Saying No to Your Co-workers

Spinwell Global

Posted Apr 18, 2023

Saying No to Your Co-workers: Setting Boundaries and Maintaining Control

When it comes to parenting, saying “no” to a child can be challenging. Although it may escalate tantrums or mood swings, it is a crucial aspect of setting boundaries and making long-term decisions. By saying “no,” children learn who is in control, rather than simply saying “yes” to avoid immediate conflict.

Oddly enough, in a work context, we often find ourselves hesitant to say “no.” This reluctance stems from our desire to be perceived as “good people.” Moreover, if we do muster the courage to decline a request, we may feel obligated to say “yes” the next time to alleviate the guilt from previously denying someone’s ask. This phenomenon is known as the “second-ask” effect.

However, taking on additional work solely to avoid offending others is a recipe for resentment, especially when you already have a mountain of tasks to complete.

The Power of Saying No: Setting Priorities and Delegating

Consequently, prioritizing your own needs can enable you to focus on and finish your work more effectively.

Additionally, saying “no” can also serve as a powerful tool for reaffirming your authority or delegating tasks. For example, you could respond with statements like, “I’m sorry, but that is not within my job description; it would be better for someone else’s self-development,” or “I believe this task would be more suitable for someone else to handle.”

The Art of Saying No While Saying Yes

The savvy individuals among us have mastered the art of saying “no” while still saying “yes.” Suppose a colleague asks you to take on extra work on their behalf. In that case, the following response demonstrates this approach:

“Yes, I could assist with your additional workload. However, this would inevitably delay my current project, causing further delays. Would that be acceptable to you?”

Here, you employ a clever tactic that empowers them to decide what truly matters to them, thereby depersonalizing the request.

In certain situations, you can also use company policy to depersonalize your refusal, stating, “I’m sorry, but it is against company policy to fulfill this request.”


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