Can They Do That? 4 Times It’s OK to Say No to Your Boss

Many workers are afraid to say no to their bosses for fear of retaliation. However, being able to do so tactfully and in the cases where you are obligated to is an important skill for all employees to have. Here are four times when, yes, it is OK to say no to your boss.

When They Ask You to Do Something Illegal

If your employer is asking you to do something illegal, you have every obligation to say no. This can include asking you to commit theft, abusing or harassing you, lying on financial documents or any number of other illegal behaviors you are not required to tolerate. If your boss asks you to do something that involves breaking the law, talk to someone above them or, in the worst cases, contact law enforcement.

When They Ask You to Work Overtime Without Pay

Everyone works nights and weekends sometimes. However, if you are asked to work longer than you are supposed to, you should say no. Do note that this situation does not apply to every employee—namely most salaried employees. However, hourly employees need to stand up for themselves if asked to continue work after clocking out or work overtime without overtime pay. It is neither ethical nor legal for your boss to ask that of you.

When You Really Need To

It’s also OK to say no to your boss when you really need to. This is, of course, subjective, and there is no guarantee your boss will agree. However, all professionals need to say no to work obligations occasionally for various reasons. This can include burnout, needing to do something with family and other commitments. In this circumstance you must say no tactfully—a good tactic is to be conciliatory and offer to do something else of similar value instead.
Quite a few protections for workers exist against unreasonable demands by their bosses. Be aware of both federal and state laws that are in place to protect employees and report violations if necessary. Be a hardworking employee but don’t allow others to take advantage of you.