When to Say “No”

– Author: IAM Team 

No matter your title, status, or sector you work in, it is likely you will have experienced rapid change, conflicting demands and extra responsibilities. Of course, to build a successful career there is no substitute for hard work, but sometimes we do need to say “no”. As always, it is how to do this. 

Most people are guilty of taking on more tasks than they can handle, perhaps fear of letting their team down, or, feeling they can’t say no to their boss (perhaps due to trying to impress or fearful of repercussions). I have been in the position of raising concerns of workload, worried mistakes would be made, or things would not progress as efficiently and quickly as they could. The response was to “manage my time and make it work”. 

However, even the most efficient can be overloaded and, by doing so, increase the risk of mistakes, or not producing our usual quality of work. It can be an awkward conversation, but as mentioned in an article produced by entrepreneur, in these cases, your boss probably would have preferred that you’d said no in the first place. 

So before you say no, ask yourself: 

  1. Do I have time? 
  2. Will I be able to complete my existing workload? 
  3. Will rescheduling make this new task achievable? 
  4. Am I the best person for the job? 

The next step however, is to say “no” gracefully, including stating your case, in a reasonable and well thought manner, answering some of the above questions will help structure your argument. Avoid the blunt “no”, nor be passive aggressive. Don’t take the approach of “I saw you sent me x to do, but I am stuck trying to get the other tasks you’ve asked done”, instead “thank you for sending this across, but I was planning to spend this week on X projects”. 

Nonetheless, the crucial thing that most people don’t do or, forget to do, is to offer a potential solution. Despite you not being able to complete a task, maybe it is a case of discussing prioritisation, or, suggesting collaborative efforts. Ultimately this will strengthen your case. 



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