How to say no (without sounding lazy)

We've all been in the awkies position when asked to do extra work, help on a project or take on more responsibly -  even when these tasks are not part of our job description. There is a fine line between wanting to seem helpful and hardworking, and not having enough time or energy to take on these extra commitments.

But pushing back and saying no is often easier said than done. You don’t want to offend your boss. You don’t want to sound harsh or uninterested and, somehow, you want to seem apologetic and sincere - even if you aren’t!

Here are some phrases to help you with letting down that dreaded ‘favour’ of extra work…

Sorry, I can’t, but thank you for asking!

I can’t now, but maybe next time.

I don’t think I will be able to help for all of it, but let me help with a part of it.

Thank you for thinking of me, but I’m just too busy at the moment.

I’m not taking on any more jobs at the moment, sorry!

I wish I could help, but at the moment I just can’t commit to anything at the moment.

Let me try and work out a few things first, but it’s probably best to work without me.

Thank you, but I’m not the right person for the task, at the moment. Have you asked Maria*?

I’m sorry I just have a bit too much on my plate at the moment.

I’m really sorry; I just don’t think I will be able to make it work at this point.

These phrases will help the person asking for the extra work to understand why you can’t/won’t help on the project. It will also prevent them from believing you just don’t want to help them, or don’t like doing extra jobs. Try practising these phrases by saying them politely and kindly - but also firmly.

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