How To Tell Your Boss No

How to Tell Your Boss No

One of the most challenging things to do is to tell your boss “no” when they ask you to do something.

After all, your boss is responsible for you going home with a paycheck at the end of the day.

However, there are times when you may need to say no.

It could be that you have so much workload already on your table.

Or what they are asking you to do might not be beneficial for you.

However, how do you refuse without incurring the wrath of your boss without seeming rebellious, lazy, or incompetent?

Well, that is what we will share with you as we guide you on how to tell your boss no.

How To Tell Your Boss No

Know your Boss’ Mood/Temperament

For you to say no without getting the stick, you need to know your boss’s temperament.

Do they have a calm disposition?

Or are they quick to blow a fuse?

You should know this to understand the right approach to employ to say no when the time comes.

If they are in a foul mood, do not say no to them at that moment.

This might cause a transfer of aggression towards you, and trust us when we say that it is not a good thing to experience.

Rather than tell them no when they are pissed off, delay your reply if possible.

Then when they are no longer angry, you can then tell them no.

Deal with the Fears that Prevents you from Saying No

This is an important issue that many are yet to deal with, so they find it difficult to say no to persons in authority.

If you’ve had difficulty with authority while growing up, whereby people coerced you into agreeing to something, you could lack the willpower to say no.

Also, some are generally people pleasers.

Hence, they tend to say “yes” to things that don’t sit too well with them so that the other party is happy to the detriment of their happiness.

There are many scenarios, but most of them result from deep emotional fear that an individual might not even know.

Therefore, when you find yourself afraid of saying no to your boss, you need to dig deep to discover the fears preventing you from saying no to people.

When you can discover and deal with such fears, you will be able to say no to your boss while employing the other tips in this discussion as we progress.

Provide Other Options – How to Tell Your Boss No

You should not outrightly tell your boss no.

If you do so, you might incur their anger.

After all, no boss would want any employee to undermine his/her authority.

So, when your superior asks you to do something, instead of saying an absolute no, or give excuses, provide them with other options.

The options you provide should still be able to take care of the task they have requested of you without affecting your plans.

For instance, if you are asked to meet with a client during the weekend which you already have a schedule fixed, you can find a way out of it.

You could suggest meeting up with the client after work hours.

To make it more convincing, you can tell your boss how urgent it is to wrap up the deal before the weekend so that the client doesn’t get poached by other competitors.

With such a solution, your boss will see you as someone capable of taking the initiative and has the company’s best interest at heart.

This will put you in their good books and even increase your chances of climbing up the career ladder in your organization.

Show Empathy when Saying No

You should also realize that your boss is equally dealing with so much pressure.

They have to meet the board’s targets, customers’ demands, staff management, etc.

As a result, they sometimes push the pressure on the employees working with them.

Understanding this will help you when you need to refuse a request from your boss.

It will allow you to show not just sympathy but empathy as you now understand what he/she is going through as a leader.

So when next you say no, make them know that you understand why they want you to carry out that assignment.

Then, tell them why you are not capable of handling such at the moment.

Some people might think that this might make them look incompetent, but that is not the truth.

When done correctly, it will only prove to your boss that you understand how important the task is.

Nevertheless, you don’t want to mess it up because you aren’t currently up to the task.

Be Thankful before Saying No – How to Tell Your Boss No

Most bosses entrust additional work to staff they feel competent enough to handle it.

Sadly, not many employees realize that this shows the boss’s faith and trust in the employee. 

Therefore, even if you won’t be able to perform the job, you should show gratitude.

Appreciate your boss for showing some level of faith and trust in you.  

Then, tell them that while you appreciate them greatly, you won’t be able to do the work at the moment while giving genuine reasons.

You should then go ahead to tell them how you will be honored to carry out the work at another time when you can effectively handle it.

By doing this, your boss will know that you are dependable but unavailable at the moment, which is why you declined the work.

Remember Who the Boss is

Whenever you choose to say no, you should consider who the boss is in the conversation.

At no point should you forget that the other party calls the shots?

Therefore, with this in mind, you will know the best way to approach your boss.

It is good to let them know that you respect their position and authority.

Do not give them any reason to think that you are undermining their authority.

Overall, giving them their due respect will prevent any conflict between you and the boss.

Present your Current Workload

Depending on the company setting, you might have more than one boss that you work under.

In such a case, it becomes very easy for these bosses to assign you tasks, not minding what other duties or tasks you have.

At this time, you’ll have to be firm and say no.

You’ll need to tell your boss that you have so much workload already.

Overall, politely explain that you won’t be able to work on new assignments until you clear your backlog.

Recommend Someone Else – How to Tell Your Boss No

One of the ways of saying no without pissing off your boss is to recommend someone else.

Inform them that the other party can do the work as well as you can.

Also, if the person is even better, you can go ahead and say so.

Ensure that you do this by pointing out to your boss how the other person’s input will be more beneficial to the company.

