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Candidate Advice

Escape the "yes" trap and set healthy limits

By Antal International

When can you say no at work?

It can be hard to say no, especially at work where we often try to please others. But learning to say no is important for managing your workload, staying focused and holding others to account. Here are seven tips to help you say no at work:

Saying no is about setting boundaries and prioritising your well-being. It can lead to a more productive work environment and prevent burnout. Think of "no" as a tool to protect your time and energy for tasks that truly matter.

Identify key moments to say no.

- You're already overwhelmed.

- There's a better solution.

- The task doesn't align with your responsibilities or interests.

By identifying these moments, you can protect your workload and focus on what matters.

Say No with Confidence and Clarity

When you need to say no, be clear and direct to avoid misunderstandings. Explain why you can't do it, whether it's because you're too busy or it's not your area of expertise. Being confident in your decision helps others understand and respect it.

Suggest alternatives

If you can, offer other solutions or delegate tasks to someone else. This shows you're still trying to find a solution, even if you can't do it yourself. Offering alternatives shows you can solve problems and help the team succeed.

Stay consistent

Stick to your decision and don't waver. Being consistent helps you build a reputation for reliability and clear boundaries. Know your workload and priorities so you can make informed decisions.

Practice empathy.

Understand the perspective of others. Consider the needs and limitations of your colleagues or supervisors. Communicate your decision empathetically. Showing empathy helps maintain positive relationships.

Lead with Positivity

Start your response with a positive sentiment to show appreciation for the opportunity, even if you can't accept it.

Sometimes it's good to say yes.

Aligning with Career Ambitions

Say yes to opportunities that align with your career goals. This can help you advance.

Supporting a Supportive Colleague

If a colleague who has always been supportive asks for help, consider saying yes. Building and maintaining positive relationships with colleagues is essential for a collaborative work environment. A little support can go a long way in fostering teamwork and mutual respect.



Saying no is a valuable skill. It benefits you and your workplace. Set boundaries, prioritize tasks, and communicate effectively. Saying no doesn't mean shutting down opportunities. It means making room for the ones that matter.

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