How to say "No" without ruining your reputation at work

A recurring question I get asked is how can I set boundaries. How can I say no in the workplace and not ruin my reputation or be seen as someone who isn't a team player.

My answer? As long as the 'no; is in the context of continuing to help solve the problem – it’s usually not a problem to say no.

I teach a course on how to handle cranky customer problems and a big part is to focus on problem solving.  Sometimes the best thing you can do to solve a problem is to say no.

Ex:  No – we can’t do it in that timeframe. Let’s discuss a more realistic time frame.

Or – No – My plate is already full – let’s discuss project priorities.

Or – No – that’s not ethical. Let’s discuss how to do this and stay within the law.

No is not necessarily – No. It may just be an introduction to problem solving. The proposed solution is not acceptable – so let’s discuss a way to get the problem solved that is acceptable to everyone.

When you approach setting boundaries in this way - you are often seen as someone who is professional and helpful, and honest. 

For more on how to handle cranky customer problems (including internal customers) take my online course:

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