Saying ‘No’ at Work: Why, When and How to Do It Nicely

Saying 'No' at Work: Why, When and How to Do It Nicely letsreachsuccess.com infographic

This is a guest post by Andrew Dennis.

If you ask a successful legacy employee for career advice, it’s likely they will come out with some variation of the old adage: “Know when to say no.”

It’s spectacular advice, but easier said than done.

Most people want to say yes to projects at work. To prove that we can do any job that is asked of us, show we are as capable and responsible as others, Or make sure we make a good impression on our superiors and peers.

However, it’s important to learn to say no periodically, when necessary. So as not to jeopardize the other work you may be doing. 

Saying yes too often is a common issue.

According to the study represented in the infographic below, over 50% of workers say they feel overwhelmed. Projects pile up that all seem doable by themselves but collectively they build into a mountain of work that is impossible to scale.

This leads to shoddy or mid-level work on projects that should have been carefully edited. As well as a lack of innovation on work that could have used some creative pondering.

It is frustrating to realize that you aren’t putting forward your best and most impressive output because you’ve run out of time.

How Do You Know When to Say No?

It helps to have a considered strategy when entering into any work situation.

The infographic below outlines work-related reasons for saying no. Such as, not to pick up a task when you’re not the most qualified person for the job. Or if you cannot realistically make the deadline. But there are personal reasons to think about as well.

When asked to take on a project try to make sure to assess your work level and then see if what you are being asked to do adheres to at least one of these following criteria:

  • Will it advance my resume/reputation/job performance?
  • It is something I am passionate about?
  • It is something I have been meaning to learn?

If you find yourself saying yes to projects that fit none of these — “just because” or “just to help out”, it is time to try to find a way to say no.

Think of a project that does not follow these criteria as active time-wasters, something that is taking energy away from projects or life experiences that you could otherwise engage in if you weren’t so busy taking with something unrewarding.  

As with most communications, honesty is the best policy.

However, as the infographic below demonstrates, there are strategies to frame declining an offer of work that make it more palatable.

Some simple ways to consider saying no properly:

  • Say no face to face – if possible perform sensitive communications in person or at least over the phone (rather than trusting an email or text message to do your dirty work).
  • Don’t make excuses – just be clear about your situation.
  • Don’t equivocate – give a specific and solid NO to avoid any confusion and do so deliberately.
  • Offer an alternative – have an idea in place for how the work can get done without your input or with you in a lesser role.
  • Be open for future work – while perhaps this time it didn’t work out, reiterate that you are looking forward to the possibility of working together at a better time.

Check the infographic from GetVoIP below for more strategies for delivering a no response that won’t ruffle feathers at work.

how to say not at work respectfully

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8 Tips for Women to Help Grow Their Career

8 Tips for Women to Help Grow Their Career

Why are there so few female CEOs? It’s a commonly discussed topic in the Australian business landscape, and often highlighted as an issue in society.

This has been made evident in the inaugural Robert Half CEO Tracker, commissioned by specialised recruiter Robert Half to identify common traits amongst the leaders of the ASX 200-listed companies. The research found the top position in the workplace is still male-dominated, as the majority of ASX 200 CEOs are men (94%). Only 12 ASX 200 CEOs are women.

It’s an unfortunate fact of the current C-suite employment market, with women underrepresented in top positions – a fact that applies to not only ASX 200-listed companies.

Despite this, it’s well known that diversified boardrooms with women represented across leadership positions bring enormous value to organisations and the wider business community. This is not just because of their wealth of experience and knowledge. But also because of their diverse perspective applied to business strategy that’s required for any organisation to succeed.

Whilst looking at the low percentage of female CEOs, within our Executive Search branch, we’re seeing a strong push for diversity from companies looking to hire at the C-suite level. Organisations are actively specifying diversity in their recruitment agendas, and not only just based on gender, but on an all-inclusive approach.

While there still is a long way to go for women to be represented equally at the boardroom table, it’s encouraging to acknowledge just how far Australian women have come and actively promote steps they can take to further their careers in the business world. More can always be done to empower women within the workplace. And understanding the common professional characteristics of top Australian CEOs is a great place to start their C-suite journey.

For women looking to hone their personal attributes, CEOs need to be clear communicators who are capable of both giving direction and accepting expert opinion. And as with all leadership positions, exceptional people skills are essential. By being assertive, forward-thinking and willing to take risks, ambitious women in the workplace can ascend the corporate ladder to the top job just as fast as their male counterparts.

How Women Can Grow Their Career

energy focus and productivity tips for anyone working from home all day

1. Know what you really want.

Think about what you want to achieve in your career – and why. Ask yourself some important questions:

  • As a senior executive would you be willing to work long hours and take up extra responsibilities?
  • Do you like to solve complex problems?
  • Are you comfortable as a leader?
  • And, crucially, how do your family feel about you pursuing a career as a business leader?

2. Develop a career plan.

Determine what you want to achieve, and work out a detailed career plan. This will be a blueprint that maps out your journey to the top of your organisation, allowing you to focus on your ultimate career goals.

3. Work continuously on your leadership skills.

Developing leadership skills is an ongoing process and an essential element for women pursuing a management position. By developing your technical, managerial and social skills, you are more likely to climb the corporate ladder – and be better prepared for the challenges you face along the way.

4. Communicate (more) directly.

Well-developed communication skills are essential for all managers. Yet men and women often have different communication styles.

Women usually take on a more modest tone, and often tend to communicate in an assuming way (“wouldn’t it be better”, “could we perhaps”, etc.). However, for a male audience – who usually communicate in a more direct way – this style of communication can suggest you lack confidence or are unsure about the matter at hand.

5. Take risks.

Women are usually less inclined to take risks than men. Yet this is part of being a leader. If you can prove you are willing to take calculated, carefully considered risks, you’re more likely to assume a managerial position.

6. Offer to take on certain tasks, even those nobody else wants.

A willingness to take on additional projects or raise your hand for tasks that others are sidestepping, can showcase your skills beyond your normal job duties. This is a great way to demonstrate you’re a team player, who is willing to go the extra mile for the company.

7. Do not be afraid to stand out.

All great leaders stand out from the crowd. As a manager, it’s likely you will have to make tough, and at times, unpopular decisions, so be prepared to set yourself apart from others in good times – and in bad.

8. Build your network.

People like to work with people they know. So do not underestimate the possibilities offered by traditional and online networking. Building your network can be important to getting ahead.

About The Author

Robert Half Executive Search specialises in the search for and placement of executive leadership talent across a broad spectrum of function areas and industry sectors.

By being assertive, forward-thinking and willing to take risks, ambitious women in the workplace can ascend the corporate ladder to the top job just as fast as their male counterparts. Here are 8 tips to help women grow their career