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14 Ways to Say No to Your Boss Without Getting Fired



14 Ways to Say No to Your Boss Without Getting Fired

No one teaches you how to say no to your boss. But for every employee, there comes a time when that skill becomes necessary. There are several different ways you can get the message across.

How to say no to your boss is just like saying no to anyone else. But if done incorrectly, there is no guarantee that you’ll keep your job.

Below, we explore how to say no to your boss in respectful and considerate ways, and we’ll cover the accompanying excuses you can fall back on.


How to Say No to Your Boss: 5 Points to Use When He Gives You an Unreasonable Workload


01My current assignment’s deadline will be affected by this extra work.
This approach won’t get you fired because most bosses prioritize deadlines. Any boss will either transfer the extra workload to someone else, or transfer your existing assignment to someone else to create room for the new projects.


a situation during a foreign meeting
Photo by acworks on photo-ac


E.g. Mr. Smith, I have received your notes on the new assignment, but I fear I will have to decline.
I have existing assignments in place with deadlines that cannot be changed, and this additional work will impact the project schedule.


02I have to meet my child’s teacher at school to discuss something urgent, and she’s only free right after work hours.
Because parent-summons by teachers are common, your boss is likely to understand and let you go. He also won’t ask for receipts or formal confirmation from the meeting, because such meetings are rarely recorded.


E.g. Ms. Long, I am afraid I cannot take on the extra work because I will not be available to handle it.
I have an urgent meeting with a teacher at my child’s school, and she’s only available around 5pm, the same time I would be expected to tackle the extra work. I humbly apologize for the inconvenience.


03My uncle passed away today; I have to go provide support for my family.
Family emergencies—such as the passing of immediate family members—always take priority, so your boss is more likely to understand and not ask questions. You will not be fired.


man talking on phone sad
Photo by Nina P on reshot


E.g. Mr. Park, I have received your new assignment.
Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to take on this work, I have also received news of my Uncle Leonard’s death, and I have to go be of comfort to my family. Please accept my apologies.


04I have appointments with a realtor after work to view a potential new home.
Any employer will understand if you have to look for a new apartment/home during your time off work.


white and red wooden house miniature
Photo by Tierra Mallorca on unsplash


E.g. Dear Mrs. Gilmour, I have to continue my apartment search today, so I will not be able to take on the extra work you have assigned me.
I have had some issues with my current landlord and need to leave my building. I have an appointment lined up today for a viewing at a new place. Thank you for understanding.


05My parents are waiting for me, right now, at the Grove Hotel; we’ve had this meeting planned for three weeks now.’
This excuse works well because it suggests urgency and involves your parents. Your boss should respect that you’ve already made plans and the familial obligations that come with that.
You will not need to prove that your parents are actually waiting for you; it’s easier for the boss to believe that your prior engagement is legitimate.


E.g. Ms. Jones, regarding the extra workload you’ve assigned to me, I am going to have to pass it on to a colleague.
As it happens, my parents are waiting for me right now at The Grove Hotel for a meeting. We’ve had it planned for weeks, and they’re in town for only today. That leaves me no time to handle the extra work today. Please try to understand.


How to Say No to Your Boss: 4 Ways to Decline When He Asks You to Work Overtime with No Pay


06I have a home renovation appointment with my landlord during that time, and I cannot postpone again.
Apartment or house renovations are a necessary evil, so your boss will understand. This excuse is airtight because he won’t be asking you for evidence— that’s private info.


guy with cap pushing the white wall
Photo by Charles Deluvio on unsplash


E.g. Mr. Root, I am afraid I have to turn down the extra work because I have an appointment with a contractor to fix water damage in my flat. I have postponed this appointment for a month already, so I cannot miss it.


07I have online classes after work hours.
Whether online or not, continuing your education is essential, and your boss is likely to understand that.


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Image from Startup Stock Photo under pexels license


E.g. Dear Miss Jones, regarding that extra work you assigned me, I will not be available to handle it.
I must attend my online classes about the same time every Wednesday, and I cannot afford to miss a lecture.


08This assignment is too extensive to complete during work hours.
If your boss really wants a deadline met, it’s best to be honest about your ability to meet that deadline within the provided time frame.


E.g. Mr. Mulligan, this extra workload requires a little more than 8 hours to complete, which stretches past today’s work hours. I am afraid I cannot finish it before tomorrow..


09I cannot afford additional child care.
Your boss is likely to understand if you cannot afford to stay at work for unpaid overtime because of your children. Hence, your job will stay safe.


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Photo by cottonbro under pexels license


E.g. Dear Ms. West, I must humbly decline the extra work you’ve offered.
As much as I’d like to be a team player here, I am also the sole parent for my children, and I cannot afford additional child care for post-work hours. I hope you can understand.


How to Say No to Your Boss: 5 Excuses to Use When He Asks You to Work a Shift You Don’t Like


10I’ve had a terrible migraine all day. I’m just not operating at full capacity. I need to lay down for a while after work.
Your boss is likely to understand if you are not feeling well enough to work an additional shift. There’s no issue of receipts either, because you don’t claim to be going to see a doctor.


sad man looking at the table
Photo by acworks on photo-ac


E.g. Mr. Anderson, I am sorry, but I have had this terrible migraine all afternoon, and I feel so unwell. I need to lay down after work and recuperate.
Unfortunately, I will not be available for the new shift you’ve assigned me.


11I have already committed to driving my mother to her optician appointment that day.
This excuse works because it triggers guilt in the boss when used right. It also requires no material proof because your boss will not request medical certificates as evidence; it’s not you getting the eye exams.


man driving a car
Photo by under pexels license


E.g. Mr Henri, I have already agreed to drive my mother to her optician appointment around the time of the new shift you’ve given me, so I won’t be able to come in for this one.
My mother can’t drive, and I’m sure you understand that the appoint can’t be moved. I am requesting to stay on my current shift.


12I’ve got to receive a major delivery at home around the time of that shift.
Parcel theft is a big deal, so your boss is likely to understand if you have to accept yours in person.


brown wooden boxes and a dog
Photo by Curology on unsplash


E.g. Mrs. Sanders, I am afraid the new shift will not work for me. I must be home on that day to accept some furniture being delivered around the same time.


13I am usually working another part-time position elsewhere during the time of that new shift.
If your company allows you to work on a part-time basis, this is the perfect excuse. Your boss can’t chain you to a shift when you’ll be working somewhere else.


E.g. Mr. Mullins, I do not mean to disrupt your shift order, but the new shift does not work for me.
I am usually off to my part-time job around that same time, so the scheduling can’t work. I request to be transferred back to an earlier shift.


14I have a community volunteer thing at my church/temple/synagogue that would overlap with that shift. I cannot get out of it.
If you have previously shown strong affiliation to your religious community, this excuse works well. Don’t be too specific about the church event as that will only trigger more questions.


E.g. Mr. Simmons, I will not be available for the new shift you’ve requested I work on.
I am already signed up for a community volunteer program at my church/temple/synagogue scheduled for the same time as the new shift. This engagement cannot be postponed. I apologize for any inconveniences.



How to say no to your boss is probably the last thing anyone will ever teach you. But it is a valuable skill, as any employee will tell you.
If you have a hard time knowing how to say no to your boss at work, try any of the simple examples above. Good luck!

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