is it okay to say “no” at work?

My mail at Ask a Manager is full of letters from people who want to say no to something their employer is asking of them, but feel that they can’t – that part of having a job is putting up with whatever’s asked of them, or that pushing back would forever taint them in their manager’s eyes.

But, contrary to a lot of convention wisdom, it’s often perfectly fine to say no at work or otherwise push back. I wrote a piece for Slate about why people fear saying no at work, and how you can do it effectively. You can read it here.

{ 84 comments… read them below }

  1. Amber Rose*

    Saying no is better than the possible alternative of failing horribly, damaging your reputation in more than just your boss’s eyes, and having to do damage control for months after.

    Not that I know what that’s like or anything.

  2. D.W.*

    This came at such a great time. I have been asked to take on additional work that is not in my job description and that I do not want to do, but was trying to figure out if I had standing to decline.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I would talk to your boss about this before saying no and try to get an understanding of the background and why it’s coming your way. If you do decide to push back I would be careful how you do it, realizing that the end result may be that you’re doing the additional work anyway and you’ve damaged your relationship with your boss.

      IME, the best thing to do in these situations is to negotiate for the best deal possible understanding that you are likely going to end up doing the additional.

    2. D.W.*

      Definitely! I wouldn’t say just say “no”. It’s more given my current workload and that this particular ask seems better suited for someone in a different department I’d prefer not to take it on.

  3. Zona the Great*

    I really needed this when I was a young 20 something working at a Bed and Breakfast. It was owned by a single father who inherited the historic building and business with it. He also lived in the guest house with his kids. Almost every week he’d “ask” me to clean his house, do his dishes, clean his kids’ room, organize his kids’ room, digitize and archive his family photos, or any little thing he could think of if I got my work done even slightly early for the day. His kids were also pre-teens who played video games while I did those tasks. All of those tasks would require paying me so much more than the $10/hr he paid me to be the innkeeper. I still get mad at him and at myself for putting up with that crap.

    He also would make me do tasks that the other employee “wasn’t very good at” like climbing on the roof to clean and service the roof-top hot tub. So in the heat and in the blizzards, I would be up there instead of her. I’ll forever loath bosses who can’t correct the bad employees and instead punish the good ones like this.

    1. Bea*

      We call it “bonus work” and I never encountered it until my one POS boss.

      I take on more duties because every other boss compensated me for it. I’m fine crawling around in muck in addition to other things if you’re willing to acknowledge I’m frigging amazing and give me more money, even if it’s a small difference. I always got the biggest Christmas bonus for a decade because I bent over backwards to do anything necessary.

    2. AdAgencyChick*


      I get that family businesses often blur the lines between personal work and work for the business…but yeah, there ought to be combat pay for that kind of thing.

    3. whistle*

      “All of those tasks would require paying me so much more than the $10/hr he paid me to be the innkeeper.”

      Yep – this is the crux of it! I had a second job as a barista in a book store once. The coffee bar was slow as molasses, so I would sit and read in between customers. The owner came in one day and couldn’t believe that there were people just sitting around. (The book side wasn’t busy at the time either.) He asked me to go weed the side walk in front of the building. I don’t think I outright said no, but I took my sweat ass time doing it, and I don’t think many weeds were actually pulled. I was like you pay me $8/hr, and that gets you a competently run coffee bar. If you want me to find work to do in between customers, that’s going to cost you a lot more than $8/hr!

      In my current job, my boss lost his mind one day and asked me to translate legal documents from English into a language I knew some of. 1) I do not have the requisite skills and knowledge to translate facebook posts let alone a contract. 2) If I did have said skills, my pay rate at my current job is not anything close to what I would charge for translation services!

      1. Millennial Lawyer*

        I mean, you definitely shouldn’t have been reading even if it was slow. But asking you do WEED?????

        1. whistle*

          Have you ever worked a front facing customer service job that is slow? Reading is the standard for what to do between customers. Customer walks in, book goes away. I’ve worked a few jobs like this, and it was never an issue. I’m not sure what you would suggest someone do in this situation when everything is clean and prepared and there are no customers.

