How to Say No At Work

Saying “no” at work is a surprisingly difficult thing to do. In the minds of your coworkers, the word can land you with the stigma of negativity. Similarly, turning down a client’s request with a blunt “no” can cause you to lose their favor.

Still, sometimes it has to be done. “No” is sometimes necessary, and if it’s used carefully, it can save both sides of the dialogue from unneeded stress and wasted time.

A List Apart has an excellent guide on how to say no properly, supporting it with valid reasons – yet remaining positive to your coworkers and favorable to your clients.

In the long term, a thoughtful, carefully-delivered “no” can be much more positive than saying “yes” as a thoughtless, knee-jerk reaction.

A List Apart – No One Nos: Learning to Say No to Bad Ideas

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Peter is Vice President of Digital Marketing at an investment holdings company in Washington DC and Co-Founder at True North.


  1. Jonas Brauer on the 2nd September

    This is a tough one but still important to understand. If you look in a bigger perspective, what has to be done to accomplish the task in the best way, it might be easier to have a conversation about why you should not do the task.
    If you always put result in front (your health, deadlines, workload, skills needed etc) people will see your “No” as your way to take responsability for the task.
    Example: Bob asks you to call the new lead Abc. “No, I’m having a cold today and would not make a proper impression. Ask Leo instead.”

  2. Brian Landi on the 2nd September

    I think that sharing, in no great detail, why you’re saying no is important. You can also state what the effect of saying yes would be on your ability to meet your current responsibilities at work. Thanks for the post!

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