How Dare You Say No, I’m the Boss

How Dare You Say No, I’m the Boss

When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying
no to yourself”

Paul Coelho

I was exchanging messages with someone on LinkedIn this week who had read my Top 7 Career mistakes mini eBook and could see himself making these mistakes as he stepped up into a more senior role.

He also shared with me that the thing he is probably not good at is saying no to his bosses.

I sent him some advice and then decided I would also write a post that would help others who struggle with this. So here it is.

Why Is It Difficult?

Saying no to your boss is difficult because it invokes emotion. Emotion from your boss who is under external pressure to get something done and emotion from you as you are usually oversubscribed, but wants to progress your career.

I find that if you approach it like a professional project manager, it takes a lot of the emotion out of the discussion and makes it easier for both parties to negotiate a way forward.

To be in the position of negotiation, you need to do some project manager prework.

Project Planning

The first step a project manager will do when planning is to determine the resourcing capacity he has to work with.

Maximum Capacity

Do you know your maximum capacity?

I like to measure it at the point where I feel I can progress my career but not impact the relationship with my loved ones.

How will you measure yours?

Existing Commitments

The next step a project manager would do is understand how much time remains after taking into account the project team’s existing commitments.

Have a clear and detailed picture of these, their priorities, the business impact of slowing each of them down and the capacity you have remaining.

If you are currently over capacity, it’s time to negotiate as below.

Project Plan

A project manager would now create a visual representation of the plan so he can track/adjust and demonstrate to others the impact of changing project scope.

This is a great way to visually demonstrate the impact with your boss when negotiating a new piece of work.

There are many visual ways to do this, pick the one that’s easy for you.

leadership coaching

Dealing with New Requests

When your boss approaches you with a new piece of work.

Make sure you understand the piece of work in full – timelines, priority and business value.

Make an estimate of the time needed and look at your plan. Can you fit it in the project?

If you cannot fit it in, then like a professional project manager, you have three variables to play with – Time, Scope, Resources.


If you have no more time, you can negotiate the timelines of your existing commitments by judging the relative business impact of slowing down the new and exciting work.


If you cannot find a way forward with time, can you reduce the scope of some of your existing commitments?


Still blocked?

Can someone else pick up the new or existing pieces of work with your support?

An excellent opportunity to grow someone in your team and raise their visibility with your boss.

Stale Mate

If you cannot agree, then you are going to have to suck it up.

If this onslaught looks to continue though, you need to look at your team strength and capacity to determine who can take work off your plate so you can free up some capacity for the work your boss needs you to do.

Project Review

Regularly review your project plan to ensure business value and priorities are the same as they do change.

Also re-evaluate time, scope and resourcing to keep it accurate.

Wrap Up

From my experience of managing many projects, emotion will always play a part because there is always pressure on the requesting party to get things done.

Following this strategy will allow you to reduce the emotion by having a professional conversation over the relative business value of slowing down, reducing the scope and allocating additional resources.

I know this strategy takes some more time from you, but remember you intend to protect your time with your loved ones.

Hope this has been helpful.

Talk to you soon.