How to Say "No" to Your Boss

How to Say “No” to Your Boss

The majority of the time, working for a boss means taking instructions and being asked to do stuff. However, sometimes we get asked to do stuff that we’re not too keen on but because it’s part of the job, accept the request, and get on with it. Occasionally though, we will be asked to do something by our boss that we are just not happy to comply with and this can create a real problem. Do we just accept it and get on it, probably with growing resentment to our boss and job, or do we stand our ground and say “no, I am not happy to do this”? A lot will depend on the type of boss we have, but if we do decide to go ahead and say no to our boss, there are ways to increase the possibility of our refusal being accepted without a major drama occurring.

Be Clear

First and foremost, establish a clear and concise rationale as to why you are saying no. Have the facts and figures, and reasons clearly outlined in your mind. You will increase the chances of your request bring granted if you also offer up an alternative solution that is clearly better for everyone concerned.


Choose a time when you know your boss is more likely to listen to you, be receptive and be open to discussion. So, if you know you have the type of boss that resembles a grizzly bear prior to his second cup of coffee doesn’t jump on him as he enters the building first thing in the morning. Also, make sure you speak with him at a time when you have his full attention. It may be more daunting to ask to see your boss in their office but this way is more likely to get a chance to reason with them, whereas, trying to catch them while passing in the corridor will make it easier for them to dismiss your request as they pass by.

Stay Professional

If, after all your efforts, the answer is still no, stay professional. Just because you didn’t achieve your aim, acting inappropriately will only jeopardize any future chances of being successful with something similar if it occurs again, and will reduce your opinion of you by your employer. You may at the time not feel like caring about this bit you might when you are looking for a promotion.

Is It a Sign that You Need to Change Jobs?

If you are truly unhappy with the outcome, this may be the push you need to change jobs. It could be the kick you need to search for pastures new, or maybe even an exciting career change. Fundamentally, if you are being asked to do things in your job that you feel strongly you shouldn’t be doing, it is time to address if your job is really suitable for you.

If you succeed in changing your boss’s mind and your no is accepted, don’t brag. Showing off or acting like you “got one over the boss”, is ungracious, and likely to disappoint and anger them. They have taken and granted your request so it’s best to show appropriate appreciation and thanking them.

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