Monday, November 29, 2021

How to Say "No" at Work

 Do you find it difficult to say "no"?

You may find it easy to say "no" to brussels sprouts, but much tougher to say "no" to a work colleague who seems to want your help with something that doesn't sound entirely ethical or may violate company policy. Or, what about the valuable customer who is pressuring you to do something you don't want to do?

These are tricky situations because you need to maintain relationships with these people, but also believe that "going along" doesn't feel right and could lead to problems for you.

Here are some ways to respond instead of outright saying "no" in workplace situations:

  • Be prepared. Chances are, you've known a colleague or a customer is leading up to something. You may not know specifically what the ask will be, but you have a pretty good idea. The person has probably been dropping hints to see your reaction, so it's a good idea to have a plan in place. Try writing out your response to why you may not want to say "yes" -- such as it violates your professional ethics, you don't want to lie or be less that completely honest or you think it could damage someone else.
  • Have other routes. Once you suspect that you're being pushed into something that doesn't feel right to you, then you need to be prepared with an alternative offer. It can lead to friction with the other person to just say "no" to a proposal, so make sure you've got some other ideas. Maybe you suggest moving the idea to the back burner until more data is gathered, or you include others in a meeting so that you're not pressured one-on-one. If you need an emergency exit, grab your phone and claim you just got a "911" call from home.
  • Ground yourself. Call on a trusted family member or friend, or reach out to a mentor to keep yourself from saying "yes" when you know you should say "no." Having ethical, steady voices throughout your career is critical, and are especially vital during such difficult times.

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