Knowing why, when, and how to say no at work is essential to your career success and work life balance.    We may not want to say no at work for fear of not being liked or worse – being fired.  This is simply NOT TRUE especially when you learn how to say no tactfully.  Before we can talk about how to say no, let’s get on the same page about why and when you should be saying no at work and how this can benefit both you and your employer.

Why Say No at Work – Here are 4 key benefits

  1. Protect your work reputation – Saying yes at work is not always good for you.  If you said yes and then did a poor job because you had too much work then not only do you NOT get any credit for saying yes, but your reputation for doing quality work will be damaged.
  2. Maintain high productivity – Once you learn how to say no tactfully, saying no will lower your stress level and keep you balanced and productive for all the work you still have on your plate.
  3. Increase work enjoyment  – It’s hard to enjoy work if you are constantly overwhelmed.  By saying no sometimes, you can maintain a healthy work load and better enjoy the work you do.
  4. Respect for your word  – By judiciously saying yes or no to extra work, you can build a reputation for being your word and avoid easily being dumped on.  When you say yes, the work you return will be stellar.  When you say no, you have a good reason and people will respect you regardless.

When to Say No at Work – While it’s absolutely okay to say no at work, you will have to do it selectively.  It’s not healthy for you to say yes all the time, but it’s also career limiting if you said no all the time.  Here are 6 key considerations to help you decide when you should say no.  Remember there are benefits/consequences to saying yes or saying no.  It’s up to you to decide based on your career aspiration, health condition, and goals in life.

  1. Level of experience – if you are young or have limited experience at your current job, then you may want to error on the side of saying yes most of time.  It’s called paying up front to build a reputation for having a good attitude and willing to take on extra work.
  2. Quality – Can you complete this extra work at a high quality?  Can you still deliver the other work you have at a high quality?  Remember low quality work will affect your reputation even if you said yes.
  3. Stress Level – will taking on this extra work significant increase your stress level?  Are you already overwhelmed at work?  Having you burnt out will not help you or your employer
  4. Business reason – Do you have a good business reason for saying no?  An example of a good business reason is that this work is dependent on another piece of work and that one is not completed yet.   You should never turn down work for the sole reason that you don’t like the work or you don’t like the person requesting it.
  5. Frequency –  Is this a one-time urgent request?  If so, maybe saying yes is okay as it is temporary.  But if this extra work is a frequent request, then consider it carefully and decide
  6. Requester – who is asking you to take on this extra work?  Can their impression of you affect your work reputation?   What is your reputation with this requester already?  If they already think you are a “star” then they are more likely to accept a “no” if you have a good reason.

Stayed tuned for the next article on How to Say No at Work – 5 Tips.

Your comments:  Do you agree that it’s wise to sometimes say no at work? I look forward to your comments.

– Lei

3 Thoughts on “Saying No at Work – When and Why to Do it

  1. DJ Miller on November 14, 2016 at 6:25 am said:

    Sometimes it is good to say no, especially for the right reasons. I appreciated the times an overused employee has expressed their frustration tactfully. Sometimes one is not aware of how often they use their one go-to person because of their reputation for getting it done and fail to develop the rest of the team. Tactfully bringing this to their attention reminds them they are challenged with total team development for a stronger team of more go-to people. This will enable them to make better team evaluations.

  2. Marty Pollard on October 13, 2011 at 6:09 pm said:

    I had a resource in the machine shop that was always saying yes to anything I asked. But when jobs weren’t getting done I realized he didn’t really control his time and projects. After that I made sure I went through the shop supervisor first. Fortunately I knew the system well enough to not form a negative opinion of the employee. I learned to be wary of people who said yes all the time.

  3. Marty Pollard on October 13, 2011 at 6:06 pm said:

    Sometimes I had occasion to say no to my supervisor when it involved assigning a project to one of my employees. If I felt that my employee was already at their limit for effectiveness then I would explain this to my supervisor.

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