Why it's important to say 'no' at work & how to approach it.

saying no at work

Is it okay to say 'no' at work?


It’s 8pm on a Thursday evening, you’re the only one in the office, you have presentation slides to prepare for the director, a report to circulate to the business, a brief you promised a colleague – and let’s not mention your actual day to day work that you need to finish.

We get it, when you really want to shine in a role and impress your colleagues, it’s difficult not to get sucked in and say yes to absolutely everything. But where do we actually set the boundaries? Is it really necessary to stay until after hours every night?

Of course not! But how to we even begin to handle it?

Let’s start with some reasons as why it’s important to say no.

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It's important to set healthy boundaries.

And the sooner you set them, the sooner people will respect them. Start with listing your priorities. What needs achieving today? What’s most important? What do I need to start with? If a certain task doesn’t align with your priorities, then question whether it’s better to spend time doing something more valuable?

Remember - a ‘no’ now is better than saying yes and having to let someone down further down the line because you haven’t had enough time to complete something.

It could impact your ability to accomplish your responsibilities.

If you’re asked to do something outside of your job description and you already have enough to work on, is it really worth your time? Saying no to something that isn’t your direct responsibility (and can easily be done by the person asking) highlights your commitment to your own role but also ensures your own performance doesn’t suffer as a result. Your time is important, and you should value that.

You need time to switch off and do things you love.

Switching off from work is SO important, whether you’re just chilling, doing a hobby or focusing on something you love. It is here where you must think about and evaluate the level of respect you’re actually giving yourself.

Ask yourself the following - am I allowing myself a much-needed break? Am I finding time to do other things I love?

Having a break from work gives you time to reflect, refresh and prepare for the next time you’re in the office.

So, how do we approach the situation?


Of course, we are not expecting you to go in head first to the office tomorrow with the words ‘no’ written across your forehead! These situations are difficult to approach, and therefore, need to be well thought about and dealt with humbly.

Try politely asking for more time.

At first you might not be quite ready to respond with a flat out ‘no’. So, try asking that person for more time, explain your workload and your priorities to help manage their expectations and build more of an understanding.

Start with questioning the little things first.

It’s a good idea to start off with the small stuff to help gage the situation, allowing you to build on it from there. This will help leave space to work on those bigger priorities.

Don’t give elaborate excuses, be straight with people.

No one likes excuses, and particularly with this situation – you should most definitely avoid them! When confronting your colleague(s), be polite but also honest, outlining your respect for them and the situation.

Be professional and frame your answer.

Always remember to stay professional and polite. Think about what you want to say beforehand, stay positive and frame your response.


Remember - you should feel empowered to question decisions, it allows you to present your side but also gives the opportunity for your boss to elaborate and give you an idea where they are coming from too.

It’s all about maintaining and developing these working relationships that helps build both you as a person whilst also leading towards a positive working environment.

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