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GOLDMAN: Saying yes to saying no at work 

Just say no. 
That’s the message I get from Tea Angelos, the author of “Six Times You Should Say No at Work (and Exactly How to Do It),” a recent article in Fast Company. 
Saying no is a new concept in the workplace, the exact opposite of the success philosophy that gave birth to the classic striver of ancient days, the “yes man.” Update the expression to the more modern “yes person,” and you still have an object of ridicule — a source of scorn right up until the moment they are promoted to fat jobs with huge salaries at the tippy-top of the org chart. 
Clearly, a balance between yes and no is needed. 
Shall we take a look at Angelos’ rules for when to say no? The answer is yes. 
No. 1: The task interferes with your actual responsibilities 
“It’s important to have a clear understanding of your actual responsibilities,” our author writes. So true. Your belief that you were hired because of your good looks and superior fashion sense may not be correct. On the other hand, the task of detailing your manager’s Tesla may not be one of your official duties. 
The recommended response is “I would love to help, but I don’t have the capacity at the moment.” 
This allows you to set a boundary, but “shows that you’re willing to help in the future when you have more capacity.” This is likely to occur in the very near future, since saying no enough times will surely get you fired, leaving you with capacity galore. 
No. 2: The deadline is unrealistic 
Your manager may not appreciate how much time is required for you to start a project. For example, you first must marshal the excuses required when you royally screw up the assignment. There is also the time you will need to compound a list of the co-workers you will blame when the job goes south. 
“Unfortunately, that deadline will not be possible,” is the language Angelos recommends, with the addition of a future date that is more reasonable. 
I suggest March 32, 2026. 
No. 3: You’re on leave 
Your manager should understand that no one wants to interrupt their vacation, but the suggested response — “I will be on leave then, so I won’t be able to do that” — is weak. 
I propose you add context, such as “I will be on leave then, so I’ll be relaxing under a tropical sun, soaking in the turquoise waters of an island paradise, with no time for anything but deciding what color I want for the tiny umbrella in my next pina colada.” 
If your manager objects, smooth things over when you come back, if you come back. 
No. 4: You’re being taken advantage of 
“It’s important to be honest about your workload and priorities,” but it’s also important to “leave the door open for future opportunities to collaborate.” 
Angelos’ advice is to soften a hard no with a comment like, “I’m unable to commit to that right now,” which is hardly sufficient. I recommend you add, “because I am obscenely wealthy and do not need this job, which I only accepted to see what life is like for ordinary working slobs like you.” 
If your manager doesn’t believe you, buy the company. 
No. 5: You’re asked to do something unethical/unsafe 
“I’m not comfortable doing that” is the advised response. I recommend adding an explanation, as in “I’m not comfortable doing that, because it requires doing something very risky and morally wrong: work.” 
There’s no doubt that work is dangerous to your health and your well-being, which is why it’s important to avoid it as much as possible. Playing “Naughty Bear” while pretending to work is perfectly safe and also character-building. Plus, it teaches you the basic skills needed to succeed in today’s business world, like the ability to dodge Behemothic Swords and Frozen Lamb Legs. 
No. 6: You’re not qualified (or the best qualified) to complete the task. 
You are advised to say, “Thank you for thinking of me, but I don’t think I’m the best equipped to do this.” I think it’s important to also remind your manager why they are making a huge mistake in asking you to do anything. 
“Do you know who you are talking to? Do you actually think I am capable of doing this project? Have you forgotten how many times I’ve screwed up in the past? Are you a complete idiot?” 
And there you have it: the one question for which the only possible answer is a yes. 
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at 

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