The Power of Saying NO at Workplace

I was summoned for a face time with the super-boss. A towering figure, he stood over 6 ft tall, had blood-shot eyes and carried a fierce reputation.

As I entered his cabin, I saw him tapping away at his laptop. Can’t say he was sitting in his chair. He was half-slumped in it. I cleared my throat to register my presence and reached to the chair across him and parked myself. 

Since he was half-buried in the chair, I could only notice his eyes from the top of his laptop cover. 

He gurgled something and it was out of my earshot. When I didn’t respond for good 5 seconds, he growled at me, “We are setting up a new vertical.”

“You switch over and immediately report to the vertical head.”

It felt more like a verdict than a discussion. I knew if I said Yes, it would be a death-knell. I had tried what he wanted me to do in the past and failed miserably. My heart was not in it.

I mustered up courage, gathered my thoughts, and told him about my past experience and how I could contribute more to the organization by carrying on what I was doing already than getting into the new project that wasn’t up my alley.

I politely declined the opportunity as his steel gaze pierced into me.

The Power of Saying NO at Workplace

See, most of us have grown up to think “No” is a bad word, that those two letters have some evil connotation to it, that no means disobedience. We, as a society, aren’t used to hearing that particular word, let alone say it.

Think about it. How many times do you to give in to the wrong people, the wrong opportunities, the peer pressure and the wisdom of the crowd when all you have to do is turn ’em down? Say no.

At the workplace, a disagreement with your boss, even if it’s in the larger interest of the organization, could get interpreted as an affront. Then, there are your own insecurities. “If I say no to this project, will my boss see me in the same light as he does now? Will it affect my appraisals?”

Believe it or not, this is a huge problem in a work environment because you never learn how to say no even when it’s inappropriate.

Accepting every project, giving in to every wild whim and notion could throw your work-life balance off kilter sooner than you imagine.

All because you don’t want to offend people and want to be always seen in a positive light.

So, how do you learn how to say no? How do you make your work life way easier and maintain a certain balance in your everyday life?

It’s honestly not easy, but not impossible either.

The first thing you should do is realize the power there is in saying no. Just like there’s power in saying “Yes”, there’s a lot of power in owning your decision and saying NO.

In addition, ensure you keep the following in mind:

#1. Give it Context

Some of us think we should be judged at work strictly on our performance, not our likability. “I don’t suck up,” they say. Sadly, however, this is not how things work.

If you know you are going to shake your head no, make sure you back up your decision with context. Yes, you have to give it context.

A curt “No, I won’t be able to do it!” without a proper context is like kicking your own ass. You’ll be staring down the barrel sooner than later.

The Power of saying NO at workplace
Though things won’t take such a dark turn yet you need to refrain from jumping the gun (pic courtesy: www.latimes.com)

Context becomes important when you need to persuade your boss to look at things your way. Trust me, if you pursue it with the utmost professionalism, an agreement can be enlightening to both parties.

However, this won’t work when you have a domineering, control freak at the helm who doesn’t believe in a constructive discussion at all. Those will be exceptional scenarios when you have to toe the line.

#2. Never say yes just to say no later

The worst thing you can do in a professional situation is reneging on your word. Don’t say “yes” when you know you won’t be able to meet the expectations (whether they’re asking for a favor or just a little bit of your time).

It’s always better to be honest up front and say no if you know you won’t be able to do the thing, and even if you were able but don’t want to do it, simply say no.

Believe it or not, the simple act of saying no at work can help you avoid sticky situations you don’t want to be in. It can also increase your productivity and overall work performance.

#3. Prioritize

The key here is learning which opportunities you can skip and which ones it’s totally okay to say no.

The problem occurs when you unwittingly say yes to pointless meetings; when you tag along with a senior colleague just because you don’t him to upset him. You know what I am saying?

Just because you want to curry favor with someone, you give in. As a result, you begin to have lesser time to focus on your own work which, then, eats into your productivity levels.

You have to be smart enough to recognize which situations you have to agree with and say yes to.

In the end, turning someone down is all about not letting others arm-twist or sweet-talk you into agreeing to something when you don’t feel confident about it, or simply can’t do it.


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