Let your team say “no” – and create better work

Stress kills. Here’s the proof.

And most of it can be avoided. But in the workplace, we put way too much emphasis on the task, and not the goal; on being busy rather than being successful. We say “yes” to more than we should, building our stresses.


Because we’re human. We’re social creatures, wired to please others and reap the rewards of acceptance. But if we say yes to everything, we’re probably going to start dropping the ball.

A lot.

This doesn’t just impact immediate performance – it knocks our confidence and chips away at our mental health. We become desk-bound, yes-bound and (for the bosses reading this) we become markedly less productive.

So, while you may want to hear a “yes” whenever you ask your team to do something, be aware that failing to say no wastes time, energy and resources. And it puts your team’s health at risk.

How do you solve this?

Make saying “no” part of your culture

If people at your company are too afraid to say no to you, then maybe you’ve got a culture problem – or at least, a personal branding and image problem. They’re seeing you as “The Boss”, not as a person they can be open with.

You can fix this with meaningful communication, levelling the playing field and stepping into a more human, leadership role than a “boss” one. Be kind, and show empathy; remember that we all come into the world the same way, and we all have to struggle with something. We’re all beautiful and flawed beyond our working personas.

Apply those rules to yourself, first and foremost. Be kind to you, or you can’t truly be kind to anyone else. You’re probably thinking “this is all very fluffy”. And yes, maybe it is – but this stuff actually works.

Self-compassion and kindness are the first steps to building confidence. Promote these principles at work, and you’ll have a team confident enough to say no to you – in a kind, compassionate and meaningful way.

Neglect this, and you’ll run several risks:

  • Everyone says yes to everything, even when they can’t do it
  • Mistakes start getting hidden – no accountability
  • Overwork and burnout, high turnover and churn
  • Awful morale
  • Poor performance
  • No understanding of your resource availability or lack of in-house skills

All of these are important points – but that last one’s of particular importance to us. If everyone in your company is saying yes, working miserable 70+ hour weeks in secret and they still can’t get the result, you’re about to learn that you need to hire. Problem is, you don’t have time anymore.

You can hire contractors to help; but wouldn’t it have been better if your team felt like they could raise this with you, long before it became a problem?

Teams: here’s how to say “no”

We’ve all been in a situation where our manager has asked for something, with a firm deadline. In all likelihood, you sighed and said “um” a few times, before eeking out a very sheepish “yes”.

And even if your manager has asked, in good faith, “are you sure?” – you’ve assured them, persuaded them, that you can. Even though it means sacrificing other projects or your own free time.

You take a deep breath and try to figure out how you’re going to cram it all in.

We’re willing to bet that you hit roadblocks, made mistakes, and generally felt really awful about that whole experience; even if you pulled it off. Most of the time, we don’t pull these projects off. We get called into meeting rooms, to explain that we bit off more than we could chew.


Imagine if you’d just said “no” – in a good, kind, meaningful way. With solutions, alternatives, workarounds. You and your manager would feel a whole lot better. You’d be able to find help or hire a contractor for the project. Success would have come at a far lower cost and risk.

So, how can you say no the right way, and be better off for it?

  1. Make it confident and constructive

Value yourself, be kind to yourself, make it positive. Focus on why you’re saying no – your integrity and quality of work, not workshyness.

  1. Give a clear reason

And keep it short. Show your work schedule, anticipate creeping tasks – give clear evidence that shows your availability isn’t open enough.

  1. Offer a solution

Can you aid the project in another way? Offer small but meaningful contributions that don’t see you taking on the whole project, but still add your expertise.

  1. Offer a person

If you know a teammate who’s better suited and has a clearer schedule, suggest them for the project – or refer freelancers that you trust.

  1. Be kind

Remember that “no” is going to be hard to hear. Even for the person running the show. Be understanding and empathetic. Try to see it from their angle: avoid accusatory language and “you/I” statements. Be thankful for being asked in the first place – and end it on a positive note.

Need a yes? Hire expert contractors

ClearHub specialises in finding the best Atlassian contractors – to fill skills gaps, relieve churn and reduce the chances of burnout. Want to know more? Get in touch with the ClearHub team today – call +44 (0) 2381 157811 or send your message to Let’s give your team the power to do more.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *