Three Creative Ways to Tell Your Boss No

March 18 2014

Julia Richardson By Julia Richardson –
We’ve all been there – overworked and overloaded. The overwhelming feeling that happens to us when task upon task is piled on. Maybe you think of yourself as superhuman, or maybe you’re too passive to say “no,” but either way, something has to give.

Saying “no” is one thing, but saying “no” to your boss is another thing entirely. It’s a scary prospect, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. In fact, sometimes it’s better to upfront and honest about your capabilities and time constraints, rather than disappoint.


Here are three ways to tell your boss “no” without actually saying the word.

1.    Time Constraints
Let your boss know that you simply don’t have time for any additional task or project. In order to communicate this in a way that doesn’t call your ability into question, ask your boss about priorities. In this way, you let him know what your workload consists of. Your boss will be able to see your time constraints without you telling him.

2.    Point to Other Projects
Sometimes it’s not quantity but quality. You may not have a long list of things to do, but your short list contains important work that requires focused attention. You need to let your boss know what you’re working on by pointing to these other projects. Chances are, he doesn’t know or remember all that is on your schedule. Remind him and stress their importance.

3.    Redirect the Request
Occasionally, your boss will ask you to do something that is not in your area of expertise. An easy way to say no to this request is to simply redirect your boss to a coworker that does have the right expertise to complete the task. This is also a viable option if you do have the skills, but know other coworkers that have similar skills that may be able to take on the task.

The key to successfully telling your boss “no” is to be creative and communicate the same message in a different way. You don’t want to undermine your strength and ability, but it’s important to resist the need to over-exert yourself.  After all, the only thing more terrifying than saying “no” is to crash and burn, failing to complete your work at all.

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