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February 21, 2017

Just say 'No'—it's how your most successful colleagues get ahead

Daily Briefing

    Editor's note: This story was updated on May 1, 2019.

    Sometimes saying "no" to your coworker—or your boss—can be more difficult than working through an overwhelming load of obligations.

    But it shouldn't have to be.

    Here are 4 ways to be a less-stressed leader

    Writing for Glassdoor's blog, Amy Elisa Jackson shares three strategies for turning down extra work, while still coming out on top.

    1. Take ownership

    "This is a decision you are making," Jackson points out. Using pronouns like "we" or "you" can cast blame or include other members of the team who aren't actually involved in your "no."

    Instead, Jackson suggests saying something along the lines of, "I'm glad you came to me with this opportunity, but unfortunately I won't be able to tackle it at this time."

    2. Cut to the chase—and be honest about it

    "Making up an excuse or a fake set of circumstances to get you out of the work makes you look bad," says Jackson.

    This is why honesty is the best policy when it comes to turning down work. But it does require some self-reflection; you have to understand your decision before you can explain it to someone else.

    "Really think through your reasoning and craft a clear and concise way to convey that," Jackson suggests.

    Once you figure out your message, be upfront. Don't stall or assume your colleague will take the hint.

    3. Be thoughtful

    Jackson brings up the age-old "Golden Rule" here: treat others the way you would like to be treated.

    If you say "no" a little too bluntly, your colleagues could get upset or offended, especially if they disagree with you. But if you provide an explanation and show thoughtfulness, your colleague will respond with equal understanding.

    "Remember to remain confident in your decision yet empathetic to your boss's needs, especially if the other person remains professional toward you," Jackson concludes (Jackson, Glassdoor blog, 1/17).

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