Twop Tips: 5 Ways To Say No At Work

by Sep 29, 2015

Saying yes can sometimes be easier than saying no at work, but it can take its toll. Firuze gives you our Top 5 tips for saying no, without saying NO!

I often find myself in a bit of a pickle at work, and it tends to be when I’ve said yes to something. Not always, just mostly.

I’m sure you can empathise with the situation even if you haven’t experienced it yet. You’re already full to the brim with work to do to the point of nearly exploding. But one of your co-workers, someone who is always polite and helps you out when they can, asks you to do about 30 minutes of work. “Yes of course, I’m sure I could fit that in.”

This 30 minutes turns into 45 minutes, and then the client makes it an hour. Then changes make it 2 hours. Before you know it you’re working late to get it ticked off the list.

My typical response is to blame resourcing and how much work there is for a small team, or to blame a particularly picky client that should be seeing your work for how amazing it is, not picking holes in it.

The truth is it is my fault for saying yes.

I’ll do this over and over again and get nowhere because most of the time it’s easier to say yes and get on with it than to deal with the consequences of saying no. Saying no means jeopardising relationships with co-workers, having to further manage clients, and risk the profitability of a project. Saying yes means just a little more stress today, or this week, this month, this year, my entire career. No one wished they worked longer, but how do you make it easier to say no?

Here are my 5 tips.

1. Predict workload and schedule it

Sometimes you know when there’s a picky client. Other times you know when the copywriter will miss the deadline because they’re a perfectionist proofer. Sometimes you know a job is going to take longer than expected. Having these predictions in your head helps you manage your workload, but it doesn’t give everyone else visibility of what you are juggling. Scheduling tools are your friend, even if it’s planning it out in a calendar. This also gives you the ability to show how busy you are when someone asks you for something and lets you visualise your predictions of how long it will take to see if you have time for more.

2. No one is out to get you, don’t treat them as such

Hopefully anyway. If someone is out to get you that’s a case for HR, but usually everyone is on the same team and knows when you’re busy. When discussion workload or a new task, be honest and try to be flexible, you don’t want to appear unhelpful.

3. Say no later

Don’t feel like you have to answer immediately. If you’re particularly busy you tend to only be thinking about what you’re doing at that moment. You don’t want to appear emotional either, and being asked for one more thing at a stressful time means you may say something you don’t mean, or at least sound standoffish. Ask if you can take a look at what you’ve got on and have a little bit of time to come back with an answer. Take a breather, look at what’s on and see how much time you can really give.

4. Work out alternative options

When you’re not able to dedicate your time to a task, you could still be the best person to suggest the alternative. If the task in question is a particularly big job and could risk other projects if you take it on, sit down with those involved, including someone in charge of budget, and discuss. Sourcing external resource, shifting things around or finding faster or better ways of completing the task considering the time you have are all viable options compared to you saying yes.

As a side note, record these meetings. Working these things out is something you should always make time for so that you’re figuring something out as a team and will greatly help a case for more resource.

5. Get perspective

My boss once said “if you say yes to everything and go insane but the company has made a profit, it’s meaningless if you left tomorrow.” In advertising and marketing we’re often expected to work longer hours and to work harder, but there’s a limit. Take a step back to recognise when you need help to alleviate the pressure.

So, saying “yes” and then failing to deliver either your existing work or the new task, is worse than saying “no” in the first place. Being able to prioritise is a key attribute and this will sometimes mean putting a new task ahead of what you are already working on. Explain to your manager why you are taking time out for this new task and how much this might delay your existing work. Doing this will show that you are a team player who wants what is best for company.


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About Firuze French

Firuze is headstrong but a fan of cute things. Although she’s a minimalist on the outside, she’s overly technical on the inside. As a design consultant, Firuze is always on hand to offer advice on creative and tech trends. She’s a London lover but New York dreamer who loves city life. Firuze considers herself an interior designer in training, DIY hobbyist and a lover of Michelin star dining for a bargain price.