Why Is It So Hard to Say No to the Boss?

Posted by on Aug 19, 2013 in AdultLeader, Executive Coaching | 18 comments

thumbnailBecause she’s the boss. If you say no, the boss might not like it. You might not get promoted. You might be fired. Your world might end. You might die. Perhaps this sounds a little irrational and extreme, but when I was willing to look closely at my own experience, I found it wasn’t so crazy after all.

I am not talking about refusing to perform your job duties.

I am suggesting that there may be times when you need to
• say no or negotiate
• express a contrary thought or idea.
• manage a boundary between your personal life and work life

I am talking about what adults may need to do as a matter of course to effectively manage their lives and careers.

We forget that we were small versions of ourselves at one time, and depended on our parents for food, shelter, love and approval.  We depended on them for our very survival. If we said no or misbehaved, we were likely to be afraid that our survival was at risk.  Our parents were our first bosses.

Our original family was the first organization we were a part of.  Our primary role in that organization was as an employee. Our parent(s) were the boss(es).

Based on the specifics of our early experiences with authority, we came to certain conclusions about what we needed to be and do in order to survive and be successful. We practiced those thoughts and behaviors and they became a system. The system is made up of our beliefs, perceptions, habits, expectations and assumptions for relating to authority.

I’ll use me as an example. My boss parent was angry and inconsistent. I never knew what I would encounter when I got home from school. I came to the conclusion that I needed to be very careful about what I shared and how I shared it. I needed to do whatever I could to make the boss happy. I learned that authority figures were to be feared and avoided. This became my system for relating to authority and was applied without realizing it when I engaged with a boss.

I was a perfectionist and a workaholic. I was hesitant to say no or express my own thoughts and ideas if I thought they ran counter to what I thought the boss wanted. This was not a very successful or sustainable model for being a leader and a person with a life.

This is where my AdultLeader came in. It is the self that realized that my system for relating to authority was not working to get me the results I wanted. I needed to develop a new system with new thoughts and behaviors in order to be a happier person and a more effective leader.

1. What is something you want to say no to, negotiate, or be or do differently with your boss or someone in authority?

2. How important on a scale of 1 to 10 is this to you?

3. What result do you think you will get if you are able to do this? Imagine what that would look and feel like for a minute

4. What will you as your AdultLeader do?

My best to you. Please feel free to send your thoughts and comments.


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