How to Say No and Still Be a Team Player

By Chelsea Babin

For your own productivity levels and mental health it’s important to learn to say no. At the same time, to show your employer that you’re reliable and a team player you need to avoid saying no and take on plenty of responsibility. Below, we’ve laid out a step-by-step method for finding the balance you need.

1. Schedule Your Musts Early: No one will think of you as reliable if you don’t get your tasks done. In order to make sure you get your own work done before helping others or taking on other opportunities, schedule your most important tasks early in the day. This will help you feel more productive and, if you have time later, you can take on more than your musts.

2. An Hour A Day to Assist Others: If you’re trying to be more of a team player, take on more responsibilities, and be viewed as a reliable go-to person in the office you should try to set aside an hour a day to assist others or take on additional responsibilities. At just 5 hours a week, this dedicated time will be enough to impress your coworkers and your employers and make you the kind of person who is first considered for promotions.

3. Overwhelmed Evaluation: If you’re ever overwhelmed take a step back. Write down all of the tasks on your plate. Then, put a check mark next to the ones that are your sole responsibility and an x next to the ones you’re helping others with or taking on as extras. No, you don’t have to drop them all but it will show you how many times you said yes so, in the future, you can learn to say no to more of those and keep your schedule balanced.

Saying no isn’t necessarily easy and, if you do it wrong, you could come across as unhelpful or unreliable. In order to say no and still feel like a team player try one of the following methods for turning a no into a more polite, image friendly phrase.

1. Defer: If you don’t have any time on your plate try deferring by saying something like, “My schedule is packed right now but check again in a few days” or “I can’t at the moment but feel free to follow up soon”.

2. Introduce: Sometimes things just aren’t your forte. Instead of taking on a task outside of your wheelhouse try introducing someone who is stronger in those specific skills by saying, “That isn’t my strong suit but this person is great at that, I’ll introduce you”. Sometimes being a connector makes you just as reliable as being the person who can take on the task.

3. Focus on Others: When your schedule is packed because you’ve already taken on responsibilities to help others, just say that! Rather than saying no say, “I’d love to help you but if I did that I’d let these other people down who I already promised my time and efforts to”. People will understand and won’t fault you for already being committed to other team oriented tasks.

4. Group: If more than one person is asking you to help with a specific task you could turn it into a group learning opportunity. Instead of showing each person how to perform that task or worse, just doing it for them, set up a time where you can all meet as a group and you can demonstrate how to do this task. They’ll be grateful that you shared your knowledge and you won’t have to do this task for everyone in the office in the future.

There’s a reason the “Yes Man” is such a recognizable business trope. You want to be seen as reliable and a great team player so you are afraid to say no, which could lead to an overloaded list of tasks that drains you and wears you down. Instead, learn how to evaluate what extra tasks you can say no to and how to say no the right way and you’ll still be seen as a go-to person in the office without sacrificing your sanity.