Chances are, you’re one of these people who don’t like saying no to anyone, especially your co-workers. Or at least, yo feel bad doing so. However, it’s likely that you’ve also already heard that it’s actually a good idea to refuse from time to time. This rule goes beyond that. A successful team says no collectively to quite a few things.

As a group, you should refuse to do what hinders your success. Today we’re going to give you some examples of a few habits, requests and events from that fall into this category.

Why saying no at work is a good idea?

In the ideal world, all your team members share the same values and working style. In reality, this doesn’t happen that often. Disagreements will occur sooner or later and they can cause quite a discord between your people. This is when you need to understand that sometimes saying no at work saves the team.

For example, in this CABA article about how to say no at work, you can read:

But saying ‘no’ at work is sometimes necessary, especially if you’re already overstretched and feeling overwhelmed. Being overloaded with work can increase your stress levels and make you feel you’re no longer in control.

“How and when to say ‘no’ at work”

But it’s not easy, right? Joseph Grenny on Harvard Business review explains exactly why we feel so bad about saying no to our peers:

Saying no is hard because we are a species that (sadly) treats agreement as affection and denial as rejection. When people disagree with us or turn us down, we routinely (and typically incorrectly) interpret it as evidence of enmity. Those who decline our invitations, disagree with our ideas, or oppose our plans feel like threats. So, we safely assume others will feel the same when we turn them down.

“How to Say “No” at Work Without Making Enemies”

Make it clear that in your team, saying no is okay. Your people can’t be afraid to refuse following through with something harmful to the company.

But what are those harmful things? Let’s see.

Things that a successful team says “no” to

Frowning upon breaks

Some people can go on working marathons for several hours straight. That’s totally okay so long they don’t expect everyone else to work the same way.

Your people need breaks. If they want to step away from their desks, have a coffee and chat with others, that’s okay. Nobody should frown upon it, so long the tasks are delivered and the projects are completed on time.

Being always available

Staying connected to your 24/7 team isn’t healthy. We’ve got our messengers, emails and social media, but respect the boundaries and Do Not Disturb time.

Time out of the office should be the time to relax and rest, not to be showered with emails and professional requests. But even during working hours at the office, there should be nothing wrong with going into DND mode. Sometimes you just need peace and quiet to complete your tasks.

Vague instructions and assignments

Whether it’s about a manager allocating tasks or peers asking each other for help, everyone should be precise and clear about the scope of these requests.

Avoid asking for vague favours that leave people with more questions than before you approached them.

Hustle assignments

Some people believe that a successful team is the one which completes a large number of tasks and hardly denies any of them. The truth is different, though. A successful team knows when to say no to tasks serving no useful purpose.

As a team, you should cut down on everything that keeps you busy but doesn’t render any significant results. Stick to your priorities and avoid hustling. If some members of your team press on doing insignificant things, discuss and explain why it’s a waste of time.

Multiple priorities

Speaking of priorities!

Most of us had the doubtful pleasure of working for or with someone who kept giving us multiple assignments, all of which were a priority. However, when everything is a priority, nothing is.

Don’t accept a situation when you managers set up everything as equally important. Lower-tier members of your team should also learn the art of prioritizing their tasks.

Undermining each other’s competence

If you think you can only undermine someone’s skills by openly questioning it, that’s not true. During meeting or discussions, it’s alright to point out when an idea is bad or the mindset of a person is wrong. However, imagine someone pointing out supposed flaws of your plans time and time again. This is can lead to a situation when an employee fears that their skills, experience or competence will no longer be valid in the eyes of other co-workers or even their boss.

Even though such “feedback” is often based on good intentions, it can be harmful if done wrong.

Getting stuck in old ways and ineffective processes

If you want to run a successful team, your people can’t be afraid of change. Yes, a change to something new and better can be intimidating. We don’t want a new workflow because we’ve already worked with the previous and transferring will be too much effort. We don’t want a new pricing model because we’ve got customers on the old one. And so on and so forth.

However, sometimes you just need to change things, even if the transition process will be long and tiring. It’s all for the best.

Micromanaging and lack of independence

We trust our superiors that they know better than us. However, it doesn’t mean that your team managers should enforce their own values and practices on the team. Micromanaging is bad. Depriving your people of independence will only cut their wings instead of helping them thrive.

Say no to forcing people into working according to someone’s habits. Let them decide how to get the job done so long they don’t waste time and the results are satisfying.

Things that don’t sit well with you ethically

There are many things that your team may not feel okay with. From working with clients of completely opposite values to black hat marketing tactics, the list is long. As a team, you should have the courage to say no to whatever you disagree with.

If you think something will harm your brand’s image or simply doesn’t align with what you believe as a team, voice these concerns. After all, solid values and culture are what makes your business what it is.

Learning from the inexperienced

New employees, interns, peers one generation younger… They all benefit from experience and knowledge of their older co-workers and superiors. However, sadly enough, they are often underestimated and we sometimes disregard their ideas.

A successful team learns from where there’s something to learn – even if it comes from an inexperienced employee. Remember that even when they don’t base their decisions on experience, they can provide you with fresh insight that you as a seasoned specialist lost along the way. 

You don’t have to agree – but you definitely should listen and appreciate their efforts.

Over to you

These tips we’ve just given you still take some courage to implement so don’t feel discouraged if it doesn’t work in the beginning. Forging good habits among your people takes time and effort – so why not start today?

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