How do you let your boss know that you are not willing to follow certain orders? The best way to resolve a conflict situation is to look for a win-win situation for both parties. However, that becomes even more problematic if your boss asks you to do something ethically, morally or legally reprehensible.
Tactics you can use
Some experts in the business have described tactics (7 in total) that you can apply in such a situation; an approach that they call ‘fundamental resistance’. I personally would call it CYA, because if you have to comply, you could end up in serious trouble. The recommendations are arranged according to intensity, from low to high, depending on the type of manager you have before you. I have added a number 8, which can be followed as your leaving becomes the only way out. Read more and you will discover what can be done if your boss asks you to break the rules. Here we go:
1. Say: “I am concerned about your interest”
Talk to your boss about his sense of self-interest. Perhaps he/she is not well aware of the consequences of the requested actions. So show him the outline of possible dangers, costs and consequences of what your boss has just asked you. With this you immediately indicate your inconvenience with the situation, and you give your boss a way out to withdraw the request without suffering a loss of face. When he is still not convinced, you might ask him to give his orders in writing. I assure you that in most cases it will not happen.
2. Is your boss feeling guilty?
Few people will feel that they are inherently bad. If you do something bad, you usually feel guilty about it. By emphasizing the better and cleaner option, you can capitalize on the better side of your boss and increase the chance that he / she sees that there are better roads to Rome. This looks like a very simple one, but is often forgotten and works very well in many cases.
3. Just say ‘no’
If the first two options don’t work, it’s best to just refuse the orders from your boss. But you can’t just say “no” to your boss.
It’s not for nothing that the boss is the boss! Yet there are many situations where it is wise to do so. And do not opt for a passive communication style if you have to say “no”. It is certainly not the intention that you, standing your ground, reject every request. Saying ‘no’ to your boss can even work against you in a number of cases.
If the requested work is illegal or unethical enough, your boss should at least understand why you are not willing to cooperate, and hopefully also realize that the whole may not be a good idea.
4. Be harder
Is point 3 still not working? Then seek the help of others. Talk to colleagues and ask for their advice and support. After all, you are stronger together. If your colleagues do not dare to speak up, you can consider playing whistle-blowers internally and go to a higher manager. If your boss does not have a direct manager, you may be able to address an HR manager or a works council. Mind you, you should have tried with your direct boss first, do not go over his head without him knowing.
Another caution here: be careful in addressing the subject to HR, as they tend to choose for the management’s side.
5. Look for attention elsewhere
If all of this doesn’t work, and you really don’t want to leave it at that, it is time to look externally for support. This of course has serious consequences for you and probably also for others, so be sure of your case and tackle it well. According to experts, research shows that whistle-blowers are more successful if they have credibility within the organization, do not act anonymously, if the organization is not heavily dependent on what you have been asked for and if you have convincing evidence of its badness.
6. Give your boss a taste of his own medicine
The third-highest level in terms of intensity comes when it is time to think seriously about what you are doing. But in some cases, depending on what exactly you are asked to do, you can of course turn the situation around by doing to your boss exactly the same thing and letting him/her see in this way that this is not a correct course of action. But as with the previous one, it may have serious consequences.
7. Go to court
As the very last resort, you of course have the option to take legal action. This is very expensive and will most likely damage your relationship with your boss irreparably, but if your reluctance against your boss’s request is large enough, it may be worth considering. If this is ever going to work out well for you, I do not see it right now. I guess it all depends on your specific situation.
8. You could choose to leave
This could be a serious option if your boss (and company) ask you to break the law in doing something and any of numbers 1-8 failed to do the trick. Yes, the boss will always bear the responsibility, but you acted on his request. And what if he denies having given such an order? In fact, tips 5-7 may just have the result that you will be forced to leave. And I think that you should not be afraid of that. Instead, you should be afraid of the consequences when you would execute your boss’s orders and thereby breaking the law. See my recommendation number 1 below.
What you may have noticed is that this blog post mainly writes about the content of the task. Actually there is no question of saying ‘no’ to your boss but you say no to work. Moreover, you only do that if there is a good reason.
Remain realistic! Saying “no” to your boss is often also in your boss’s interest. Explain why you cannot do something better and involve your current duties in it (which you also perform for your supervisor).
