Right now I have some intelligence for your WORK life – how to talk back to your boss the right way. Because sometimes impaling yourself on a Sharpie seems a better option than taking on yet another task. So, here’s how to say “No,” “I disagree” and “You’re wrong” – without getting fired. We got these tips from the researchers at Condé Nast Publications.

  • Phrase #1: “No, I have too much else to do.” Let’s say your boss puts one more assignment on your plate than you have time to take on that week. Skip the long explanation. Deborah Tannen, the author of Talking From 9 to 5, says this’ll only sound defensive. Instead, mention your main projects and ask your boss to prioritize them for you. Once they see how busy you are, they’ll probably delegate the extra task to someone else, or give you a deadline extension so you don’t feel rushed.
  • Next phrase: “No, your idea won’t work.” It’s easier to take criticism with a compliment. So, rather than tell you boss you have a better idea, try saying, “You’ve probably thought of this before, but what if we... ” If they feel validated and even flattered, they’re more likely to listen with an open mind rather than resentment.
  • One last difficult phrase to say to your boss: “No, I don’t want to do that.” Instead of objecting to their request, make a case for a task you’d prefer to do. Rebecca Shambaugh is the author of It’s Not The Glass Ceiling, It’s The Sticky Floor. She says the key is to sell another side of yourself. For example, if you’re better at communicating via writing rather than on the phone, suggest to your boss that you could develop an electronic questionnaire to send to clients as a follow up, rather than call them to see if they’re satisfied with a product. If your boss’s request is totally unfair, like picking up their dry cleaning on your way to work, tell them, “I can’t, but I’ll find someone who can.” It’s a way to be helpful AND remind them what your job really is.