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Frode H

I agree totally with this post, Steve.
By experience this is absolutley true. But I believe it is easy for managers to say no to emplyees, on the other hand it is harder for them to say no to their boss. I almost command my co-workers to not agree, as long as they do not. By challenging me with their opinion the solution is often greater.

I still believe many both here and elsewhere in the business world have trouble with saying no to their boss, in some strange twist thinking no means not following order. The result is that they rather take on to much job, ending up presenting a bad all over performance. A post on why you should say no, would be interesting reading for a lot of people. :)

I know my self good enough to know that it is challenging for me to say no to my boss, as a result we sat down and talked about it, today I say no if I feel like it.

If you are an employee afraid to say no, youre boss would love it if you gave an honest no. Resulting in you doing a better jobb. Say 'NO' today. If you are afraid of saying it, try talking about it with co-workers or your boss.

Steve Roesler


That's a good example and a good way of explaining the situation from the manager's point of view.

I appreciate that you took time to give a first-hand explanation.

Jackie Cameron

It serves nobody well to say "yes" to something that you would rather not do. You will probably feel compromised in some way and this has to have an impact on the outcome. My personal choice now ( and it took many years of practice!) is to run it through my "gut" check. If it feels fine and I can live with it even though I might not have chosen to I will - if it feels uncomfortable I will work out why and then explain that when I say "no".

I agree, Steve, that explaining "why" is respectful. Big tip - buy time when you are asked to do/give something. That way you will be able to work out the "why".

And sometimes it is possible to say something like "No" or "I don't want to do that" but then suggest an alternative going some way to resolve the dilemma.

Steve Roesler


The context for all of your suggestions offers workable solutions to our readers.

I would suppose that the thing that finally got to me when I should have given a "no" but didn't is the part about feeling compromised. In fact, I would go so far as to say I walked away feeling as if I lied; that can't take you very far if you want to be a person of integrity.

The issue in many cases--depending upon the content--is how do you say no without totally deflating the other person, especially if you are aware of their sensitivities. Your two suggestions provide a useful way:

1. Context. Explain the "why".

2. Offer an alternative. I would add that it's a good idea to give the "why" for the alternative as well.

Thanks a lot for this one...people who may be struggling with the "no"thing will want to try it out straight away.

Tim Dawes

I see this often when I lead workshops in influence. Jill wants to influence Jack to work together on a project. It's part of her commitments to work with Jack, so most Jills will do just about anything to get agreements. And the group watches the malleable Jills fall in esteem as they take on more and more of the deliverables and accountability.

Then a Jill stands up and says, wow, I'm sorry you feel that way. I'm very busy with folks who want to work with me and will pitch in. You'll have to fund and manage your project by yourself. Please let me know if you change your mind.

Very often, Jack spins around to say, hey, wait a minute, let's rethink this. When do you have time to meet?

I'm not talking about playing hardball. Just really knowing how you want to work with someone and being very honest about it. I think people value us to the extent we value ourselves.

Steve Roesler

Tim, there's one for Bartlett's Quotations:

"People value us to the extent we value ourselves." I hope you make it with attribution.

That really is the issue, isn't it?

In our attempts to want to "get along," we end up extending ourselves to the point where we end up angering or disappointing those around us because we ultimately just can't deliver it all.

Nice one!


This is certainly a thought-provoking post, Steve. Thanks.

The nonprofit I work at, Winning Workplaces, tries to help small business leaders and managers run their organizations more effectively, and that certainly means saying No. I think where the best companies differentiate themselves, when saying No both to employees and to clients or customers, is to have at the ready a constructive next step outlined. ie, for employees, "No, we can't do what you're asking right now because of money, but hold on to your idea and let's discuss it in 6 months."

I also think that even though many consumers (rightly) live by the "customer is always right" philosophy, companies, if they've worked hard to make sure their support employees have established good relationships with customers, can say No in the same way -- being ready to offer one or more alternatives in the meantime.

Great stuff!

Steve Roesler


Let me start by saying that Winning Workplaces is playing a much-needed in the business community. Over the years I've watched people migrate from large corporations to running small businesses, either as a sole proprietor or one who provides employment within the community. These folks usually don't have the resources needed to hire the consulting help used by the Fortune firms, yet they need guidance and support. Kudos.

You triggered a thought with your comment, Mark. It occurs to me that when one's character has earned enough trust and respect, then saying "no" along with a suggestion carries a lot more weight and a lot less baggage.

One more reason for all of us to do business as people of good will.

Ann Bares


Great post! I have taken the liberty of submitting and featuring it in the September Carnival of Trust, which I am hosting at my site today. Thanks!


Steve Roesler

Thanks, Ann, I'm going to stop by and have a look!

michele garris-barlow


As a former retail manager now returning to college to prepare myself to serve the needs of the special education population this information could be useful-

The area of education is one where at times co-workers enjoy putting others in their place through use of BA,BS,PHD's-and when one says no- it is very common to be labeled a trouble maker at best- or perhaps that new awareness of autistic spectrum disorder

This has really helped me to think and prepare for the future

Michele Garris-Barlow

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