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Saying No to Your Boss

Why and How to Say No to Your Boss

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Young woman working at desk in office
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Your boss just assigned a new project to you and you can't imagine how you'll get it done. Can you say no to your boss, though? You can if your reasons are good. Now, you have to decide if they are. First here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you decide. Following that are bad reasons to say no, and then good reasons. Then once you've made up your mind, there's advice on how to present your decision to your boss.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Decide to Say No to Your Boss

  • Am I already working on several important assignments that leave me no time for this one?

  • Can I delegate some of my other work to make room for this assignment?

  • Can I put some of my other assignments on the back burner while I work on this one?

  • Will taking on this assignment cause harm to my other work?

  • Do I absolutely lack the skills necessary to complete this assignment?

  • Am I the only person who can successfully complete this assignment?

Bad Reasons To Say No to Your Boss

Turning down an assignment from your boss is not something you should do on a whim. While the reasons listed here may seem important to you, they probably aren't good enough for your boss.
  • The project looks too difficult.

  • It isn't part of my job description.

  • I'm in the middle of planning my wedding and can't focus on anything right now.

Good Reasons to Say No to Your Boss

Though you should give an assignment careful consideration before you turn it down, if your boss is fairly reasonable, he or she should be able to understand these reasons.
  • There simply aren't enough hours in a day to work on it, even if I get to work early and stay late.

  • My other work will suffer if I take on this assignment.

  • I don't have the necessary skills to complete this project and I will not be able to attain them in time.

How to Say No to Your Boss

If you decide to turn down an assignment, be prepared to offer a good reason for doing so. You will have to explain your reasons thoroughly so your boss realizes you considered the situation carefully. Give your boss ample warning so he or she has enough time to assign the work to someone else or can help you delegate some of your other projects to one of your co-workers so you can work on this one.
  • If your reason for saying no to your boss is that you don't have enough time to work on the project, prepare a list of the other projects on which you're working. If he didn't delegate the other assignments to you, he may not even be aware of them. If he did assign the other projects, he may want you to work on the new one instead.

  • If you think your other work will suffer if you take on another assignment, explain that to your boss. She will appreciate your honesty and your dedication to your other projects.

  • If you don't have the necessary skills to complete this assignment, admit this to your boss. It would be worse to pretend you can do something you can't. Ask him if future assignments will require this skill. If his answer is "yes," let him know you will work to attain it.

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