          I once worked a refreshment cart in a gym that had about 6 customers a day. I read all day long. I worked that job for 8 months and read 57 books! (I kept a list – it was awesome!)

          1. Zona the Great*

            Totally! And that boss I spoke of above? When it was slow at the Inn, he would run around searching for tasks I could do to pass the time. When I see that happening, that’s my cue to leave for the day lest I be relegated to scrubbing the banister of the stairwell.

        2. Le Sigh*

          Most jobs like this, reading to pass the time is pretty standard. If things are clean and the customers are served, what are people supposed to do, stare into space?

          1. church lady*

            Ugh! My first job was working the back cash register in the record department at my local Woolworth’s (ask your parents) when I was a high school junior, and I got reprimanded by a manager one day for reading a magazine when it was slow and no customers were in my area. I was told that their “secret shoppers” could report me and get me fired. I was supposed to stare into space if there was nothing to clean/straighten up. I lasted less than two months.

        3. Banker chick*

          Back in the day, I applied to be an office assistant for an attorney. He was semi-retired, having lost many of his clients. Was paying minimum wage and said right in the ad there was a lot of downtime and the incumbent was welcome to read during this time!

  4. Matilda Jefferies*

    One strategy I like is instead of saying no, show them what it would mean to say yes. I actually deployed a version of that this morning in response to an external request for information, with the permission of my grandboss. I’ve been through several rounds of “what you’re asking is unreasonable, but we could do X and Y instead” with the requestor, and their response has always been “Nope, this is what we’re asking for; you figure out how to make it work.”

    So this morning, I sent over a 3000-line spreadsheet with 20 data fields, and the cover letter “attached is the information you requested.” I did *not* say “have fun with this!” or laugh maniacally – or at least not in the email. That part stayed in the office with Grandboss and me. :)

      1. Matilda Jefferies*

        Not yet! I’ll try to check in on the Friday open thread if I do. I’m curious as well!

    1. Little Densie*

      Not quite parallel, but I recently sent a detailed description of everything* everyone in my office does, how long it takes, and what we can get done quarter-by-quarter for the next three years to my boss for her review before it goes to her boss, and my boss’s response was “this is a little dense, can you summarize it?” Well, the summary I’ve been giving–we have way more to do than we have time for and the person in my position has been saying this for the last two decades while the situation is just getting worse and worse–hasn’t been effective, so here’s the whole story.

    2. beth*

      Similar to this, I’ve often used “Yes, if…” in the place of “no”. For example, “Yes, I can take on A, if we can make the deadline in late August after B is done, or if we can push B back to make room for it. Which do you think makes more sense?” Sometimes A’s deadline is flexible. Sometimes B can be pushed back. Sometimes my manager doesn’t like either of those options, and chooses to assign one of the tasks to someone else instead.

      Worth noting: this isn’t for cases where I’m actively unwilling to do the thing (don’t say yes to those), and it doesn’t work with unreasonable managers (who may disregard your ‘if’ and demand that you find a way to do everything at once). But with a reasonable manager, this can be a really useful phrase for juggling new assignments in an already-packed workload.

    3. LQ*

      I did something similar to that once. It was a request from outside our department, they asked us to print and bring with all of our class roster stuff. I printed 50 pages in TEENY TINY FONT and brought it with, dropped it on the table, and said “This is less than 10% of our whole system, do you want it all printed out?” They said no and agreed with all my suggestions. (Everyone else’s fit on a single page.) When I showed it to my boss later he was kind of shocked I’d done that but kept the stack of paper on his desk to prove the point that pushing back works.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        I did something like that in college. For one of my undergrad theses, my thesis professor *insisted* that I include all of my raw data in an appendix at the back. I had nearly 100,000 data points, each with multiple variables. I asked him why, as it wasn’t a standard to do in that field (nor was it really that reasonable to request it suddenly the day before it was due for binding, after several approved revisions the previous weeks). He *insisted*. So I chucked the raw data in an appendix, in tiny font with tiny margins so I didn’t have to pay $75 to print it.

