Learn to say no at work while maintaining good relationships


Learn to say no at work while maintaining good relationships

Learning to say no to work is not always easy. For various reasons, finding the right balance between assertiveness and empathy requires implementing the right strategies.

In this article, I present 5 tips that will help you assert yourself while maintaining good relationships with your colleagues, managers, colleagues, clients, etc. 

Before moving on to the advice, I remind you that you can benefit from the expertise of a life coach from our coaching firm.

1 – Say no without saying no

According to Turnbull & Saxton (1997) you do not need to say no directly to refuse a request from a colleague or your manager.

These authors stress the importance of using strategies to “protect your face”. Specifically, they focus on strategies that emphasize:

  • reluctance to do something
  • the obligation
  • reluctance and obligation

Concretely, if you wish to refuse a teammate’s request you can use these strategies as follows:

Can you finish this work by tonight?

Answer highlighting reluctance: I don’t think this is possible or compatible with my current workload.

Answer emphasizing obligation: I must first complete the other priority task by tomorrow morning.

Reluctance and obligation answer: I don’t think I can do the work because of the deadline you set.

In agreement with Patrick & Hagtvedt (2012) the negation I don’t (e.g. I don’t want, I am not, I don’t have) is more effective than the negation with I can’t.

For example, you can tell your supervisor or colleague, I am not able to give this task the attention it deserves.

Now that you have understood that you can refuse a request without saying the word no, the next step is to explain your needs and protect your rights.

2 – Set limits

If you use the above strategies, you will be able to better manage the requests of your professional entourage.

But they will probably not always be enough to convince everyone. You will then need to manage the counter-arguments of your colleagues.

This is the time to set clear boundaries and define what is acceptable to you in terms of what others may ask of you.

For example, if you don’t want to bring work at home, you need to say so. Doing this requires that upstream you define and prioritize your values. Tailored coaching with a life coach can help you clarify your values and priorities.

You must also express your needs, for example what you need to work in the best conditions. For example, having a quiet place, working independently, etc.

If you do not express what is acceptable to you, your colleagues will allow themselves to act without respecting your rules.

So it’s up to you:

  • to be very clear about your needs
  • to ensure that your rules are respected
  • report non-compliance with your requirements

Now that you’ve learned the importance of setting boundaries, the next tip is to protect the relationship.

3 – Protect the relationship

When working with others, it’s not always possible to say no, especially if it’s your manager.

It is important to understand that your refusal can be experienced by your interlocutor as an attack on your self-esteem and therefore on her or his value as a person.

This is why when you say no, you must always be careful to protect the relationship you have established with your colleague.

If you are too assertive, you may get a victory in the short term but it can affect the relationship in the long term and that’s not what you really want.

One way to protect this relationship is to be assertive while protecting the other person’s self-esteem.

One way to do this is to reinforce the other person’s self-esteem. For example, before refusing his or her request, you can sincerely thank him or her for something he or she has done.

Other strategies are possible, but always keep in mind that your goal is to protect the relationship with your co-worker while asserting yourself.

Now that you understand the importance of protecting the relationship with your teammate, the next tip is to listen empathetically.

4 – Listen empathetically

Now your job is to actively listen to your colleague or supervisor. To do this, you need to focus 100% on:

  • what you hear
  • what you see
  • that which is not said but which appears from the paraverbal and non-verbal

The most important thing is to give the speaker the opportunity to fully express his or her point of view without interrupting and without replying after each of his or her words.

From time to time, ask a question if you need clarification and pay the utmost attention to what he or she is communicating to you by showing him or her that you are listening to him or her through your eyes, gestures and words that invite him or her to continue in his or her speech.

By doing so, you will have protected what is most important: the quality of the relationship with your colleague.

At the same time, you will have asserted yourself by setting the stage for a healthier, more productive and enjoyable professional relationship.

If you wish to go further on the theme of active listening, I invite you to discover our active listening training.

Now that you have learned the importance of listening emphatically to your colleagues, the next tip is to find common ground by proposing mutually satisfying alternatives.

5 – Propose alternatives and negotiate a solution

As you have understood, your goal is not simply to deny something to your colleague in the short term when it makes sense.

Your goal is to be more assertive at work, therefore to become more assertive while protecting the relationship of trust established with your colleague.

To succeed in this step, you need to overcome the shortage mentality that there will be a winner and a loser.

You need to believe that a win-win situation is possible for both you and your colleague.

Define with him or her what is really important about the work to be done.

Is it quality, quantity, speed or something else.

If your teammate tells you that it is a quality job and at the same time asks you to do it quickly, show him or her the contradiction in the request.

Explain that you won’t be able to meet his request. However, if it is possible for you, you can help him if he gives you two or three extra days.

Once again, through effective communication with your colleague, you will be able to negotiate a solution that allows you to respect what is important to you while doing your best to cooperate with her or him.

If you wish to improve communication with your colleagues or your manager, you can benefit from the expertise of a communication coach.

Conclusion on how to learn to say no at work        

In this article, I have presented 5 tips for learning how to say no at work in order to assert yourself within your company while protecting the quality of relationships with members of your professional environment.

To go further on the theme of assertiveness, I advise you to discover the articles how to be more assertive with a difficult work colleague and how to assert yourself and be respected at work and in your private life.

If you wish to benefit from the support of a life coach, write to us now through our contact form or discover now our life coaching prices for individuals.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”2″ style=”lazy” items_per_page=”2″ element_width=”6″ gap=”1″ initial_loading_animation=”none” grid_id=”vc_gid:1601815927282-80ef0f4c-7253-8″ taxonomies=”166, 167″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Leave a Comment