How To Politely Reject Your Boss

You're already booked with enough work to keep you at your desk for the next six months, and your boss has a surprise for you – one more project to add to the pile. What do you do? For the sake of your sanity and even your physical health, there comes a time to say ‘no’ to more work. But is that wise?

Saying ‘no’ to your boss has got to be one of the more terrifying experiences in life. But sometimes, you really can't say ‘yes,’ no matter how much you want to. How do you do that without being told to clean out your desk at the end of the day?

1Remind The Boss Of Your Current Workload

You can’t just say ‘no’ without reason. Before you even write that email or sit down to talk to your boss, have a clear understanding in your head about just why you need to say no. The chances are that your current workload is the main reason why you’re saying ‘no’ in the first place. By reminding your boss that you’re already busy, you give them the opportunity to revamp your priorities.

2Find Someone Else To Do It

It could be that what your boss is suggesting isn’t feasible as things stand, but you see a different way. Offer them an idea of what to do next if you’re not able to pick up the task. Maybe part of your brainstorming session includes an idea of a different person within the company who not only has the time but the exact skills to do what the boss needs.

3Thank Your Boss

Don’t forget to say ‘thank you.’ That is especially true when turning down an opportunity. Let your boss know that you appreciate them asking.

4Buy Yourself Time

Rather than saying ‘no’ outright, tell your boss that you'll get back to them later. That gives you time to consider your schedule and whether or not you have time for this. If not, at least you've shown that you gave the matter some deep thought.

5Remember Who’s Boss

Explain thoroughly to your boss the reasons why you are turning down an assignment. In the end, if you’ve given out alternative solutions or other specific options, acknowledge that whatever they decide is up to them – not you. That accords your boss the respect they deserve.

By remaining both respectful and professional, telling your boss ‘no’ doesn’t have to be terrifying. Remember that you’re all there for the same goal of trying to make the company a success. Part of that success is being able to give your best, which you can’t do when you’re so overworked that the quality of your work suffers. Even your boss can’t dispute that!

Tom Garcia

Tom Garcia, a resident of Poway, is a human resources manager. He learned in his career that he couldn't make everyone happy. Saying 'no' can be a challenge, but when one learns to say it with confidence in tough situations, it's better for everyone.