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Saying “No” Benevolently When A Colleague Asks You To Give At The Office

It’s holiday time and often that can mean a time of year when people in your office may come around to collect for a special cause. The problem is if you don’t want to give to that cause or you really don’t have the wherewithal to contribute. How do you decline politely?

The first step to handling requests for contributions at the office is to do a little preparation ahead of time. Take a look at what you have contributed so far this year and determine what you are willing to contribute for the remainder of the year. If you already know who might be coming around for an annual contribution, decide which of those requests you are willing to honor and identify how much you’re willing to give. If you have funds still remaining, you can utilize them for unexpected requests that may come up in the next few weeks.

Having established the parameters of to whom and how much you are willing to give, you are armed with information to respond to all requests that may be made. For those on your list, the answer is easy—just let them know how much you’re willing to contribute. For those not on your list, a benevolently honest response will do: “Thanks so much for asking. But I’m afraid I won’t be able to contribute this year.” You don’t have to explain why. In fact, in some cases it may be better not to offer an explanation as it gives the person an opening to try to convince you that your reasoning is incorrect.

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Then, come January, make a plan for the new year, again identifying which requests you will be willing to honor and for how much. That way you are covered not only for the holiday season but also for any requests made throughout the year.

Businesses can help control the number of requests that employees make of their colleagues. Instead of having people go around to coworkers’ desks and cubicles with hat in hand, a business or department could set up an area where people seeking contributions can post a notice. That leaves the choice up to the employee without the pressure that comes with a request made at a person’s desk. At a staff meeting, a person with a request could make an announcement to the group so people at least have been made aware of the opportunity. The goal is to allow those making a request to be heard without creating awkward or difficult situations between employees .

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers’ questions in The Boston Sunday Globe’s weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book “Essential Manners For Men” was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of “Essential Manners for Couples,” “Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf,” and co-author of “A Wedding Like No Other.” Post is Emily Post’s great-grandson. His media appearances include “CBS Sunday Morning,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “Fox News.” Follow Post: @PeterLPost.

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