How To Say No To Your Boss

“No.” It may be a simple two-letter word but powerful in any language, especially at work. Nobody wants to say "no" to their boss, but sometimes it needs to be done for sanity’s sake. Although being agreeable and able to assist your boss on tasks is a great quality of a team player, there may be times you might not be able to comply with a request from your boss.

Knowing how to say no to your boss nicely is an important aspect of asserting yourself and creating boundaries in the workplace. You often find yourself in uncomfortable situations when you keep saying yes to anything and everything.

There are numerous ways to say no politely and professionally, giving a better understanding and reason for saying no. Let’s show you how you can nicely say no to your boss and why it is extremely important.


Give them a strong and valid reason

Don’t just tell your boss you can’t do something he/she has asked you to do. Give your boss a legitimate reason. For example: If your boss wants you to help develop an automation tool, but you are already swamped and have too much on your plate. Firmly explain to him about your to-do list and where you are on each of your tasks. Any good boss would understand you can only accomplish one task at a time. If what your boss is asking you to do is more important than what she has asked you to do, it is ideal that you ask her which of your tasks to prioritize so you are not overburdened.


Be straightforward

Not all bosses are easy to deal with. However, it is important to be straightforward with your reasons for saying no. Instead of “I don’t think so” or “maybe I can’t,” be precise and go straight to your reason for saying no. Don’t beat around the bush. Giving them not-sure answers can allow your boss to rule over your decision.


Bring up alternative solutions

Your boss isn’t happy or appreciates it if you tell him/her no. But they would appreciate it if you bring other alternative solutions to make their work lives easy and happy. For example, if your boss asks you to stay late to complete a task, tell him or her that you are not available instead of saying no. But you are more than happy to come in early in the morning to do the work. That is a win-win for both of you. This shows that you want to be agreeable and helpful while also respecting your boundaries.


18 ways to nicely say “No”

You can say “no” at work to not overburden and under-deliver your tasks. Here are some examples you can use:

  • Am I already working on several high-priority assignments that leave me no time for this one.
  • Unfortunately, I have too much to do today. I can help you another time.
  • Now isn’t a good time for me. I’ll let you know if my schedule frees up.
  • Sorry, I have already committed to something else. I hope you understand.
  • No, I won’t be able to fit that into my schedule this week.
  • I would love to join you, but I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with work right now.
  • The timing right now isn’t good. Can you keep me in mind for next time?
  • I enjoyed helping you last time, but I am too busy to assist you right now.
  • I’ve been feeling too busy at work lately. I will have to decline this time.
  • I’ve done that a million times before. Let’s give someone else a chance to try.
  • I feel honored by you asking me this question, but I still have to say ‘no’ this time.
  • I’m not the right fit for this task. I can help you think of someone else to ask.
  • I know that’s challenging, but I can’t help you now.
  • I can’t help, but I have some resources I can forward to you.
  • I would love to help, but I have too much going on.
  • Unfortunately, I cannot say ‘yes’ this time. I wish you luck in finding someone who can.
  • This doesn’t seem like a healthy decision for me. I will have to decline regretfully.
  • I’m going to pass this time. Perhaps we can discuss this again next month.

Technically it is your job to do what your boss tells you, but sometimes, they forget you have too much on your plate to realistically keep up and meet all deadlines and take more work. It is an important skill to learn when to say “no”, although it is tough. Whether it is a small or a big ask, never be afraid to say “no” when you know you can’t deliver. Knowing your limits and understanding how to communicate them will make you a true team player.


Photo: Cast Of Thousands/Shutterstock


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