How to Say No to Your Boss

It's nearly 5pm and time to go home. As you put away your things, turn off your computer and tidy your desk, your boss walks up to you and says he wants you to work late to finish that 'urgent report'. But you have plans. How can you say no?
Saying no can be difficult at the best of times, especially when the ‘no’ is directed at a person of authority. Even if you try your best to do everything the boss asks, there are times when you can't and have to say no.
No is not a nice word to hear. It’s always a good idea to think about your reasons first and prepare your response before you talk to your boss. You can postpone your answer by saying, “Just let me check something and I’ll get right back to you.” This gives you time to think.
Write a list of reasons why you need to say no. Maybe you have family commitments. Perhaps the task does not fit your job description. It could be that you just have too much work, in which case your boss needs to decide which tasks take priority. Maybe your bosses most recent request goes to the top of your ‘to do’ list and another, less important, task gets moved to the bottom.
Also, try to find alternatives to suggest to make the refusal softer. Is there another person who can complete the task quicker or more effectively than you? Can the task be outsourced? Can the desired result be reached another way? There are many ways to say no that include a solution to the problem at hand.
Another thing to bear in mind is not to leave your refusal too long. If you know that you will not be able to complete a certain task, don't wait a long time before you speak with your boss. If you wait until the last minute, it could be almost impossible for the deadline to be met.
And finally, choose your language carefully. Avoid the word ‘no’ and use expressions like, ‘If I focused on this immediately, I wouldn’t be able to complete the other thing in time.’ Or ‘I have an idea on how to reorganize the workload on this project.”
If you re-frame the way you say ‘no’, it doesn’t actually sound like a no at all!

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