Author Topic: How to tell the boss no  (Read 5993 times)

Igelfreundin

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How to tell the boss no
« on: February 01, 2018, 06:28:29 PM »
My boss asked me today if I'd be willing to permanently start working more hours. How do I (politely) tell her no?

Context: I've been with the company for five years. Last summer I was promoted into management. I like the new job, but I only accepted it after verifying that I wouldn't have longer workweeks on a regular basis. (The leadership in my department works 10-15 hours extra per week.) Today she suggested that I start working an extra five hours per week. I have a good FU fund, and am about five years away from ER. I'd prefer to stay with this company for that entire time, because I like my coworkers and can bike to work, but I also love only working 40 hours a week. Quite frankly, I'd walk away from this job, or get myself demoted, before working more hours. Still, I'd like to preserve good relations with my boss and work this out if I can.

I can't even figure out why an employee would say yes to this, unless they couldn't afford to miss a paycheck. I've certainly been living mustachian long enough that that's not a problem. What do I say?

wordnerd

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2018, 06:51:36 PM »
Remember than no is a complete sentence. Since you're willing to resign or be demoted before taking more hours, you're in the position of strength. Be polite, but firm.

"Boss, when I accepted this position, I specifically verified that I would not need to work longer work weeks. My situation has not changed since then, and working more hours per week is still not feasible for me." If (s)he has given a specific reason you need to work more hours, I *might* offer to brainstorm how to achieve that without working more hours, depending on what it was. But, I would not offer to squeeze more into my current work week.

Finances_With_Purpose

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2018, 06:56:56 PM »
Remember than no is a complete sentence. Since you're willing to resign or be demoted before taking more hours, you're in the position of strength. Be polite, but firm.

"Boss, when I accepted this position, I specifically verified that I would not need to work longer work weeks. My situation has not changed since then, and working more hours per week is still not feasible for me." If (s)he has given a specific reason you need to work more hours, I *might* offer to brainstorm how to achieve that without working more hours, depending on what it was. But, I would not offer to squeeze more into my current work week.

This.

I would avoid getting into the reasons and home life.  For many bosses, it's an invitation for your boss to try and reorder your life - using the boss's standard of what busy and work-life balance is, not yours.  Been there, done that; do not recommend.  Just be gentle but firm. 

Be aware, boss may ask about your situation, etc.; some bosses go that route.  I would draw a firm line around talking about your home and personal life with the boss in this context.  And then be aware you may want to avoid talking about your home life generally, so that your boss doesn't interpret it poorly. 

Capt j-rod

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2018, 07:00:52 PM »
You need to "creatively" let them know that they probably need you more than you need them. Tell them that you will only form a "mutually beneficial" relationship. Employers have ZERO respect for a healthy work/life balance. My wife had to change jobs last year due to an employer who just didn't understand no. The wife wouldn't let me give them my father's world famous quote... "apparently you must be hard of hearing... Would you like me to write it in shit so you can smell it?"  She felt that this may strain her employer/employee relationship.

HipGnosis

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2018, 08:58:52 PM »
It might sound silly, but you should practice saying "no".
Start with yourself, in the mirror.
Then cashiers - it can't escalate or draw out.  Say "no complaints" to 'how are you today?', "no preference" to paper or plastic.  "No problem" to most anything else.

RedefinedHappiness

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2018, 09:12:23 PM »
I suspect the other employees working an extra 5-15 hours per week don't produce another 5-15 hours of productive work. If you are seen as the high achiever and most productive, remind your boss of that and ask him or her what you are doing wrong. Put them on the defensive and be confident and say you think you are doing a great job at company.

Advice above is good but don't be afraid to be more direct and stand up for yourself. Getting it all on the table if you are a high achiever will work in your favor.

Finances_With_Purpose

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2018, 09:44:01 PM »
Agree with @RefinedHappiness.  That's a good way to reset the focus. 

Little Aussie Battler

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2018, 10:48:17 PM »
Do they pay you extra for the additional hours?

Tuskalusa

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2018, 11:06:55 PM »
Iíve been in this situation recently. When pushed, I ďwent with my family needs me,Ē and I held my ground. I suggested that they add another person to pick up the slack. Eventually, they did.

Employers donít seem to know what to do with an employee who doesnít need the job desperately. I think itís one of the biggest benefits of living below oneís means.


