Three Questions To Ask Yourself Before Telling Your Boss “NO”


Saying no to our bosses is a massive challenge. We assume that rejecting their requests might lead us to get fired and lose our jobs, but sometimes it is for the best. It becomes necessary to say no when our personal and professional lives get hugely affected. There are specific questions that you should ask yourself before taking this step, which are “When, why can’t I, and how to say no?”

“When is it a must to say no to my boss?”

1- Facing bullying

When your boss bullies or sexually harasses you, saying no is a must. That also applies to urging you to bully others and make fun of them. Being racist or sexist is not okay and shouldn’t be tolerated at all.

2- Unethical or illegal actions

It’s necessary to reject when your boss asks you to do something unethical or against the law. If you accept that for the sake of the job, it will eventually have horrible consequences. For example, going to jail or having a bad reputation in your field.

3- Pushing you to work too much

Sometimes we have to work more than usual, and that’s okay. We have to realize when it’s too much or over the limits of work. It happens when your job starts to affect your health and your personal life. If you notice that, it’s important to tell your boss no.

“Why can’t I say no?”

Saying no to people, in general, is challenging, as most of us were raised in a way that makes us in a constant need to satisfy others. Imagine rejecting your boss’s request; it’s okay to feel that burden on your chest. You are probably afraid of them getting mad at you or even further consequences like getting fired. Get a pen and a paper and write your fears down. That would help you figure out the reasons behind you being that terrified.

“How can I say no?”

There are many other situations like workload or unsuitable working times when you will have the choice to say no indirectly. You will have more space to discuss and make your point clear. Here is some advice about how you can reject your boss’s requests decently without causing any problems.

1- Set boundaries from the beginning

It’s essential to set boundaries for work from the beginning to make your boss and your co-workers aware of your situation. You can clarify things like you’re not available on weekends, cannot work extra hours, or won’t stay late. It’s okay if there are exceptions on the way like additional workload or urgent status in your company, but make it clear from the beginning that you have boundaries.

State these rules decently without being aggressive. Do not just express them by words, but act according to them. Sometimes they’ll test your boundaries by calling you on weekends or requesting you to stay after working hours, reject nicely, and remind them of your rules.

2- Communicate constantly

boss and employee
One of the most significant all-time issues between managers and employees is the lack of communication. Try to initiate contact between you and your boss from the very beginning. Start with kind gestures like saying good morning and asking about their health. Break the ice and deal with them casually and respectfully at the same time.

Constant communication would help you a lot whenever saying no. It removes a part of your fears from your boss, it normalizes the discussion between you both, it makes you understand each other better, and it also gives you the motive to sympathize with each other.

3- Choose your tone and words

The tone of your voice is one of the main factors that define the nature of the others’ responses. Whenever you have to say no, stick to a firm and calm tone of voice. That gives an impression of seriousness about you. Don’t show aggression through shouting or having a high tone of voice. Aggressiveness represents a lot of weakness. If you are stable and have solid points, you won’t have to show violence by any means.

It’s also necessary to choose polite words. You cannot cross the line even if you’re right. That would break work policies and also give a terrible impression on you. Offending others won’t make you win the situation, especially if these others are your boss.

4- Remind them they’re in charge

Managers always like to feel that they didn’t lose control. Be smart and remind them that you’re not taking their roles by any means. State that you acknowledge their roles, the hierarchy, and their position once you start talking. That would make them less defensive when you introduce your topic.

Introduce your points in a shape of a suggestion, so they don’t take it as an order. Use phrases like, “I respect your opinion.” “I just have a certain point of view.” “You have a great vision for this project.” “Thank you for giving us space to express ourselves.”

5- Explain your situation

Some bosses are hard to communicate with, and sometimes it happens because we are not brave enough to explain our situation clearly. Be straightforward and illustrate your reasons for rejecting their request. Remember that it’s okay to say no. We are all humans who have different living conditions and various mindsets.

If you have a different request or a project proposal, organize your points. The way you show your issue is crucial. Sometimes we cannot reach solutions just because unclear explanations cause a misunderstanding.

6- Don’t pre-suppose

false assumption
You cannot judge your boss by other people’s talks or how employees assume about managers in general. There’s a stereotype about bosses that they’re always mad and unsympathetic. Don’t judge the situation, whether positively or negatively, before getting to know them more.

Act emotionally intelligent and read the character of your manager. Try to understand what gets them convinced, which actions annoy them, and the key to their personalities. Eventually, bosses are just humans who got promoted, so try to be sympathetic.

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