How often have you ever said “Yes” to someone at work just because you didn’t know how to say “No”? You didn’t want to sound rude, you didn’t want to seem uninterested.

How often have you wondered what you could have said instead? To your boss, to your colleague, to the nice lady in the pantry and more. Well, we’re here to help you with 5 whole euphemisms (polite expressions to soften a possibly rude sentence) you could use at work to get out of sticky situations while still sounding polite!


1) When you’re too busy to help anyone out.

“I’ll get back to you” instead of “I’m busy”

You’re at work, it’s only natural that you’ll get busy at some point. And while we’re not advocating insensitivity or selfishness, it’s your neck on the line at the end of the day! So, if you’re just too busy to help anyone, a polite but firm “I’ll get back to you” will be far less biting than cutting them off with an “I’m busy.”

If you still feel like you’re being impolite, you can always make an appointment with them to follow up later! And stick to it, of course.


2) When you aren’t sure if you’re going to be able to.

“I’ll give it my best shot” instead of “I’ll try”

Saying “I’ll try” conveys your lack of confidence and urgency towards the matter at hand. It could damage your colleague/boss’s faith in you as well, and they’d much rather do the task themselves.

That being said, sometimes it really isn’t possible to predict an outcome. In such a case, convey your uncertainty, and assure them that you’re going to give it your best effort.


3) When you want to say no.

“I’m presently occupied, so sorry” instead of “No”

This is something that everyone struggles with the most. On most days, you want to be the person saying yes to that new project, to a little extra work, and eventually to that big promotion! But you’re human, and it’s only natural to find yourself in a place where you must refuse someone something. Instead of saying no and running the risk of putting someone off, try saying something like “I’m flattered you thought of me, but I’m a little occupied right now.”

Or whatever version of that would suit your situation.


4) When you need work done urgently

“Could you please send the file by Monday?” as opposed to “I expect to have the file by Monday”

When you ask instead of telling, it makes a world of a difference. Employees don’t respond well to being commanded about. If they see that you’re being respectful towards them, there’s a much higher chance that you’ll get your work done in or even before time!


5) When you need a minute

“Give me a minute” vs. “I’ll get back to you in a bit”

Okay honestly, stop saying “I’ll do it in a minute” unless and until you truly mean it. Really and truly and honestly. As you can see, I’m a little sensitive towards this particular phrase, it’s given me real trust issues.

To be fair, I may have said that a lot too, but there’s nothing much we can do in a minute. It’s better to be exact and tell them you’ll get back to them soon enough, instead of leaving them hanging.

So, there you have it, and we hope that it makes the coming days at work better. Do let us know what worked for you and what didn’t.

Also, if there’s something that you think should be on this list, shoot it to us!

For some more communication tips, check out our article on words that don’t mean what you would think.