        His face when I turned in a thesis over twice the length of everyone else’s was pretty entertaining. I also looked horrid, as I’d been up until 3AM inserting & printing the stupid thing to get it bound at 7:30AM for my presentation at 8:00AM. IIRC, he got in a decent amount of trouble for that shenanigan, because the dept head popped in for everyone’s thesis summary presentations, and she had heard from my major adviser what this thesis adviser was requiring. I did get an A, so that’s neat.

        FWIW – it wasn’t standard to use actual data for this college’s theses, usually you picked a theoretical topic, and in the prof’s field apparently it was standard to include raw data, but they’d have much, much less data than my field would have. But we were supposed to format our thesis based on a major journal in our fields’ requirements, not this professor’s personal quirks, and all of us had to include a summary of the journal’s requirements with the thesis.

        Second thesis went way, way better than first thesis.

        1. LQ*

          Sometimes when people insist on what they think they want, the best thing you can do is give it to them.

          When I did mine I really wanted to drop it on the table and say “Sabotage.” but I didn’t think anyone else would be a futurama fan or get that if they’d seen it so I just did it the drop it on the table way. There is something deeply satisfying about giving someone what they want only to have them blanch.

          Glad your second went better than your first.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            Sabotage was a much better thought than the one running through my head when I handed it in. Some variant of “and f*ck you too!”, I believe. Especially after he flinched at the book, then looked up and flinched at *me* and said I looked like crap. Especially after he flinched again after I told him I’d been up all night putting in the raw data he requested. Especially *especially* after the presentation, where that prof, the head of dept, and the advising prof were all in attendance, and asking rather difficult questions (I mean, it was a defense), and the head of dept complimented me on how well put together the presentation was, and Thesis Prof wouldn’t even look at me.

            I would say I gracefully flounced out of the room in defiance & pride of my work….but I definitely more dragged myself out of there to collapse in my bed for an hour before my next class, lol.

          2. TardyTardis*

            That reminds me of when the auditors were in and wanted to see all the backup for the acquisition of a major asset. In I went with the box for the golf course…of course we kept all the invoices, why do you ask?

            They backed off of that one in a hurry!

        2. rldk*

          I had a professor for a semester class ask us to print out a research dossier we’d prepared. Except per his specifications, the shortest the dossier could be was at least 200 pages. And printing was not free (or particularly cheap) to students. I asked if he’d be providing reimbursements and when he, confused, said no, I started listing electronic ways I could send my document to him instead.

          I was able to hand it in electronically :)

    4. samiratou*

      Is that a lot?

      Not being snarky, just curious. In my line of work a 3000 row, 20 column spreadsheet is chump change, but I know not everyone’s data sets are the same. :-)

      1. AcademiaNut*

        In my field, raw data is regularly in the terabyte range, and petabytes data sets are looming.

        Raw or minimally processed data is stored in on-line archives, and large tables of derived data are generally stored as machine readable digital files in the electronic journal, with a reference in the print journal.

        We also provide a lot of ex academics to industry big-data jobs.

  5. So anon*

    Yeah, I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to tell my boss I’m not doing a Saturday morning program next year, that one month of summer. It sort of fell in my lap a few years ago, there is no one else to do it, and while I get paid extra for it, it is ruining our July. I have missed ball games, a family reunion and couldn’t commit to an (awesome) family trip we weren’t gonna be paying for and more. Husband (who makes way more $$ than I do, is basically like, “this is not happening again next year,” and I agree with him! Not doing it next year, but not sure how or when to bring that up.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Say it now: “Hey, I want to let you know that I’m not going to be able to do the Saturday morning program next year. I wanted to tell you know so you have plenty of time to find someone else.”

      1. So anon*

        Wow! I feel honored you answered my question. I’m planning on saying that after the event ends this year, but historically speaking, that kind of stuff falls on deaf ears in our office. Our boss will be gone from January -August of 2019 (he’s our owner, but also a state lawmaker and this absence happens every few years, we’ve done it twice before). My fear is that I tell him now I can’t do it next year, but he will never make arrangements for anyone else to do it, because that would require hiring someone, and I’ll be stuck doing it again. It’s an on-air program, so not doing it and letting it fall by the wayside WOULD get me fired.

