Learn to say no as an Office Manager

Learn to say no as an Office Manager

Time to read: 

When one is Office Manager, requests spring forth from everywhere: from bosses, colleagues, suppliers etc.…Saying yes to everything is often an unwitting movement. And mostly if you’re someone « nice »: you wish to satisfy everyone, no matter what it takes. Keep in mind that saying yes to everything is counter-productive, more than anything else.  

Until proven otherwise, your days amount to 24 hours and your time isn’t moldable. To avoid working additional hours and having some kind of social life, outside of work, you need to learn to say no, otherwise you’re headed for a burnout.

Learning to say no will help you focus on your higher value-added tasks, those on which you’ll make a genuine impact. Not only, will you be more productive, but one will respect you more: your colleagues will think twice before giving you an urgent task at a short notice. Oh yes, saying no is also a way of asserting oneself. However, it’s not always easy, especially if one isn’t used to it. Here are some tricks to help you say no, they’ll let you regain control of your schedule and achieving the respect one owes you. 

Take time to answer

When one asks you for something, don’t respond immediately. Don’t be impulsive while answering and take your time to think about the request. Don’t forget the consequences of your choices: how long is it going to take, is it going to prevent you from working on other projects etc.…In short, weigh the pros and cons.

If one asks you in person, rephrase so that you have some time to think: “So, you’re asking me to restructure the entire payroll management system for next Monday, and we’re Friday 5:30 in the evening and I am leaving for Portugal in 2 hours? Hmm, let me think about it…”. 

Give a reason

The human brain requires a reason for everything. If you can’t meet a demand, briefly express why: you don’t have the time as you need to round off this urgent task, you’re not in charge for such requests, you don’t have the skills to do so etc.… But don’t overdo things, otherwise it’ll seem like a “justification”. Be clear and precise, don’t get lost with the whys and wherefores. 

Show empathy

Saying no, shouldn’t prevent you from being polite and nice. Accompany your refusal with a kind word: “I understand that you’re having a hard time with this project, I know it’s not easy to handle the relationship with this goddamn supplier, but I myself have a big task to handle these days. Good luck sweets!”. 

Be precise

When you say no, it means no, so be precise. There shouldn’t be any ambiguity. Don’t pussyfoot around for ages, your interlocutors needs to understand that it’s a refusal (a polite refusal but still a refusal). 

Be honest

When you say no, be honest about it. If you’re lying and get caught, you won’t be taken seriously, when you refuse the next time. Just speak about the valid reasons. 

Offer an alternative

The aim is always to be nice and show minimal understanding, suggest an alternative. 

« - Can you take care of my expense reports tonight pls? I am taking my new girlfriend to the restaurant this weekend and I am broke…

- No, tonight won’t be possible, I am swamped. Though, I can give you some restaurant vouchers for the coming month. 

- You’re a darling »

Similarly, if you’re not the most suitable person to handle the request, steer your interlocutors towards a more competent person. 

 « - Oh yeah, you want me to re-size the 250 images? Why don’t you go see Gerard, isn’t he the graphic designer, last I heard? Plus, he doesn’t have anything to do these days, I am sure he’ll be happy to see you”. 

Say no in person

When you say no, always do it in person. When it’s through email, Slack or SMS, the response can quickly be misinterpreted and make room for misunderstandings, even clashes for that matter. If you receive the request via email, shake a leg and go see the concerned person. Your no will be taken more seriously, and one will appreciate that you expressed your refusal, in a dignified way.


Improve one’s softs skills when one is Office Manager
One speaks more and more about soft skills nowadays and it’s not just a trendy expression. This term points out human...Read more
The benefits of courtesy at work
He refused a handshake with his supervisor and was fired. A fake news ? No, the mishap in 2014 for an employee of...Read more
4 Toltec agreements for the Office Manager
If you didn’t know, « The 4 agreements », is a great literature classic, in the personal development category. Written...Read more