The Importance of Saying ‘No’ at Work

stocksy_txpf4184ae7ehj100_small_1105869Nope, this post isn’t about my “word of the year.” (If you haven’t read about the word I chose for 2017, get the scoop here!) Instead, it’s about another word I believe everyone should employ to be more productive – and quite likely more sane. That’s the word “no.”

You could barely turn on the radio this spring without hearing Meghan Trainor espouse the beauty of the word “no.” Her anthem might have been all about girl power, but this single word remains powerful for any situation, including your work life.

Of course there are times that “no” is not the judicious thing to say for career advancement: Part of the puzzle is knowing when to say “no” and when not to. The articles below have helpful tips for when and how to employ the power of no.

Make Sure it Aligns With Your Priorities

“Prioritization is critical in today’s 24/7 work environment. I keep a list of long-term and short-term priorities and if a task or project doesn’t fit in one of those buckets, 99% of the time I decline it. My best tip for saying no is to be straightforward and not dance around the subject. Explain that the task, project or activity doesn’t align with your current priorities and, if the situation changes, you will revisit the topic. Also, sometimes you can suggest an alternative solution.” — Read more at Forbes.

A “No” Now Is Better Than a “No” Later

“Instead of saying ‘yes’ now and disappointing the person later when you fail to fulfill the request, say ‘no’ now. Do not say ‘maybe or ‘probably.’ It comes across as unclear. Most people appreciate a solid ‘no’ more than a ‘maybe.’ It’s indecision that can drain energy from all parties involved.” — Read more at Entrepreneur.

Or, Soften The No, As Needed

“Release the guilt: ‘I really do appreciate the offer and I wish I could help.’ That opening does a lot to counter the ‘But….no’ that’s the answer at the end of the reply.” — Read more at Bizwomen.

Say No Confidently

“Don’t:

  • Use a harsh or hesitant tone, and don’t be overly polite either. Instead, strive for a steady and clear no.
  • Hold back the real reason you’re saying no. To limit frustration, give reasons with good weight up front.
  • Distort your message or act tentatively because you’re trying to keep your colleague happy. Be honest and make sure your no is understood.”

Read more at Harvard Business Review.

Tell us below about a time you said “no,” and why it was totally the best choice!

Lindsey Pollak is the leading voice on millennials in the workplace, trusted by global companies, universities, the world’s top media outlets — and, most importantly, by millennials themselves. A New York Times bestselling author, Lindsey began her career as a dorm RA in college and has been mentoring millennials — and explaining them to other generations — ever since. Her keynote speeches have audiences so engaged that, in the words of one attendee, “I didn’t check my phone once!” Contact Lindsey to discuss a speaking engagement for your organization.

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5 Responses

  1. A mentor of mine told me, “as a successful person you will need to say ‘no’ to great things in service of saying ‘yes’ to greater things.” Further, if we give an 83% heartfelt yes, it’s not really a YES. We do ourselves and the person to whom we’re not really committing a great disservice unless we fully own that YES.
    So, when this same mentor made me an offer (that she likely thought I wouldn’t refuse), I told her no. Haven’t regretted it.

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