Learn the art of saying ‘no’

workplace 'saying no' feature 020306 - IB
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If you always bow to the demands of those around you, it won’t be long before you find your job expanding to unmanageable levels. Follow Travel Weekly’s top 10 ways to say no and you’ll find it easier to keep on top of things.

1. Know your responsibilities
If your job remit has become somewhat broader than it used to be, and you’re struggling to cope with your workload look at your original contract to see exactly what is expected of you. If you are doing more than is stipulated in your contract, use this as a reference and take it up with your line manager.

2. Make sure other people know your responsibilities
New and even old colleagues might not be sure of your particularly responsibilities. Or you might have a new manager or team leader who is not completely aware of your role in the company. When a new person starts it’s easy to find yourself helping them out and it can often be difficult to rectify this at a later stage. There’s nothing wrong with saying: “Sorry, but posting the latest offers in the window is actually part of your job, not mine, and if I carry on doing it I will be unable to do the job I am employed to do.”

3. Know your limits
Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t cope. Sometimes it’s hard to admit that work is getting on top of you, but even the most capable people can become overloaded. You’re not superhuman and sometimes you have to accept that you can’t do everything that’s asked of you. Making yourself feel bad about it just compounds the problem.

4. Communicate
If you give the impression that you’re in control don’t be surprised if people take advantage of you. Unless you tell them that you’re struggling to do your job effectively they won’t know that it’s time to stop piling the work on. Don’t hold on to pent-up frustrations at work and take it out on your friends and loved ones at home, voice your concerns to those who can actually make a difference.

5. Delegate
You don’t have to be a manager to delegate, especially if it’s in everyone’s best interest to share out the workload. If your manager delegates a task to you and you know it will be difficult to do it properly, enlist the help of a colleague. Point out how the task benefits the shop or department as a whole and make sure that management and fellow colleagues are aware you have enlisted someone else’s help. If you make sure they get the recognition they deserve, they are more likely to do the same when it happens the other way around.

6. Trade tasks
If a colleague asks you to chase up a booking while she’s dealing with a regular client, say that you’ll be happy to but that you might need help later with another task when they are free. Avoid being petty about it – only ask if you really need assistance – but if you risk getting behind in your own work it’s only fair that the favour is returned. They might also realise that they’ve got time to chase that booking up after all.

7. Don’t do things because you can do them quicker
It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially if you are working with new trainees, but sometimes it’s necessary to take a longer term view. If you keep handling all of the complex bookings, how is your new colleague going to learn how to
do it? In the long term it’s worth being patient and taking a back seat, rather than taking over. Make sure you are on hand to help out if necessary, but ultimately leave it to them to work it out on their own.

8. Be firm
Give a brief and genuine reason for the refusal without opening up further negotiation. For example, if an airline sales rep wants to arrange a shop visit but it’s during a peak booking week, just say so. “Usually I’d be happy for you to drop by but I’m afraid it’s going to be a very busy week so I won’t be able to.” Don’t say: “It’s going to be busy but maybe I’ll be able to squeeze you in. Can I call you nearer the time?” That’s just adding to your workload.

9. Allocate time
If you feel you can’t say no, maybe try replacing it with “not now”. For example, if your colleague asks you to help with a presentation to head office say you’d be happy to assist but that now is not a good time. Instead, suggest a time when it would be more convenient for you, and better still, put a time limit on it. “I’d like to help you but not now. Wednesday would be better. How about we book the boardroom for an hour?” Make sure that when the hour is up, you go back to your own work.

10. Stick to your guns
If a colleague is taking advantage of you, make your case and stick with it. Repeat the refusal again and again, without complicating it with any additional explanation. For example: “Can you cover me while I pop to the bank?” “No, I’m afraid I’m busy.” “Please, it won’t take long.” “No, I’m too busy”. “Go on, I’ll bring you back some chocolate.” “No, I’m too busy.”

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