9 Signs You Should Learn To Say No At Work (Why & How) To Your Boss

Last updated on August 12th, 2022 at 07:26 pm

If you always have the feeling of being used or manipulated at work, then you are probably a “yes man” to your boss or fellow coworkers. Consider these signs that you need to say no at work. 

The problem is that when you don’t know how to say no, someone takes advantage of you and your mental health suffers. As you feel both guilt and regret, anyhow. 

It’s okay to say no sometimes to your boss at work, especially if it’s for a valid reason. Such as, staying for a few extra hours or working at home on the weekends.

In addition, we will talk about how to say no at work both politely and professionally. 


When To Say No At Work, To Your Boss?

It seems to happen every day that when you come back home after work… you are frustrated, overtired, and manipulated in some way. 

Whether your boss asks you to take on extra work or even work on weekends, you really want to say No.  

But, you end up saying yes to anything, like always.

There is nothing good about being a yes man.

And yes, you should practice saying NO. It’s required not just for yourself, but for them, too.

It actually helps in two ways… 

First, you end up feeling regret for saying yes and they wasted your time.

Second, you may not be able to give what they expect, since you weren’t just into it from the start.

As with co-working and teamwork, saying no is also a skill you are better off developing. 

And here are some possible reasons, when you should say no instead of saying yes, reluctantly. 

  1. When this work is out of your expertise and experience. 
  2. When you’re not feeling ready or comfortable about it.
  3. When the work is completely off your job description. 
  4. When they expect you too much and have unreasonable expectations. 
  5. When you know you’re not good at it. 
  6. When you already have a lot to accomplish.
  7. When they expect to work outside your hours, even at home.
  8. When they’re not providing you with enough guidance or support. 
  9. When you know that they’re setting you up to fail with it. 

Since most of these reasons are about you, you should also check if you have a hard time saying no to requests at work or not. 


9 Signs You Have To Say No At Work (To Your Boss & Manipulating Coworkers)

If you accept extra work or work on weekends, you’re putting a huge strain on your mental and physical health.

Which is not good for you, at all. 

Here are some signs that sometimes you need to say no to your boss, manager, or coworkers.

Because, being a yes man, you allow others to manipulate you. 

When you are aware of such signs, you can practice how to say no to extra demands or expectations at work that you’re not accountable for.

1. You are being used by most at your work.

For you, it’s impossible to refuse additional work requests.

In fact, you don’t want to say no, since you love what you do.

Especially when you’re passionate about the work you do, you’re more likely to be overworked. And manipulated at work, too. 

Not only by your boss but also by your lazy and manipulative coworkers.

At work, most people take advantage of you, manipulate you to work extra, and sometimes do their work as well.

Because you’re uncomfortable saying no, they know it. 

2. Your quality of work is decreasing due to working for others.

Because you can’t say no to extra work, you lose focus on what matters most to you. 

Supporting others and assisting at work is not a big deal.

However, when you devote too much of your time to others’ work, that also negatively impacts your performance, too. 

You fail to deliver the results under your responsibility when you’re distracted by others doing their work. 

It’s a sign that you should have said no to your boss or coworkers, but didn’t.

Check other: Signs You Are Being Tested At Work

3. You think saying no will destroy your professional connection.

In your mind, you fear that you’ll be viewed as selfish and mean. Even though, you aren’t. 

Working together is acceptable as long as everyone is happily helping each other out. 

You must realize, however, that your responsibility and work are also yours, and no one is going to take care of it for you. 

If you’re saying yes to your boss or coworker, but are afraid of being judged.

You’re overpressuring yourself and need to learn to say no at work more often.

4. You want to prove something to your boss. So, you say yes to everything.

Maybe you’re new to this work or want to impress your boss and team players.

You take on every task from your seniors, regardless of whether it is within your expertise or not.

This way, you want to prove something and don’t want to let your incompetence out

Having involvement in something that is not your expertise may also damage your impression, so you should be careful. 

While you want to please your manager and say yes to any unreasonable demands, there are times when saying no at work is the best move.

5. You end up working extra hours on weekends.

If you can’t say no, your boss will not hesitate to assign you extra work after normal working hours.

Sometimes, your boss makes you work on the weekend despite your other life priorities.

Of course, your boss trusts you as an employee, but he also knows that you’re not going to say no to him. 

Leave your work at the work duration alone.

You’re usually overworked at work and whereas at home you work odd hours. 

