Think in English with Adah

A TEFL blog: You have to train yourself to think in English

How to deal with requests from your boss or client?

Would you just say NO to your boss when they ask you to help them fix their computer at home this weekend? Or would you just say YES but deep down you really hate to do this using your weekend time?  

Tell you what, my colleagues who work in the IT outsourcing field would not really dare to say No to their boss or client. It is very brusque (rude) and even risky to say NO to your client or boss especially in China. The reason is rooted in the Confucian doctrine that prevails in the Asian cultures. You are supposed to “obey” a person who is superior (having a higher rank) to you, especially when you work for this person.  

However, is there a way for you to work an angle (to make something suit your needs or purposes) about this? There is such a way and I am going to write about it for you.  

Remember, what your boss/ client asks you to do is just a request, not a complaint. In the service industry, a request is a statement or act of asking for some extra products or services beyond the service scope. The word “extra” means what your boss asks you to do is outside of your job responsibilities. You have a right to think about whether you have to grant (to allow someone to have or do what they want) the request or not. You may ask yourself this question “Is it really that easy for me to do this favor?”  

So first, instead of giving a YES or No answer directly, you may explain to your boss/ client the difficulties in fulfilling the request. Use polite language in your explanation though. For example, if you have already made a plan for this weekend, you may say:  

I’m afraid that helping you fix your computer this weekend is not so possible because I have made a travel plan for the weekend. My girlfriend/ boyfriend really looks forward to this trip. ” 

Or  Unfortunately, it won’t be possible for me to come to your home this weekend to fix your computer because I have made an appointment with the dentist and I may have a small surgery then.” 

Knowing your difficulties, your boss/ client should start to understand the predicament (a difficult situation) that they have put you in now. But people don’t stop unless they find a solution to the problem. Then why don’t you offer a solution to the requestor by giving some extra conditions?  

The following solutions can be good enough to show that you do care about your boss/ client’s request and you may impress your boss/ client by your solution providing skills: 

Solution #1: However, as you need to use your computer this weekend, if you can bring your computer to the office this Friday morning, I can have a look at it.” (condition: changing the deadline)

Solution #2: On the other hand, I know a computer maintenance store just near the office. They fixed my computer last time at a very low price. You may call this number to get a technician for door-to-door service.” (condition: recommending another company)

Solution #3: The only thing I can suggest is that you can ask our colleague Jim to check your computer. I know that he just lives next door to you!” (condition: recommending another person) 

Which one is your favorite? : P 

November 18th, 2010 Posted by adah at 07:14pm | 1 - Adah's Communication Camp | 11 comments


  1. it’s really helpful for me! I will always focus on your blog.

    Comment by Jolly Liu | 2010年11月19日

  2. Hah, good solutions!

    Comment by Kevin Huang | 2010年11月19日

  3. very helpful, thanks!

    Comment by star | 2010年11月19日

  4. Good suggestion!

    Comment by Zero Li | 2010年11月19日

  5. How about use “It is not very convenient” instead of “It is not possible”? Cause “not possible” seems not very polite.I guess in our culture “not possible” is too rude.

    Comment by Peter Chen | 2010年11月19日

  6. It’s really good idea to reply the request! However, since different cultural condition in China, if the superior are really angry with my absence for his/her request (expected me to ‘Yes’), any other better solution?

    Comment by Pang Jiang | 2010年11月19日

  7. Very helpful to me, thank you very much!

    Comment by Noah | 2010年11月19日

  8. It is very useful for us.

    Comment by Andy Qiu | 2010年11月19日

  9. To Peter Chen: The phrase “not so possible” can not be isolated from “I’m afraid…”. If you say “I am afraid doing… is not so possible”, it is more polite. Even though we don’t use “not possible” in Chinese, it is fine to say that in English.

    Comment by adahhzy | 2010年11月19日

  10. To Pang Jiang: It is too bad if your superiors are upset simply because you are not willing to do them a favor. If they are really angry, you may need to give them a better solution! Haha

    Comment by adahhzy | 2010年11月19日

  11. Great for me!

    Comment by Ray Feng | 2010年11月19日

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