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How to Politely Say 'No' to your Boss

How to Politely Say 'No' to Your Boss

How to Politely Say 'No' to Your Boss

It is important to be able to say 'no', to bosses.

Bosses tend to delegate tasks without reference to the amount of work already being attempted.

If we don't learn how to say 'no', then we are swamped by too much work. Consequently, we either fail the task, or we end up taking it home and working late into the night.

The right way to say No.

When you want to say 'No' to your supervisor or manager, then you need to do it in the right way:

  • Be clear: "I am sorry: It is not possible".
  • Give reasons: "Because right now I must finish this more important (named) task."
  • Be positive. "If the situation changes, I will get back to you immediately"

At all costs, we must avoid sounding unhelpful or unwilling.

To be successful, we must be Clear, Rational and Positive.

Be Clear

Our message must be definite and unambiguous. If we say, "I will try to do it, but I can't guarantee that I will be able to do it today", then the boss will give us the job and our attempt at refusal fails.

To be clear we must say something like. "I am sorry, but it is not possible."

Be Rational

We must give good reasons WHY we cannot do the task. The reason is that we do not have the time, or that other tasks already on our list are more important, (or both).

Be Positive

We should assure our boss that if the situation changes, we will inform them, immediately.

Saying 'No' In Practice.

When we put these three principles together, they sound like this:

Boss: "I need you to pick-up a visitor from the train station this afternoon, at three. Would you do that for me?"

We say: "I am sorry, *boss name*, but it is not possible for me to do that." (Clarity)

"Because I must complete and submit this British Gas proposal before 5pm today. It is worth £100K. If the proposal is late, we won't win the business." (Reason)."

"If the situation changes, I will inform you, immediately." (Positive).

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About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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