How to Say “No” to Your Boss

Or Worse: Your Boss’s Boss

Preston Smalley
Agile Insider
Published in
5 min readAug 23, 2018

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It’s a product manager’s worst nightmare:

An Exec gets an idea from a teenager that lives next door. Imbued with optimism, the higher-up urges you and your team to drop everything and put all hands on deck. This is where we should be focusing right now.

Great.

Well, not only do you disagree with the efficacy of this proposed feature, but you’ve also seen the train wrecks these situations can cause. Teams get frustrated by being told to do something without understanding why it’s important. Execs get frustrated by a lack of production.

Your instinct is to push back.

But are there any good ways to say “no” to your boss? And if there is a good way to do it, is it ever a good idea to do so in the first place? For me, the answers are: yes, and definitely.

If you’re in a leadership role, working within a hierarchy, being able to say no to your boss can actually be an essential skill for success. If done correctly, it can make you a better leader, a more valuable employee, and a more reliable teammate.

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Preston Smalley
Agile Insider

Product & Tech Leader for digital TV entertainment, two-sided marketplaces and mobile apps used every day by millions of people. http://www.prestonsmalley.com