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The Right Way To Say ‘No’ To A Bully Boss

By Avery Blank

This article was originally published on Forbes.


I help people advocate for themselves and leverage opportunities.

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Don’t you wish you could say “no” to your manager when he bullies you to do something? Being forced to do something, perhaps even something troubling, is the worst feeling. It is not easy to say “no.” Just thinking about it can be terrifying. You may fear for your job or that you will no longer be liked. Your goal is to be respected, not liked. Saying “no” will help you gain respect as a professional. Here’s how to say “no” to your boss, the right way:

A boss yelling at an employee.

A boss yelling at an employee.

Stick to the facts.

Remind your boss of the facts. If your boss tells you to do something that jeopardizes your existing commitments or even runs counter to priorities, let her know.

For example, if your manager tells you that she has placed you on a project team that meets every Thursday afternoon and you had both agreed previously that you could leave early that day to train for an upcoming marathon you are running. Remind her of this. Or let’s say your boss tells you to publish an article for the company website about a successful project completed for a client. When you realize that making this public might jeopardize an upcoming IPO by that client, speak up.

Your boss will respect your ability to maintain boundaries and that you are thinking beyond the immediate task to ensure the organization’s overall success. Stick to the facts. Tell the truth as you see it. The last thing you want to do is lie to get out of a request.

Share how you feel.

It is hard to argue with how one feels. If your boss requests that you do something you feel uncomfortable with or that is unrealistic, tell him.

Your boss might tell you to search the company’s HR system for a colleague’s employment history — something to which you feel you should not be privy. Saying that you feel uncomfortable doing this may help him to realize it is unethical.

If your manager’s request is unrealistic, tell him how you feel and offer an alternative. If you feel the project does not utilize your skills, offer to train a colleague to help with the effort. Your manager will respect your awareness of your abilities and limitations and ability to delegate like a leader.

Never show your emotion.

If you want to say “no” to a bully boss, leave your emotions at the door. Bullies feed off insecurity and instability. Do not feed the troll.

Even if you feel intimidated, try not to buy into or react outwardly to bullying tactics. If you know in advance that you are going to say “no,” anticipate how your manager might react and practice remaining strong. Sometimes, bullies respect only those who can hold their own and say “no.” When they see they cannot walk all over you, they are more likely to stop their behavior.

Bully bosses can make things uncomfortable (or even unbearable) at work, but do not let them abscond with your self-respect or ruin your reputation. Say “no” to take the lead in your career and gain respect.

How do you say “no” to a bully boss and gain respect? Share with me your stories and thoughts in the comments section below or via Twitter or LinkedIn.

Avery Blank is a millennial strategist, lawyer, and women’s advocate who helps others to strategically position and advocate for themselves to achieve their individual and organization goals.