Learning to Say No at Work (Workplace Assertiveness)

· July 17, 2018

Knowing how to say “No” in the workplace is an important social skill we call assertiveness. Assertive people have healthy self-esteem. They are self-assured and know how to set boundaries with others. In contrast, saying “Yes” to everyone could be a sign of low self-esteem. It might also indicate an unhealthy desire to be liked by everyone.

Learning to say no in the workplace has long-term benefits. That might mean you get left out of some projects, or that your co-workers and superiors aren’t happy with you 100% of the time. However, saying “No” shows people that you are able to judge things for yourself.

People who always say yes are those that seek acceptance and recognition from others. They need approval from their bosses and coworkers, who in turn tend to be authoritarian with them. To avoid these situations, let’s look at some tips on how to learn to say no at work.

How to get your assertiveness back

Today, we live in a labor market with high levels of unemployment. This is a results-based market, focused on productivity. As a result, an individual who turns down projects and doesn’t participate can have problems.

However, this fear of saying no makes it easy for coworkers or supervisors to take advantage of you. They will jump on that vulnerability, and ask you to do things that aren’t in your job description. In addition, not knowing how to say no means that you end up working on projects you aren’t interested in. It may be that there are no ill-intentions on anyone’s part, but you might be forced into things that you have no obligation to do.

woman having a meeting at work


If you want to improve your assertiveness at work, follow these tips:

1. Identify the problem

The reason it can be hard to say no at work might be due to bad communication. Another possibility is an unorganized work environment. There are bosses that aren’t able to clearly differentiate what is urgent and what is not. That makes for a more stressful workplace.

2. Organize your thoughts

If you want to say no at work, it is essential to express your point of view in a clear and concise way. To do that, you have to have a clear understanding of your own opinion and point of view. It seems obvious, but so many of us make this mistake.

3. Know how you work

It is also important to know the internal organization of your workplace. That way, if you have problems with a coworker or you invest too much time in a project, that means it is time to stop and take a step back. Then, you can set reasonable boundaries and show your assertiveness.

It is also important to keep track of your achievements at work.  That will help you understand your work style better, and also help you in the case of objections from your supervisors.saying no at work

4. Speak prudently

Over-explaining or justifying yourself can look like submission when you are saying no at work. Especially if you are dealing with an aggressive boss. Instead of doing that, if you think you have good reason to say no to a project, make sure you know why. Think of the reasons that justify your action and speak them clearly, using assertiveness. This will also help you reduce the possibility that people react impatiently.

5. Think about your own interests

Lastly, employees so often put their bosses interests or the interests of the company before their own. Don’t forget that you are still an individual with unique needs. It doesn’t matter what your job is or what kind of work environment you find yourself in.

Consequently, it’s important not to always put your well-being on the back-burner. Of course, it is important to keep in mind that any job implies a certain degree of sacrifice for the good of the team. You simply need to find a balance between giving and demanding. Try to find the middle ground that satisfies your needs and the needs of the business.

Fear of saying no at work can make a coworker or a supervisor take advantage of your vulnerability and demand you do more than you should.

Being assertive at work makes it more likely that your coworkers, superiors, and subordinates respect your rights. It’s better to let a supervisor down every once in a while than get burned out doing things that aren’t your job. In the long run, this attitude will have positive repercussions for you and your employer.