How to Say No at Work (Without Getting Fired)

By Victoria Rollison, Money Maven
Find yourself always saying yes to colleagues when you really mean no? RESCU teaches you how to say no in the office – even to your boss – without being shown the door.



Everyone would prefer to be liked by their colleagues and approved of by their boss. But sometimes you just can’t do what they ask. It’s ok to say no, but how you say it can be the difference between being respected as strong and determined, and getting fired.

3 Top Tips on How to Say No Nicely:

1. Say what you mean
Don’t be passive. It’s better to say no than to say yes and mean no. If you are reluctant about doing what you have been asked to do, it will show, and you probably won’t do it well anyway. On the other hand, being aggressive about saying no isn’t going to get you far either. The trick is to be assertive in saying no, and to use your negotiation skills to find a way around the problem.

2. Offer another solution 
Being assertive involves saying why you can’t do what you’ve been asked, and then offering a different solution to problem. If your boss asks you to work late to finish an urgent report, and you have a date you just can’t break, try saying: “I’m sorry I can’t work late today, as I have a prior commitment”. You don’t need to go into details unless you have a really good case, but even then, keep it brief. Your boss is just concerned about getting the work done, not the details of your grandmother in hospital. Then say, “But I can come in early tomorrow and get it done”. Or suggest that you can reschedule other work to fitit in, or that you are willing to negotiate a new deadline with the client. Be the one to present your boss with a solution to the problem; don’t become part of the problem yourself.

Perhaps a colleague asks for help with a presentation, and while you don’t want to be uncooperative, you’re sick of doing half of their work for them. Say, “I can’t help you this instant, but I’ve got some time next week when I could show you have to use Power Point yourself”. Subtly let the boss know you’ve made the offer, with the subtext that you are a team player, not a snooty bitch.

You may also have to say “no” to someone who reports to you.  Use the same process: give them a reason and offer them a different solution.

3. Keep your standards
There are occasionally times when you really have to say no because you are being asked to something that is not merely inconvenient, but involves cutting corners or behaving badly. If your boss allows or even encourages such behaviour, then it’s time to look for another job. Don’t wait to be fired for refusing.

If you can be flexible and cooperative most of the time, saying the occasional ‘no’ will carry more weight. Your boss and your colleagues will know that you are not being difficult and will respect you for it.


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