Saying no when your boss or a colleague asks you to take on additional work can be uncomfortable. But there are graceful ways to turn down a request when you simply don’t have the bandwidth for more responsibilities. Here are some ways to say “no,” including sample language.
Give a clear reason. Try something like: “With my current workload, I don’t think I’ll be able to meet the expectations you have for this project.” If the person making the request is your manager, you might ask them to help you shift your current priorities to make room for the new work.
Reframe the opportunity. You might say: “Since this project is outside of my typical responsibilities, I’m not sure I’ll be able to deliver high-quality results in the desired timeframe. However, if you accept that I’d need a little extra time to learn on the job, I’d be happy to take it on.
”Explain why your “no” is in everyone’s best interest. Point to the broader context by saying: “While this sounds like a great opportunity and I’d love to say yes, if I devoted five hours a week to this project, my other work would suffer—and my teammates would have to pick up the slack.”
Source: Harvard Business Review
This tip is adapted from “Work Speak: How to Say ‘No’ to Extra Work,” by Vasundhara Sawhney