          1. Snark*

            My feeling, expanding my thinking a little more, is that you need to be persistent and active in both setting this boundary and being part of the solution.

            There’s a little hardass part of me that wants to suggest you buy nonrefundable plane tickets to somewhere awesome next summer, just so you have a little sharper wedge.

            1. So anon*

              The non-refundable ticket thing? I’ve seriously considered it. The intern idea is a good one. We have two colleges here, neither do summer classes, but I will look into that.

      1. Clorinda*

        Or even DURING the event this year, so you can start training your replacement as it’s happening.

        1. So anon*

          They’d have to hire someone. That’s how I got stuck with this. We used to have weekend on-air talent, now we are automated, so coverage is only needed for four Saturday’s while we do this program.

          1. So anon*

            I should add, only two of us are qualified to do this, and it takes two people, so we are both stuck on these Saturday’s.

            1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

              Stop coming up with the excuses for your boss :)

              As others have mentioned, talk to your boss and let them know now that you won’t be able to do this next year. Then periodic reminders (such as put in for vacation now for something next year during that time frame, you can always move it to when you really need it as it gets closer once a replacement has been found).

  6. Girl from the North Country*

    Sometimes saying no can work in your favor, too. I work in a really high-risk financial role, and recently my boss told me to do something that would’ve allowed a certain stock to be traded, despite that stock not meeting our trading criteria, which I’m responsible for. Instead of just saying yes and blindly doing what I was told, I pushed back and asked why he was making the request, if he was aware it didn’t meet our criteria, etc, and he realized that I was right and was very grateful to me for slowing down the process. We could’ve lost a lot of money if I had approved his request. Because of moments like this, my boss sees me as someone who can be trusted to think through serious decisions. Don’t be afraid to say no when something isn’t right! Your reputation could depend on it.

    1. Kind of new here*

      I love this strategy. I work in a similar role (risk management), where it is important for those committed with fulfilling requests think through the risk implications. I managed someone who blindly implemented a project that had very adverse affect on our customers and had to be rolled back immediately. The requestor took the heat, as he was responsible for pushing a reckless project, but my analyst just did as he was told. Had he questioned the new project or, at minimum, thought through the effect it would have on customers, it would have saved a lot of people a lot of trouble. We need people to question things rather than blindly fulfill tasks just because someone in a position of authority requested it.

    2. Bea*

      It’s also critical in times you’re asked to do something that results in breaking laws. I’ve had plenty of moments where the response is “that’s not correctly allocated, we’d be cooked in an audit.”

      However when it comes to extra duties and such, it depends on the boss. All but one of mine knew if I said no, it’s because I’m not capable of handling that task for whatever reason. The one toxic dbag turned into a fire breathing sack of turds and shocker, I left within a month of his meltdown.

  7. Temperance*

    I have a blanket policy where I say “no” to anything that isn’t going to advance my career or that someone else, in theory, should be doing. It mostly has worked out; my most recent “no” was for being the “daffodil days” person, which would have been a huge waste of my time.

      1. Snark*

        I have no idea, but for some reason, just the phrase itself suggests that being the person for it is a massive waste of time – whatever the hell it might be.

        1. Lonely Cloud*

          Daffodils always remind me of Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” I though maybe it was a clever name for a day when you don’t get anything done. heh.

      2. I am who I am*

        It’s a cancer society thing. In return for donating to the cancer society, you get bunches of daffodils for yourself, or you can ask they be delivered to cancer patients in hospitals / hospice. Being the organizer is much like being a girl scout cookie parent or the united way organizer.

