How to Say No to Your Boss

Everyone hits a breaking point eventually.  You’ve got too much on your plate, the work keeps on piling up, you’re being asked to work the fifth weekend in a row, and there’s no way you can sit through one more dinner after a long day at the office.  On the other hand, the thought of saying no to your boss has you shaking in your stilettos.  If this sounds all too familiar, here’s a way to draw your line in the sand, tactfully, AND stay on your boss’ good side.

Be rational.  A lot of times the first step to saying “no” is to get rid of a few false assumptions on your part, starting with the fear that standing up for yourself will automatically result in some kind of career backlash. Sure, everyone wants a team player, but who ever said that meant  you have to be all things to all people, all the time? And did someone actually say that you wouldn’t get that promotion, or worse, would get fired if you ever said no?  I want you to ask yourself “what’s the worst thing is that can possibly happen if I say no?”  And really give this some thought. You’ll be surprised that the answer probably isn’t as bad as you might think. And the benefits you’ll get almost always outweigh the risks.

Start early.  If you wait to push back until you’ve hit your breaking point, emotions will be at a fever pitch and you’ll run the risk of looking like a crazy person when you blow.  So start drawing boundaries as soon as you start your job or just start now with little things and gradually work your way up to more. And of course, be sure you’re supportive and respectful of those around you when they do the same.

Ask questions.  We always assume everything is mandatory.  But is it?  Did you ever think to simply ask?  You might also consider enlisting your boss’ help to re-prioritize your to do list or get additional people to help get everything done.  Don’t forget, sometimes bosses need a little help seeing the big picture too.

Propose alternatives.   Sometimes a plain “no” is exactly what the doctor ordered.  However, if you’ve got a boss that you think might be less than receptive, throw an alternative solution on the table.  For example, you might say something like “I’m sorry, I can’t stay late tonight because I already have another commitment, but I will be happy to make this my first priority in the morning.” It shows that you are willing to work with them and starts a conversation around options available.

Focus on the impact.  Ever notice that when someone explains why they are saying no it usually softens the blow?   Your boss is no different.  They care about you, but they really care about their business objectives.  If there is a way to connect the dots and show them why saying no will actually yield better results, or avoid bad ones, do it.

Be bold.  Yes, saying no can be scary if you’re not used to it.  At some point, though, the time has to come for you to put on your big girl panties and boldly take a step outside of your comfort zone to safeguard your sanity. After all, no one else is going to do it for you.

Pick your battles.  While you don’t want to be a “yes woman,” you don’t want to cry wolf either.  Make sure when you say no, it’s for good reason, not just to be ornery.  Then, the times you do take a stand, people will take notice and actually respect you for it.

If this still seems scary, just start small to test the waters.  With these simple tips you’ll be well on your way to putting some boundaries and balance back in your life in no time!

So, here’s your chance to play with saying no to just one thing this week…we’d love to know how it goes!



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