Saying no at work is, in today’s world, still seen as a taboo action that many assume to be costly and unprofessional. Saying no to the boss in and of itself is a big no-no. However, when you find yourself overwhelmed and flooded with tasks that still need doing at the end of the day, it may be time to learn how to turn down new projects.
There are many different ways in which you can turn down extra work in a polite, professional manner. These methods of saying no ensure that coworkers and managers understand you aren't being lazy, but instead are keeping everyone’s best interests in mind — you're already swamped and can’t possibly fit anything else on your plate without creating needless bottlenecks and extra issues.
The first method in saying no is to give yourself a 24-hour window in which to respond. Remember that you don’t have to answer right away. This allows you to evaluate your schedule honestly and decide if the project or task is something you both want to take on and have time to complete. If you find that you want to take on the project but can’t, conveying that in an honest way is okay. Try a statement like, “I would love to, but I can’t right now. Thank you for the invitation, and please consider me for future projects.” Leave yourself open for the next opportunity.
The second method to saying no is to turn down work without really saying the word no. Rather than simply telling a coworker or manager that you can’t fit a task in with your current workload, show them. If you find that you have a lot on your plate already, ask your manager to sit down with you and evaluate your schedule to help you find time without hurting your current workload. Your manager may find that you simply don’t have the time to contribute in a meaningful way and let you off the hook. However, keep in mind that this method can also backfire — if you’re turning down work because you simply don’t want to do it, showing your manager an empty schedule while turning down work is never a good idea.
The third method for saying no is to offer a viable alternative that gets the work done. Name another coworker who enjoys the kind of work or project you’re being assigned to. Offer to supervise or provide guidance to someone who may be new to the office. Offering a solution to this problem shows that while your plate may be full, you can still delegate work effectively to qualified employees — or help new people get their feet under them.
Saying no in the workplace is hard. It can even be impossible to some. But remember that a reasonable workload is what keeps you sane at work. If you find that you come home hating life because you’re working 12 hours a day, you may need to learn how to set and maintain professional boundaries.
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