Ways of Saying No to Your Boss

Saying No to Your Boss

“No” can be an annoying word to hear. But saying no to your boss can be especially annoying for them.  They need something done, need your help, and their request is being declined.

However, there are ways to make your declination more palatable and let management know that you are a loyal, supportive employee.

When Declining a Task is Best

You always want to make a positive impression with coworkers and management, but we are all human and there are only so many hours in a day.  There are times when taking on a new project is simply impossible.

Some situations when saying no to your boss might be best are:

  • Your personal time will be impeded.
  • You believe you’ve been tasked with something in conflict with something else you are working on.
  • You think your department might be put at odds with other departments.
  • You don’t think you are qualified to carry through effectively.  You might consider asking your boss whether you be allowed time to be a mentee to another qualified person.

There may also be circumstances in which you are asked to do something immoral, unethical, or illegal.  We don’t like to think these issues are typical, but research shows that one in four U.S. employees are requested to act unethically.  Of course, saying no is a preferable response but, unfortunately, easier said than done.

Ways of Saying No to Your Boss

Declining a request or assignment doesn’t have to be a direct “No” so much as a conversation in which the outcome is “No.”  You might begin the conversation by re-stating what you think the request is and adding your perception of the request.  This starts things off with clear understanding.

Next, communicate your reasons for declining:

  • Give a clear, direct, and logical explanation.
  • Include facts in explaining why you think a negative consequence would be likely.
  • Thank your boss for having faith in you.
  • Assure your boss that you understand they have important issues that need to be resolved.

Wrap it up with a “No”:

  • “Mr. Robinson, thank you for letting me know what you want, and I must decline the request because…”
  • “Joan, I hear what you are asking, but I won’t be able to get that done properly, as the current company priorities have me tasked on …”
  • “Kris, considering the task as you’ve outlined it, I don’t feel quite right with handling that.”
  • “Bill, you have so much more information and background concerning our company, but I seriously think you have over-estimated what I can accomplish at this time.”
  • “Ms. Williams, I know that you count on me to do my job, but I don’t think what is being asked of me right now fits within those guidelines.”

Remain Etiquette-fully Professional

Professionalism is always important and especially important when saying no to your boss.   You not only need to audibly communicate effectively, but you also need to consider your demeanor.

  • Respond in a friendly and kind manner.
  • Relax and lower your tone of voice to cut out the sense of shrill.
  • Speak slowly and directly with good eye contact.

Being a boss is always challenging.  One way to ease the challenge is to have faithful and honest employees.  Even when saying no, you can prove that you exemplify the ideal employee.

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