Don't Be Afraid to Say "No"

For many professionals, saying "No" at work can be quite difficult. Whether your employer is asking you to stay late, come in early, take on a new project, or help another employee with their own workload, sometimes you feel it's impossible to decline – even if you really should.

Oftentimes, it is just easier to say "Yes!" and hammer out the details later on – or stress out privately in your office while you frantically try to figure out how you will get everything done.

You have been trained to believe that you must constantly go above and beyond if you want to succeed. While it is true that you have to work hard to achieve greatness, a problem arises when we become so consumed with our work that we are almost literally chained to our desks and phones.

Well, fellow professionals, I am here to tell you that it is okay to say "No" sometimes. In fact, here are three specific situations in which you should not only feel comfortable saying "No," but obliged to for your own sake and your employer's sake:

1. Your Time Is Maxed Out

Most professionals falsely believe that their supervisors and coworkers understand every detail of their daily tasks and responsibilities. This is not always the case. Often, people just do not know that you cannot fit another project, assignment, task, or responsibility into your daily schedule.

It is okay to explain to your coworkers and supervisors that you just cannot take on another project at this time. Explain that it would be a disservice to an existing project you are working on or that you would not be able to dedicate the necessary focus to the new project that it needs and deserves.

2. Your Work/Life Balance Is Crumbling

Perhaps you are already a workaholic who is known for always taking on additional responsibilities and projects. However, at some point, you are going to begin feeling burned out by the volume of work you have to do.

At the end of the day, you are an individual. You are not defined by your job. If you are beginning to feel resentment toward your organization, coworkers, supervisor, or position because of all the work you have to do, then it is okay to start saying "no." You need to take time to regroup and refocus, to concentrate on the aspects of your job that bring you happiness. Trust in the fact that your happiness is equally important and beneficial to your employer. Unhappy workers are unproductive workers.

3. You Do Not Feel Comfortable

Sometimes, your employer may ask you to take on a project or additional responsibilities that you just aren't comfortable with.

Maybe a slacking coworker has fallen behind and you have been tasked with helping them catch up on their own responsibilities. Or maybe you do not feel that you have the knowledge and expertise to succeed at a specific project that you are being asked to take on. In these cases, it is okay to explain to your supervisor why you are reluctant to accept the additional burdens they want to place on your shoulders.

Although "Yes" should be your typical answer in a professional environment, there are a few instances where saying "No" is your best bet. The three discussed here are only a few examples, and I'm sure you'll come across others in the course of your career.

When it is time for you to say "No," make sure to keep your explanations concise and be prepared to offer an alternate solution. It's okay not to bite off more than you can chew, but you don't want to come across to your supervisor as lazy or not a team player.

Kristina Evans is the director of HR and recruiting for Exactor.