How to Say No at Work

How to Say No at Work

September 25, 2019
Annette Maggi
Business Skills

By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

In last week’s article Business Skill Development: Saying No, reasons for saying no in the workplace were addressed. In part two of this topic series, how to say no is discussed. Here are tips on feeling comfortable and confident when saying no at the office.

  • Evaluate the request. Before responding with a knee-jerk “no,” assess whether you have the desire and the bandwidth to help with the request. Consider if the request is important enough to your retailer’s business to shift other priorities to accommodate the current request. Is it a small project that won’t take too much time? Is there someone else you could delegate the request to? Be sure you need to say no before you actually say no.
  • Be straightforward. If it’s clear that you need to turn down the request, do so professionally and honestly. Be candid and clearly state your reasons for saying no to the project. It’s completely appropriate to include descriptions of the current priorities on your plate when turning down the request, indicating that you couldn’t do an effective job on the other person’s project and that your other work could suffer if you did take it on. 
  • Don’t be harsh, but don’t be too polite. How you say no matters to managing your ongoing relationship with the person making the request, and it’s essential to consider the tone and body language of your response. Indicate that you appreciate being thought of for the project and don’t make the other person feel bad for asking. But be firm in your no to ensure they other party doesn’t get the impression that you might change your mind. Keep your response professional, business focused and neutral.
  • Practice saying no. Saying no out loud, including your reasons makes it easier. 
  • Resist apologizing. As discussed in last week’s article, turning down a request can feel counterintuitive in a team environment. But it’s important to not start your no response with “I’m sorry, but. . . “ as it may suggest you can be talked or guilted into completing the request. You’ve evaluated the request and now that it isn’t a priority, so you have no reason to apologize and every reason to feel confident in saying no.