Here’s How to Say No at Work
"People need to change their mindset about agreeing to everything," says Susan Newman, Ph.D., a social psychologist and the author of The Book of No. "By saying no, you can focus on your goals." Saying yes to everything can damage your reputation and hurt your career. "The expectation of assigning partners is that you will do a project thoroughly, and on time," says Cronin. "If you don't, you will get the reputation that you can't be trusted."
Take Time to Consider the Request
Determine how much time you'll need to deliver quality work, and how the assignment fits in to your existing workload. "In general before you say yes, you want to think strategically about what advantage doing something has for you," says Susan Newman, Ph.D.
Offer an Alternative
While saying no, try to help the person who approached you about the task. Ask if you can contribute in a different way, or tackle the project at a later date.
Say No in Person
"E-mail messages can get misconstrued," says Newman. "The willingness that you express through your tone of voice cannot be read in an e-mail."
Keep your explanation short and simple. By laying out your entire calendar, you run the risk that your boss will challenge the importance of other duties.
Consider the Consequences
Weigh the risks and benefits of every refusal, both personally and professionally. If you're the low man on the totem pole, you have less leverage when it comes to declining a request. As a more senior staffer, saying yes to one opportunity might get in the way of meeting your real professional goals, or make you feel exhausted and burned out.