How to Say “No” to Your Difficult Colleagues

Saying the Big “NO” to Your Colleagues Doesn’t Have to be a Stigma

Ever have a colleague who seemingly cannot take no for an answer? This colleague may always come to you and get you to do work for them. Or they may be the kind of colleague who loves to go out and “lepak” during work hours.

Before I delve into the article itself, take note of these things before you say no:

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a. Be firm and straightforward

When your colleague asks you to do their work for them, make sure you are straightforward in declining their requests. Don’t say things like “I will think about it first”, “maybe”, or “I don’t think so”.

If you say things like these, they will come back to you again later in the day. They will ask you the same thing all over again. Do you want things like these to keep happening to you? No, you don’t want to. So be loud, clear, and firm when saying no.

b. Explain yourself briefly

When you say no, and just no, you may come across as a jerk or cold-hearted. To “soften your blow”, you can explain to them why you can’t do their work for them. Maybe you’re filled to the brim with work. Or you are short on time. Or even if you just don’t want to.

You can say something along the lines of “I have a lot of projects at hand now, I’m sorry I’m unable to do your job for you.”

Or you can say “this is your part, which I do not understand how to work on”. Simple as that.

c. Offer alternatives

If you’re the nicer kind of colleague, you can perhaps offer a way out. This step will make you look a lot less stiff and a lot friendlier. You can suggest helping your colleague out, offer feedback, etc. Or you can suggest helping him work on it as soon as you have finished your part.

Sometimes having a friendly face in the office can lessen the tension in the environment.

d. Keeping your stance

After you have said no, you should be firm with your word and view. If you change your mind later on and say yes, you will become a “friendly target” for your colleagues. Do you know what happens when you become a “friendly target”?

These colleagues will keep coming to you “for help”. And by “coming to you for help”, it means getting you to do all their work. So you’re basically getting paid 1 salary to do 2 people’s jobs (or thereabouts).

Do you want this to happen to you? No, right? So, be firm. Make your message clear to your colleagues.

Regardless of what kind of colleagues they are, here are some ways how you can say no to your colleagues without causing a rift in the office.

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1. Getting you to do your work for them

  • Unfortunately, I have too much work at hand to complete. I cannot help you with your work.
  • I know this is not the answer you are looking for, my answer to you is no.
  • I can’t help you because I’m committed to other works/projects. I hope you understand.
  • I enjoy helping you with your last project. Now I’m busy and tied up, so I’m sorry I cannot help you.
  • I don’t think I am qualified to do that work.

2. The one who always asks you to go out for Kopitiam/smoke breaks/etc.

  • “The offer sounds good, but I’m afraid I’ll have to decline it this time around.”
  • “I really shouldn’t go this time, so no. Thank you for the offering.”
  • “I’ve had a negative experience with that before. Maybe some other time.”
  • “I’ve been spending too much money. Maybe next time?”

3. The one who asks you to lie or cover things up for them

  • “This is something I cannot do. Can we change it to something that I can agree with?”
  • “Are you sure you want me to do it this way? I’d rather not, but I appreciate you reaching out to me.”
  • “I told myself to never do that again. I’d appreciate it if you respect my decision.”
  • “I know it’s a challenging time for you. However, I don’t have the capacity to cover up for you now.”

4. Colleagues who keep asking you for advice/assistance/help

  • “This doesn’t fall under my job description. Please ask your manager.”
  • “Unfortunately, I cannot say yes this time. I’ll wish you luck in finding someone who can help you.”
  • “I’d love to help but I have too much going on right now. Best of luck in your endeavors.”

5. Having disagreements with clashing ideas

  • “I really don’t think this will work. Can we have a look at this idea instead?”
  • “Let me get back to you. I’m not too confident for that idea to work out.”
  • “We’ve tried that before and didn’t work out. Can we consider some other choices or methods instead?”

Key Takeaway

With the right words, you can say no to your over-demanding colleagues. It does not necessarily always have to end in a huge fight or parting ways in disagreement. Things will work out if both you and your colleagues are willing to work things out.

Lydia is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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Author: Lydia

A little bit of a dreamer and a foodie, but definitely a geek at heart!