Learning to Say No – The Key to Staying Sane at Work

saying no to work isn't easy

Here’s a topic I’m sure everyone on the project team can relate to – saying no. Whatever your role is in healthcare facility construction, there is one thing I am sure of: you have a lot on your plate. Despite this, being able to say no to a new request is something many of us struggle with, whether it is out of politeness, fear of being criticized, or from worries about letting your team down. Here’s how you can get better at saying no.

It’s All About Boundaries and Expectations

When you say no, you are setting boundaries and managing others’ expectations of you. For people who struggle to say no, this can seem selfish, unhelpful, or uncaring. But setting these boundaries is the key to keeping your stress levels low and delivering your best work. Struggling to deliver what you have committed to puts undue strain on you or your team and isn’t always achievable in the long-term – especially when everyone is burned out from over-delivering.

Saying no to work will help avoid becoming overloaded

The other problem with always saying yes is that it also sets unrealistic expectations. Whether you agree to hit a deadline you know you can’t achieve or commit to a budget that can’t be met, one thing you can be sure of is that you will be expected to deliver the same results, time and time again. Both you and your team will perform much better if these expectations are managed from the outset. So how do you achieve this?

The Confidence to Say No

It takes a lot of courage and self-confidence to say no. Let’s be clear – you don’t have to be aggressive to say no and saying no doesn’t mean that you don’t care or aren’t committed. Here are some ways you can set boundaries and manage expectations professionally:

  • Ask more questions about the request without actually saying no. This will help draw out what the person’s concerns are and can give you an insight into why they are making this request of you. It also gives you time and space to really consider their request fairly and determine if it is achievable. Sometimes, simply talking it through is enough to make the person realize that what they’ve asked for isn’t possible.
  • Confirm what the priorities are. Another way to approach saying no is to ask people to put their activities in order of priority and confirm what you won’t be working on while you take on the new tasks.
  • Focus on what can be achieved, instead of what can’t. Instead of outright saying no to a request, try outlining what you think can be achieved or delivered instead. This lets others know you are willing to compromise but are also being realistic.
Confidence is the key to saying no

The Importance of Saying No

Everyone is busy. But when “busy” becomes “overloaded”, you’re in an unhealthy place. I’m a firm believer in the importance of self-care, and that healthy and happy people and teams deliver their best work – this is the guiding tenet of my Healthy Team principle. In fact, the Healthy Team is so important that I’ve dedicated a whole chapter packed with insights on how to cultivate a Healthy Team in my book, Health Well Done: A Patient-Centered Management Approach to Building Healthcare Environments.  How do you say no? Let me know on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter – I’d love to hear your ideas.