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Speaking Exercise: How To Say “No” At Work

What can you say if your boss or colleague asks you to do something – and you want to refuse? Here are some ways to say “no” without making your boss angry or causing offence!

Saying “no” to an invitation
Here are some things you can say if you’re invited to an event, but you don’t want to go.

If your boss invites you:
“I’m very sorry, but I have a prior engagement” or more informally, “There’s something I have to do which I can’t get out of”. (If you ”can’t get out of something”, it’s impossible for you to find an excuse not to do it.)

If a colleague invites you:
“Thanks for the invitation, but there’s something I’ve got to do.
You could also say ”I’ve got something else on”.

Saying “no” to extra work
If your boss asks you to work on another project and you don’t have time, you could say:
“Sure, but can you help me prioritise the rest of my work?”
If you say this, you may be able to get rid of other work so you have more free time for the new project.

Saying “no” to a request
If your boss asks you to stay late at work and you can’t, you can say something like:
”I’m really sorry, but I can’t stay late this evening.” (You could even give a reason why, like “I have a doctor’s appointment”.)

If a colleague asks you for help and you’re busy, you could say:
”I’m sorry, but I can’t help you right now. I’ll be free in an hour or so.”


How To Say No At Work

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