Why It's Okay to Say "No" 

Career Development 

No workplace is entirely perfect; every company has its ups and downs. Although we learn as early as kindergarten to “get along with others,” many work situations require us to simply look the other way when we disagree with a situation that runs contrary to what we truly believe.

It’s a matter of ethics, certainly, but when faced with the threat of creating conflict or, in the worst-case scenario, being fired, many workers give in to the demands around them. However, disagreeing with your boss and co-workers can lead to a much different outcome of respect and admiration. Before you take the plunge and make your stand, there are several situational circumstances you must consider.

You must recognize your status in your firm or company. If you have only been there for a short time or if you are dealing with a new boss, turning this person down likely will result negatively. Consider what your job entails, and whether the boss’s requests are reasonable for your line of work and for you, personally.

A story ran in the Montreal Gazette in February in which a man was required to kill 100 sled dogs for his company. While this is an extreme example, when you scale it down to a business case, it can be very indicative of a request that is hugely unethical. For example, what would you do if you were asked to lie to a client about an accounting error? In a far less serious example, would you agree with your team (and your boss) that it’s time to go to Happy Hour when you know you have to complete an assignment by 9 a.m. the following morning?

What would you do? Sometimes, you have to say “no” if you personally can’t go through with the situation, or if the request hurts your reputation and image.

Although concurring with your boss seems to be the norm, disagreeing with him or her can actually improve your value to the company! If you have a good standing with your firm, and your employer truly likes you and embraces your ideas, then it is okay to say “no.” However, it is very important to go about it a certain way.

You must listen to what he or she has to say, and react positively. Use good body language, and show your passion and willingness to help. Try and compromise. If you have too many other pressing projects or assignments, and need time to devote to them, make your boss aware of your situation. However, avoid saying that you “don’t have the time” or, worse yet, “it’s not my job.” Rather, express your dedication to your current obligations and how important it is that you take time to finish them. You’ll also want to make sure your boss knows he or she needs to review and set a revised deadline on the new assignment; better yet, be proactive and come up with a proposed timeframe yourself.

Rerouting your new assignment to other co-workers or postponing it is common. Also, if the request happens to make you uncomfortable, your manager may not realize it, so try to talk with he or she in private. The last thing you want to do is be on the defensive.

As a young CPA, you want to be taken seriously for your work, participate as a team player, and be rewarded for your achievements. Completing your tasks in a timely and effective manner will put you in good standing, but don’t be afraid to speak up. Request your new assignment be deferred to a co-worker so that you can focus on your current work, especially if it involves an upcoming deadline. The last thing you want to do is turn in shoddy work just because you didn’t have the time to complete it properly. Besides a potential black mark on the relationship between your company and the client or customer, your reputation within the company also will be tarnished.

Teamwork is integral in a firm’s success, so taking on too many assignments can be overwhelming and backfire. Remember that your co-workers may find themselves in the same situation and defer an assignment to you as well. Often, a simple conversation from time to time to talk about this kind of scenario before it comes up.

As you can see, saying “no” to your boss can actually lead to success. No one likes a yes-person! Yet, it is important to understand how to say “no” or “not right now,” or you may be looking for a new job very soon. React positively, have an open mind, and demonstrate your value. Your thoughts and actions will be respected.



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