Miss Manners in the workplace?
August 23, 2011 2:35 AM Subscribe
"I'm sorry boss, but that's simply not possible"?
posted by Solomon to Human Relations (52 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I love the Miss Manners response "that's simply not possible". I want to find a similar phrase I can use in the workplace, for those occasions where I'm asked or invited to do things that I don't want to do.
For example, one of my colleagues has arranged a Christmas do. Unfortunately, I a] don't want to go and b] really can't afford to shell out cash right now. The company is not paying for this, nor is it happening on company time or premises. It will be entirely funded by the staff. I realise the necessity of social bonding in the workplace and get on reasonably well with all of my colleagues, but I don't really want to spend time (and money I don't have!) on them outside of work. We're work colleagues who work well together. We are not friends. I have old work colleagues who are also friends, but in this job, those two worlds haven't overlapped. C'est la vie. Our manager has gotten involved now, adding weight to the problem by saying that "there mustn't be any exceptions" and glaring at me when she said it.
Another example is working overtime. Generally, I'm available to do it, and 97% of the time, actually do do it when asked. However, there are the odd occasions when I can't do it, maybe because I have a doctor's appointment or have to visit a sick relative or maybe I just want to loaf about on a Tuesday afternoon. My boss, pretty naturally, will ask me to do overtime given that I'm generally available. I have no problem saying "no" and will continue to do that. The problem is that I will invariably get asked "why not?" when I decline the overtime.
In the past, I've tried using "I'm sorry, I'm not available" or "I'm busy that day" or some other vague and inoffensive statement. However, my boss seems to think that unless she gets an actual reason as to why I can't/won't do something, my response isn't valid, so she keeps asking for more details.
And so, here is my actual question: is there a phrase or statement I can say repeatedly that doesn't sound odd but that does convey my inability to do [whatever]? I feel a bit strange just repeating "that's not possible" over and over, and given that this is the workplace I can't pull off the death-stare-raised-eyebrow-don't-say-anything look that generally works well in these kinds of circumstances. I want something polite and inoffensive but also effective.