Speaking up and saying “no” at work can feel uncomfortable. However, there are some times when that is absolutely the appropriate response. Here are several instances when it’s a good idea to say “no”.
An unreasonable deadline
If you’ve been tasked with a project, and the deadline to complete it would be an impossible feat, let your manager know. You don’t want to be working on the project at the 11th hour only then to realize it’s unattainable. See if there is flexibility with the deadline, and if it’s something that must be done by a certain time, see if there are others that can help so you can work as a team to get it completed. Communication is key, so speak to your manager about the reasons why the deadline is unrealistic and together come up with a game plan.
You’re sick or on vacation
When you have access to your work emails on your phone, it’s easy to get sucked into work when you're on PTO. Whether you’re relaxing on the beach, or staying home sick with a cold, set clear guidelines for your manager and co-workers about when they should communicate with you. You may choose to tell them to only contact you if it’s an urgent and very important matter that can’t wait until you return. Having your manager or co-workers email you about non-urgent matters (and answering those emails) can become a slippery slope. If you really do want to unplug, set clear guidelines and others will be respectful of your decision.
Asked to do something unethical
If you are asked to do something unethical at work, think twice before agreeing. Be clear with your manager and let them know if it’s not something you’re comfortable doing. It may be uncomfortable, but sometimes you need to stand your ground if you’re asked to do something unethical or unsafe. If such requests are frequent at your job, it may be time to look elsewhere.
Asked to do something you’re unsure of
If you’re asked to work on something not in your wheelhouse, and you feel you wouldn’t be able to do a good job on the assignment, speak up! There is nothing wrong with spreading your wings a bit and learning something new, however, you also don’t want to sign up for something only to fail at it. So if you’re asked to do something not in your wheelhouse, let your manager know you’d like to help out, but that it’s beyond your area of expertise. Ask your manager if perhaps there is someone else at work better equipped for the job, or someone there that can teach you.