You want your manager to think highly of you. You want to be seen as competent, efficient, and reliable. So how do you respond when your manager asks you to take on a project that (for one reason or another) is impossible for you to do? How can you voice your objection without coming across as whiny or lazy?

It’s a challenging situation, that’s for sure. But according to author Kat Boogaard, it’s possible to push back without angering your manager or making yourself look bad. Here are her suggestions:

If the deadline is unreasonable, say this…

  • I realize this project is important.
  • But I’ve reviewed the project details, and unfortunately, I just can’t produce this amount of work by the deadline.
  • Is it possible to push the deadline back? Or could you assign additional people to this project?

If you’re asked to take on a project that is not even remotely related to what you do, say this…

  • I’d really like to help out with this project.
  • But it’s outside my area of expertise. And I’m really busy with these other tasks that I know are a priority.
  • I need to dedicate all of my time to them.

If you’re asked to take on a project and you’re already overloaded with work, say this…

  • It’s great that you have confidence in my ability to do this project.
  • But I already have a lot of projects that need to get done.
  • Which one is the highest priority? I’ll work on that one first.

If your boss expects you to be available at all hours of the day, say this…

  • When I’m away from the office, it’s important for me to relax and recharge.
  • So I make a point of not checking my work email.
  • But if an issue arises, I will certainly take care of it right away, once I’m back in the office.


Boogaard, K. (n.d.). What you should (and shouldn’t!) say when your boss has unreasonable expectations. The Muse. Retrieved from: