Tips For Managers Who Can’t Say No

As a manager, you always want to do your best for yourself and others. Seldom do you want to reject your team members’ requests for assistance, as you feel you are there to help and if you don’t, you aren’t being the helpful or doing your job.

Not being able to say no when you are already overloaded with work is a clear sign of lack of assertiveness. For managers who can’t say no, we have some tips that will help you to determine what to do and say when the requests keep on coming…

Cause: You want to always help…

Solution: This is a habit that is hard to break. Notice when a request is made and the person is taking your help for granted. You can say something like “I would like to help you with that, and I have an idea of how you could get it done…here’s what you can do…” and make a suggestion as to how the person can do it themselves or who they could ask to help or how they could research it for themselves.

Cause: The need to feel important and involved in everything…

Solution: Concentrate on what is really important and deal with the results, rather than the activity. For managers who can’t say no, this is one of the hardest areas to get right. By working on results, you avoid spending time on activity and help yourself taking on too many responsibilities.

Cause: Fear of causing offence

Solution: Remember that it’s your opinion that someone will take offence, and it may not actually be true. If you’re worried about that, be proactive and say something like “I can’t do this, but here’s a suggestion that may help….”

Cause: Others simply think you will say ‘Yes’…

Solution: This is probably because you always do! Think about how you can still help and save yourself time

Cause: Desire to be liked, or desire to be busy…

Solution: It’s better to do less and do it well, than do a lot and do it badly. For managers who can’t say no, you need to identify what you want as a legacy. You simply can’t do it all. You need to identify what you should be spending your valuable time on. If you have to reprioritise and reject some tasks, then be ruthless and say so. It would better to succeed with some results than fail with all.

Being unable to say no is a sign of trying to do too much in too little time. Be vigilant on how you control what you do with your time. That way, you work on the important and avoid the urgent.

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training

(Image by Zirconi Cusso at

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Mark-WilliamsMark Williams

Mark Williams is a learning and development professional, using business psychology and multiple intelligences to create fascinating and quickly-identifiable learning initiatives in the real-world business setting. Mark’s role at MTD is to ensure that our training is leading edge, and works closely with our trainers to develop the best learning experiences for all people on learning programmes. Mark designs and delivers training programmes for businesses both small and large and strives to ensure that MTD’s clients are receiving the very best training, support and services that will really make a difference to their business.