The art of saying no
Saying no can be difficult, particularly as a manager. We have some tips on the art of saying no to employees for different situations. Learn more online.

The art of saying no

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As a manager, there will be times when you have to say no to an employee. From rejecting ideas to turning down a pay rise, saying no is a part of the job. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be painful. Here are a few tips to say no to your employees without hurting workplace morale.


Manage Morale, not Feelings

Sometimes when we need to say “no” we focus on whether or not we’re going to upset the other person. We want them to like us. But we are trying to control something that is out of our control. Moreover, it is not your job to babysit a person’s feelings. Nevertheless, it is your job to make sure the environment and culture in your office is welcoming to all employees.

“See your task as ‘I need to tell them no in a way that is clear, honest and respectful and then let them react however they react.”
– William Ury, “The Power of a Positive No” (2008).


Control Negativity

Of course, some employees may take your negative response harder than others. If they take it to heart and start talking to other employees, resentment can build and spread throughout the workplace. You need to ensure your team can work in a positive environment. Therefore, if you notice morale is dropping, take control of the situation. Confront the toxic behaviour head-on and provide an opportunity for the employee to see reason and change their behaviour.


Acknowledge and Clarify

Nothing will spark negativity more than an outright refusal when it doesn’t appear you have given their request any consideration. Therefore, listen to the full request, ask questions to obtain all the facts if necessary and feed-back your understanding of what they’re asking. If they believe there’s been adequate consideration, they’ll be less negative. And make sure to offer a reason “why” you’re saying no, to avoid any misunderstanding.


Turn Rejection into Feedback

Saying no can offer an opportunity to provide valuable feedback. Take the time to give constructive criticism or make suggestions for how an employee can grow from the situation. A no transformed into a learning opportunity will be received much better than an unsupported refusal. It can also be helpful if you’re able to offer an alternative or a possible solution.


The Technique

The saying no technique is a three-step process:

1. Give your reason

2. Give your refusal

3. If possible, offer an alternative or solution


Saying “no” is a fact of work life, especially for people in a position of leadership. However, when managed correctly, it doesn’t have to make things awkward between employer and employees. Learn to say no by being straightforward and honest, but not rude, so that you can make your point effectively. Furthermore, don’t apologise and give elaborate reasons for saying no. As their manager, it is your right to say no. Moreover, by finding ways to communicate and compromise, managers can turn a denied request into an opportunity for development, learning or improved transparency and collaboration with employees.


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