How to say 'no' to a project

When you’re approached by a collaborator who you’re unable to work with, not responding can create tension and damage your professional reputation. Follow our advice on how to politely say ‘no’ to an offer so you can move on with your plans.  

If you receive an offer that you’d like to turn down:

  1. Politely inform them that you’ll consider it. For example, “Thanks so much for the offer. Let me have a think about it and get back to you in a few days”. This approach sets the expectation that you may say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ so you’re not rushing to decide in the moment. Then, a few days later...
  1. Respond and explain that you’re unable to participate. You don’t need to give a lot of detail – the main thing is to be certain about your decision. This way, your potential collaborator knows exactly where you stand and they can move on.  For example, “Thanks again for the offer. Unfortunately, I’m not able to participate at the time but I’d love to be considered for future projects”.

How come I can’t just ignore it?

When you reach out to someone you want to work with and they don’t reply, it’s easy to feel anxious, insecure or frustrated about why they aren’t interested in going forward. So, when you’re not interested in working with someone, it’s important that you don’t cause these same worries for them. That’s because avoiding people can negatively impact your reputation in the industry. You never know, later on in your career you may want to work with them.  

If you need guidance with a particular teamwork scenario, please contact the Support team.

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