Is it appropriate to say no to your boss when he or she asks you to do something, or to take on a new project?
First, let me tell you that it is indeed ok to say no to your boss. However, you have to say it in a specific way and only under certain situations. Otherwise, it can hurt your career. Second, I want to let you know that saying no to your boss will be one of the hardest and most awkward situations you’ll ever put yourself in, especially if your boss only expects a ‘yes’ for an answer.
I don’t mean to discourage anyone, but if you are anything like me, saying no will make you anxious and, if you haven’t done it before, you will have very little clue about what to do or how to do it. Having said this, I will ask you not to panic and to please continue reading this blog, as I intend to give you some personal recommendations based on my experience that will help you say no in a very diplomatic way.
Before you get to the point of saying no, consider the following suggestions:
1. Always keep in mind who is the boss. At the end of the day, we might have to do what we were asked to do. Although it is ok to say no, and many times recommended, it’s not going to work every time. Reminding yourself that you are not the boss, and acknowledging that the final decision is not up to you will help you feel less anxious. If it does come to you doing what your boss asked of you, embrace it and work with it as professionally and efficiently as you do with your other projects.
2. Acknowledge what your boss is asking of you. If it is a good idea and you agree with him or her, make sure you say so. Doing this will remind him or her that you are on the same boat working towards the same goals.
3. Have an accurate schedule of the projects you are currently working on, know your responsibilities, and also keep in mind anything else you might have to do outside of the job. Knowing this information will give you an approximation on the “free time” you have to work on new projects.
4. Listen to what your boss is asking and make sure you have an open, inviting and positive attitude (and face). Non-verbal language can be more powerful than words. If you want to say no, do not let your demeanor say it for you.
When you are ready to say no…Don’t say it (literally)! There are many ways you can say no without actually saying the word. Remember, you have to avoid confrontation and the word no is not a very non-confrontational one.
1. Listen to your boss and to any of his or her requests. If the deadline he or she is giving you is too soon, say it. If you make it clear that you don’t have the time to work on the project, your boss might consider asking someone else.
2. Discuss with your boss all your current projects and re-evaluate their priorities. If you are working with high-priority projects, and none of them can be delayed, he or she might also consider asking someone else.
3. If you feel there is no escaping from what your boss is asking you, ask him or her for help. You can get an assistant or help from a co-worker. This way you don’t say no, but you aren’t doing everything on the project either.
4. Before saying no, give your boss positive feedback on his or her idea. Emphasize how you think it is good for the company. If you disagree with it, skip this suggestion because lying to your boss is never a good practice. You could also suggest a new idea or maybe a modification to what your boss is presenting you.
5. If you really don’t have the time to do it or you just can’t do it for any other valid reason, be honest and say so. Maybe asking for more time, if possible, to work on it at a later time, might be an option. If you find yourself in this position, make sure that you say no as humble as possible. Always remind you boss that he or she can count on you. Maybe throw an “I am sorry I can’t work on it now” or “I am sorry I’m not able to help you more”. Being apologetic (but not too much) can be perceived as a sign of empathy and that is always a good trait.
Remember, saying no doesn’t have to be a negative thing. We have to keep in mind that although we might want to be a “super employee”, or that working on a new project might get us closer to that promotion, not knowing when to say no can lead us to failure, or can put us in situations that are very hard to recover from. Always know your responsibilities and always walk the extra mile without forgetting that we are all humans and that we all have limitations. Good Luck!