  8. Kind of new here*

    When I’ve been asked to do projects that require more time/effort than the current timeline or bandwidth allows, I usually let the requestor know what the actual level of effort is to support the request. More often than not, we’re able to have an open discussion about how to solve their problem more efficiently, or to realistically assess the ROI of the request which may mean scrapping it if it doesn’t make sense. Another option is to list out all projects currently on your plate and list them in order of priority/level of effort and discuss along with your manager. This gives them full clarity of what you’re currently working on, and may mean something gets knocked off the list and moved to someone else or put on hold. It’s also a good opportunity to express your passion for certain tasks/projects over others and can help you develop your career. Of course, there are those managers out there who have an attitude of “because I’m the boss and I said so,” and any push back will be an uphill battle. But it’s best to make sure their attitude is not a reaction to your push back coming off as whiny. After having managed people a few years, I’ve found those who struggle with saying no, usually do so in a way that comes off as defensive or whiny. It’s important to be open to hearing your boss’s side and to accept the possibility that they may not accept your “no” this time, and it may be for valid reason.

  9. LadyByTheLake*

    I am having this problem right now — we have a new grandboss who keeps asking us to do work that (1) isn’t ours to do — there is a whole different department that does this work, and (2) we don’t have the capacity to do. The problem is that my boss won’t push back because she thinks it’s rude to say no. I say that it isn’t rude to politely point out that there is a different department that does this and make the necessary introductions. Not only that, but by doing everything that he asks without question, she is training him to think that it is her (and my) job, AND she isn’t empowering him with the information that he needs to ask the right people for what is needed. It is making me crazy.

  10. ThatGirl*

    This is somewhat timely… I said yes to being part of a new pilot here, and now I need to figure out how to back out of it.

    Because the thing is… there are larger aspects of the project I should definitely be aware of. But there are *twice-weekly* meetings — at 4 pm, when I normally leave at 4 — and having sat through one already I can tell that I will have nothing to contribute to these. I don’t need to be there. My part would come in *after* the project is launched; they are currently in the “planning to launch” stage.

    So I need to figure out how to nicely talk to my boss and her boss (who voluntold me for it) and not need to go to twice weekly prelaunch meetings.

    1. Autumnheart*

      Do they have an agenda for the 4pm meeting, and is there by chance a wiki or similar function set up so that people further downstream in the project (such as yourself) can get an overview of what’s being done before they come on board?

      1. ThatGirl*

        the PMO has been putting out agendas, so yes, that also helps prove my case. No wiki – it’s not that complicated nor are we that high tech. BUT in between my posting that and now, my boss’ boss just happened to come by so I went ahead and brought it up, and she agreed that there was no need for me to be at all those meetings. HUZZAH!

  11. MusicWithRocksInIt*

    This reminds me of the time my boss had me re-work her boyfriend’s resume. Who worked in a construction-type field. He had lots of certifications and experience that I had no idea what it meant. It was a page that was pretty much one block of text, so I was able to make it look a lot better (thanks to this website!), but I’m still not sure what out of all that mess I should have been focusing on, and I sorta mumbled to myself in annoyance the whole time. I probably would have spoke up if I had an actual job related thing to do, but we were pretty dead that day so I didn’t have a ready excuse.

  12. Earthwalker*

    Somewhat off topic but I’m dying to ask Alison: How do you recognize fake scenarios? I saw several were pulled from Friday comments (which makes perfect sense) but after problems like the admin assigned to do a kid’s homework and the crazy stories in the annual “worst boss” lists, I wonder how it’s possible to distinguish a crazy fake scenario from such crazy real ones.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In this case, they were all being posted by the same person.

      I’m sure fake ones have slipped through without me realizing it too … but if I know that it’s happening and that someone is abusing the good will of the site and intentionally wasting people’s time, that’s not okay with me.

    2. whistle*

      As a connoisseur of advice columns, I think that as long as the scenarios are plausible and the advise would be useful for a lot of people, I don’t really care if the initial letter is fake.

      It would be a bummer to award worst boss of the year to a fictional character, though, just because there are so many real people deserving of the honor!

  13. Annoyed*

    I think asking an employee to do your kid’s homework…even just part of it is beyond the pale though. It’s taking serious advantage.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I like how you think. I on the other hand would have declined outright. Go on fire me for refusing to do your child’s school work. Let’s see how well that goes over.

