We’ve all been there: you feel overextended at work, but when your boss asks you to do something, you just can’t say no. Maybe you’ve been taught to “come from a place of yes” (thanks, Bethanny!), maybe you’re a people pleaser–or maybe you’re just worried about being fired.
It turns out that saying yes to everything your boss and co-workers ask of you isn’t the fastest way to get promoted–it’s the fastest way to burn out and appear scattered in the workplace. “Someone who says yes to everything will quickly be seen as unreliable,” says professional coach Bruce Eckfeldt, founder of Eckfeldt & Associates.
So, if saying yes to everything doesn’t work–how do you say no in a way that will make you look good to your boss and help advance your career?
“All good no’s are based on saying yes to something bigger or something more important,” Bruce explains. This means being strategic with your nos, and using them to show your boss you truly know how to spend your time to drive success for the company. “Someone who gives nine no’s followed by one yes will be trusted to get the job done.”
Here are Bruce’s tips for exactly how to do it:
Identify the common values and objectives of the team and organization. Make sure your no supports the bigger picture and priorities–literally reference them in your no. Bruce suggests using this phrasing: “Because we both want/value X, I have to say no to this new request Y.” Reinforcing that you are clear on the company’s values gives your boss confidence in your no.
Make your no’s firm but polite. Be aware of your tone and non-verbal communication when giving no’s–you need to be careful that you don’t come off as uncaring or neglectful. “If you can offer alternatives or other resources, do so,” Bruce suggests. Give them the impression that you care about the work getting done.
Be willing to discuss options and details. Saying no without discussing other ideas for how to achieve both outcomes will come across as inflexible and uncaring.
For more great management tips, check out Bruce’s free program, 52 Habits.