How often do we all complain that work sucks? No matter how competent you may be, high pressure jobs are tough to handle week in, week out. And it doesn’t help when you have a demanding boss sitting on your head, coaxing you ahead in subtle or not so subtle ways. It is a problem that people around the world face, and whatever the culture, everyone is nervous about saying no to their boss and coming across as negative and de-motivated. Saying no is not always negative! If you are already working more than your fair share, and genuinely care to give your best effort, there is nothing as positive and honest as saying no to back-breaking load. If you keep quiet and bear it, you will make your boss’ job easier in the short run, but the problem will flare up eventually and the productivity and performance of you and your entire team may dip. There are several clever, clear and polite ways to say no to your boss. Read on!
1. ‘Yes, but…’
At certain times, it is best to be tactful, and a ‘yes, but…’ works a lot more effectively than an outright ‘no’. Whether it is a corporate decision that involves you and your team, or a decision about your work load that your boss has made, the ‘yes’ part of your response shows that you have cared to see their point, listened and understood. The ‘but…’ part represents that you are interested enough in pointing out the problems you see and an alternate solution. The whole approach shows you in a very positive light, even though you are contradicting the decision.
Take, for instance, ‘sure, the new strategy will help us approach more potential customers and generate more leads, but it will leave us with less time to develop contacts and this can cost us our reputation and our successful conversion rate.’
2. Demonstrate ‘More Work = Less Productivity’
The law of diminishing returns operates for everyone, including your boss. You know your capacity and existing workload best, so it is you who need to tell your boss that any further work pressure will be at the expense of your productivity. Try to use the ‘yes, but…’ tactic here too.
For instance, if your boss wants you to take on a new project and out in extra-time for it, you need to convey that the dullness this will create will not help you produce better or faster work. Maybe you have a hobby that plays a crucial part in recharging your batteries for work, and your boss needs to know it. Bear in mind that when you link your ‘no’ to better work and productivity, you will not come across as negative.
3. Make Your Boss Accountable
If you already have a lot on your plate, make your boss take the responsibility for the extra work that is being assigned to you. Ask, for instance, ‘ok, I’ll take on this project, but I’m already working on A, B and C. Which of these do you want me to put on low priority to make space for this new one?’ Making him accountable is a great way to indirectly say no to your boss!
4. Are You Sure Your Boss Wants a ‘yes’ Person?
In their anxiety to always show that they are positive and productive, a lot of employees forget that bosses are not always looking for people who will say ‘yes’ to everything. There are a lot of bosses out there who appreciate workers who have the confidence and independence to think, take stands and critique decisions. With such bosses, the odd ‘no’ will show you in much better light than a perpetual ‘yes’.
If you had a bad experience with a boss early on in your career, don’t judge every boss by those same parameters. It will be a big hindrance towards your potential success.
5. Establish Clarity and Good Communication Early on
The way you start any work relationship is crucial. If you boss knows that you are communicative and expect clarity, you will be able to establish a work relationship that is frank and honest. You will have a good perspective on your boss’ expectations and the terms of your relationship. This will help you judge not only the best ways to say no to your boss, but also the right time to do it.
6. Taking a Firm Stand
It is essential sometimes. For instance if you have just got back after a pregnancy and your boss expects you to resume your demanding work load straight away, you may just have to say an outright ‘no’. However, make sure you explain your decision clearly, so that your boss does not attribute it to de-motivation or casual behavior. He/she must know that your decision is absolutely necessary for your health and wellbeing. Remember, no boss is comfortable directly expecting an employee to compromise their basic well being for work.
7. Courage is the Name of the Game
There are a lot of ways to say no to your boss, but it always begins with a bit of courage. Keep in mind that no one at a senior management position ever got there without saying no at some stage or the other.
At the end of the day, the idea behind these ways to say no to your boss is not to shirk responsibility and evade work. Rather, it is to convey that you are a positive, motivated and thinking person with a high sense of responsibility. Do you have any suggestions to share?