    1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      One of my former bosses assigned some graphic design work to me that was actually for her side non-profit- I didn’t realize it at the time because she was vague about the details, I just did the work because I did all the design work in our department. Then she started having me email some random people who were on the board for their input, and I was bombarded with all sorts of angry, conflicting emails about my design work, to the point where I couldn’t get anything done at my regular job because I was trying to manage all these people and their ideas. I brought this up with her a few times and each time she said she’d take care of it, but keep working on the designs and don’t tell anyone else what I was doing….I ended up redesigning their website, which is something I should have gotten paid for and received credit for. But I was young and ignorant, so lesson learned!

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        “…don’t tell anyone else what I was doing…”

        Whenever someone says something like this, it’s definitely time to check if you should be doing it or not. Of course ‘young and ignorant’ I understand. We’ve all been there.

  14. Not Australian*

    Argh, I had this with a previous employer. “Oh, we thought you could do [wildly extrovert thing which involves acting and would take you away from your family on your precious weekend, for which we’ll pay you slightly less per hour than you get for your regular job]”. Nope. You pay me to run your main office, not to make an exhibition of myself trying to push your side business.

    Relations broke down after that and we parted company. One of us went out of business a short time later, but it wasn’t me.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      I’ve never understood the attitude of employers who can’t grasp that you are basically renting out your time to them and who seem to think that this contract (it’s implied even if not an actual contract) entitles them to…basically owning you. I suppose it’s why I never could do the working for others thing for any real amount of time.

      There’s lots to be said about job security, a nice 401K, employer paid benefits (if you can get them), etc. but it’s never been worth it to me to have any company, or minion of said company think they own any part of me beyond their threshold or the time I agreed to give to them in exchange for money.

      I would never wear a Burger King shirt while selling pot on the street corner, but if I wanted to do it in my own shirt, on my own time, they have no claim over me IMO (note: I do not, nor have I ever sold pot…or worked for BK for that matter…it’s just an example) as long as I am not harming their brand in any way.

      Too many companies think they have claim over our —not working for you right now— time. I’m an employer. I have been for a few decades. I try very hard to be fair, compensate well, and not take advantage of or impose myself/my company on my staff and their personal time. I wish more employers/companies/managers could understand this concept and not treat people like their personal indentured servants.

        1. TardyTardis*

          Or picks strawberries in the summer. When you see adults who have to make a living at it, suddenly you are *much* more motivated to whale away at algebra.

  15. Anne (with an “e”)*

    Looking back on the early part of my career there is one time that certainly stands out when I should have said, “No.” I believe it was my second or third year teaching, so I was twenty something. A fellow teacher had to be absent for an extended period of time. The only qualified substitute they could find also taught at the local college. Thus, accommodating her schedule was tricky. I don’t remember the particulars exactly, but, I do remember that I had to give up my lunch and my planning period to watch students who had been sent assignments by the substitute. On top of which, this was NOT even a subject that I was certified to teach. I really was out of my depth and could not help the students. This went on for weeks and weeks on end. If someone were to ask me to do something like this now, I would either say, “No,” or ask for extra pay. When I look back on this, I feel like the administration took advantage of me and I truly resent them for what they did.

  16. Nobby Nobbs*

    Hello, my name is Joe. I work in the button factory. (Does anyone else remember that game? I did variations in preschool and high school marching band.)

  17. Wherehouse Politics*

    My last dayjob before taking gig economy work (pays a little better and more flexible which works with my art) I took what was supposed to be part time early evening to just before dawn hours stocking shelves at the grocery around the corner from me. Except I never left at dawn, it would go to 7am, 8am, 9am, and eventually all the way up to 1pm on occasion, and I got physically ill. I wasn’t slow, but there would be excessive shipments that my scheduling couldn’t accommodate without going into extra hours. I’m a night owl but this was really messing with my sleep schedule, and my alternate days off were just trying to sleep. The night manager was awful. My job wasn’t complicated, and there were other employees who could have finished up the work, but he didn’t want to juggle. I did the polite but frank addressing of the issue Allison style, but he wouldn’t do a damned thing, nor the general store manager. So, I started to say no. Just NO. No “I’m sorry I can’t because xyz”. Looked my manager in the eye and when he would try to stop me from clocking out to do just one to five more things, said “Nooooo, NO.”, and walk away to clock out. He’d call to my back, and I’d sing Noooo. I quit shortly afterwards.

