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“Yes Man” Tendencies? Tips on Respectfully Saying No At Work


One sure fire way to achieve ‘career burnout’, is to not have work-life balance, and not being able to say no when necessary. Across the spectrum of industries, one of the most desired things is to gain respect and awareness of your work. With this in mind, many people find themselves overwhelmed with tasks to complete, in hopes of being recognized as a team player or the go-getter. Having this outlook on your job, may develop “yes man” tendencies in your life.

At this point, either you begin to drown in many half-finished projects, or you are so busy with your job, that your work calendar bleeds into your personal calendar. Maybe you are aware of the negative impact on your life, but you don’t feel that you can prove your professional value in any other way? The old saying “quality over quantity” still rings true in this situation as well. Saying no to a project request or an assignment can help yield higher productivity in your life. Juggling many different tasks, will divide your attention and you may miss very important details, that can negatively impact your output.

Below, I have provided some “No” techniques I use in my Information Technology career.

The “Alternative” No

One of the best ways to respectfully decline an assignment request, is to offer an alternative solution. Maybe you don’t have the time or energy to take lead on a project, but you can offer to help with brainstorming meetings. You could even propose a technical solution, that would eliminate the man hours needed to complete the request.

The “Conditional” No

Sometimes, you do not have to provide a flat out no. Before accepting or rejecting any request, you should always do a very high level analysis to check the benefits and the consequences that the task can yield. If you see enough benefit, but you do not currently have time to complete this, you can opt to postpone. Work the art of negotiation with your manager or whomever the requester is, in order to schedule the project to be completed at a later date.

The “Bridging the Gap” No

What better way to connect your colleagues, than allowing them to make use of their skills? Instead of telling the requester that the task can not be completed, connect them to one of your team members who is qualified to finish the assignment as well. Sometimes your other colleagues don’t get the opportunities they deserve to showcase their skills…why not be the person to get them the shot they deserve?

The “Two for One” No

Sometimes you may find yourself receiving very similar requests from different people in the company. Take a look at your current list, and see where you can consolidate multiple requests into one. Gather everyone and discuss the problem at one time.

The “Classic” No

Sometimes, you just have to say “No.” No need to offer any alternatives or reschedule, just say no. There are times that requests do not offer any benefit to your team or the company, so you should not be afraid to say no, followed by a brief reason why not. No need to be apologetic, but you should always be polite and direct.

Don’t be afraid to establish health boundaries in your work place, as well as your home. If you find yourself on the brink of losing your sanity at work due to overwhelming assignments, don’t be afraid to say no!

Do you have any special techniques for saying “no” at work?

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