Developing a sense of confidence and understanding about your role at work is an important part of career growth. Knowing what your job duties are and fulfilling your responsibilities is essential. Going above and beyond your job duties by helping others on various projects can make you invaluable. However, you want to avoid being taken advantage of or taking on too much and having your responsibilities suffer as a result. This can be a delicate balance, and is also the reason it is important to learn how to say “no” at work.

“Learning to say no is an essential part of being assertive. Those who don’t learn assertiveness can become resentful, bitter and taken advantage of,” says Stephen Friedman, executive career coach and part-time professor at York University Schulich School of Business. “You may take on too much and get burnt out or end up taking on the work of others. Either way, the perception that others have of your performance will suffer.”

If you’re anything like me learning to say “no” is not a skill that comes easy.


“It can be harder at work to say no because you’re afraid you might be perceived as someone who’s not a team player, or at worst, over time, get fired,” says certified career coach Hallie Crawford ( “Saying no can affect how your boss sees you, so handle it well.”

How do you know when to say “no”?

According to Crawford, you need to start by asking yourself, “Will this request take me away from the focus of my job?”; How am I evaluated at work for a raise and will this project help or hinder that?”; “Is this something I know how to do and can do well or not?”

“Don’t just say “yes” to please your boss or someone else. If you say “yes” to too many things, you’ll spread yourself too thin and won’t perform well on anything,” she advises.

So, how do you say “no” tactfully?

“Be sure to include alternatives rather than justifications and excuses,” says Friedman. “Focusing on what you are willing to do and what can be done as opposed to the negative makes “no” easier to accept.

Friedman adds that saying “yes” to everything sets up an expectation that you cannot possibly maintain. “Instead, clarify the expectations others have of you and make real, honest choices.”

Crawford adds that she’s learned saying “no” in some cases can actually gain you more respect. “It shows integrity, shows that you know how to manage your time, that you are able to stay focused on your priorities, and you’re not just saying “yes” all the time to please people.”

Kavita Gosyne, 26, is a vibrant young journalist. She writes about her transition from student to employee and the issues she faces such as office politics.

Latest From ...