How to say no to your boss: 11 steps (with pictures)

How to say no to your boss: 11 steps (with pictures)
How to say no to your boss: 11 steps (with pictures)

Refusing to do a task is not easy, especially if the request comes from your supervisor. However, it is impossible to always be able to comply with the demands of your employer. Plan precisely what you are going to say to him and always offer an alternative solution rather than just saying no.


Part 1 of 3: Prepare your response

Say No To Your Boss Step 1

Step 1. Prepare yourself

Make a list of the reasons why you cannot accomplish this task. Analyze the problem with a clear head and organize your thoughts in the form of notes (for example you do not have the time or this task is beyond your functions).

  • Your reason may be as simple as having to pick up your children from school.
  • If you are not sure you are qualified for this task, reread your job description.
  • If you're already busy and don't have the time, take a more subtle approach to this problem.
Say No To Your Boss Step 2

Step 2. Analyze your priorities

If you don't have time for this task, you will need to analyze your work priorities. Evaluate if this new task is more important than the job you have to do, and think about the possibility that your manager is questioning your efficiency. So it may be important that you can show him that you know how to prioritize your work.

  • Make a list of your tasks and organize them according to their priority.
  • Evaluate how long they may take and determine whether or not you have the time to complete this new task.
  • Prepare a well-organized document that you can present to your supervisor.
  • You will be able to prove to him directly that you cannot accede to his request.
Say No To Your Boss Step 3

Step 3. Put yourself in your boss' shoes

Understanding his motivations will allow you to better formulate your answer. If not doing this task could negatively affect your business, you're going to need to be persuasive or find an alternative solution to avoid it.

  • If you want to move a meeting, consider how that might affect your manager's schedule.
  • Put yourself in his shoes so you can anticipate his reaction.
Say No To Your Boss Step 4

Step 4. Use appropriate language

It is essential that you use neutral language and avoid personalizing your situation. Don't try to put your boss or your relationship into this equation. Refer only to your business and its interests.

  • Say something neutral and objective like "I won't have time to finish this week's report."
  • Avoid personal responses like "It's too much work for me".

Part 2 of 3: approach your supervisor

Say No To Your Boss Step 5

Step 1. Find the right time

Do not approach him when he is stressed or busy. Check their schedule and trust your company culture before asking them if they have a few minutes to discuss something with you.

  • Have this conversation in private, if your circumstances allow it.
  • Keep the habits of your supervisor in mind. Avoid talking to him before lunch if he is not early in the morning.
  • If you know he's always the first to arrive, show up to work before your other co-workers.
Say No To Your Boss Step 6

Step 2. Be concise

Present your arguments very quickly and make sure you are as clear as possible. Do not try to avoid the subject so as not to waste his time or his patience with you.

  • Avoid saying “yes, but…”. Your manager will feel that you are just not organized enough.
  • Always phrase your sentences in a positive way.
  • For example, you can suggest that they reorganize your workload instead of simply blaming them for having too much to do.
Say No To Your Boss Step 7

Step 3. Explain yourself

If your argument isn't strong enough, your boss won't understand what's holding you back from doing this task. Refer to your job description if relevant.

  • If you just don't have the time to complete this task, your reasons must be tangible and unassailable.
  • Refer to your other priorities to justify your decision.
  • Highlight how offering this task to someone else will benefit your business by making it clear that the work you do is more important.
  • Explain yourself firmly, but never aggressively or emotionally.
Say No To Your Boss Step 8

Step 4. Don't wait too long

If you allow too much time to pass before discussing it with your boss, it will be more difficult to rearrange the work at hand, and you will hardly ever be able to complete this task on time. Your manager may be very unhappy with your job.

Part 3 of 3: Propose positive solutions

Say No To Your Boss Step 9

Step 1. Suggest rearranging your priorities

Find a positive solution to present to your manager. For example, you can suggest that he helps you reorganize your work by showing him that you want to be more productive while making it clear that you have too much workload.

  • Also show him the tasks you still have to complete, thus proving that you have given it serious thought.
  • You will also show him that he is important to you and can help you work more efficiently.
  • You will also show respect for their advice and that their advice is of great value to you.
Say No To Your Boss Step 10

Step 2. Refer a colleague

For example, you can suggest that a colleague perform this task. This will show that you have considered the best interests of your business by finding the right person for the job. Your boss will appreciate that your primary concern is having this task done rather than trying to lift you off from an additional burden.

  • Showing that you have good judgment and know how to prioritize your business needs will prove to your manager that they can trust you in the future.
  • You will also show that you care about the careers of your colleagues and know your team well.
Say No To Your Boss Step 11

Step 3. Suggest another work organization

If you have too much of a workload, you can suggest that your supervisor let you work from home one day a week so that you waste less time on public transport.

  • If you believe that a more flexible organization will allow you to work better, don't be afraid to come up with this solution.
  • Always keep the culture of your company in mind before coming up with an idea or more flexibility.
  • Think about the proposal you are going to make before presenting it to your supervisor.


  • If your boss asks you to do something illegal, you have the right to refuse. Contact the competent authorities.
  • Speak calmly and in a confident voice.

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