5 tips for saying no to your colleagues and boss

Most of us don’t find it easy to say no, especially in the workplace. You don’t want to disappoint your colleague or make your boss feel like you’re not a team player. But sometimes you just have too much on your plate to take on more work, or you just aren’t interested in the project.

How can you indicate in a nice but clear way that you cannot help your colleague or boss?

Saying no at work

If you keep saying yes and take extra work on your plate, you will run into the lamp. Saying no is extremely important, not only for your mental health, but also for the success of your organization.

That’s why below you will find five tips on how to say no at work and still be seen as a team player.

1. Of course, but …

There is a very easy way to subtly let you know that you want to take on the project, but that you simply don’t have time for it. If your boss or a colleague asks you if you want to take on extra work, you answer with a “Of course I want to do that! That means I don’t have time for project X, Y or Z. “

As a result, your colleagues or boss always have the feeling that they can turn to you for help, but you do set your own limits.

2. Be compassionate

We often don’t like to say no because we know we are saddling the other person with the problem. So be compassionate in your response and say something like, “I know you will be left with the job if I say no.”

You can then offer your help in a different way. For example, by brainstorming with them or by reading the first versions of documents, for example. See what’s possible in your schedule!

3. Don’t say sorry

Women, especially, have often made it a habit to say sorry. But you haven’t done anything wrong: why would you apologize? When you say sorry, you give the other person the feeling that you did something wrong.

Be clear

The sorry is, of course, a way to soften the “no”. And there are even more ways in which we try to do that, for example by not saying no explicitly and ignoring it a bit. This ensures that the other person feels that the door is still open, and that he or she can still push through. Or it causes the other person to wait and see if you are not coming to help, so that he or she does not ask anyone else for help.

Of course, saying no clearly is easier said than done. Do you notice that you have difficulty with this? Practice saying no with someone, or film yourself to see how you can be stronger.

5. Be honest about why you say no

Maybe you’re not saying no because you’re too busy, but because you’re just not the right person for the job. It may be hard to admit that you are not good at everything, but it is completely normal. Besides, lies will always come true. Saying that you are too busy, but then chatting for hours at the coffee machine, is not really good for your reputation, for example.

Also read: 5 tips for dealing with a colleague who is always complaining

Tessa Ham is an editor at and writes for Metro about career and money.

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5 tips to say no to your colleagues or boss and still be seen as a team player


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