You are sitting at your desk working away as best you can when your boss comes over to you and asks you to take the lead on an upcoming presentation which is due tomorrow. You already felt stressed and overworked as it was. So being asked to do this presentation is going to make you even more stressed. However, you don’t want to say no to your boss, so you muster up a “yes” in a keen tone.

If this a usual situation you find yourself in, then you are not the only one. Numerous workers are put into the scenario where they have to say yes to other people’s demands. Saying yes, all the time might avoid tension and keep everyone happy. But it might impact you negatively in the long run. You could end up feeling burnt out. If you end up taking on too many tasks you may end up not meeting your main obligations. In 2016 the ESRI found that 18% of workplace absences were attributable to work-related stress, anxiety, and depression (SAD). The study, entitled Musculoskeletal Disorders and Stress, Anxiety and Depression in Ireland, found that SAD was the second highest cause of work-related illness in Ireland.

If you find it hard saying no, here are a few tips to finally say no. The quicker you implement saying no the better so as to avoid burnout.

Explain your situation decisively

Saying no to a request at work isn’t easy except when you have a reason that simply can’t be argued with. The next time you are asked to do something try not to get flustered and begin throwing out excuses. Have a list made up on current projects you are working on. Clarify that once you have your high priority projects done, that, you’d have no problem lending a helping hand. So instead of saying “I would it’s just that I’m swamped with work” say “I have to get this end of month report in before Friday, but when I have that done, I will allocate some time to work on your project”.

Needless to say, you are to only help out if it is a realistic request in the first place. If you are asked to do something that is completely out of your area of expertise and you don’t want the responsibility of it then you should be clear. An example would be, “Looking into sales’ data is not of use to me at this time. I’m going to concentrate on my presentation layout at his time. I’ll add in sales data where I see fit once it is analysed and given to me”.

Analyse the results of saying yes

The colleague you really want to say no to may not exactly understand what they are asking of you. Therefore, it is important to paint a picture as to why you are saying no.

For example, you are asked to present at an event abroad on the same week you are going to launch the companies biggest marketing campaign to date. You could say. “Presenting at this event abroad won’t give me enough time to fully execute our marketing campaign. Any other delay to the campaign is a risk that cannot be taken”. If you highlight what this ad hoc piece of work could be taking you away from, you won’t have to spend as much energy justifying your response.

Suggest some options

There are times when we are forced to say no at work because we just don’t have enough time or means to get everything done within the deadline. So, if this occurs, ask your boss to make the decision instead. For example, if your manager at late notice asks you to attend a meeting on his behalf, answer by saying: “I was told to have the digital marketing project done for the end of this week. I just about squeezed it into my schedule. Would you prefer if I attended that afternoon meeting and defer the digital marketing project to a later date? Or give the meeting a skip and focus having the digital marketing project done for Friday?”. You are inertly saying no which should avoid any conflict.

Don’t say maybe

There is a big difference between no and maybe. So if it’s no you want to see, be very clear about it. If you are asked to help out with the graduate programme training day and you respond by saying “I will only make it if I have the time” with the hope that they might leave you alone. However, that person might ask you again if you are indecisive with your answer. You would have been better off by being direct and firm by saying, “Apologies, but I will not be able to help out on the day.”

It is much easier to say yes than it is no when it comes to work-related requests. However, if you always say yes, colleagues may be more likely to take advantage of you. At the same time, you don’t want to seem to be uncooperative. If you are reasonable about when you say no, and you go about it in a respectful manner, there should be no real problem. Work relations should then stay healthy in this case and prosper.