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Saying NO to your boss or co-workers can be challenging. You may think it will make you appear less of a team player or uncommitted to your job. Yet, one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself is to deny taking on more work when you already have a full schedule or have outside obligations that matter greatly to you. If you do find yourself struggling with saying NO to new projects or work tasks, there are ways to do so without offending supervisors or co-workers or feeling guilty about it yourself. Here is how to say NO at work without offending anyone.

How to Say NO at Work 

Saying NO at work is difficult because you want to help your co-workers out and excel at your job. If you’re overworked, however, you can do more damage than good, especially to your own mental health. 

To say NO at work requires that you stay professional and use empathy to convey your reply. You can say it in a way that lets your boss or team know that you absolutely would if you could, but you just can’t take on any more at this time. 

Consider each request that comes your way, measure it up against your current work schedule and priorities, and convey your response confidently. Follow this up with a brief statement as to why you’re saying NO

Afterward, stay firm. This doesn’t mean you have to be stern about it; just kindly stick to your decision if anyone else asks. You don’t want to appear easy to convince because this can have further implications down the road. 

5 Ways to Say NO Without Being Offensive 

All too often, employees feel guilty saying NO. Yet, always saying yes can lead to unmanageable workloads and cause you more stress than saying NO in the first place.

Here are five effective ways to say no without feeling guilty. 

1. Say no to the request itself, not the person asking. 

Be clear in your response that it’s about the workload, not a direct response to the person asking. 

2. Be honest in your reply

While you don’t have to divulge extensive details and explain yourself, you do need to give a short, honest reply. 

3. Provide potential solutions. 

Determine if there are other options or solutions, and offer alternatives to help the employee find a way to accomplish what is needed. This makes you feel you are still helping. 

4. Consider a compromise. 

If there is any way you can help at a later date or squeeze in a small task during the time you do have, you can still contribute without disturbing your priorities. 

5. Establish boundaries. 

Be clear about your priorities and establish personal boundaries to guide you whenever you feel guilty. Fall back on these when saying NO

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