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Campus & Community

Five to Thrive 3/2/2020

Your Tips for Workplace Success

By Thriving Workplace Initiative Staff

illustration of speech bubbles on a yellow background

Illustration by Creative Strategies

Photo by Creative Strategies

UMD’s Thriving Workplace Initiative is making the University of Maryland a great place to work by providing tools and support to foster engaged, inclusive and empowered faculty and staff across campus.

Five to Thrive offers five strategies each month, crowdsourced from research, experts and our own UMD community to help your workplace thrive.

“No” might be the most deflating word in the English language. When you can’t give your co-worker, supervisor or customer what they want, here are five alternatives to a flat-out “no” that can help keep work relationships on track:

  • Offer an alternative: You might not be able to finish the report by Friday, but what can you accommodate? Is someone else qualified to provide the help needed? Offering a viable alternative instead of defaulting to “no” shows a shared interest in the task at hand.
  • Explain the “why”: Sometimes a shortfall in budget, staffing or time can defeat the best intentions. Communicating these reasons shows a level of respect, consideration and fairness.
  • If it’s a request from a superior, ask for guidance in prioritizing. Oftentimes the person making the request isn’t aware of what’s already on your plate. Lay out your current commitments; could something go on the back burner?
  • Take a beat before saying no. Sometimes no can really be a yes, if the request can wait. Don’t be afraid to request a reprieve until a later date; if you can’t accommodate the request now, offer a time that might work.
  • Be sincere. Sometimes, there’s no way around a no. Responding in person (or over the phone) conveys sincerity that can’t be captured by email.

Can’t wait for the next installment of Five to Thrive? Visit the Thriving Workplace Resource Library here or sign up for Food for Thought Friday, which delivers strategies to your inbox each week. Send an email to with the subject listserv to subscribe.

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