Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
WORKPLACE / JUL. 12, 2014
version 2, draft 2

How to Say No to Your Boss

Saying no to your boss can be challenging for many reasons. You are more than likely a hard worker, who completes your tasks on time and to the best of your ability. You may even take on extra assignments when asked.

It can be hard to say no to a request from your boss. At the end of the day, they’re your boss and you want to prove yourself within the company. With that being said, there will be times when their request simply cannot be done. You will need to learn how to say ’no.’

Ask Yourself Questions Before You Say No

If your boss asks you to do something, ask yourself if it’s possible? The following are questions that you should ask yourself before saying no:

  • I already have a number of assignments on the go, will I have time for this new one?
  • Can some of my work be delegated to others to make room for this new request?
  • Are my current assignments top priority? Can I shift some assignments around, putting one or two off until this new assignment is complete?
  • Do I have the required skills to complete this task or assignment successfully?
  • Is there anyone else available for this assignment or task?

Good and Bad Reasons to Say No

There are both good and bad reasons to say no to your boss. Each job differs, so work dynamic, scheduling, and workload highly differ. However, you can generalise both good and bad answers.

Good Answers → If you have an understanding boss, they should understand the following reasons:

  1. I do not have enough hours free in my schedule based on the assignments I have already. Even if I came to work early and stayed late, this new assignment would not be completed on time.
  2. If I take on this new assignment, my other work will suffer. At this moment in time, my other assignments are top priority.
  3. I don’t believe that my skill set will allow me to complete this task successfully.

Bad Reasons → You need to be careful turning down tasks just for the sake of it. You never know how this may affect your future within the company. The following reasons may not justify a ’no’ response:

  1. The project is too hard
  2. That task doesn’t fall into my job description
  3. I’m planning a party for my best friend, I don’t have time

How to Say No to Your Boss

Take Your Time

  • You do not need to rush your answer. You can think about it before immediately saying no. If your boss asks you via email, simply refrain from replying right away. Think about your options and then reply accordingly.
  • If you are being asked in real-time (e.g. phone or face-to-face), ask them if you can have some time to think about it. Tell them you will get back to them shortly and give them a specific time. You may have something that is conflicting in your schedule.
  • When thinking about the request, take your time to determine whether or not it is reasonable. If it is reasonable, you may be able to fit it in. You should not wait too long however. Give your boss fair warning that you cannot complete the task or assignment. That way, they can find someone else with plenty of time to spare.

Prepare Your Reasoning Before You Give Your Answer

  • It is always a good idea to prepare before you speak with your boss. Come up with valid reasons why you cannot take on this assignment. If you’re being honest about your reasoning, then there should be no reason to lie about it.
  • Think about questions your boss may ask regarding your response. You should decide ahead of time how you’ll answer. Remember that many employers respect honesty. If you truly think that you cannot handle it, they will respect that you answered honestly instead of attempting an impossible task.

Be Choosey With the Right Time and Place

  • Pick the right time to speak with your boss. You may know your boss’s workday pattern. If they’re generally grumpy in the morning, hold off for a bit. Ask your boss if you can speak with them at lunch time.
  • If you have the opportunity, have your discussion in private. You can either approach them in their office or ask them if you can speak outside.

Come Up With an Alternate Solution

  • If you said no to your boss, offer up another solution. If they asked you to complete a project that required highly creative skills, suggest someone else. You may know that someone on your team loves artistic and creative outlets.
  • If your boss is comfortable with this suggestion, they may go ahead and ask someone else. They may not have been aware that the suggested person has an interest or specific skill that would be required in this specific case. 


  • A ‘no’ does not always need to be 100%. Perhaps you can take on some of the assignment, while sharing the workload with someone else. The assignment will get done and the work will be distributed.

If your boss is asking you to take on extra tasks, this is a sign that they think you can handle it. If for some legitimate reason you can’t accept the task, let them know that you appreciate the offer. A reasonable boss will understand that you do not want your other work to suffer. 

If you say you don’t possess the right skills, ask if those skills will be required often in the future. If so, suggest that you’ll learn those skills. This will show initiative. If you can’t complete a task, then just be honest. You do not need to struggle saying ’no.’

Photo credit: Flickr 

Get our FREE eBook!
'6 Steps to Landing Your Next Job'





daniel bryan
WORKPLACE / DEC 10, 2015

You have just come from work, and the day was hellacious. You have barely settled on the couch to ‘breathe in’ home, and there is an incoming email. It is your boss, and...

say no to the boss
WORKPLACE / JUN 06, 2015

No-one wants to be a yes-person, but some of us secretly may be. If you find it difficult to say no to your boss, perhaps because for you it is synonymous with...

Laura Marano talking on phone
WORKPLACE / OCT 08, 2015

The moment the words “Let’s talk” come out of your boss’ mouth, a thousand thoughts begin to race your mind. Right there and then, you immediately start wondering what...

Jim Carry Fire Your Boss
WORKPLACE / JUN 23, 2015

So, you love your job but you hate your manager. What a frustrating situation to be in. When you know that there’s no way you can carry on working for your terrible boss...

Drunk With Boss
WORKPLACE / APR 26, 2015

It’s going to happen sooner or later - you, your boss, and a few rounds at the local pub. If played right, this age old tradition between the company head and subordinate...

How to be Your Boss's Favourite
WORKPLACE / DEC 09, 2014

Becoming your boss’s favourite should not be confused with sycophancy, or turning into a slave. However, a good relationship with your boss goes a long way in helping you...

Get our FREE eBook!
'6 Steps to Landing Your Next Job'
G up arrow