Turning someone down is never fun. Whether you鈥檙e saying no to a first date, declining a job offer you don鈥檛 want, or telling a friend you鈥檙e too slammed at work to hang out, there isn鈥檛 really an easy way around needing to use the word 鈥渘o鈥 in your life. One place that it鈥檚 especially tough to respond in the聽negative? The office.

At work, you want to be seen in the most positive light possible, so declining聽a request聽is not exactly fun 鈥 even though over-committing can lead to generosity burnout. This is particularly true for women,聽who often fear that not being game for any challenge or task will unfairly damage our chances of being聽recognized as the competent, driven, and committed people we are. That being said, there are definitely times when you should聽overcome that fear to say you won鈥檛 or can鈥檛 do something, according to Sallie Krawcheck, co-founder and CEO of Ellevest聽and former Bank of America president. Here are four things Krawcheck recommends聽that you keep in mind when you want to say no at work 鈥 plus聽how to actually bite that bullet.

1. Always put your ethics first. If someone asks you to do something at work that you feel is morally wrong, that no-thanks is a no-brainer.聽Of course, you want to be known as a proactive problem-solver, admits Krawcheck: 鈥淪aying no is hardly ever comfortable, especially when you鈥檙e advancing your career.鈥 But she points out, 鈥淚f things are being asked of you that conflict with your personal ethics or the values of your company, you should push back. After all, a reputation takes a lifetime to build and only minutes to destroy.鈥 True that. If you find yourself in this situation, Krawcheck says her advice is to pause, then respond with something like, 鈥淭hat鈥檚 an interesting idea. Let me do some thinking on that and circle back.鈥 You鈥檒l have some time to figure out the best way聽to handle the situation and how exactly you鈥檙e going to more definitively say no 鈥 not to mention the opportunity to turn to a mentor, your manager, or the company鈥檚 ethics compliance hotline for guidance.

2. If you鈥檙e being harassed or treated unfairly, stick up for yourself. 鈥淥f course, women aren鈥檛 taught that 鈥榥o鈥 can be a complete sentence,鈥 notes Krawcheck, but in some situations, it鈥檚 the only word you need to say. 鈥淚f you鈥檙e blatantly being harassed in a situation like Susan J. Walker alleged in her recent blog post about Uber [more on that here if you鈥檙e not familiar with the situation], 鈥榥o鈥 is the first, last, and only thing you need to say before you visit HR. And if HR is as backwards as she alleges Uber鈥檚 was, the trip to make right after that is to the CEO鈥檚 office.鈥 Hopefully, you鈥檒l be able to turn up a sympathetic ear sooner rather than later, but ultimately it鈥檚 going to be up to you to take the lead 鈥 or at least get the ball rolling 鈥 on ensuring you鈥檙e respected.

3. Try to keep an open mind and push your comfort zone.聽Sometimes, our initial instinct to turn a project down comes more from being nervous than actually not having the time or ability to take it on. 鈥淚t can be natural to want to say no聽to a new thing at work, be it a new responsibility or a new business initiative of which you weren鈥檛 part of the initial planning,鈥 observes Krawcheck. 鈥淲e鈥檙e human, so we鈥檙e resistant to sudden change.鈥 In other words, your hesitance is only natural! But she recommends trying to make this mental shift: Ask yourself, are you inclined to say no聽because you鈥檙e being asked to step outside the responsibilities you鈥檙e already confident about? 鈥淚f so, look at this new challenge as an opportunity to stretch yourself,鈥 she suggests. 鈥淭he magic always happens outside your comfort zone, never within it.鈥

4. Get your reasoning in order. If you鈥檙e totally sure you won鈥檛 be able to聽do something, you need to have a logical explanation as to why.聽鈥淵ou should have a compelling reason for it, tie it back to business goals, and also be mentally ready for any backlash from it,鈥 advises Krawcheck. This could be as simple as saying you don鈥檛 have enough time to work on a new project because your current one takes priority in terms of company strategy, or it could be something more extreme. 鈥淚 have had the dubious honor of being fired quite publicly 鈥 like, cover of The Wall Street Journal publicly 鈥 for taking a stand at work,鈥 Krawcheck observes. 鈥淚 argued for reimbursing clients for a portion of their losses during the financial crisis, on products that were sold as 鈥榣ow risk鈥 but that were in fact 鈥榟igh risk鈥 and lost most of their value. I went against the new CEO of the company in doing so. It wasn鈥檛 just that I felt it was the 鈥榬ight鈥 thing to do; I also argued that it would be good for our client relationships in the long run 鈥 we鈥檇 lose fewer of them. I ultimately won that battle but lost my job for it.鈥

While this was an undoubtedly difficult situation, Krawcheck definitely doesn鈥檛 regret her decision. 鈥淎lmost a decade later, I鈥檇 do the same thing again if I had to,鈥 she confirms. That鈥檚 because the most important step is owning what you鈥檝e chosen to do: 鈥淚f you can present a clear case for why your time will be better spent doing things other than what you鈥檙e being asked to do, your manager will be more responsive to your pushing back. Then make sure you own that 鈥榥o.鈥 If you鈥檙e saying 鈥榥o鈥 to extra or unexciting work, it鈥檚 in your (and the company鈥檚) best interest to make a great impact, be impressive, and go the extra mile on the stuff you鈥檇 rather be working on.鈥 Put that way, it sounds totally doable, right? When you鈥檙e working on projects you care about, it鈥檚 much easier to give your all.

How do you handle saying no at work? Dish your stories and best tips @BritandCo!聽

(Photos via Getty)