How To Say No To Your Boss Without Getting Fired

Let’s face it, our bosses have authority over us.  How many times have you done something you dislike because your boss told you so?  How many times have you crossed the line and did something your values questioned?  Remember, that you have the right to say no.   But have you ever said no to your boss?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sending you to anarchy school here.  Instead, you should know that not everything that your boss wants you to do should be done without much thought.

When to Question Orders

I’ve faced numerous instances when I have to choose between following my own values or just blindly execute instructions from my superiors.  In all instances, I chose what I valued.  There were times when I got in trouble and there were times when things work out for the better.  But in the end, it is you who will make that decision.  So what are the instances where you should question what your superior is asking you to do?

  • When people might get hurt
  • When you know it is morally wrong
  • When it is illegal
  • When it violates your spiritual/religious beliefs
  • When it violates the corporate rulebook
  • When it contradicts with previous decisions or directives

There are other instances when you should stop first and contemplate on your actions.  But the list above provides the general theme.  Furthermore, one must clearly delineate what you think falls in the list and those that you just do not like doing. I’ve done things that I know are right but hate doing it anyway.  For such instances, disobeying is just the fast route to an insubordination case.

The Proper Mindset

When employees are given a task their capabilities are being utilized by the company.  However, when one does a job half-heartedly, both the employee and the company suffer.  But before lashing out and saying no to your boss, consider the following first:

  • Say no to improve the current system and not just to get out of the task
  • Consider the implications of not following the instructions – who will be affected and how many will have a more difficult time
  • Think about why your boss wants you to do the task
  • Are you willing to talk to your superior about your concerns and issues?

The Proper Approach

Before anything else, remember that your boss still outranks you.  Moreover, you must extend as much respect as you can to the person.  They are there for a reason and that reason may not be clear to you.  But the fact is, your boss is there.  Approaching your boss properly is imperative.  Here are ways you can say no without getting fired.

  • Provide adequate data
  • Be polite and non-confrontational
  • Organize your thoughts and your information
  • Highlight the cause and effects
  • Provide viable alternatives and emphasize their advantages
  • Prepare!

We may never fully understand the decisions of our superiors as they are privy to information we may not know.  However, this does not mean you simply say yes to everything that is dished out on you.  Companies need people who can provide useful information and viable alternatives.  When there is enough reason to say no, you have the obligation to air out your concern.

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14 thoughts on “How To Say No To Your Boss Without Getting Fired”

  1. It may be hard on any employee to stand up for what they know is right when their boss might be thinking on the opposite direction. But think of the consequences if you just remain quiet when you know that things are not going right. Will you be ale to stand in such kind of environment? You might feel threatened in using your job to let the whole truth out but it might be just worth it.

    • many employees fear this. that’s why they just shut up and do as ordered. Eventually either they become desensitized to doing something wrong or they become miserable. A value-centered employee will speak up. Unfortunately, this is not the culture here in the Philippines.

      I allow my team to speak up and air their issues without fear. In the end, when we can discuss issues logically and professionally, we can be more productive.

      My superiors know that i’m one that will speak up and stand up for what i believe in. Of course this is done in a respectful way.

  2. phew… this is easier to read than do. and yes, prepare… I said “no” it cause me 2-years miserable life at work… I went to the labor to ask for assistance in case I will be terminated.. and so… after the year, the principal was not rehired, I was retained. hehhe.. bygones.

    • Yes this is easier said than done. But this is how I rolled at work and they know it. LOL

      When superiors hear the word “No” we will have a better grasp at the level of their professionalism and maturity. There are immature bosses who will make your life a living hell.

      • i am not sure but I think it was the first time this person heard “no” from a subordinate. I have a stand too and I won’t jeopardize my work and students’ learning. so I was miserable for two years always, and totally a “shit” I did not quit much as I wanted to, but I was right. that’s why I had the courage to oppose to what she wanted. LOL. I won the battle the school didn’t want to pay for damages because they will lose the lawsuit. Got my dignity back. which is the most important. phew.. what a battle.

  3. I have a trust mentality when it comes to those in authority. I trust the authorities. I don’t usually question them. But that was when I was younger. Now that I see some of those people in authority are younger than me, I figure I should know better than them what is right and what is wrong. I decide that just because these people are in authority, that don’t make them right all the time and I’m beginning to question them and sometimes to refuse to listen to them.

  4. I’ve had a few instances in my life where saying no to my bosses was the thing to do for moral and ethical reasons. One of these incidents would have meant instant loss of my job so I did the task and regret that decision to this day.

  5. To “No” the boss is like going on strike. One must be sure of one’s stance, but also realize that certain consequences may result, such as dismissal. A 5-star post, indeed.


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