Saying No at Work: When You Should Put Your Foot Down

Are you known for being a yes-man at work? Sometimes, saying yes to every request that’s thrown your way as a leader might seem like the best way to appease clients or make your team happy. But, in reality, some demands actually detract focus from your core objectives resulting in stress or decreased quality of work.

This can be a hard habit to change especially if you’ve established an agreeable reputation among your customers, vendors and staff. And, just like any new skill you want to develop, saying no takes practice but the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll become with it.

So, when should you say no? Here are five scenarios:

1.  When there are unrealistic deadlines
The saying “a lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine” are words to live by. Agreeing to drop everything for these last-minute, high-priority requests sets you up for future failure. Saying no in these scenarios helps to establish reasonable expectations for how far in advance these requests need to be made.

2.  When you’re asked to attend an unnecessary meeting
Nothing hinders productivity like a calendar chock-full of meetings. Instead of mindlessly accepting every meeting invitation that comes to your inbox, take a minute to evaluate the necessity. Why are you being included in the meeting? What are you expected to have prepared for the meeting? What are the meeting objectives? If the answers to these questions aren’t clear, it’s best to say no.

3.  When your workload is already at full capacity
Taking on more work than your schedule allows for requires you to do one of two things in order to meet your deadlines: compromise the quality of your work or compromise your work-life balance. Your time is valuable – and limited – so don’t over-commit yourself.

4.  When it doesn’t align with your values
If a request makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, you should turn it down. Whether it’s writing a reference for someone you don’t endorse or covering for a staff person who’s being less than honest, always go with your gut. You should never compromise your morals or integrity to appease others.

5.  When someone else is better suited
Taking on projects that require you to learn new skills or technologies is great for personal and professional development. However, if you receive a request that’s too far out-of-line with your core responsibilities, it’s OK to not accept. There’s likely someone else who has the necessary expertise to get the job done well.

The Bottom Line
If agreeing to every request takes your focus off what’s really driving the success of your company, recognize you have a choice in these scenarios and start saying “no” when necessary. Remember: saying no is OK – and sometimes even liberating!