5 Things Successful Women Aren’t Afraid to Say ‘No’ To



Profile Picture
AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
June 16, 2024 at 3:31PM UTC

If saying no was easy, we'd never RSVP to that colleague's baby shower we really didn't feel like dragging ourselves to. We'd never run late to work because we promised to drop so-and-so from up the road off to pick up her car from the mechanic when we really didn't have the time. We'd never agree to host that in-law who always rubbed us the wrong way. And we'd never force ourselves to sit through that painfully boring Netflix series to which our partner, for whatever reason, has an unabated addiction.

Sometimes, we just go along with things to appease others or to avoid the headache or because we just really don't care all that much. It doesn't really affect our lives to agree to Thai takeout when we were really craving enchiladas. So saying sure isn't such a big deal. That peanut sauce is pretty good anyway.

But, other times, saying no is important. Because saying yes can take a serious toll.

While we live in a world that encourages women to "lean in" and to say yes to all opportunities, successful women know that setting boundaries is critical. Saying no to what doesn't serve them helps them to keep focused on their goals and prevents them from burning out by taking on too much.

Saying no to a lateral job opportunity isn't necessarily as simple as saying no to green curry, of course. But successful women aren't afraid to turn down these five offers and asks.

1. A job change that's not aligned with their goals.

Women are encouraged to jump at job opportunities as they arise. A job change could bring a healthy challenge and provide opportunities to learn and develop certain skills. But taking a lateral move or a job offer at another company that doesn't offer a better title or a pay raise isn't necessarily the right decision for everyone.

Successful women know when to say no to an opportunity that isn't going to advance their careers or enhance their lives in some way that outweighs the inevitable downsides and risks involved. They know that saying yes to opportunities for the sake of saying yes to opportunities could end up hurting them. Job-hopping without obvious rewards can stall their success in careers they'd been cultivating all this time.

2. A task that isn't part of their job description.

If you haven't heard of the "mother-manager syndrome," read about it. Women are all too often asked to do favors for the office like planning company parties, keeping stock on the kitchen and bathroom supplies, and fetching coffee for their colleagues. And women all too often do it because, when they say no, they risk being disliked. Studies show that social penalization doesn't just affect women's personal and professional relationships, but it also affects their paychecks. 
That said, successful women still say no. Because if they spend their time doing everyone else's jobs or being the office moms, that means that they don't spend their time tackling their own job responsibilities. And, of course, putting their priorities on the backburner to handle tasks that don't belong to them can prevent them from achieving their goals. Even though research shows that performance reviews are wracked by sexism as women are judged more on their personality traits than on their work, successful women know that it's better to get their work done than to be considered likable.

3. A glass-cliff opportunity.

Women aren't quite as concerned with the glass ceiling as they once were because, these days, more and more women are being offered leadership positions. Don't get us wrong: Gender disparity in the workplace is still rife, and women are still incredibly underrepresented in leadership roles, especially in certain industries like the tech sector. But the glass cliff is, perhaps, a more pressing concern for women who are offered opportunities to climb the career ladder.

The glass cliff refers to the obstacle that women face when they do finally shatter that glass ceiling. It's when companies hire women for leadership roles only because they're in a period of crisis or downturn. Of course, that's when the chances of failure are highest, so most people don't want to deal with the responsibility of turning the tables that falls on them. They also don't want to take the blame for all the chaos, which is likely to happen. Successful women, therefore, recognize a glass-cliff opportunity and say no to being set up for failure.

4. A salary or benefits offer that doesn't feel fair.

Contrary to popular belief, women do negotiate their salaries and pay packages. In fact, according to McKinsey and LeanIn’s Women in the Workplace , women negotiate for raises just as often as men do — they're just not told yes as often. That's why successful women say no more often. They say no to unfair salaries that don't meet industry standards or reflect their experiences or match those of their peers. And they say no to benefits packages that don't actually benefit them.
Successful women say no by negotiating pay that makes sense and by asking for benefits that they, as women, actually want.  If companies don't agree or can't offer up what's wanted, they say no to the hiring managers that can't give them what they deserve. That's right: They're successful because they say no to some job offers.

5. An interrupter who tries to take up their time.

Ever heard of "man-terrupting?" Research suggests that men speak up to 75 percent more in meetings and are more likely to interrupt (and are almost three times as likely to interrupt women) as they are to interrupt other men. Successful women say no to those who take up their coveted time to speak. Does, "Mr. Vice President, I'm speaking. I'm speaking," ring a bell? *Ahem Kamala Harris to Mike Pence.* Now look at her... she's soon to be Mrs. Vice President. We told you that successful women put their feet down.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.

Why women love us:

  • Daily articles on career topics
  • Jobs at companies dedicated to hiring more women
  • Advice and support from an authentic community
  • Events that help you level up in your career
  • Free membership, always