How to say no at work

2 mins | David Brown | Article | Workplace | Wellbeing

A man on a desk looks down on report pages with his hands holding his head, overwhelmed. On the desk sits a laptop and a cup of coffee.

We always hear that it's very important to say YES in your career. Yes, to opportunities, yes to leaving your comfort zone, yes to a new challenge. However, we rarely talk about the need for and importance of saying no. After all, only saying yes can lead to burnout, demotivation and a lack of control in your professional life. Knowing how to say no is a challenging task, after all, it's natural to want to be seen as a professional with initiative and who is ready for new challenges.  

After all, taking on too many commitments can lead to poor prioritization, missed deadlines and working overtime to deliver what you over-promised. So, no matter what stage of your career you're at, learning to say no and setting good boundaries can help you say yes more often to important opportunities.

What's wrong with saying no?

First of all, a NO doesn't always indicate rigidity or isn't always your final answer. Facilitate communication by proposing new deadlines, allocating alternative existing resources or, if necessary, asking those involved to define which work should take priority.

Saying no involves creating limits and knowing how to comply with them

There's no point in setting limits if you constantly fail to respect them. That's why we've listed below some of the main tips from Hays experts to help you say no with confidence and wisdom.

1. Organize your calendar

Set aside 5 to 10 minutes before each meeting to ensure that you are fully prepared. This includes being able to ask questions pertinent to the topic and being armed with answers to the main questions people might ask you.

2. Don't try to deliver too much

Make time for breaks while you're working. This break is important so that you can get up, have a drink of water and go for a walk.  

Be aware of how long it takes you to complete a particular task and communicate this information confidently to your managers. Assertive communication makes people understand what is feasible to deliver in each period. In other words, it will make it clear that you will only deliver fewer tasks if you don't have enough time to do them.

3. Avoid unnecessary meetings

Avoid spending the day in meetings, after all, you need time to sit down and do your work. This sounds simple but remember that saying YES to a constant stream of meetings can indicate that your time is being consumed in an unproductive way.

4. Minimize interruptions

Working in a focused way means working better. During these dedicated blocks of working time, avoid distractions by changing your personal and work notifications to 'do not disturb'. This is a clear message to your colleagues that you are not available for interaction at the moment. They will probably receive an automatic response, which will serve as a polite "no" on your behalf.

5. Always write everything down

Always, in your workplace communications, maintain a polite but firm posture that describes your willingness to commit to the job to manage expectations regarding deliverables. Remember that keeping communication in writing and formalized offers the possibility of retrieving information, as well as facilitating the alignment of expectations between those involved in the activities.

In short: How do you set healthy boundaries?

  • Block out your time to work on specific projects: only then will you know what availability you must take on more commitments.
  • Soften a "no" by suggesting alternatives, new deadlines or delegating the activity to other professionals who can help.
  • Implement an agile working approach, using a clear system to communicate the effort and duration of the project.

It's time to have a balanced professional life

Remember that learning to say no is an important tool for healthy working relationships and personal well-being. However, if it's time to look for a new job that gives you a better work-life balance, take a look at our available job vacancies today or contact one of our expert consultants. 



About this author

David Brown
Americas President, Chief Executive Officer USA 

David, a 21-year veteran of the staffing business, has been in charge of overseeing all US operations for Hays since 2018. Prior to leading Hays US, David held a number of positions in sales, sales management, and senior management. With his wife and three children, David resides in Atlanta and actively supports a number of regional non-profit organizations.

articleId- 63149229, groupId- 63372