4 Ways To Say ‘No’ At Work And Still Be Seen As A Team Player

4 Ways To Say ‘No’ At Work And Still Be Seen As A Team Player

Source: This article was originally published on CNBC.
Written by: Marguerite Ward, CNBC Make It

When your boss asks you to jump on a new project or stay late for an assignment, it’s a good idea to reply with an emphatic “yes!”

After all, being known as someone who regularly gets the job done without complaint is one of the fastest ways to get promoted, says bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch. But if you’re not careful, it’s also an easy way to get overwhelmed and even burn out. “Sometimes you just have to say ‘no,'” Welch tells CNBC Make It. “The work is too much, you don’t believe in the project, or, occasionally you happen to have a life outside of the office.”

If you can’t cram anything else into your schedule or need a break, there are ways to say “no” to more work while still being seen as a team player.

Here are four strategies for how to say no at work:

1. Have a list of responses ready

Preparing a few lines in advance will help you sound professional. It will also make the situation less scary for you.

For instance, if you’re too busy, you could say, “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m overscheduled to a fault right now.”

Or if you’re just not the right person to help someone, Welch suggests saying: “Thanks for thinking of me, but I can assure you there is someone far more appropriate than me for that job.”

Those responses are friendly and respectful, the leadership expert says, which is key to declining work without ruffling feathers.


2. Prepare a simple explanation if it’s needed

There are some work environments where saying “no” may surprise people. “Don’t panic,” Welch says. “Keep your ‘no’ simple, diplomatic and candid.”

Welch recommends providing a simple explanation, like: “No, I’m afraid I have a family obligation that I just can’t get out of.”

Or you could use a diplomatic reply: “As you probably heard, I wasn’t one of the biggest fans of that project. I’m definitely rooting for its success, but I’m not the right person for this assignment.”

Whatever you do, be honest. “Lies always seem to catch up with us,” she says.

3. If you can’t say “no” flat out, negotiate

Sometimes there are situations when you really cannot decline a work request. A deadline might be looming and the team needs your help, or a program needs fixing and you are the expert.

“If a flat ‘no’ seems impossible,” Welch says, “negotiate.”

Start with “I’d like to say ‘no,'” she suggests. “And then offer a solution that would make a ‘yes’ acceptable to you.”

For example, if a colleague asks you to stay late on a day that you have dinner plans, you could say, “I’d like to say ‘no,’ but I know this project is important. I can stay until 7 p.m., but after that, I really do have to head out.”

By negotiating, you at least have some control over the situation. You also are politely letting the other person know that you are making a sacrifice.


4. End the conversation on a confident note

After you’ve done the hard work of saying “no” to something, make sure you end the conversation in a way that doesn’t leave room for further prodding.

“This is super important,” Welch says. “Thank the person quickly and firmly for not asking you again.”

For example, after you decline the request, follow up by saying, “Thanks for understanding.”

This tactic, which Welch calls “unbelievably effective,” works because it definitively ends the conversation, leaving no room for more back-and-forth.

“The truth is, it’s very hard to say ‘no,'” Welch says. But it’s important to avoid career burnout.

Save your “yes!” replies, Welch says, “for asks that really count.”

Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator, and public speaker. Through its online MBA program, the Jack Welch Management Institute transforms the lives of its students by providing them with the tools to become better leaders, build great teams, and help their organizations win. 

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