Not a big word, is it? Yet for many workers, saying "no" has become very difficult. Whether it's because they fear looking like a non-team player or worry about backlash from a boss, saying "no" has become a very big problem.
Still, if you want to avoid burnout -- or even questionable behavior that could land you in legal trouble -- you need to know that line in the sand when you won't hesitate to say "no."
Unfortunately, one of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking they will intuitively know when and how to say "no."
"Will you run over the boss with your car?" NO!
"Will you steal all the money from the cash register?" NO!
"Will you work 100 hour weeks and agree to not get paid?" NO!
Most of us are pretty certain that we're not going to commit a crime or work without getting paid. Even the workers at Wells Fargo probably said the same thing -- but that was something that became a very slippery slope when the bank's culture and managers allegedly forced them into opening bogus accounts to meet performance targets.
In addition, how many times have employees worked lots of overtime, without getting paid for it? Whether it was answering emails over the weekend or putting in extra hours to be a "team player" and meet a project deadline, many workers are seeing their "no's" turn into something else.
That's why I think it's important to sit down and think through various scenarios that might happen on the job, and how you will respond. I have done this with various friends, family members and even colleagues over the years, and it's really valuable. Once you get started, you'll discover that they may have faced issues that haven't come your way yet (but will), and it's worthwhile to really state what you believe to be your line in the sand.
A recent story outlines some great advice about how to say "no." It includes:
- Offering alternatives. Sometimes is can be difficult to say "no" to an important client or your boss. You can say "no" with respect, then immediately move to change the direction of the conversation by offering an alternative.
- Calling for support. If you feel you're being backed into a corner or your "no" is wavering, call and talk to supportive friends or family.
- Staying calm. You may get some resistance to your "no," so it's important not to get upset. Maintain a professional, calm demeanor so that whoever is pushing you knows that you are open to alternatives but are not budging on your "no."
Next time you read about a workplace scandal or a friend confides about a difficult situation at work, don't dismiss it as something that doesn't concern you. Instead, think about how you would respond in the same situation. Preparation always pays off at work -- even when you are preparing to say "no."