How To Say No With Class



Aren’t you tired of feeling like your boss’ slave?


Don’t you want your colleagues to do more work instead of dropping THEIR pile of work on YOUR desk?


Do you sometimes feel you do things nobody else wants to do?


If you have answered “YES” to any one of these questions, it’s probably because you are a nice person. “Nice people” are usually “too nice” to say no and try to please everyone. I’m sure you know somebody in your entourage that is always stuck staying late at work, helping colleagues or simply giving a hand to others. As a matter of fact, this person could be you! Anyways, it used to be my case!


I usually don’t like to say “no” to people.  I like helping others, especially at work. When I started my career, I wasn’t a brown nose but I was surely up for working longer hours in order to be noticed in order to get a promotion. This is a pressure we usually feel at work; the one where we disappoint everybody by leaving at 5pm… when are you are supposed to leave at 5pm anyhow! Those who stay late “look” better and are viewed as “people who really care”.


After 10 years working, I’ve realized a few things: you don’t get many rewards for working “for free” for your boss. You are not “liked” any more by your peers if you do their job in order to “help them”. In fact, you are just wasting your own time pleasing everybody but yourself. To be honest, I must say that having kids made me realize that! This is when I started to feel the urge to say “no” as my family was definitely more important than my pay check. Nobody wants to be seen as “the guy who’s not working past 5pm”, I’m not unionized after all! So how do you say no without being seen as a lazy shmuck? Here are a few of my tricks:


Don’t Argue or Justify


The worst thing you can do is start arguing the reasons you can’t stay late to complete an additional task. This opens the door for discussion and negotiation. You will also feel judged based on the reasons you provide and nothing is ever going to be good enough.


Ask Upfront


When you know you have free time for another task, ask your boss and your colleagues if they need a hand. By offering to work more from time to time, you will “buy yourself some mileage” to say “no” in the future. You will be seen as someone who’s always there to help and the perception of you leaving at 5pm won’t be bad anymore.




This is my favorite trick: when I perform at work and bring more than is expected during regular working hours, it’s hard for my boss to ask me to do more by staying late. When I’m at work, I focus on productivity. Sometimes, it means skipping meetings in order to bring in results that count.


Offer an Alternative Time


If someone asks me if I can help him with a task at 4h45, I won’t say no. The person asking is probably stuck with a problem, but it doesn’t mean that you have to be stuck with him late that night. I usually offer a time early in the morning to give him a hand saying that I’ve got to go tonight. Therefore, you are not saying “no” and you are offering to help. It doesn’t always work depending on the situation but it’s always a good technique for non-urgent matters.


Do You Have Any Tips to Say No?


I’m still having difficulties to say no at work from time to time. I guess my techniques are not perfect yet! I’m curious to know if you have this problem at work? Are you easily able to say no?


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About the Author

Financial professional and online entrepreneur, I'm best known as The Financial Blogger. I want to make money because I like enjoying life the way it should be; with a lot of great food and wine! I also love to spend time with my lovely wife and 3 kids!