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You Really Can Say No At Work: Here’s How You Do It

Your boss comes over to your desk with another project that needs to get done. You’re already working on three other projects and your co-workers each only have one. “You’re the only person I trust to get this completed on time,” your boss might say. “Will you add this to your pile?”

Your boss expects you to say “Yes.” In reality, you really can say “No” and not have to worry about your job. Here’s how you can make that happen.

Make Your “No” Be Well-Reasoned

Instead of an emotional reaction to the request to do more work, think about it from a practical solution. Using the example from above, you’ve already got 3 projects on your desk. Discuss with your boss the fact that you already have a lot of work that already needs to be completed. Talk about which work needs to take a priority. You might be able to shift the other projects to take on this new one, so you end up saying both “Yes” and “No” at the same time.

By taking a well-reasoned approach, you can show your boss the scope and scale of the work you already have. There’s a good chance that they don’t realize how much is already on your plate. This new work was brought to you because you really are good at what you do. Therefore, when you communicate more about what you’ve got going on, your professional life often becomes a bit easier to manage.

Take the Emotions of Your Boss Into Account

When you tell your boss that you can’t take on a new project, the rejection is going to create negative emotions for them. If there is no empathy for this natural process, then there’s a good chance the response you get back to your “No” is, “Well… I’m your boss and I’m telling you to get this job done anyway.”

Take a moment to step into the shoes of your boss for a second. Understand the difficult position they are already in and now you’re just adding to it. By acknowledging what is happening, your boss still isn’t going to be very happy, but they can cope with the negative emotions you’re creating for them.

Offer Up a Favor or Two

Maybe you can’t take on the full project right now, but you could consult with others on it for awhile. Could you attend a planning meeting? Read the first draft once it’s completed and lend your advice? Listen to others as they brainstorm ideas for what needs to happen? If you can offer up a favor or two, then you’re still saying “No” to the massive demands of a project, but you still get to be involved in it.

With that being said, your “No” must be authentic. You might be busy with 3 projects on your plate, but what will the boss think if you’re constantly taking breaks to chat with co-workers, text on your phone, or check your Facebook status? The boss will think you’ve got extra time on your hands. If you say that you’re too busy to take on another project, make sure that the perception you give others matches up with the reality of your situation.

Saying “No” requires you to be kind, but it also requires you to be firm. Be sure of yourself. Try not to be defensive. Be honest about what you’ve got going on. Make it clear that you won’t change your

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