How to say “no” to your supervisor at work

Productivity Arata! If you need to learn to say “no” at work and say “no” to your boss, this video is for you.

In your professional career, you will often come across situations where heavy workload and high demand can overwhelm you and compromise the quality of your work. In these cases, it’s important that you learn to say “no” in your professional context.

Everyone needs to say “no” at work. That goes for the trainee and for the CEO, but there’s the right way and the right time for that if you want to keep a professional attitude. If you haven’t mastered this skill yet, you may be scared and afraid to say “no” since that may convey the wrong idea that you don’t want to work as a team. What you will learn here is exactly the opposite: since you know how to work as a team, you will present your “no” the right way, with professionalism.

1. Think before you answer

In a professional environment, the word “NO” will help you avoid making empty promises. You will always need to consider the context of the other activities on your to-do list. That level of organisation is required if you don’t want to get flustered.

Don’t say “YES” to requests if that means that you’re going to make your colleagues feel frustrated because you can’t keep your word.

A professional attitude means that you will first examine what’s being asked, think about it and then give a more conscious and realistic answer. In order to do that, you will have to actively listen.

Make sure you fully understand the new task that’s being requested. Understand its scope and its level of detail.

2. Figure out how you will do the activity and communicate that

In professional communication, you will first want to agree on the scope of the activity and the kind of strategy you will use to comply with the request. This will enable you to create a realistic expectation of how much time the task will require from you.

How To Say No class Arata Academy

Based on your experience, try to mentally picture the process you will need to go through. The kind of information you’ll need and how long it will take for you to process the material, review what you have prepared and finally deliver the work.

Explain which strategy you are planning on using. This part is very important. You will often be inefficient if you are working on some unnecessary details. This is an especially important tip for those who are meticulous. It turns out that sometimes that additional care will only consume time in an ineffective way, as well as stress you out and make your boss upset because of the delay to finish the task.

That’s why clear communication is paramount. If you want to learn how to communicate better, then check out our course “How to Say No”, which is a course on communication and emotional intelligence.

3. Check out whatever you are already doing

Before making a commitment, you also need to check out which tasks you are already involved with.

You don’t need to go into too much detail. Be objective, with assertiveness and professional attitude. No whining, playing victim or getting flustered. You must understand that both you and your supervisor want to make the best possible use of the available resources, and for that it’s necessary to leave everything on the table.

Explain the dates when you promised to deliver each one of your other projects. In some companies, you work with only one supervisor. In others, you may be working under more than one supervisor or with multiple departments simultaneously.

It’s easier if you’ve only got one supervisor, because they would have made the other requests. And they will be able to tell you which task is a priority.

If the other things you’re doing have been requested by other departments, you must look into how hierarchy works within your company, because maybe your boss will have to come to an agreement directly with the heads of the other departments.

4. Understand your position within the company

There are other situations where you do have the ability to do some requested activity, but you don’t want to.

Let’s assume that you need to do a painful job, such as collect a document from across town. That’s not the kind of job you were hired to do. You don’t want to go. But it’s something that needs to be done personally by someone from the company.

In this example, if your supervisor picked you for the task, you must understand your position in the hierarchy.

It’s a different situation if you are a professional with decades of experience, who has paid the price in advance, for having given your best when it was necessary, and today you are on a top position, or if your hourly rate is expensive and the company needs you to do more important activities. Then you’re far more likely to be able to refuse doing the job. You have already paid the price to have this power of determination on your career.

How To Say No class Arata Academy

Now, if you have just recently graduated and are still in a lower hierarchical position, your hourly rate will be lower and you will be forced to accept that you’ve got little bargaining power.

In that case, it will be your choice to carry on working for the company or to find another place to work, depending on the number of painful tasks you have to be doing often. If you choose to stay in the job, that’s your choice and you will be accepting to keep on doing things that you don’t want to do.

5. Understand and accept the realistic consequences

I’m sure some of you are thinking that it’s very naïve to believe that you have the ability to say “no” at work. I know there will be people arguing that if they say “no” they will be fired. But will they?

Think with me. If you assume a professional attitude, explaining your availability with respect, clarifying what you’re already doing and asking what the priorities are, the natural outcome is that you will be respected as a serious professional who wants to make the best possible use of their time.

However, if you are acting with a high level of professionalism and yet your supervisor has a tantrum and decides to punish you, what does that mean? It’s a sign that you are working in the wrong place. Your supervisor is lacking professionalism.

Your company and your supervisor have the responsibility to provide you with the appropriate resources so that you can do what is required from you. If you are prompted to do something that you can’t do, it’s your responsibility to explain in a professional way what your limits are and what you can and cannot do.

It is wrong to receive an impossible request, stay quiet and simply don’t deliver the job on the due date. Now, that would be very bad.

Let’s illustrate that with an example: imagine that your supervisor has asked you to do a report and deliver it today. However, you have two other reports which are also due today, and you’ve promised to deliver them on time. In other words, you won’t be able to deliver the third report too. It’s your responsibility to explain that. And then you and your supervisor will determine which one is the top priority together. What you shouldn’t do is to clam up, get to the brink of a collapse or deliver three badly done reports. You can’t work alone and build up anger. You need assertiveness to speak with clarity and professionalism.

You are not required to automatically say “yes” to everything. In fact, that would show a lack of professionalism, because sooner or later you would end up failing to deliver what you have promised or, even worse, in order to manage to fulfil your promises, you will need to do a lot of overtime and then feel victimised or edgy, and you may even collapse. Don’t make empty promises.

Keep a professional attitude when assessing your different tasks and use good communication to determine the scope of each activity, the available resources and the realistic delivery time. To do so, please visit the website and learn to develop professional skills of communication, negotiation and assertiveness with the course “How to Say No”.