• Janeen Shaffer, PCC

What to consider when asked to do more and you want to say “no”?

Saying “no” to a peer or boss can be hard at the best of times. Saying “no” during a pandemic can appear to not be an option at all. What do you need to consider when you want to negotiate or decline a request to take on additional work?

  1. Your role in the request – Consider what is being asked of you in the request for your help. Is the request clear about the expectations of your input? Does the request align with your brand, interests, and strengths? If the answers to these questions are “yes”, it is worth considering because it supports your career path. If the answers are “no”, can you recommend another individual who would be better suited for the request?

  2. Your quality and time – Can you contribute enough focus and time to meet expectations? If you feel your time, energy, and capacity is tapped out, are there ways to create space for this effort such as shifting your priorities or delegating other responsibilities to team members? You want to think of ways to ensure that the quality of your work matches your brand and the expectations of those requesting your help. For example, can you negotiate or reduce the scope of the request to align with the amount of time you can provide?

  3. Long-term career goals – If the request provides you visibility to leaders of other parts of the organization, opportunity to strengthen a key skill, or opportunity to build revenue or assist with a key business priority, it would be worth honoring the request. When organizations look at leaders to promote, they consider your impact and influence not only within your team but outside of it as well. Additional project or initiative work allows opportunity for you to build that exposure and advocacy.

  4. Expectations of saying “no” – Most people find themselves in a constant situation where they are expected to do more with less. You can’t say “no” to every request that comes to you, but if you say “yes” to every request you start to become emotionally exhausted and experience burnout. Over time, the benefit of saying “yes” to everything becomes a diminishing return for your reputation. People can make assumptions that you will do anything asked of you (whether it is good for you or not), and that you don’t have the confidence or capability to say “no”. By implementing healthy boundaries that clearly outline what you can and cannot do for others, expectations for relationships will become mutual as opposed to uneven.

It is important to know when to say “no” and it is important to know how to say “no” with authenticity and respect so that you are known as a supportive contributor who knows how to navigate conversations and expectations. Here’s an example of how you can say “no”.

(Show gratitude). I appreciate you thinking of me for this request to help with a proposal. (Provide context to why you are saying no). Right now, I’ve started a new client project and we are at a critical stage of developing new relationships with them and have several meetings and critical project efforts scheduled over the next three months of this project. I feel that my full attention needs to be on this client project given we are at the beginning of developing expectations and relationships with them. (Decline, offer next steps and timelines) Right now, I won’t be able to contribute the time and focus to the proposal that is needed. Once my client project is beyond the initial stages of development over the next three months, I would be happy to help with a future proposal effort.


For many, it is hard to say “no”. I have found that following these four considerations when being asked to assume more responsibility is helpful. They allow you to step back and have a perspective that would not be available to you if you reacted immediately to a request, versus having a framework for a thoughtful response. What will your next response to an upcoming request for help be?


Janeen Shaffer is a PCC certified coach helping individuals and leaders with their internal development and external performance. If the article resonated with you … follow me on LinkedIn, or contact me at janeen@shaffercoach.com, www.shaffercoach.com, IG @janeen.shaffer, Pinterest Shaffer Coaching + Consulting.

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