All too often regarded as the order-takers in their organisation, we know it can be hard for communicators to push back on communication requests from business leaders. Saying yes often feels easier in the moment, for all of us. Still, it can be detrimental in the long run – leaving comms teams with overwhelming workloads or delivering contradictory messaging – which doesn’t serve the function or the wider business.

That’s why it is critical for communicators to master the skill of saying no. Being able to say no effectively not only makes your job easier, but it also demonstrates your capabilities as the key, strategic business advisor that you are. Below we’ve included a snapshot of Kademy’s practical advice on saying no effectively – taken from our dedicated training course Powerful Conversations with Leaders – to help you on your way.


Can you send this email, please?

My leader keeps telling me s/he just wants an email, newsletter, article sent but I know that won’t work.

We know from speaking to communicators that you often feel viewed by peers as the do-ers — the people who respond to the request to send an all-staff email or to organise a last-minute town hall. It is apparent to you that those making the requests of communicators often underestimate the work that is required to carry them out – and the strategy and processes involved in making them happen. Quite simply, communicators’ strategic input and the value of their skills are all too often overlooked.

This makes it hard for you to push back on communication requests.

We’re just seen as do-ers, not strategic thinkers or value-adding.

A case of yes, or no?

As in any job function, communicators may have myriad reasons to push back on a request. It might be a team capacity issue or a budget problem. Or it could be that delivering on the request contradicts the current business strategy and competes with other messaging.

In these situations, you may feel you only have two options: say yes, or no.

Saying yes might keep leaders happy, but if it’s the wrong approach, it’s unlikely to produce the desired outcomes. Meanwhile, simply saying no could lead to difficult conversations and could compromise relationships with partners in the business.

I can’t push back on leader requests even when I’m already at capacity.

That’s why you need to learn to say no effectively and seek mutual agreement with your business leaders.


How to say no effectively

When it comes to saying no effectively, it’s not just about what you say – but how you say it.

Here’s our step-by-step guide to mastering a confident and credible “no.”

Step 1. Be clear on your reason for pushing back.
  • Ask yourself, why can't we deliver on this request? Is it a team capacity issue? Does the request contradict the current business strategy? Would a ‘yes’ lead to detrimental outcomes?
  • Top tip: If you can, identify one clear reason for saying no.
  • Step 2. Think of an alternative solution.
  • You can’t go to your business leader with a simple “no”, so consider the alternatives.
  • You might require more information about the request in order to formulate a solution that delivers on the business need.
  • Top tip: Think about what a win-win scenario would look like for you and your business leader. It’s about finding mutual agreement.
  • Step 3. Present your no confidently and clearly.
  • Go to your business leader with your clear reason for pushing back – and confidently present your alternative. Explain why you can’t agree to their request and what you can do instead.
  • Top tip: Use data to back up your opinion and present your reasoning where possible.

    Here’s how these steps can be put into action:

    The request:
    ABC company has asked its communication team to send an email to inform staff of an unexpected departure from the executive team.

    Step 1. Be clear on your reason for pushing back.
    ABC company’s comms team knows that sending an email to share personnel news would be alarming to staff and could cause confusion, and potentially, panic.
    Step 2. Think of an alternative solution.
    The comms team decides that line managers are the best people to deliver this sensitive message as they can use their in-person team meetings, and draw on their close relationships with colleagues. The comms team agrees that a company-wide email might work as the next line of communication.
    Step 3. Present your no confidently and clearly.
    The request:
    “Email may work later, but not as the first tactic on this sensitive topic. Instead, we could have managers share the news in their more personal team meetings. We know from the recent employee engagement survey that 80% of staff prefer to receive communication directly from their line manager.”

    The comms team has provided a clear reason to say no to sending the email and has provided a sound alternative solution – using data to support their strategy. Harnessing their organisational insight, the comms team has found a way to deliver the request that will best serve the business. They have demonstrated strategic thinking and found mutual agreement.

    Want to have more powerful conversations with your leaders?

    For further support on saying no effectively, Kademy’s expert comms trainers are on hand. Our hybrid Powerful Conversations with Leaders course trains comms teams on navigating difficult conversations with business leaders and building executive presence and confidence. If you think your team could benefit, drop us a line at and we’ll be happy to chat.