6. You don’t want to hurt others’ feelings at work by saying no to them.

You are afraid that you’ll hurt their feelings by saying no to their demands.

You have a lot to do, but when your coworkers or boss ask for extra work, you can’t refuse them.

Even though you feel uncomfortable with such demands, you still have to do it without any hesitation.

This puts pressure on your mental health, and you seem to fear being unlikeable to others

If you care about their mood but not your own, then it’s a sign you should learn to say no at work quite often. 

7. You think you have no right to say no to your boss.

You work for them and you can’t refuse anything they ask you to do. That is what you believe. 

At some level, it’s fine, but not always.

You’re already doing your very best as a good employee, even though knowing that your boss doesn’t respect you.

However, it’s also a good idea to keep someone from exploiting your passion or good nature.

You want to be the perfect employee in your boss’ eyes and will do anything not to hurt your professional reputation.

Because of that, you’re not hesitant to sacrifice your mental health, too. 

Such are proven signs that you need to say no to your boss when he has unreasonable expectations that you can’t possibly meet.

8. Your personal life is affected due to working too much.

You have no problem working on the weekend and extra hours to appear competent and passionate. 

Perhaps you don’t want to, but you still want to meet their expectations. 

You’re impacting your schedule, your meals, your sleep, and your me-time when you can’t say no to extra work requests and proposals.

Even if you don’t like it, you spend your weekend fulfilling your boss’s expectations rather than spending it with your family. 

If you feel that your job is literally killing you and you’re not left with time for yourself, are signs that you need to say no to extra work. 

9. You don’t feel good saying yes.

Not every time you want to say yes. You’ve your opinion. Yet, because you work for them, you feel as though you have no choice.

Well, if anytime your boss or colleague comes up with something for you and you feel something wrong, you have to say no clearly. 

Because working on something you’re not into actually put you under pressure that you don’t need to deal with. 

Whether someone is setting you up for something or using you for their advantage, you might feel in your gut that you should say not.

Don’t ignore that sign, simply say no.

Check other: Signs Your Boss/Manager Sees You As A Threat


How To Say No At Work To Your Boss?

From the above signs, you know that you have to say no at work.

All such extra work demands from your boss are either to take advantage of your passion or maybe he doesn’t know whether you’re up to the task or not. 

By saying no to them not only does you a huge favor, but you are letting your boss know you are already busy with another project.

This will allow both of you to stay focused on what’s the priority and make the right decisions accordingly. 

Here are some ways to learn how to say no at work while remaining both professional and polite, without hurting anyone’s feelings. 

1. Think about what you are doing before saying yes.

Never say yes to anything you’re not sure about.

Give yourself some time to think about what’s needed to do it and if it’s a priority for you or not.

Think about what’s pending and what needs to be done.

You should also check whether such extra work intrudes on your personal space or life outside of work, if so, just say no. 

2. You don’t have to be rude to say no.

You don’t say no so they feel less or reject them. You do it for yourself.

You’re either too busy or too tired to take up new work, so you let them know that.

Nothing to be rude about. Stay polite and say no that you’re not available. 

3. Let them be aware of your busy schedule already. 

Of course, you’re working on something important.

You don’t want to lose focus and commitment to other people’s work.

That’s fine. Nothing to feel shy about.

Show them that it’s not possible for you to support them, so they can have their alternatives. 

Check other: Signs Your Star Employee Is Unhappy

4. Provide them with guidance, not your full attention.

If you’re occupied and very busy with your project, and your coworkers come to help, try this.

You can give them directions to do it a certain way and let them do it by themselves when you can’t say no to them.

Instead of doing everything yourself, you can advise and direct them.

In addition, you can set up alternative options to work on, such as taking advice from someone or working on it after you are done with yours. 

5. Simply prefer saying no. You’ve to have a good reason.

Nothing to worry about, nor anything to excuse. Just say no, when you’re not ready for it. However, make sure that you have a legitimate reason to tell your boss or coworkers. If you’re honest with them, they will understand why you said no. 


Especially at work, you have a hard time saying no to your senior or junior when they ask for extra help. This is normal.

You don’t want to reject them.

But, it’s also good to learn when to say no at work rather than being under severe frustration.  

Have clear priorities and boundaries, always.

No need to try to please everyone, nor to feel guilty when you’ve to say no to your boss or coworkers.

Here you’re not being selfish, you’re just taking care of your focus and time… since that’s what your priority is at the moment.