Igelfreundin

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2018, 07:09:59 AM »
Thanks for the great advice. I'm actually really good at saying no. I work in a male-dominated, argumentative field (physics) and could not have succeeded this long without pushing back frequently. I think this just caught me off guard, since I have made my position on work-life balance clear, many times before. I'm one of the highest performers in the department, and you are all right that that makes a difference.

When I next meet with her, I think I'll try to explore what changed to make her ask this, because it might help her to do some introspection. But I will remember "no is a complete sentence" and I will not offer to work more in less time - something that's not possible anyway because when I am at work I work full-tilt, which is why I can't (read: won't) do that for more hours per week.


Duchess of Stratosphear

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2018, 09:22:26 AM »
I suspect the other employees working an extra 5-15 hours per week don't produce another 5-15 hours of productive work.

I think this is true. And I keep seeing headlines about research that supports the idea that we can't actually work productively for too many hours a day/week anyway. I sure as hell can't do 40 hours/week of ACTUAL work even though my ass is sitting in this chair for that long. I would be a far better employee if I could work less and had more flexibility, and you obviously feel the same way. You could cite some of that research (I'm just pasting in what a quick Google search found, but you can probably find better stuff since you're a scientist and all :)

https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2016/06/07/why-the-8-hour-workday-doesnt-work/#1f1d644a36cc
http://mentalfloss.com/article/74710/how-much-time-do-we-actually-spend-working-work
http://www.businessinsider.com/8-hour-workday-may-be-5-hours-too-long-research-suggests-2017-9

bluebelle

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2018, 09:44:23 AM »
"apparently you must be hard of hearing... Would you like me to write it in shit so you can smell it?"  She felt that this may strain her employer/employee relationship.
oh Lord, I hope to someday work that sentence into a conversation.  Not recommending in a business context though.

Bosses have bosses, and they'll push to you as hard as you let them....


alanB

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2018, 10:12:33 AM »
One trick to negotiating is you make a demand and sit back and let the other person talk themselves into it. You want the repercussions for the other person failing to follow through with the demand to be ambiguous, since that gives you more leverage.  Works great for salary negotiations, suggest how much you want and why... they will go on about budget, industry averages, etc. Then you stay silent, stare them in the eyes if it is in person, the awkwardness will become palpable. They will most likely relent.

That is what your boss is doing to you.  What will happen if you say no?  Your boss risks nothing by asking you, other than making it awkward. "No as a complete sentence" will work, as long as it is not followed by any other sentences.  Or, now is your chance to present some equally ridiculous demand!! Go big! You can always go back to no.

BigHaus89

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2018, 10:22:38 AM »
"No, I am only willing to work 40 hours per week."

Short and direct is usually the best strategy when things can be awkward.

Laura33

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2018, 10:36:40 AM »
"No thank you.  Why do you ask?"

Sure, it might be that your team is short-staffed, or that they are trying to squeeze more work out of you.  But it could also be that your boss is trying to set you up for future promotions:  if you are in a male-dominated area, you are already at a disadvantage in the promotion department; and if your male co-workers are all working longer hours than you are, you will have almost no shot at the next rung up the ladder.  So if your boss is trying to promote you in particular, or women in general, she might be suggesting the additional time to help you move up the ladder, so you don't face the "gee, I'm not sure she's really as 'committed' to the job as Dave or Bob [who are routinely at their desks at all hours]" death knell. 

If that is the case, then she needs to hear directly from you that you are not actually interested in additional promotions if those come at the cost of additional work, and that you would instead prefer to stay where you are now under the terms of the deal you negotiated.  Otherwise, she may get angry that she is doing all this stuff to try to help you, and you are ignoring her advice and not even appreciating her efforts (which may involve some personal risk to her own career, given the male-dominated department).

Dicey

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #15 on: February 02, 2018, 10:45:27 AM »
I've tweaked your response as follows:

"As I confirmed before I was promoted into this position, I am only able to work 40 hours per week."

Short and direct is usually the best strategy. when things can be awkward.
Avoiding use of the word "no" when saying just that can also be a very effective strategy.

Brother Esau

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #16 on: February 02, 2018, 11:06:08 AM »
Employers donít seem to know what to do with an employee who doesnít need the job desperately. I think itís one of the biggest benefits of living below oneís means.

Amen. I recently volunteered for furlough days. Received some strange looks.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2018, 11:07:50 AM by Brother Esau »

TexasRunner

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #17 on: February 02, 2018, 11:13:09 AM »

mm1970

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #18 on: February 02, 2018, 01:50:26 PM »
My boss asked me today if I'd be willing to permanently start working more hours. How do I (politely) tell her no?

