Today you’ll find out how to say no to your boss, and associates, to tasks that other people throw at you without coming off as impolite or lazy.
This is a situation that many of us find ourselves in, right? We’ve done this, put the attitude in place, where any task you give me I will handle. And we do not want to say no, but what ends up happening is we keep saying “yes” to all of this stuff and then the core work that we must get done suffers because our focus just gets scattered.
The bottom line is that you must start saying No to more things that are really difficult, particularly when more senior people ask you to do something, but focusing your time and setting boundaries is extremely important as a professional. Let’s jump into the 5 ways to say “no”.
How to Say No to Your Boss
1: “Yeah, what should I reprioritize?” method.
This one works particularly well when taking requests from your boss. So let me provide you with an example.
I once had my boss say to me, “Are you going to make customized venue and agenda arrangements for everyone coming to training tomorrow? I think that would be a really nice touch. In that one sentence he simply assigned me three hours of work to complete before the next day.
So I said, “Yeah, today I ordered to build an info pack, reached out to every vendor to get it ready for tomorrow, and contacted every attendee. Which task would you like me to reprioritize for this?
And once she realized how much I had done that day, she was like, “Oh my gosh, those things are way more important, don’t worry about this.”
And the lesson here is that often when people ask you to do something, they don’t realize how busy you are and how insignificant their request is compared to the other things you’re working on. So it’s OK to tell them what you’re doing and ask them to help you decide what to reprioritize and a lot of times they’ll realize, okay you know, you just focus on what you’re doing and I’ll figure out other stuff .
2: Use humor.
Now that this one is a little tricky, you know it can get awkward. You don’t want people to think you’re not serious about your job. But I’ve learned that a little joking about things can defuse an uncomfortable situation.
I once had a coworker come up to me, we’d call him John, and say, “Marry, you know, I
cold. Can you go over to the thermostat and make it warmer in here?” And my initial reaction in my head was like, “That’s not my job. I don’t know why you made me do this. You can do it yourself, I’m not a temperature monitor.”
Or another thing I can do is in fact go and fix the temperature but then be, you know, kind of grumpy about it. Like, “Why is he distracting me…this…this is not cool.”
But instead I just joked about it and that I said, “John, I believe you are underestimating yourself. I know you have an enormous genius brain and if you go out there and begin pushing buttons you WILL determine how to use that thermostat. I believe you.” And he chuckles, he says a little banter back to me, and we joke about it. And then I feel good, I can say no without feeling like an idiot.
3: Make it a teachable moment.
Let’s say someone asks you for something you know they have the resources to do themselves. Like, “Hey, can you tell me the next conference date is coming up?”
When you know they have access to resources to look it up on their own, have it a teachable moment where you say, “Of course, here is a link to a calendar where you can find the conference dates, as well as all the major milestones leading up to it. Up to you.”
So you do not tell them explicitly what the date is, but you show them where to find it. So when someone asks you to do something, consider how I can teach them how to do this themselves to streamline things, and most of the time they will really appreciate it, sometimes they do not know where to look or they simply do not do it. do not understand how to do something yourself, so make it a teachable moment.
4: Advise others to do it.
It’s much easier to say, “I can’t help you, but person X might be interested.” Instead of just saying, “No. Excuse me. Find out.” This way you appear to be helping without actually having to do the task yourself. This is especially important if you are a consultant or you work for yourself.
You should have a list of professionals that you refer to for questions because you can’t say yes to everything, right? So that’s good because you refer the business to other people, you build that relationship, you help people who have questions find answers, and then you feel good because you don’t just say “no” right away, you’re still adding value.
I worked at People Operations at start-up. So it’s an all-encompassing role, so people don’t always know where my role starts, and where it ends. So they’ll come at me with things like social media– I go, okay no, that’s more marketing.
They would come to me IT stuff, I said oh no it’s this guy. So I’m constantly referring people to people and that’s actually my way of helping, people respect that I’m that central hub. But I could do all that myself, it would just interfere with my other work, so I use this tactic a lot. Finally rounded off with a number…
5: “If you can X, then I will Y.” response.
Someone might ask you a big question and before you say “yes,” think of a way to compromise your work. So for example, someone once came up to me and said, “Hey Marry, you are great at writing, can you write her a eulogy.” And I thought, “Wow, that’s a very big question.” So I said, “If he is going to write a first draft then I’m going to edit it and squash it.”
And this is an excellent compromise. I did not say no, but I changed the request. So be sure that when someone asks you something, you haven’t got to accept it directly. This method works particularly well when taking requests from your boss.
So et me provide you with an example. I once had a boss tell me grades. See if there is a modified way you can help.
So let’s review 5 ways to say NO.
Number 1: Yes I can do this, what should I reprioritize?
Number 2: Humor, playing around to soften up no.
Number 3: Make it a teachable moment.
Number 4: Advise others to do it.
And number 5: If you can do X, then I’ll do Y.
Thank you for reading this article on how to say no to your boss and I actually hope you take action on my suggestions. I wish you good luck and that I hope that its content has been a good help to you.