As a manager, team leader or budding entrepreneur, you will receive dozens of emails, multiple phone calls, several Whatsapp messages and people approaching you for help, conversation or advice. In Indian culture, we are reluctant to say no as we feel it breaks the harmony of the dialogue and it is considered rude. While socially we have been taught to never say no to elders, in today’s fast-paced workplaces we have to learn how to say it. There are multiple reasons we cannot say no confidently. We want to be viewed as ‘nice’, we want to appear enthusiastic about our work by taking on more and want to look like a ‘solid’ team player. This explains why we are unable to say to requests for a “favor” from our clients, bosses, seniors and juniors. This singular habit leads to less time to complete our own tasks, enhanced levels of stress and career burnout.
If you have shown tremendous commitment, there’s a high chance that your boss will give you endless tasks to do as you have demonstrated that you are capable and dependable. You feel if you say no to your boss now, it will send a message of being lazy, incapable of handling the workload or even disinterested. So the question remains—how to say no to your boss? When your manager gives you extra work, how you say no to him/her has a huge impact on your career.
If your boss asks you to take on extra work:
If a co-worker asks for a favor, try buying time with a quick “Let me get back to you in an hour”. Go back to your desk, deliberate upon timelines and how this extra work will add to your current load, affecting your performance. If it fits in with your current workload, help out your colleague. If not, without any pangs of guilt politely decline saying, “This time it looks tough as I have several assignments running simultaneously”.
When a colleague makes an unreasonable demand, learn to say no instead of apologising. Push back firmly and say “No, I am unable to” instead of “Sorry, I am unable to”.
Always try to say the ‘no’ in person. As a rule, walk up to the person and tell them the reasons you are saying no. They can see you, reading your body language signals, hear the warmth in your voice and comprehend your words. If unable to schedule a face-to-face meeting, call them on the phone and use your voice to convey why you are unable to take the task on. Emails are a bad option—they can make you look rude as the person receiving it can neither see you nor hear you and the e-tone can be misconstrued.
While it’s obvious that you should say no to tasks or projects that don’t fit in with your work goals or value system, often most requests made at work are seldom so black or white—there are shades of grey. The dilemma is: after a 14-hour day, should you say yes, which is easier to say but tough to sustain or say a no which is tough to say but will keep your life simpler? Use these simple tips to reduce stress, improve time-management and maintain good working relationships.
—Shital Kakkar Mehra is a corporate trainer and executive presence coach. Views are personal
(Edited by : Ajay Vaishnav)
First Published: IST