Remain calm at all times
Always avoid the word “why” if you want to clarify the question behind the question or the goal behind the goal. Many people get the feeling that they have to be accountable if someone literally asks them why they want something. Make sure you have a nice package. Think for example: “You make me curious! I am very curious about what this will yield. I would like to know more about that, can you tell me more about this? “
Back to option number 8 and why you should be open to change. Simply because there are so many options! Look at the internet and you will be dazzled by the number of opportunities offered. You will maybe say, this is not for me and I do not want to be scammed. I say this is for everybody and you need guidance to find the right option.
Here is my number 1 recommendation!
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You will be part of a growing community of people in the program I am proposing. I myself have been part of this unique opportunity for five years and have never looked back. It is scam-free, reasonably priced with tremendous support. Read my personal review of this world class program by clicking here.
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14 thoughts on “What if your Boss asks you to Break the rules?”
I totally agree! Great article! Currently I am still employed buy I believe everything that you said here. I am building my own online business as well and soon I am sure I will be my own boss. There are a lot of programs, courses etc that can help you get started but Wealthy Affiliate is worth a try since it will help you step by step. All the best!
Isn’t it great that you can start Wealthy Affiliate just next to your existing job and in your own time at your own pace? This is exactly the fall back option every worker should have.
It is a great article because it provides a never heard of guidelines for the employees not to commit any action that would bread the law and later on they will be the one who has to answer to the officials.
Of course, one has to always consider to execute any order given to him and make sure it will not create problem for him.
If one realizes that he is forced to execute orders that are against the law, one should definitely decide to leave his job and find work in another company.
Yes it is really about two things to be aware of. 1. the boss could give orders that would break rules. 2. that there is something to be done about it. I can only hope that I can reach many people with this article.
I faced this situation once, and it’s really a tough situation to handle. To be honest, I said NO, and I was doing what I need and told to do when I joined. My superior is not happy and started to pressurize me a lot. On those days, going to the office is like going to war and I used to tell to my mom anytime I may come to home leaving the job.
By GODS grace, things changed. Since some other people started doing those things he didn’t bother me. How I wish I had found your article on those days of my struggle it would have been a greater help. However, I learned helpful insights, and I realized it would have been better by applying your great advice.
You said it well, often we say no to the job instead of saying no to the boss.
Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it. – Albert Einstein
I am glad you got through it and that your boss had other concerns, but you must have gone through hell before that. Sure, my article would have helped you at the time, but you can never be sure what the outcome would have been. Although chances of success would have been great. Anyway, I hope you will stay happy at your current job.
Thanks for this informative post, I have been in this situation where my boss asks to do something I know I shouldn’t, one should first understand the facts, know your options, and consider the potential outcomes before giving your response, in my case I actually quit and took to affiliate marketing, and I’ll have a look into your number one recommendation. Thanks
The fact that you immediately quit tells me that your working situation was maybe not so good any more before this happened. However, if that is true, then you probably took the right decision. Good look in affiliate marketing.
The experience I’ve gained with my boss in dealing with unethical issues is letting him know the standards I uphold. Since he realized, I never flinched in my decisions concerning those cases, I’ve been spared from those request several times even among other colleagues. I think sometimes taking an entrenched stand on ethical issues help to draw the borderline in some cases.
However, in other cases, I make sure to present to him several options so that I don’t find myself doing something I’m uncomfortable with. Thanks for the additional tips….
You have a very good way of approaching such a boss and the fact that you are still there proves that you made your points very clear. He must have accepted your views and appreciates you for it.
In my experience, if your boss asks you to do something that breaks the rules, it’s unlikely you’re the first person he or she has ever asked. If you try to say no they will just ask one of your co-workers who will say yes. The boss goes to HR and says “this person who said no isn’t a team player/is uncooperative/shouldn’t be in my team” and you end up in an even worse situation. The best thing to do is say no, politely and tactfully, play for time if you can and look for another job. Sad but true.
Interesting point you make here and if your boss really is like that, then you definitely are in the wrong place. Having said that, there are still avenues you can follow. A guy like that might have his vulnerabilities and when you would go to HR to explain your side of the story, you might find out.
Excellent article,this has happened to me before,my Senior Manager just ask me to do something against the organization’s policy,immediately I told him okay,but after some hours I went back to explained politely on the matter,and on that day with my advice was accepted and reverse on what he had said before,I think we should be bold enough in some cases to give our own opinion,if such happens,thank you for this educative and interesting write-up.
Yes, this was exactly the point I was making. In the end you will be better off talking to your boss. Many a time you will find out there was only a misunderstanding and bosses make mistakes too. We are all human.