When was the last time you said “No” to someone?
If you are like me, then you often feel obliged to answer with “Yes”. Even worse, you feel guilty when you say “No” to someone, even if what you did was not for your own benefit.
So, would you like to learn 6 simple ways that are helping employees (and managers) to say “No” at work?
If yes, keep reading.
Why is it so difficult to say No sometimes?
Many people out there are like you and me, they have difficulties to turn someone down. Now, that does not mean that they always answer “Yes” to everything, but they also do not want to feel guilty and therefore, they tend to give priority to someone else’s needs before their own.
What would you say are some explanations as to why people find it often difficult to say “No”?
Here are the most common ones I came across:
- You want to be helpful. Do you like to do people a favor?
- You respect the person. When people of a certain seniority level ask you to complete a task you commonly do it. Whether it is your manager or your mother. This type of respect could also be linked to a fear of conflict or simply be afraid of being rude.
- You hate feeling guilty. You do it, because you know nobody else will do it. And if it does not get done, the others will blame you.
- You do not want to miss out. People have the tendency to respond “Yes” sooner than “No”, because they fear to miss out on an opportunity.
Before we look into the methods, I would like to share with you a short talk of Steve Jobs in 1997 (I apologize upfront for the low quality) who explains why saying “No” is part of focusing on the important things.
How to say No at work
During the last years, there were many occasions where I wished I would have said “No”. At the same time, I realized that when I was under a big time and workload pressure it was easier for me to say “No” to some topics, because I did not want to work at the limit of my capacity for a long time. From then on, I used “No” more often at work, and to my surprise, people understood and did not react as negatively as I originally thought.
So, if you are unsure of how to say “No”, I share with you 6 simple techniques which are applicable for different situations. Just try one or two of them next time when someone is coming into your office.
1. The Timing Method
I am sorry, I’d love to do this, but I am busy with something else right now.
Most employees are already quite busy with the current tasks they have at their hand. So, why not make this clear next time someone is interrupting you on your current task and asks you to help out?
2. The Delay Method
Can I think about it first? I will get back to you soon.
While the first factor is focusing on the bad timing of the colleague asking you, it is also a good approach to buy yourself some time. Often we are being asked and have to give an immediate answer. This is one of my recent favorites, as I do not appreciate it a lot to be put under pressure in a given moment.
3. The Expertise Method
I am sorry, but I do not believe that I am the right person to answer this question. This is not my field of expertise. Have you asked Person X?
This method should be relatively easy to use, if you are really not the expert on the questioned topic. You could offer to help bridging the gap to the other person in charge.
Apparently, there are some people who use this method, if they have no interest or not enough time to deal with the topic, even though they would know the answer. In this case, I can only recommend to be as diplomatic as possible, and why not stick to the truth?
4. The Workload Method
I am very busy and I my agenda is pretty much full until the end of next month.
Even though colleagues often know who is busy with what topic and with what kind of workload, in many cases there are priority matters which need to be dealt with first. However, there are also topics which are ‘being made’ a priority topic, so that people address it immediately, even though it might not be as important. In either case, if you workload is high, use something long the lines of the sentence suggested above to make clear that you also have other priorities and that you cannot change your agenda to suit everyone’s needs.
Certainly, there are always exceptions to the rules.
5. The Childhood Method
I am sorry, this topic does not meet my needs for the project I am working on right now, but I will keep you informed if this changes.
When I was little, I have to admit, saying “No” was not always as hard as it is now. Why? I guess back then, I was trying out my barriers and protecting my own interests, just like any other child. So, why are we not doing it so much when growing older? I would suggest to think about your actual benefits from completing the requested task. Are there any? If yes, do they match your current needs? If not, I encourage you to try out above answer.
6. The Goal Method
No, sorry, I cannot help you out.
This last method is also the most straight forward way on how to say No at work. Do we really always need to give an explanation to everything we say? I do not think so, but it depends on who is asking.
Does this task contribute to the work goals that you have set yourself for the next week, month or year? If not, be honest about it.
This is also the category that the Steve Jobs Video falls under, as in his scenario saying “No” is part of achieving a long-term goal and strategy.
Speaking of goals, why not set yourself a goal for how many times per week or per month you want to say No?
I hope the above techniques will be helpful for your next attempt to reject a request by a colleague in the office. You might have noticed, that there are people out there who are experts on saying “No”, and unless we want to compete with them, I would prefer to keep a healthy balance of accepting and rejecting such requests, otherwise nobody wants to work with me anymore.
Now, how do you say “No” at work? Are you ready to try one of the methods mentioned above? Share with us in the comments.
Image courtesy: iStockphoto