Have you ever been asked to do something that you really don’t want to do? Someone asks you for a favour. Maybe they want you to introduce them to a business contact or give them a recommendation. I’m sure that there have been times that you really wanted to say ‘no’, but probably end up saying ‘yes’ because, well, it’s hard to say ‘no’, isn’t it?
Here are some ideas that might help you out of those sticky situations.
Situation 1: A former colleague asks for a recommendation
A couple of years ago you worked with someone for just a short period of time. You didn’t really know them well, or maybe you just didn’t get on with them. Now that person wants a letter of recommendation, or asks you to write a recommendation for their LinkedIn profile. You would really rather not write anything.
What to write: This is one of the most difficult situations you’ll probably find yourself in. It’s good to be honest, but you also need to be kind. The best bet is to come up with a good reason why you aren’t the best person to write the recommendation.
Thanks for thinking of me. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m the best person to write the recommendation for you because … (pick a reason)
- I haven’t seen you manage a team, which seems to be a major responsibility in the job you’re applying for
- I am not familiar with your project management skills on large projects, and this is something that seems important in the role you’re after
- I know you did some research when we worked together, but we worked together for such a short time that I don’t feel I can provide any in-depth comments
- If you have another colleague who is able to discuss your abilities in more depth, I’m sure getting them to write a recommendation will improve your chances. Good luck.
Situation 2: You’re invited to join a committee you really don’t want to join
You’re a member of an association, or an industry organisation, and you’ve gone to some of their events, but they’ve not been brilliant. You may even be thinking of quitting, or not attending anything further. Then the President suggests you might want to join their membership committee. Of course:
- It is an honour to be asked and you don’t want to offend anyone
- You don’t have time, and really don’t see the value in being more involved
What to write:
This isn’t so difficult. Thank the President for inviting you, and let them know what an honour you think it is to be considered for the position, but let them know you don’t have time.
Thank you for asking me. I feel honoured by the invitation. However, with my current work and family commitments I wouldn’t be able to give the role the time and effort it deserves. I would feel dreadful if I took it on and then let the organisation down.
Situation 3: You’re asked to introduce someone you don’t know well to an important business contact, and you don’t want to
Someone you hardly know asks you to help them meet your company’s CFO because they’re interested in a career in finance. You don’t really know the person, and your relationship with the CFO is important. You don’t want to be seen as someone who is wasting their time.
What to write: Take advantage of the fact that everyone is busy. Tell the person that the CFO just doesn’t have any spare time right now.
Thanks for contacting me. Our CFO is fabulous and an excellent role model. Unfortunately right now she has a lot on her plate, with the (upcoming merger, company transformation, fast approaching board meeting …) and I don’t feel comfortable adding something else to her load. Are there any questions about working here that I can answer for you?
I hope this gives you some ideas for dealing with these sticky situations. I’ll give you some more in a later post.
Let me know if you’ve ever had trouble saying ‘no’.