However, before you recommend someone else, ensure that the person is free enough to carry out the work.

This will prevent you from putting the same pressure you are avoiding on someone else.

Say No When you are not the Right Person for the Job

This is an extension of recommending someone else.

You should say no and recommend someone else when you don’t possess the right skill set to execute the assignment.

In an organization, everyone has their role to play, and one of the reasons they are placed in their respective functions is because of individualistic skillset and ability.

Therefore, politely tell your boss “no” when a job that doesn’t match your skillset is assigned to you.

Explain that you are not the right person for the job as you don’t possess the right skills or qualifications.

Also, since you don’t want the job to get messed up, it should be assigned to someone else who can execute the job.

Above all, ensure that you let your boss know that you are willing and ready to take up a task befitting your skillset whenever the need arises.

Extend the Deadline

Bosses can be so demanding, which is sometimes because of the pressure they also face.

On the other hand, employees have to deal with the resultant effect by taking up work at the spur of the moment.

Some bosses do this, not minding the already existing deadline and tight schedule.

Therefore, when your boss brings up work that wasn’t planned initially, you can say no to outrageous expectations by politely asking for a deadline extension.

In other words, ask for permission to complete the new task on a latter-day instead of the one you’ve just been given.

To ensure that your boss accepts this, let them know how much work you have on ground.

Be Direct When Telling your Boss No – How to Tell Your Boss No

Most employees are afraid of being direct with their boss.

Hence, they often try to find other options instead of directly speaking or confronting their boss when issues arise.

Such individuals are usually beating around the bush when they aren’t happy with the new task assigned.

Some of them even begin to give off negative body language and signs so that their boss will detect it and know that they don’t want to perform the task.

As far as we can tell, a lot of bosses aren’t minded readers.

Therefore, if you don’t come out plainly and tell them your mind, they won’t know what is in it.

However, when openly and directly telling your boss no, be respectful.

Furthermore, tell them why the overtime assignment or extra duty might not be the best for you to deal with at the moment since you won’t be able to deliver your best due to fatigue.

This can cause your boss to realize that they are demanding too much from you and can let you off the hook.

Besides, if you present your argument well, it can spare you from such future duties.

Avoid Over-Explaining

This is similar to an individual beating around the bush, but in this case, they are saying what they want but giving so many explanations in the process.

As we said, be direct when saying no.

When you over-explain, you can easily box yourself into a corner whereby your boss or someone else can find a chance to argue about your points.

Overall, when you over-explain, you might end up saying the wrong things you shouldn’t say.

End the Conversation with a Firm Stand

What does this mean?

Well, it is easy for your boss to misread what you mean if you are not firm with your final words.

Even if you’re saying no via an email, your final words should not give room for your boss to coerce you into taking up the work.

Set Personal Boundaries- How to Tell Your Boss No

This is more like a pre-planned step you need to prevent a situation when you have to say no to your boss.

If possible, your job description or contract of employment should capture this aspect.

Ensure that it is on paper and ink and not just a verbal agreement.

Once you set personal boundaries such as; days when you won’t be working, the time you won’t be working, or free time during holidays, etc., your boss will not want to breach such an agreement.

It is a way to say no without having to say no to duties that might try to encroach into your personal space and time.

Don’t Make it About You

When telling your boss no, avoid making the issue about you.

In other words, your reason for saying no shouldn’t be because you think the task is something that you shouldn’t do: After all, it is not part of your job description.

Or it is not something other colleagues on your level are handling; therefore, if they are not doing it, why should you?

As good as such sentiments might sound, since you are standing up for your rights, it could create negative thinking towards you in your boss’s mind.

Therefore, when saying no, keep such things out of the picture.

If you have no genuine reason for saying no, then you should probably go ahead with it.

In the corporate world, there are times when you have to handle tasks that are outside your assigned role, especially when it would help the organization achieve its goals.

After you have completed it the first time, you can tell your boss that such jobs are not part of your expected duties.

Also, sign an agreement that will prevent you from being assigned such tasks in the future.

If your boss insists on adding those duties to your job, then you could ask for a bit of incentive or pay increase since your workload has increased.

In some cases, some bosses might avoid giving you such assignments to prevent such unwarranted expenditure.

In other cases, your boss can grant your request to get paid for the additional task you have taken.

Either way, it becomes a win-win situation for you.

Say No to Unethical or Unlawful Requests

This is a no-brainer no matter how much you love and want to keep your job.

You should not say yes to a request that is unethical or unlawful.

Once it harms others or violates the law or work ethics, you should say no to your boss.

The “no” needs to be firm and should not give your boss any impression that there is a possibility of changing your mind later.

It is better to lose your job than face a jail sentence simply because you said yes to an unethical request from your superior.

Therefore never be afraid to have a difficult conversation with your boss and say “NO” when necessary.

Conclusion on How to Tell Your Boss No

The tips we have shared can be used anywhere.

Hence, we believe that you won’t have any issue telling your boss no.