Saying No at Work – When You Should Do It.

Most positions at work have a certain set of expectations that you need to fulfill. You have standards you need to meet and you get paid to do that – but it isn’t always that simple. Taking on extra duties or going above and beyond helps you ‘move up’ in a company and most employees are willing to do this. The trouble comes if you never putt a limit on what you will say yes to at work because it can end up being harmful to you and your coworkers.

Knowing when to put your foot down and say no isn’t as easy as it sounds. You don’t want to be reprimanded and you want to look good at your job. Here are a few examples of when you should so no at work.

1. When the Request is Unsafe

No one should ever have to perform any task at work that could put themselves or their coworkers in danger but the reality is that managers or supervisors will sometimes put their employees in these positions. If the work your being asked to do looks dangerous this is a situation where you definitely have to say no. Tell them that you don’t want to do the work and explain why. For more info on what steps to take in this situation check out our blog on refusing unsafe work.

2. When You Don’t Have Resources or Time

Taking on extra work is one thing, but being totally burnt out is another. If you’re asked to do something that has a totally unreasonable timeline or you just don’t have the capacity to take on, then you need to say no. Offer alternatives to your supervisor, such as sharing the workload or reworking the deadline.

3. When the Request is Unethical

If your boss or supervisor asks you to do something that is flat out illegal or that you feel in your gut is not right – you should always say no. Trust your judgement first over the instructions of a superior at your workplace. If it goes against your morals or you know it could be breaking a law, then you should absolutely say no.

These examples may seem like difficult conversations to have but they need to be done to protect both your mental and physical health in the workplace. A great option is to have an advocate on your behalf when taking the step to say no to unreasonable requests at work. If you are a union member, you can always reach out to your Shop Steward or Business Agent to talk about the issue. You also know that you have someone to protect you from retaliation for the refusal of unsafe or unethical work.

Doing your best at your job sometimes includes saying no. The sooner workplaces learn that the safer all workers will be.


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