Saying no isn't easy, but it is becoming a crucial workplace skill.
Women in particular find it hard to say no, for a great many reasons:
- We're afraid of being perceived as negative, or not committed.
- We don't want to be seen as 'not a team player'.
- We want to prove that we are in fact super woman and we can do it all.
Ultimately though, we wind up overworked and resentful and wondering how we got into this position.
Most women have an automatic 'yes' response, and vastly overestimate the consequences of saying 'no'. Saying 'no' to an unreasonable workload will be far less harmful to your career than taking on too much, and becoming resentful and stressed. Or worse, being seen as disorganised or underperforming.
So how do we say no?
- Realise it is OK to say 'no'. In any situation, you have a choice. The key is to learn how to say 'no' clearly and in a way that will be understood and accepted. Be firm and state a reason why. For example, 'I can't take on the project because I have a deadline on the xyz account.'
- Treat it as a negotiation, not an obligation. If you wish to say 'yes' to the task, qualify the impact on your current workload. Ask for extra time or resources, and make it clear what the consequences will be for your other projects.
- Keep it simple. Don't ramble and don't apologise. If you apologise, you are sending the message that you are doing something wrong by saying no.
- Practise! Like all skills, it takes practise to say no. We are so used to saying 'yes' that it will take time to feel comfortable. But by knowing your own priorities and keeping your career goals in mind, it will get easier to only take on tasks that further those goals.