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How to Say No to Your Boss

It can be really tough to turn down a request from your boss or supervisor. But, sometimes it's necessary and the right thing to do. Here are some tips to help you draw the line without inviting any negative consequences.

It can be really tough to turn down a request from your boss or supervisor. But, sometimes it’s necessary and the right thing to do. Here are some tips to help you draw the line without inviting any negative consequences. no

(Photo Credit: sboneham/Flickr)

1. Keep it short and simple.

Like with anything else, it’s best to turn down requests with a brief and direct explanation. Just like when you cancel plans with a friend, saying that you’re sick, your car won’t start, and you have too much work to do, all at once, sound a little suspicious. But, if you keep it short and simple, “Oh, I’m so sorry, I just can’t make that work,” your rejection might go over a little better.

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2. Consider redefining responsibilities.

Instead of saying no, think about saying yes to this new project and then using that to let go of another task that you’ve outgrown. Once you’ve thought it all through, meet with your boss and lay out your idea. Let her know that you think your time would be better spent on this new endeavor and that, in order to have time for it, you feel that this other thing can be wrapped up or handed off to another employee. It might be nice to have a change.

3. Don’t bring up your contract.

It’s so tempting, so often, to mention when an assigned task doesn’t fall with the job description, (or set hours), laid out in your contract. Still, referencing that away from the negotiation table could hurt your case for a raise later on. Save that conversation for your next review. Plus, the fact is that everyone does stuff that’s not a part of their contract. That’s where the “…other duties as assigned,” business gets ya.

4. Just don’t do it often and you shouldn’t have a problem.

The best way to get away with saying no to something once in a while is just that — do it once in a while. If you usually happily agree to take on a little something extra, it’s easy to say no every so often. So, pick and choose what you turn down carefully.

5. Offer an alternative.

Sometimes we want to say no to doing something, not because we’re too busy, but because we don’t agree with the strategy that’s suggested to solve a problem. It’s difficult to invest yourself in a project you don’t believe in. The trick here is to keep your language positive. Rather than saying that you don’t think that will work, say something like, “Can I throw out another idea?” and see how that goes over. It’s always a good idea to try to solve a problem, rather than just disagreeing with the solution that’s offered.

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How do you say no to your boss? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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14 Comments on "How to Say No to Your Boss"

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I just do my JOB, and get the heck out ! If you don’t like your job then quiet.

A question to the managers – what happens when one of your supervisors ends up working 55+ hours per week and you deny him support staff and denied him time off in lieu, even though company policy was that once an employee works 46 hours a week they are entitled to it? What happens if he says to you “could you please give me 10 minutes, as I’m working on a payment run”, and you reply “I’ll give you a piece of marriage advice. When your wife asks you to do something, you don’t ask her if you can do… Read more »
There is a difference between indians and chiefs. If you are a manager, you are open to a host of items outside your immediate responsibilities whereas junior staff are not. Communication is the most important aspect for men or women. When you start a job you have to make limitations known up front and then both parties know what they are and can decide accordingly if it’s acceptable. As your time there passes and your position shifts there will be ebbs and flows of work. If you can, do what’s asked of you. If you don’t get something done but… Read more »
Sayeduzzaman ansari

No commen thanks


I believe this falls back to when one interviewed for the job. For example, asking questions and setting certain conditions before accepting the position. One job for instance, I accepted lesser pay for starting with two weeks vacation. Which worked out well as the job went sour within a few months. I stayed until the project promised for them was complete, used my pro-rated vacation and moved on. Yes, they gave me two weeks vacation, but it was pro-rated. My fault, I didn’t clarify. Remember that interviews are negotiable from both sides, so close possible gaps before taking the position


In my previous job even going home at knock off time was frowned upon, even if you’d started an hour earlier than you should and didn’t take your 30 minute lunch break. Yes, occassional after-hour work was suggested in our letter of appointment, but when working after-hour work was expected to become the norm, I’m sorry.. I don’t play that game! Even my leave kept being refused. The result 10 days leave (not including Christmas leave) in 2 years. Employers need to know where the boundaries are too!!!


Nina that sounds like an loser attitude. It probably also shows in your work performance. People that want to get ahead in life usually have to do a little more and put on extra effort. In the end things usually pay off. With the attitude that you have, you will be flipping burgers at McDonald’s if lucky.


Women have brought too much emotion to the workplace. You cannot call a spade a spade. One has to be politically correct most of the time, which sucks. Technology, internet and social media have contributed immensely to our moral decadence at the workplace.


I do agree with parts of this article. Being flexible is important in ANY job but do not let someone take advantage of you. There have been times where I did leave a job because I always had to stay late while slackers got to leave 1-2 hours before their shift ended. Not fair to me being the one to end up waiting 1 hour for the next bus!!!

As the “boss” in a small company, I do a lot of things that may not be in an executive’s job description, like taking the paper trash to the recycling center on my way home (which means I have to collect it from everyone and lug it to the car). I have little patience for those who say “it’s not in my job description.” A former boss of mine responded to an employee who said that with “It is if I say it is” (and she didn’t last much longer). If you value your job, you need to be a… Read more »
Repeatedly turning down the request to work more or on another project will not only hurt your current relationship with your boss and co-workers, but also hinder your ability to grow professionally, either at this job or a future one. Learning as much as possible about the company, other jobs and career paths is important. Stating that the requested work isn’t in your job description or that you’re not being paid for that is short sighted and will just hurt you in the short term and long term. A job should be a learning experience that you embrace. If it’s… Read more »
I would just say no, why because if its out of the scope of what I signed up for it can affect my personal time and life. Why get into something that can put you in a deeper situation later? It doesn’t make sense to me why lie when the truth is you don’t want to or cannot take on the task. Too many employee’s simply say yes to things they don’t want to do or simply cannot do and the end result is a bitter employee working in fear of loosing their job. I don’t agree with this article… Read more »

When I say no to my supervisor I am blunt – I don’t have time to do that unless you can re-assign some of what’s already competing for my time and energy. It’s clear I’m not sitting around waiting for work and if what is being asked for is a priority then something else needs to come off my plate.

I like Martha’s response. In the business world today, it is a global competition. We are being asked to do more and more, with less and less in the way of human resources. Maybe it isn’t in your written job description, but if you aren’t a team player and you don’t want to chip in and do more for the company and your fellow workers, there is no place for you where I am working. This article is well written but I hope the people reading it will get the point which states – ‘don’t do this too often’ DO… Read more »
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