How To Say No To Your Boss Without Getting Fired

I got my first, official job when I was twenty two years old. Before that I’d only done small tutoring gigs for school, and helped with a few family member’s businesses. Starting out, I knew close to nothing about what it was like to work in an office environment. Nor what it was like to work with other people and having a proper supervisor. Thankfully, I was blessed to have a team who were nice, helpful, and welcoming. That includes my boss.

A lot of people have told me their horror stories about how awful and mean their first bosses were. That made me feel a bit wary, but I’ve got nothing but good things to say about mine. She has guided me and helped me learn the ropes of my job, as well as been a friend to me. So when I needed to talk to her about something, she was always open minded and approachable. That included when I had to tell her things, like, “no.”

When I say “no,” I mean any time when you have to go against something your boss is saying or asking. This can be in terms of anything from your work tasks, your role, and availability. Often times when you have a job, there will be expectations from you to come through when there is a need. It could be extra work, or extra hours, etc. If you feel that you can’t put your mind to it, or it’s something that’s asking too much of you, or it’s not what you signed up for, then you have to speak up. Otherwise you’ll start resenting your workplace, a place you’re expected to be a number of times a week. The best thing to do, naturally, would be to say no.

At first, I used to think that saying “no” would make me look bad and unprofessional. I wanted to impress everyone and do my absolute best, so I’d struggle with having difficult conversations with my boss. But then I realized that sometimes I have no choice but to say “no”, and that was okay. I got lucky because I have a nice boss who is understanding, but that’s not the case with everyone. Some bosses are irrational, rude, and less than understanding. Regardless of that, you have to deal with all bosses the same way when having these conversations.

First, you have to have a good reason to back up why you’re saying “no.” Without a good reasoning, they’ll think you’re saying “no” just because you feel like it. If you’re open and honest, they’ll likely be more open to your decision.

Second, you have to be firm. You have to stand by your decision of saying “no,” otherwise it looks like you’re being wishy washy. This is your decision, and as a person and employee, you have the right to make it. This goes hand in hand with the first part because with a good reasoning, you’ll likely be more firm.

Third, if the situation is dire, then try coming up with a compromise or a middle point. This way, both you and your boss are happy.It also shows that you’re willing to work with them to get things done.

I still, to this day, have difficulty saying “no” to my boss, but sometimes I just do it. And that’s fine, as I said before, because things aren’t always going to work out on your end. Plus, it’s the supervisor/boss’ job to make sure that you’re happy, and your opinions and decisions are being taken into account. You’re practicing basic employee rights. So next time you have to have one of these difficult decisions, remember these steps, and get it over with like you’re ripping off a band-aid.

Naureen Nashid

twenty three year old computer science student from new york who loves writing about her feelings, trashy reality shows, singing along to the radio while driving, boybands, and wearing her leather jacket. follow her on twitter @naureennashid.

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