The Problem with “No Problem”

Kindness matters. Business people are busy people, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take time to be kind. Demanding schedules, extreme pressures and high expectations – not to mention the cruelty that sometimes appears on social media – all contribute to a lack of kindness in the world today. As business leaders, we owe it to our colleagues and the people we lead to demonstrate kindness every chance we have.

Words matter too. The right word expressed genuinely has a positive effect on an interaction or relationship. The words you and your colleagues use reflect your corporate culture and engagement.

For example …

Tell someone “Thank you,” and four out of five times you will hear a response of “No problem.” Whatever happened to “You’re welcome?” I heard “No problem” six times in one day last week: from a teenager (go figure), a grocery clerk, a client, a business owner, a colleague and in a text exchange.

Does that mean I am no longer welcome?

I started to notice people responding “No problem” a few years ago. I used it once myself when a senior leader thanked me for working late to re-do something when she changed her perspective at the last minute.

“No problem.” Except for her wavering conviction. And unwillingness to extend the project timeline to accommodate it. And thinking nothing of asking or expecting me to work very late into the night because of it.

There are three problems with “No problem,” and they are all indicators of bigger issues with corporate culture and engagement:

  1. It is passive-aggressive, like my personal example above. When someone tells you “No problem” looking closely, because there probably is a problem there.
  2. It is flat and noncommittal. The exact opposite of engagement.
  3. It is a missed opportunity to extend kindness.

Say “You’re welcome” the next time you are thanked for something and notice the way it extends kindness. Because kindness matters.

You’re welcome.

Heather Nelson is a partner with PeopleResults. She picks her words carefully. She can be reached at or on Twitter at @HeatherGNelson1. Sign up to receive the PeopleResults blog at #Current.