The Best-Kept Secrets to Saying No at Work

US News

You've got enough going on between your normal responsibilities at the office and the additional pile of work you're taking on every time someone asks for assistance. Sometimes it's hard to turn anyone down. If you're known around the office as Can't-Say-No Nellie, it's time to get more assertive.

Why we say yes too much. Most of us are eager to rise the ranks at our jobs. We take on more work, additional responsibility and work longer hours in the hopes that our contributions will be recognized by the powers that be.

But saying yes to every additional project and after-hours assignment is putting us in a predicament. This is especially true for women, who the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports are more likely to feel tired and worn out than men. This is likely due, in part, to us taking on more than we should. We often get to a place where we're afraid to say no at work, concerned that it might jeopardize our future.

Realign expectations. The truth is: No one will begrudge you for saying you're overwhelmed at work. Even if you don't say so much in words, simply saying no can clue people in to the fact that maybe they're asking too much of you.

You're not expected to do it all, but if you've gotten into the habit of saying yes to everything, it's understandable that people you work with would turn to you first for help. Shifting your mindset will help them change their own expectations and find someone else to share the extra workload.

Saying no without fear of retribution. If you're not sure how to tell your boss or co-worker that you don't want to take on a weekend project or spearhead a new campaign, here are some strategies, outlined in a SlideShare presentation from Citi's Women & Co. Connect: Professional Women's Network, that will help:

-- Make peace with the word "no." Leadership coach Tara Andrews encourages you to be unapologetic when it comes to putting your foot down.

-- Redirect. Syeda Mleeha Shah, who works in early education childhood management, says sometimes a gentle nudge of the conversation into another direction can work.

-- Say it kindly. Dina Eisenberg, communication and conflict coach, explains that there are ways to say no and leave the door open to further conversation.

-- Make it a clear "no." Some people won't hear a "tactful no," says Charla White, event coordinator, so make sure the recipient understands your answer.

-- Find someone else to help. Lori Huckins, rail fleet specialist, tries to be helpful by finding someone else who can assist with the project.

Know when to say yes. You will likely be presented with additional projects that can help you further your career. There's nothing wrong with taking on additional work. But if your goal is to move up the corporate ladder, make sure what you're saying yes to will help you achieve that desire.

Consider also to whom you're saying yes. Your boss should be high on the priority list, but the co-worker that always seems to weasel out of his assignments can be dropped from that list. Focus on what you're trying to do with your career, and don't feel sorry for those who can't help themselves.

Saying no can be empowering once you get accustomed to it. Start by saying yes only to the projects you truly want to take on. Before you answer someone, pause a moment and ask yourself whether this is truly something you want to do, or whether you simply feel obliged to say yes to it.

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.



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