How to Politely Say No to Your Boss

Has there ever been a time when you wanted to say ‘no’ to your boss? Were you too nervous to do it? Case on point: your relationship with your boss is a priority. Let’s admit it, your performance can greatly affect that connection simply because bosses will be easy on their employees if they aren’t breaking any rules, and are consistently working through their responsibilities each day.

And speaking of responsibilities, what are they? The question is simple because it needs a simple answer. What are your roles and responsibilities based on your contract? In layman’s term, did you sign up for it?

When you perform very well in the workplace, people would admire you, including your boss. And because your boss trusts you so much, he might assign more than what suits you and your position. So how do you politely say ‘no’ to your boss? Note the emphasis here on ‘politely’! Let us run through some key points which you may find useful…


This is the first thing to keep in mind. Balance what, you may ask? Balance your heart and mind-and analyze using both. First, try to analyze the task or the situation. What is happening? Who is it for? Is it your job or someone else’s? Did you sign up for it? What would be the outcome? These are just some of the points to think about as you analyze. You will hopefully come up with a rational but empathetic explanation for your boss.

Having to balance heart and mind is a must in all situations. This may require some serious time to listen to yourself. Finding it hard? Try drawing how you feel or listing down on paper the things which bother you. By balancing your heart and mind, you will be able to create a logical and reasoned way to say ‘no’ to your boss.


To many, putting thoughts and reasoning into words doesn’t come easy. When explaining, make sure you articulate your points well. What’s the biggest concern here? Remember to be firm but respectful.

Some things to consider:

  • When making a call, make sure you send your boss a written message too
  • When sending a message, make sure you proof-read and read it as if you are the recipient
  • Think before you speak- organize your thoughts the best way you can before you speak
  • Calm down. It’s just an explanation, you are not fighting with your boss!

On being polite, make sure you are cautious with the words you use. Your explanation must be straightforward, rational. Also, be confident in your approach- don’t waffle and get straight to the point. Just remember that saying no is fine but make sure you say it respectfully.

  • LET GO

After explaining politely and carefully, let go. Let go of the stress. This should not be a problem, because your boss has to respect your decision. Whether a dinner meeting or a new task which is not supposed to be yours, rejecting an offer that goes beyond the things you are capable of is okay. Letting go means being content with what you did.Saying ‘no’ to your boss requires a lot of strength. To most people, saying ‘no’ in general is not so easy. In a culture of close family ties like in Asian countries, this may be common because of respect and affection. In the corporate world, being professional is a must and emotions shouldn’t rule.

While it is true that saying “no” is not easy for most, start with yourself and try to change that culture- you don’t have to say ‘yes’ at all times. You are about to experience new things with that simple choice of saying yes or no. 

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