Have you ever said yes to something and then instantly regretted it? And no, we aren’t referring to that third round of tequila shots or that upcoming Sunday lunch with your terrifying aunt. We mean at your office.
The essence of being a team-player may be propounded as a standard rule of every organisation. However, the concept tends to spiral out beyond the boundaries of one’s set responsibilities. Simply put, there will be many times in your career when your boss or your co-workers will ask you to take on work or carry out a few ‘favours’ that fall well beyond your standard responsibilities. At the same time, the clients from your former company might ring you up for a ‘personal push’ to form relations with your present employer. And you, for the fear of being labelled a ‘non-team player’, will agree, even though you may be cursing yourself for it. In short, you don’t know how to say no.
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But Holly Weeks, the author of Failure to communicate, believes that saying no is vital to both the success of the person and the success of their organisation. “People say, ‘There is no good way to give bad news.’ But there are steps you can take to make the conversation go as well as possible,” she writes.
While the protocol to refuse unsolicited work does indeed depend on the type of situation, nonetheless here are some standard tips on how to say no to your colleagues without getting in their bad books.
We’ve all had the words ‘personal favour’ directed at us on several occasions. They may come from a family friend, fresh out of college and on the hunt for an internship, looking for an introduction with your CEO despite having no knowledge of the industry. They could also be from your former colleague, Dev, from the company you worked at before, hinting at you to set up a meeting with your boss for his future prospects. If you believe that both situations will lead to unfruitful results and several hours wasted on both sides, then you need to politely refuse.
What you could say: “Hi Dev, I’m delighted that you are looking towards our company to become a valued asset. However, my boss Dilip Raj is extremely tied-up with a series of projects at the moment and I don’t think I will be comfortable adding to his already-filled itinerary. Do hope you understand and my best wishes to you on your journey!”
Your colleague may be asking you to take on her upcoming weekend shift as she has ‘prior commitments’. While this is a fairly standard request, there could be a situation where she begins to make a habit of it every odd week after you filled in for her the first three times. There might even be times when you made ‘prior commitments’. Here’s how you say it politely but firmly.
What you could say: “Hi Pam, I would have definitely been able to fill in for you on another day, but I have plans with my family this weekend and so it won’t be possible for me to come into work at all! Hope you understand.”
You might receive the occasional ‘follow-up’ email from individuals with whom you had once explored the possibility of a business relationship but decided against later. However, they may still believe that you will be representing your company in some way, and be relentless in their pursuit of a possible deal. To get them out of your hair, you need to be firm in your response to their badgering and make it clear that they should look elsewhere.
What you could say: “Dear Mr Mehta, it was great hearing from you again. While we had spoken about the possibility of featuring your company on our website, I do not think it fits the profile in the way we had wanted it to. That being said, we shall keep you posted if anything promising comes up.”
You may have attended a networking conference last weekend, and already received a dozen mails from Neil, the wide-eyed startup enthusiast bent on pitching his company and prospects to you over coffee somewhere. While you don’t wish to crush his enthusiasm, you may not wish to fit him into your hectic schedule and are thus required to break the news to him gently.
What you could say: “Hi Neil. It was great connecting with you last weekend. While the idea behind your startup sounds extremely fascinating, I have my hands tied in several projects at the moment and hence don’t think I will be able to take out time for a meeting for the next several weeks at the least. Will try reaching out to you at a later date, but till then I wish you all the luck with your journey. I’m sure it will work out great!”
It’s been a long day at work and you’re counting the minutes till you can go home, get into your pyjamas, and binge-watch Stranger Things on Netflix. However, a few of your colleagues are making plans of hitting happy hours at Toit and they’ve asked you to join. The best way to get out of it without offending them into thinking you don’t want to spend time with them is by telling them you already have plans.
What you could say: Oh, I would have loved to come along, but I already made dinner plans with my cousin and it’s too late for me to cancel. But you guys have fun on my behalf!”
Sound easy enough? Let us know in the comments below!