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Steve Robson

Marine Industry

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Management Trainers


Hi to all Managenment and Leadership Trainers.

I'm trying to advise someone how to deliver a short session on "Saying No but maintaining a good working relationship".

Its not really my "thing" so if any Management Trainers could offer a few wise words or ideas they would be greatfully recieved.

Many thanks in advance


7 Responses

  1. Thanks Angela

    Thanks Angela

    That will be useful.


    Does anyone have any examples of high level conversations between manager and employee that could be used as a case study involving the word NO and maintaining the good working relationship?




  2. Thanks

    Cheers Russ

    It’s all useful so the more ideas the better.

    Scenarios (conversations) particularly welcome….





  3. Saying ‘No’


    Simple No
    The first technique for saying “no”, is by far the simplest – but  not always the easiest!  By just saying “no” and nothing else you may feel rude or aggressive.  But like all the other techniques, circumstances may demand it. And if you remain polite, no offense should be taken. No apologizing, be direct and succinct.
    “Can you work tomorrows shift for me”
    ”No, I cannot.”
    “Please, I really need tomorrow off”
    “There’s no one else I can ask, I’ll do the same for you anytime”
    “No, I’ve made clear I can’t.”
    Reasoned No
    You can still give a genuine reason, without opening up any discussion as to your availability:-
    “No, I’ve got to do some family commitments”
    “No, it’s not possible I’m busy”
    “No, I don’t want to”.
    The main habit to get out of is starting with an apology – “I’m sorry… ” Or “I’m afraid…”
    The other person may have a problem, may be very needy – but you don’t have to take it on board or feel it’s your responsibility to meet that need.
    Don’t vaguely agree (“I’ll try to be there”) or give an uncommitted response to something you know you don’t want to do.
    Broken Record
    A useful technique is called “broken record”, where you basically keep repeating the same answer.  If someone is persistent and keeps repeating requests, it’s tempting to keep finding new ways of saying no.  This gradually dilutes your response and makes you bring in excuses and apologies. Again, no explanation – just repeat.
    So if at the request from a colleague is to work a shift for them, you reply:-
    “No, I can’t work that day” –
    “But I really need someone to cover for me”
    “No, I can’t work that day” (Broken record)
    “I’ve asked everyone else; you’re the only one who can help”
    “No, I can’t work that day” (Broken record)
    “Why not, you usually can help me out?”
    “No, I can’t work that day” (Broken record)
    Reflective No
    A variation on “broken record” is to add a reflection on what the person has said, before saying no in a firm way.  It shows you are listening to the person, acknowledge what they are saying, empathizing with them, but without being apologetic saying assertively saying no.
    So following on the above dialog:-
    “But I really need someone to cover for me”
    “I know you want to go away, but I can’t work that day” (reflection)
    This technique is not about making up excuses and avoiding taking responsibility by deflecting the no onto someone else (”I’m really sorry, I would be happy to help you, but wife is taking me shopping that day and that the only day we can do that.  I’m sorry to let you down, any other time I’m sure I could….”)
    Rain Check No
    A “rain check no”, says a clear no to the current request but does respond with a positive offer:-
    “I can’t work your shift tomorrow as I’m doing something; however I can help out later in the week if that’s any help?”
    The bottom line is to only make an offer if you genuinely want to, as you are opening up negotiation. Don’t add a “rain check no” to ease your guilt – stick to the reasoned no above.
    When in doubt say no. Its easier to change your mind and say yes later than the other way round.


    Responding with a question and asking for information, is another way of stalling whilst clarifying the exact request being made. It’s not giving in, but simply clarifies what is being asked.
    “Does it have to be tomorrow, its very short notice?”
    “Why ask me, you know I always have an evening class on Wednesdays?”
    Again, don’t start apologizing or giving in – like the rain check “no”, this is simply away of clarifying the situation and putting the onus back on the requester. You can also open up the request by throwing in questions of your own
    “I cannot work tomorrow, but didn’t you want to discuss how we are going to cover the public holiday?”
    When asked by a manager to do something that conflicts with other demands on your time, ask for help in prioritizing. Point out you can’t do everything – at least not to the standard you would give with 100% commitment. Often managers are themselves passing down pressures/demands from their manager – but it shouldn’t mean you have to do the impossible.  if they have a problem saying no, doesn’t mean you should as well.
    To make any changes, you need to practice.
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Steve Robson

Learning and Development Consultant

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