Darling grab me a coffee will you? 3 ways to say no with grace
Have you ever been asked to perform tasks at work that are not part of your job description? Has a more senior, perhaps male, colleague asked you to grab them a coffee or run an errand which is totally unacceptable? Have you found yourself just accepting it and doing what you are asked? Well, you are not alone.
Learning to say NO is one of the biggest skills at work. Unfortunately us girls are often stereotyped into less assertive roles, mainly by older generation men ( and women sometimes unfortunately ). It's happened to me so many times, in my early days, and I'm sure it will continue happening in the future, at least until the next generation starts coming into the workplace.
It's infuriating and humiliating and should not be tolerated! However, let's be smart about this, there are ways to get out of the situation with grace, ensuring that your voice is heard and that you don't come across as "unmanageable" in the process. Yes - unfortunately - playing the game is part of the game!
Be helpful but make it noted ( AKA say yes once and no the next time )
Don't get me wrong, it's totally OK to be kind and helpful with colleagues, so long as that kindness comes right back at you in equal measures. If it's a top down kind of attitude that you are suffering at work, particularly if it's from some big man boss, then... well, you know what I'm thinking. So how do you deal with the all time request: "darling, can you grab me a coffee?" or similar ( implied: "and then leave or stay but your opinion and presence adds no value to this situation..." ). How do you deal with this kind of request without being confrontational? and how to avoid being classified ( yes it happens ) as unreasonable and un-collaborative ( I hate it too but it's the reality )?
My take is to acknowledge the request, repeat it back and be smart: "sure, boss, I'll grab you that coffee straight away, after I've finished the report you asked me to deliver for this meeting. What would you like me to do first?" OR "John from HR has asked to be on time for the staff meeting, can you help me prioritise tasks? :-)"
Sometimes it's ok to say no, you don't actually have to say the word "no" but there are ways to just deflect and move on without causing too much havoc. For example: " Susie can you grab me a sandwich for lunch? OR "Jane can you take this shirt to the dry cleaner's?"... The answer is " I'm just heading out boss, the dry cleaner's is just around the corner they are open until 20hrs" :)
When asked to do something that you really don't think is within your role or remit, don't just say no, try to gently offer alternatives. For example if asked: "Anne, can you pick up my dog tonight?" try answering something along the lines of "I'm sorry, I have plans tonight and won't be able to help you but I know a great dog walker, would you like his number?".