  18. Did I do the Right Thing??*

    I just said no ta month ago to a “promotion” and “raise” which essentially added 20 hours of responsibility to my already full time job with no clear direction as to what I was to stop doing as well as an additional person to report to. I started with a reluctant yes since I’m not sure the promotion was optional. In the first 24 hours after accepting, both bosses had conflicting views on the location of my work as well as time commitments so I emailed both and declined the position.
    I let them know when I declined that I understood it put my position and options for full time contract (I’m in academics) in jeopardy, but I felt it was better to say “No” at that juncture than it would have been to quit in 3 months. It’s possible that might have been misguided since my boss is now extremely unhappy with me. My work is remote from the main university, and I have had a total of zero direct emails in the last three weeks (I’ve been copied on two). I did get a full time contract, but word has gotten back to me that he feels his reputation is tainted by my acceptance and subsequent decline of the position. Not sure what to do next….. Sometimes saying “No” has consequences that experience can’t overcome..

  19. abscientia*

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve been debating on sending an email in because I’m not sure what to do.

    I work for a large firm that is having some growing pains due to industry changes. Business is good, but department X is struggling to pick up the slack. They asked for volunteers earlier this year and one member of my department went over – they’re still there, and we have no idea when they’re coming back. I have a reputation for learning things quickly and resolving tough tasks, which I’ve been using to work multiple job functions and catch us back up since we’re shortstaffed.

    Orders came from above that other departments had to loan someone to department X, so my manager and supervisor asked me to do it. It definitely felt like a “can’t say no” situation – they were insistent it would be a highly visible opportunity to prove my skills, so I gave the okay. I’m on loan to department X for the next six months at least. After a few weeks of training, it’s clear to me that department X is a mismanaged dumpster fire and the training hasn’t given me enough of an understanding to make much of a difference. Department X has significantly more customer interaction than I’m comfortable with and I dread the day when I’ll have to get on the phones.

    While I’ve loved my company for the years I’ve worked there and was proud to build a career there, the months of stress and burnout from being shortstaffed had already taken a toll on me. This new assignment has brought on anxiety attacks and depression. I’m doing all I can to put off a meltdown that seems inevitable, but I don’t want this to reflect horribly on me. I don’t want to quit the position that I liked. Toughing it out through the training doesn’t seem to work. Any ideas?

    1. WannaAlp*

      Are your manager/supervisor decent people? What if you went back to them and explained the specific problems, and told them that you aren’t going to be able to make much of a difference? (and presumably it won’t do much for proving your skills either). Needs to be phrased in harm-to-the-business terms, not I-do-not-like terms.

      1. abscientia*

        They are decent people and I hope they would understand, but I haven’t found a way to frame this as anything but a failure on my part. When I was presented this assignment I tried to bring up the other functions I’d been working on, but was told it’d be taken care of. There wasn’t really room to say no.

  20. Argh!*

    My boss is very quirky, and not in a productive way. I have started pushing back against her advice about how to manage my staff because having been the victim, ermmm recipient of her management style, I realized awhile ago that her advice sometimes makes things worse. The last time I pushed back was about her advice to rein in an employee who overshares. I agree with that but not with her advice because she undershares. (I gave her an example of a time that her undersharing affected my work) I told her I’d rather split the difference.

    I’ll never know if that made her angry, because she doesn’t share! If she’s angry about it she’ll wait until some time when I tick her off and she knows I’m right, then she’ll fling it at me. Or maybe during my evaluation she’ll randomly bring it up.

    A virtual “no” is my decision not to reply to any email sent while I’m off the clock. I do check in to be sure there’s no emergency to respond to, but otherwise, all responses wait until the next day or Monday. I need to keep my two lives separate for my sanity.

  21. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    AAM, this is such a common theme in the questions you get! (Workers who feel like they can’t say no.) I’m glad you decided to address it in this way.

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