When to say no.

We’re inundated with requests every day. Formal and informal, big and small. 

How can we confidently say no when we need to, and say yes to what really matters?

Check out the framework developed by management training adviser Bruce Tulgan, and discover how to make effective YES/NO decisions. 

1. Assess the task 

Request a well-defined ask. Consider creating and sharing an “intake form”, adapting your questions to the size of the request:

What is today’s date and time?

Who is the asker?

What is the deliverable being requested? Be specific.

By when does it need to be accomplished?

What resources will be required?

Who is the source of authority on this issue, and do you have that person or group’s approval?

What are the possible benefits?

What are the obvious and hidden costs?

This will bring you to…

2A. A well-reasoned No

A preemptive, rushed no can be harmful. A well-reasoned no is a win for everyone. 

There are various “No” stages:




1. – “Is this within my remit?” – “I don’t have discretion in this area”

2. – “Is this within my skill set?” – “That’s really out of my skill set” OR. If it’s an opportunity for you to grow:  “I can do it, but take into account the time for me to climb a learning curve”

3. – “Do I have the capacity right now?” “I don’t have capacity right now. I can help you next [insert timeframe] if needed.”

4. – “Are the likelihood of success, ROI or priorities clear?” – If all the above is a yes and this is where you say no, give a thorough explanation as to why. If possible, give an alternative timeframe and resources that can help the asker.

2B. An effective Yes

Every good no makes room for an enthusiastic, meaningful yes. You know a yes is effective when:

1. It’s aligned with the mission, values, priorities, and ground rules.

2. You can do it well and with confidence.

3. It’s a well-informed investment of time, energy, and resources. 

4. You can articulate why: how you can add value, how you’re able to help, and what the benefits are.

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