Learn How to Say No at Work

UPDATED: May 22, 2023
PUBLISHED: January 23, 2017

Whether you’re dealing with colleagues within your own business or considering which projects to take on for outside clients, knowing how and when to turn down work can make the difference between excelling at what you do and letting down those who rely on you.

We drive ourselves so hard these days that it’s no wonder that saying no has become a lost art. Perhaps you’re afraid of seeming out of your depth, of letting down the team or of losing a recurring customer. But often it’s better to gracefully decline work than to do it badly or deliver it late.

Related: 8 Things Killing Your Productivity

If you’re not sure where to draw the line, ask yourself these four questions:

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

If you answered no to any of these questions, then that’s likely the answer you should give to your colleague or client.

The second part of the challenge is to decline the work gracefully without closing any doors or giving the wrong impression about your work ethic. The key here is transparency: Be honest, state your case and offer solutions. Being too busy doesn’t have to reflect poorly on you, so long as you can demonstrate that you are in control, and that you value the colleague or client making the request.

Related: 10 Ways to Be a Better Communicator

For more tips on saying no, check out the infographic below. It’s a must-read if your workload is becoming unmanageable and you’re worried the quality might start to suffer. Getting more work than you can handle can sometimes be a luxury problem. Deal with it with maturity and gratitude, and good business should prevail.

How to Say No at Work

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