One word guaranteed to help you get ahead

One little word could be the key to landing that promotion – and it probably goes against everything you think you know about climbing the ladder.

It can be tempting to go into yes mode when you’re trying to prove yourself and get ahead at work, but few people consider the benefits of saying “no”.

  • Saying no isn’t negative. Saying yes to too many opportunities, too many projects, or too many people is a recipe for failure. No matter how determined you may be to make it work, there are only so many hours in a week.

    When you spread yourself too thin, you’re more likely to make mistakes, and you may end up burnt out. Exhaustion and inaccuracy aren’t exactly going to fast-track your success, so make an effort to reign it in and do a great job of the tasks you do take on.
  • There’s a time for compromise. Many of us struggle so much with saying “no” that even when we do say no, we often end up compromising or bargaining our time. You might say no to writing the annual board report, but agree to proofing it before it goes to the powers that be. You may say you can’t work a full shift over the weekend due to family commitments, but compromise by popping in for two hours on Saturday morning to help out.

    Compromise can be a great tool in negotiating workplace priorities, but letting it be your default response to extra work can mean you still take on too much.
  • When is “no” the right response? It’s important to show flexibility and a team mind-set – after all, you don't want to be side stepped or viewed as a roadblock. Knowing when to say yes, when to say no, and when to compromise will help you increase your productivity, produce better results, and get yourself noticed for all the right reasons.

For example:

Say No

  • If a task is low priority and would better align with someone else’s skillset and workflow
  • If your workload is at capacity, and the task doesn’t specifically need to be completed by you

Say Yes

  • If a task is specific to your role or skillset, and you have time to complete it
  • If the task presents opportunities for growth or showcasing additional skills, and you can manage it in your list of priorities


  • If the task is genuinely urgent, can only be completed by you, and you can delegate something else to another team member

How to say “no”

Knowing you should say no is one thing, but getting into the habit of actually doing it can be quite another. So how can you confidently say no without burning bridges or damaging relationships?

  1. Build a good rapport with your boss and colleagues, so you feel comfortable saying no when it’s necessary
  2. Explain your reasons for saying no, particularly if your workload is full and the task isn’t within your skillset
  3. Think on your feet and offer suggestions and solutions for how the task could be managed
  4. Be flexible when it’s required, to demonstrate that when you do say no, it’s for good reason