How to Say No at Work

Career Blog

Being customer focused is a strength, but strengths can be overused. Sometimes in our quest to be of service we forget that saying Yes can actually be a disservice. If you feel you’re undervalued or being taken advantage of an endless stream of requests, try these techniques instead:

Adopt a “Yes If…” Project Manager Mindset 

“Yes. I can take that on, but it will require additional (time, money, resources) to ensure goals are met. Do you approve the extra (insert need) to move forward?”  

This strategy tests the actual priority of the request. If it’s truly urgent or critical, the requestor should be willing to put skin in the game and match your Yes with resources. If unable to do so, they should select another project that can be slowed so the highlighted one can be expedited. 

Use the “No Because” Scope Defense 

“I appreciate you thinking of me / us for this project, but it falls outside the scope of the goal/strategy/vision we set earlier in the year. Have priorities shifted?” Another, less politician sounding method is simply, “No, I’m unable to take that on because it’s outside the scope of our project plan. Do we need to revisit the project charter?”

Asking is a lot easier than doing. Sometimes people unintentionally pile work on others without considering how that impacts their strategic goals. Just because something is urgent to someone else doesn’t necessarily make it important for you. This strategy slows them down and has them consider the implications of changing course.  


Saying no can be scary if you’re not used to pushing back. But these techniques soften the letdown and encourage your counterpart to rethink the request. By illustrating the cost of the extra service, you force a review of both benefits and ultimate ROI. This gives them the power of choice while empowering you to control you workflow. 

Need a career coach? Contact me via

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn

Photo by Vie Studio

Share This Article


Leave a Comment


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest