That’s a “no”!

    Business Spotlight 9/2021
    a mother telling her child what to do
    Von Deborah Capras

    Consider what’s at to be at stakeauf dem Spiel stehenstake before you say no to your boss. While it’s rarely a good strategy to say no to a reasonable request — or to one that could be good for your career — it’s also never a good idea to say yes if you’re already overworked. But saying no to your manager requires a high level of confidence if you want to to pull sth. off (ifml.)etw. durchziehenpull it off well. Why is that?

    Most of us have what psychologists call a harshness biashier: falsche Erwartungshaltung bezüglich negativer Reaktionen (bias: Voreingenommenheit | harshness: Härte)harshness bias. This is when we believe that people will think badly of us if we don’t respond positively to a request. In reality, however, people tend to respect a no if it’s clearly justified. 

    To avoid to take sth. onetw. übernehmentaking on the wrong kind of work, or more work than you can realistically manage, it’s important to get the timing, the tone and the reasoning of your no right. Here, we provide you with useful language and techniques to help you get it right. 

    1. Taking your time 

    You’re unlikely to make a good impression if you say no too quickly. First of all, thank your boss for trusting you with a task or project. The more time-consuming and complex the request, the more “thankful” you might try to appear. 

    2. Learning the facts

    If you already have a full workloadArbeitspensumworkload, any additional task may feel unreasonable. But before you say no (or yes for that matter(übrigens) auchfor that matter), make sure you have all the facts in front of you. to indicate sth.etw. erkennen lassenIndicate that you are seriously considering the request by asking relevant questions — the kind that will help you decide whether you should take on the extra work or not. Ask about timelineZeitrahmentimelines, deadlineFristdeadlines and responsibilities, so you know exactly what to expect. 

    3. Voicing your concerns

    If the answers to your questions to confirm sth.etw. bestätigenconfirm that you don’t have the time, skills or expertiseSachkompetenzexpertise to perform the task well, now is your chance to to voice sth.etw. zum Ausdruck bringenvoice your concerns. Ideally, you should provide evidenceBelegevidence that to back sth. upetw. untermauern, stützenbacks up your concerns in a way that shows you have a professional attitude to your work. You could use common idioms at first to show you are busy (“I have too much on my to have a lot on one’s plate (UK)viel um die Ohren habenplate”), but you will also need to provide details of your workload.

    4. Being firm 

    You don’t want to be to be pigeonholedabgestempelt/in eine Schublade gesteckt werdenpigeonholed as someone who is not willing to support the team, but you also don’t want to be seen as a pushover (ifml.)Person, die sich leicht herumkriegen lässtpushover. So, if a request is completely outside your normal remit (UK)Aufgabenbereichremit, be firmstandhaftfirm when you to turn sth. downetw. ablehnenturn it down. If you feel uncomfortable saying no in a direct way, or prefer to keep the tone lighthier: freundlichlight, you can soften your response with “I’m afraid...”, as in “I’m afraid I can’t free up any time for this”. However, it’s not a good idea to ditherzauderndither too long or start your replies with “I don’t think...”. This makes you seem less determined. Your boss might then sense your hesitationZögern, Zögerlichkeithesitation and decide to to play hardball with sb. (ifml.)etwa: es darauf ankommen lassenplay hardball with you.

    5. Talking about your workload 

    Your manager may genuinelywirklichgenuinely not realize how heavy your workload is. To help you to stand one's groundsich behauptenstand your ground, get into the habit of to allocate sth.etw. zuteilen, einplanenallocating specific times in your calendar for work and personal commitmentEngagement, Verpflichtungcommitments, and not just for meetings. That way, a quick glanceBlickglance at your scheduleZeit-, Terminplanschedule should tell you whether or not you have time for a new task. Moreover, this technique will help you to quickly list anything that can justify your no and help you stick to it. 

    6. Asking for support

    If the request still isn’t going away, ask your boss for their views on how to deal with your full workload. Discuss whether there is anything you can delay or give to someone else. And if you feel you don’t have the necessary skills to complete the task, ask if you can work on it with someone who does. 

    7. Accepting yes

    If you have presented your arguments well, you should be able to win over your boss. However, sometimes, you will just have to accept that you have to say yes. In this situation, make sure that you confirm what the priorities are and what you can give up or delay. Then try to focus on the advantage of having a boss who trusts you with more responsibilities.

    Essential phrases 

    1. Taking your time

    • Thank you for thinking of me.
    • I to appreciate sth.etw. zu schätzen wissenappreciate your confidence in me. 
    • I’m honoured that you would consider me for this project.

    2. Learning the facts

    • What is the timelineZeitrahmentimeline for this?
    • What exactly is involved?
    • What would be my role and my responsibilities?

    3. to voice sth.etw. zum Ausdruck bringenVoicing your concerns

    • I have too much on my to have a lot on one’s plate (UK)viel um die Ohren habenplate at the moment. 
    • It’s going to be impossible to give everything the attention I’d like to. 
    • This would require a significant amount of my time for the next month.

    4. Being firmstandhaftfirm

    • I’m afraid I can’t to take sth. onetw. übernehmentake on anything else right now.
    • To be perfectly honest, my scheduleTerminplanschedule is full. 
    • Thanks again for asking, but I should prioritize... 

    5. Talking about your workloadArbeitspensumworkload

    • I really need the time to deal with... 
    • Actually, you also asked me to work on... 
    • Most of my hours for the next few weeks have already been reserved for other projects. 

    6. Asking for support

    • Is there someone who could support me on this project / my other projects?
    • Can I put something on the to put sth. on the back burneretw. auf die lange Bank schieben, etw. zurückstellenback burner while I deal with this?
    • How do you think this can fit in with my other work commitmentEngagement, Verpflichtungcommitments?

    7. Accepting yes

    • So, we agree that I should prioritize...
    • As this is more urgent, we agree to to postpone sth.etw. verschiebenpostpone...
    • Thanks for agreeing to put my other work to put sth. on holdetw. auf Eis legenon hold.

    Build your vocabulary!

    What language do you need if you want to say no to your boss? Start a mind mapMindmap, Gedanken(land)kartemind map of your workload and add the vocabulary that you will need to talk about it. Write down expressions you can use to say no with confidence.

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