Why Saying 'No' At Work Could Actually Be Good For Your Career

July 22, 2016 by Justine Schwartz
shefinds | Style

We’ve all been there: you feel overextended at work, but when your boss asks you to do something, you just can’t say no. Maybe you’ve been taught to “come from a place of yes” (thanks, Bethanny!), maybe you’re a people pleaser–or maybe you’re just worried about being fired.

It turns out that saying yes to everything your boss and co-workers ask of you isn’t the fastest way to get promoted–it’s the fastest way to burn out and appear scattered in the workplace. “Someone who says yes to everything will quickly be seen as unreliable,” says professional coach Bruce Eckfeldt, founder of Eckfeldt & Associates.

So, if saying yes to everything doesn’t work–how do you say no in a way that will make you look good to your boss and help advance your career?

“All good no’s are based on saying yes to something bigger or something more important,” Bruce explains. This means being strategic with your nos, and using them to show your boss you truly know how to spend your time to drive success for the company.  “Someone who gives nine no’s followed by one yes will be trusted to get the job done.”

Here are Bruce’s tips for exactly how to do it:

Identify the common values and objectives of the team and organization. Make sure your no supports the bigger picture and priorities–literally reference them in your no. Bruce suggests using this phrasing: “Because we both want/value X, I have to say no to this new request Y.” Reinforcing that you are clear on the company’s values gives your boss confidence in your no.

Make your no’s firm but polite. Be aware of your tone and non-verbal communication when giving no’s–you need to be careful that you don’t come off as uncaring or neglectful. “If you can offer alternatives or other resources, do so,” Bruce suggests. Give them the impression that you care about the work getting done.

Be willing to discuss options and details. Saying no without discussing other ideas for how to achieve both outcomes will come across as inflexible and uncaring.

For more great management tips, check out Bruce’s free program, 52 Habits.

[Photo: Shutterstock]


Editorial Director

Justine Schwartz is a veteran women's lifestyle editor; she's written extensively about style & beauty tips, health advice and wedding planning for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in New York Magazine, Huffington Post and New York Weddings. Justine has been with SheFinds since 2010; you can reach her via email at [email protected]

From Our Partners

Learn more about RevenueStripe...

From Our Partners

Learn more about RevenueStripe...


These 3 Outfits Look Good At The Office *And* For Drinks Afterwards With Friends

Juggling a career and a social life often means meeting ...


Psst! Nordstrom Rack Has The Perfect Madewell Tee On Sale For Just $16 Right Now

If you wait until the warm weather arrives to start ...


This New Madewell Denim Collab Is *So* Cool

If you're a denim lover like me, then chances ...


Fitness Lovers, This New Line From Outdoor Voices Is Perfect For Your Studio Workouts

As a workout fanatic, you probably already know that there ...


This Super Flattering Sweater Dress Is On Sale At Nordstrom For 40% Off Right Now

Need a little something something to spice up your winter ...


Every Woman Should Own This Super Comfortable Everyday Bra--It Comes In 31 Sizes!

Ready to hear something you almost never hear a woman ...


I Finally Found The Perfect Leather Weekender Bag

Over the years, I've really mastered the art of ...


Don't Forget To Pack These Five Items For Your Spring Break Getaway--They're All Under $30!

Counting down the days (minutes, hours) until your spring break ...


Psst! We Found A Secret Stash Of TOMS Shoes On Sale For Super Cheap

I spend most days on the hunt for really good ...


You *Need* This Sweater In Your Winter Wardrobe--It's The Best!

You know that commercial where Oprah declares her love for ...