How to say No at Work
Many women have trouble with saying no at work and take on numerous activities, way beyond what they want.
Based on conversations and research, the reasons for this include the following:
- Women are people pleasers.
- They put the needs of others before their own.
- They want to be compassionate and help others.
- They want to be liked.
- They don’t want to be rude.
- They want to show they are team players.
- They worry what others will say if they do say “no”.
- They are afraid of conflict.
- They have a desire to keep the peace. They don’t know how to let others down gracefully.
- They worry about lost opportunities if they say no.
- They feel a need for control over how something is done; if they don’t do it themselves, they figure it may be done poorly.
- They worry about burning bridges.
Yet taking on so many activities at work may result in exhaustion and feelings of deprivation in sleep, emotional support, physical energy, and time to themselves, as well as feeling empty and resentful.
Here are some of strategies women can use to say no. Create your “absolute yes” and “absolute no” lists:
- Likewise, create your “absolute no” list (things you no longer do or would like to give up in the future). For example, maybe you put on your list “I no longer accept phone calls during family dinners”. Looking at it daily can remind you of things that are definite “nos”.
- Set “No” as your default answer instead of starting with “Yes, I will see if I can do it”.
- Let the person know from the beginning that you may not be able to help them. Point out that you have a number of other commitments and will need to review these first. This also lets them know that it may be a good idea for them to look at other options rather than simply relying on you to do the task.
- Think about how much you really want to do it. Sleep on it. Then, if you discover you really want to do it, your answer will be a “yes”. If not, your answer should be a “no”.
- Make sure that if you do say yes, it’s because you really want to do it, not because you feel guilty or have a sense of obligation.
- Watch out for people who flatter you to get you to do something, guilt you into it, whine so much that you finally do it just to get them to stop whining, or those who bully you into doing something.
- Be direct when saying no. Don’t overtalk the point, and don’t be wishy-washy. Some women make too many hedging statements, leaving the other person confused (for example, “I don’t think I can do it, but if something changes, maybe I can”. Be appreciative that they asked you.
- Remember that if others are used to your saying “yes” to their requests, when you finally start saying “no” they may get upset. Be prepared for this and stay firm.
- If they are pushy, remember that you can be just as pushy back.
And remind yourself that a “no” to one thing means a “yes” to something that is more important to you – your own time and priorities.