Just Say “No”

Mar 7, 2013 | Communication

say-noAdministrative professionals strive to do the best they can at their jobs, be team players, and take a service-oriented approach to their daily responsibilities. Yet all too often an admin’s strong work ethic and graciousness are taken for granted.

As an admin, you have your hands full helping the executive you were hired to support. Yet oftentimes admins are subject to extraneous and occasionally inappropriate requests from colleagues, department heads, managers, and other executives to assist with projects and tasks outside their core job responsibilities.

You may feel uncomfortable rejecting these requests. You don’t want to let your colleagues down. You feel pressured by the person asking. Or you simply don’t know how to politely say “no.” Yet the additional workload can result in unnecessary stress, a decrease in job performance, and, in severe cases, jeopardize your career. Turning down someone’s request for help may seem a bit callous, but there are several ways to do it politely that will ultimately preserve your sanity on the job. Here are some tips for how to say no.

  • Delay your response. If someone asks for help, don’t give him/her an answer immediately. Instead, wait awhile (sometimes 30 minutes is enough) and figure out if it’s something you’re able and willing to help with. If you’re not able to pitch in, tell them your schedule doesn’t allow for it at this time.
  • Answer “yes, however…” Instead of saying “no” when someone asks you to do something outside your job responsibilities, give them the “yes, however…” response. Say, “Yes, however I need to run it by my executive first with everything we have going on.” You can also try, “Yes, however I’ll need you to help me with (insert a task here) in order to have enough time to do that.” This tactic is a great way to sound amenable to something while encouraging the person asking to reconsider their request.
  • Show your appreciation and decline. If a coworker asks for your assistance, he/she may do it because you’re the best in the company at that particular task. Even if this is the case, it doesn’t mean you’re obligated to help. Respond by saying, “I really appreciate the consideration, but I can’t take on any additional assignments right now.”
  • Be firm and honest. Don’t fall victim to pressure or flattery, and don’t lie about why you can’t take on the extra work. Instead, be up front with the person asking. Tell him or her that your core job responsibilities are your top priority, and they don’t leave time for additional assignments. The person should respect your commitment to doing your job well.

Putting these recommendations into action may take some practice, especially if you have a reputation for being a “yes” person at work. Remember, your responsibility is to assist your executive and complete the tasks that fall within your core job functions. You’re not obligated, nor should you be pressured, into doing work outside the realm of your position. If you have your workload under control and want to lend a helping hand to a coworker that’s fine, even encouraged. Just don’t do it at the expense of your work integrity or job!

© 2013 Julie Perrine International, LLC


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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.

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