How to Say No to Your Boss Without Getting Fired

How to Say No to Your Boss Without Getting Fired

We can all acknowledge the difficulty of saying ‘no’ to an individual. The reason why is we tend to try our best to comply with situations and satisfy all parties. However, everything has a limit and as humans, we aren’t always comfortable on all occasions. Now, imagine this person you’re trying to say ‘no’ to is your boss!! I bet that refusing to complete a task or declining an offer became even more complicated, didn’t it? It’s all right, we have all been there and done that at least once in our lives, if you haven’ done so yet, it’s time to learn a few techniques to help you out. Continue reading to figure out How to Say No to Your Boss Without Getting Fired


Keeping in mind all situations require a different approach, these are a few ways how to say no to your boss:


1. Consider contourning the situation.

Being direct is usually the way to go. Nevertheless, if you find yourself in a delicate setting, contouring the topic could be a useful approach to follow. 

What does it mean exactly? It means you don’t have to provide a direct answer per se. You could ask questions about the task, or when your boss would need it for, you could ask if anyone else in the company is currently working on this same project, or if other coworkers will be assisting you with it. 

Usually when people start asking many questions before giving the final ‘okay, I will do it’, it either means they are not really trying to accept it, or they are trying to conciliate in their minds the many other things still pending on their agenda. Consequently, contouring the situation could be one way to adopt when refusing a task at work politely, especially when it’s coming from your boss. 


2. Use your body language to your advantage.

Another indirect way to decline a job assignment is to make great use of your body language! Despite what you might already know, verbal and written communication are not the only effective ways to communicate. Being able to use your body (eyebrows, hands, shoulders, etc.) to express what you’re trying to convey is a useful skill to perfect.

We don’t necessarily need to be psychologists in order to translate what somebody’s crossed arms and high up eyebrows mean. Below are some examples to keep in mind:


use your body language to say no to your boss

After understanding the power of body language, how can you use it to say no to your boss without getting fired? 

Let’s say your manager or supervisor just came up to you and asked you to take over on a huge project you don’t have time to complete whatsoever. What posture are you going to portrait? How are you going to position your hands? 

Don’t worry, this isn’t a TV show or action movie. Stay true to yourself and embrace your feelings. Perhaps try bringing your hands to your face and start scratching your forehead -- it means you’re reflecting and somewhat considering the task. Depending on how you do it, it might seem that you're overwhelmed. It all depends on what point you’re trying to come across. 

Another option is to raise your eyebrows and press your lips. It shows you’re surprised by the extra task that is being given to you.  

There are many books about body language if you’re deep into topics like this. You’ll find very interesting information about it and might find it useful for your job and life overall. 


3. How to say no to your boss? Try a quick pause between your response.

Let’s say you did not want to contour the situation, nor use your body language to say ‘no’ to your boss. An alternative to communicate your denial would be to use pauses between your response. It will help you in two ways:

  • It will allow you time to come up with a good answer;

  • It will indicate you’re thinking about the proposal. 


Although it is not an ideal method, it could buy you some time to react to whatever assignment your boss is handing out to you. 


An example would be:

“I’m still working on (pause) the project you assigned to me on Monday, and will most likely need some help to finish it on time. Could a colleague assist?” 

This pause and change of ‘scenario’ will express your position in this situation, permitting your supervisor to understand you’re already booked and busy with other priority tasks. 

Using pauses during a response implies you’re carefully giving it some thought and consideration. Therefore, when you release the final refusal, it will not seem like you haven't taken it into account.  


4. Respond with a question.

This is the typical way to show you’re analysing a task before giving in and accepting it. It is an approach we’d take when refusing to do tasks at home when your mom or dad would ask us to, such as: ‘wash the dishes’, ‘vacuum the floor’, or ‘take out the trash’. Yes, I know you can relate to this!

A few questions you could use in this case are:


  • What is the due date?

  • Is it a high-priority task?

  • Who else would be working on this with me?

  • What do I need to do exactly?


These questions will help you understand if you are actually not interested or don’t have time for the assignment, and will show your boss your time is valuable


5. Be honest, but say it on a one-on-one

The last and most frightening way to say no to your boss without getting fired is to be transparent, but during a one-on-one conversation. Why? When it comes to your boss, you need to avoid power battles, which (trust me when I say this) gets very intense if you start an argument with him/her in front of your coworkers.

This being said, listen to what they have to tell you, take a break, and then reach out to them asking for a quick private meeting. During this meeting, tell them the issue: the time frame is unrealistic, you’d be neglecting other high priority tasks, you don’t feel like you have the skills to complete it, you might need assistance, or you have a lot on your plate at the moment. 

It’s true this article is aimed at assisting you saying no to your boss while still being able to keep your job, but it’s always helpful to ask yourself the following questions before giving out an answer:

  • Am I already stuffed with multiple high priority assignments that allow me no time for anything else?

  • Am I qualified for the task? If not, can I work on the skills to be qualified for it and will it help me in the future with further assignments?

  • Could a coworker assist with this new assignment my boss is handing over to me?

  • Can I hit a pause on my lower-priority projects, so that I can take on this new one?

  • Am I the only person in the company able to complete this project?

  • Will accepting this new assignment make me too stressed to the point it can compromise my health? 


After asking yourself these questions and coming up with honest answers, your consciousness and intuition will guide you to make the right decision. Nonetheless, no matter the outcome, you should never respond your boss with the following statements:

  • “This assignment seems too difficult”

  • “I didn’t sign up for this”

  • “I don’t have time for this” (although it might be true, come up with a more elaborative response)

  • “I have more important things to do” (use other words if this is the case)


These were some techniques on How to Say No to Your Boss Without Getting Fired. We know that talking to your boss and giving them a response they don’t want to hear can be intimidating, but if you aren’t happy with it and they continue to give you assignments you don’t want to follow, maybe it's time for a new job. Lucky for you, there are multiple vacancies available across Europe!