatever it is, if you have any reason to question your ability to deliver anything short of the best results, say no nicely, especially if you aren’t mandated to perform the task.

4 Effective Tips to Say No at Work Politely

Two Women Talking Outside

The whole essence of turning down requests is defeated if it ends up affecting your work negatively.

As much as you want to focus on your duties, you want to do that on good terms with your coworkers. In light of this, you need to say “no” to them amicably.

Here are some tips for saying “no” at work politely.

1. Be Sure of Your Answer

The person who you’re refusing would be more convinced if you sound so sure of your answer. So, instead of giving indecisive answers like “maybe”, “I don’t think so”, or “I’ll get back to you,” give a straightforward reply.

A direct “no” would let the person know that you will not change your mind. If you use indecisive answers, the person will keep asking you, and you might end up doing things that you don’t feel like.


2. Give a Brief Explanation

Don’t just say “no” and leave. You may not owe the person an explanation, considering the circumstance, but be nice by explaining why you have refused. A brief explanation makes your negative reply sound nice and reduces the tension if there’s any.

However, you should note that you don’t have to give a long explanation on why you don’t want to do what you’ve been asked. Keep the explanation short and simple. Saying more than necessary might be seen as a sign of weakness.

3. Provide Options

Let’s assume that you’re busy, and your colleague asks you to complete a string of codes for them. After you say “no”, you can provide options for them by saying something along these lines:

“I’m quite busy at the moment. But if it can wait for 2 hours, I’ll be happy to help.”

That way, they’ll understand that you’ll be willing to help them if the timing is right. The same also goes when you’ve been invited for drinks after work, but you’re too tired to attend. Politely tell them how it has been a busy week for you and how you’d have joined them if they had asked on a Saturday evening.

It’s easier for people to understand your boundaries when you explain yourself like this.

4. Stand Your Ground

There’s a tendency for you to feel guilty when you say no to people, sometimes. This guilt might make you change your mind, and before you realize what you’re doing, you ask the person to show you the task. And then you have yourself to blame when you begin to suffer from work overload.

Doing this would only discredit your “no”, and people won’t take you seriously when you refuse them in the future. Any time you refuse to do a task, be confident of your answer. Stand your ground. That way, even your employer will respect you.

Saying No Is Necessary

You couldn’t possibly fulfill every request made to you, even if you wanted to. The desire to please everyone seems great on the surface, but it isn’t feasible in the real sense.

Knowing your limits and setting boundaries are prerequisites for job satisfaction. Being a great team player isn’t about doing everything, but doing something meaningful, no matter how little it is.


A female worker looking frustrated by her colleagues.
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