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Some people just can’t take no for an answer. And other times, you can’t afford to say no to a neurotic boss that is demanding and sees the laundry list as just part of your being an awesome employee. So here are a few ways to decline, without losing your job or your sanity:
1. “I’m currently working on the Smith report, the Jones report and the Macklemore report. How would you like me to prioritize this new project?”
This particular phrase is especially helpful when dealing with a superior, who you can’t very well “Just Say No” to. Instead, show your willingness to do the work but ask for an executive recommendation on how best to balance your various obligations.
If you’ve already got several projects in your queue, ask your boss which one takes priority so you can focus on that first. If you report to several managers and they’ve given you competing projects, ask them how they’d prefer you resolve the conflict. (One of them is going to have to cede to the other if they want you to give both projects your full attention.)
The trick to this phrase is not to say it huffily or with a “woe is me” attitude. You are not complaining about how overloaded you are and whining for a way out; you are being a responsible employee and making sure you do your job to the best of your ability (while also letting your boss(es) know just how much you have on your plate).
2. “I’m all booked until [insert date here]. I can put this on my list for then if you like.”
This phrase demonstrates a willingness to help—you’re not saying no altogether—while letting the other person know your schedule is firm and you’re sticking to it.
If their project is super, building-on-fire urgent, they’ll have to ask