The United States has a labor shortage. There are more open jobs than people to fill them, and seasonal hiring will exacerbate the problem. That's pushing some companies to cover increased seasonal demand by offering more hours to existing workers.

Walmart has been the largest company to eschew seasonal hiring in favor of offering more hours to its current staff. That's generally welcome news for employees -- especially in retail and other generally low-paying jobs -- but not every worker wants to put in a bunch of extra hours.

That can create problems, especially at smaller companies, for people who don't want to (or can't) work the extra hours. It's a delicate situation: An employee does not want to be seen as non-cooperative or unwilling to be a team player, but may have valid reasons for saying no.

If this is you, it's important you handle the situation carefully in order to make sure your bosses understand your reasoning. In addition, you need to be reasonable and consider the needs of your employer.

Workers dressed as Santa Claus work in a warehouse.

Some workers should expect to be asked to work more during the holiday season. Image source: Getty Images.

Know your business

If you work for a tax preparation firm, you go in understanding that the beginning of April is a very busy time. The same is true if you choose to work in retail: You have to understand that the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas (really through New Year's) is going to be very busy.

In general, retail (and some restaurant workers) are told when hired that there are no vacations and less scheduling flexibility during the holidays. Weekends and longer hours are also the norm, so you should understand that these seasonal changes are not surprises.

That does not mean you have to agree to work extra hours. It just means that you should be as flexible and accommodating as you can.

How to say no

If your company wants you/everyone to take on extra hours and you can't do it, it's important to communicate your issues. If, for example, you're constrained by child care issues, make that known to your employer. "I'd love the extra hours, but I have to be home when my six-year-old gets home from school."

Consider whether you have something you can offer. Maybe there's some at-home work you can take on that frees up someone else's time, or maybe there are offbeat hours you can offer. "I can't extend my day, but I'd be happy to come in early on Saturday and Sunday to help get us ready for the customer rush."

If there's nothing you can offer and you have no flexibility, be thankful and direct. Talk with your boss and communicate with your coworkers so they understand that you're not skipping out on the team, you have a real reason that prevents you from working more hours.

Not everyone will understand, and there's nothing you can about that except be honest. Of course, if you have no reason to turn down the work -- you just don't want the extra hours -- expect your employer and coworkers to view that negatively.

That's a reasonable reaction if everyone (or near everyone) is sacrificing in order to get through the holiday season. So you can say no -- even if you have no real reason to do so -- but there may be consequences if you do so.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.