Context: I've been with the company for five years. Last summer I was promoted into management. I like the new job, but I only accepted it after verifying that I wouldn't have longer workweeks on a regular basis. (The leadership in my department works 10-15 hours extra per week.) Today she suggested that I start working an extra five hours per week. I have a good FU fund, and am about five years away from ER. I'd prefer to stay with this company for that entire time, because I like my coworkers and can bike to work, but I also love only working 40 hours a week. Quite frankly, I'd walk away from this job, or get myself demoted, before working more hours. Still, I'd like to preserve good relations with my boss and work this out if I can.

I can't even figure out why an employee would say yes to this, unless they couldn't afford to miss a paycheck. I've certainly been living mustachian long enough that that's not a problem. What do I say?
Why?

I mean, I would ask why.

I've worked for bosses and companies with policies (written even - illegal!) that "required" a minimum of 45 hours a week.  (Justification: you KNOW people are working those 5 hours, not messing around!)

I have, many times in the past, turned down promotions that I *knew* would come with the expectation of 50-60 hour work weeks.  It's not happening.  Even in my current position, there's more work than can be done in the 40 hours, so I simply leave things "undone".

She may just answer with "I want you working on this project more" or "I want you to take on this responsibility".  If you can do that, without the extra hours, why not?

mm1970

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #19 on: February 02, 2018, 01:54:03 PM »
Thanks for the great advice. I'm actually really good at saying no. I work in a male-dominated, argumentative field (physics) and could not have succeeded this long without pushing back frequently. I think this just caught me off guard, since I have made my position on work-life balance clear, many times before. I'm one of the highest performers in the department, and you are all right that that makes a difference.

When I next meet with her, I think I'll try to explore what changed to make her ask this, because it might help her to do some introspection. But I will remember "no is a complete sentence" and I will not offer to work more in less time - something that's not possible anyway because when I am at work I work full-tilt, which is why I can't (read: won't) do that for more hours per week.

They want to get more work done without paying more.  We've had 4 rounds of layoffs but more work not less.  The answer is to hand more to the high performers.  And keep doing that until they break.  I honestly sometimes think that it's my company's goal, is to push people until they break.

On the flip side, the higher performers here don't get paid more (the -ahem- men do).

ysette9

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #20 on: February 02, 2018, 02:11:06 PM »
Posting to follow. I am very curious how the conversation goes with your boss. Good luck. You are in a position of power; donít forget that.

Daisy

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #21 on: February 02, 2018, 05:50:32 PM »
I like the advice to ask why this new request to work more hours came in as it was not the agreed plan when you were promoted. As someone said above, the boss may actually be doing it to make you "look better" to the higher ups, since many of them equate OT with more dedication to the company.

You will say no regardless. If they ask for the reasons, you could just say no, or revert to your prior agreed upon hours, or just keep it vague enough about family or health reasons. If they pry into the actual family or health reasons, they are entering dangerous territory into your privacy that may be illegal.

I was once interviewing for another internal job. I had been warned by others that the manager of this project expected people to work long hours, for no real good reason. I decided to interview anyways. The manager did bring up having to work extra hours and some weekends. I told him I would think about it overnight. I came back and said that I couldn't work more than 40 hours and used having to help my elderly parents and long commute as the reason for not being able to stay late. The manager tried to get me to agree to make up these extra long days with working on weekends. I just politely smiled and said that I couldn't accept the offer. The project got cancelled within 6 months anyways, so nothing was really lost.

I like the "just politely say no" approach described here.

damyst

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #22 on: February 03, 2018, 11:31:23 AM »
Do they pay you extra for the additional hours?

Yeah, where is that element in the discussion? If they're asking for more hours at the same pay, aren't they effectively handing you a pay cut? Why would you cooperate with this when you have better options?

MaaS

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #23 on: February 03, 2018, 12:08:56 PM »
While "no" certainly suffices, here's one alternate path:

Reframe the conversation to one about deliverables. What exactly is not getting done in your current hours, that your boss believes would be completed with five extra hours?



MacGyverIt

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #24 on: February 04, 2018, 01:11:38 PM »
They want to get more work done without paying more.  We've had 4 rounds of layoffs but more work not less.  The answer is to hand more to the high performers.  And keep doing that until they break.  I honestly sometimes think that it's my company's goal, is to push people until they break.

On the flip side, the higher performers here don't get paid more (the -ahem- men do).

THIS. I'm fairly new to a huge company paying me very well for my COL area and already I've seen a number of high performing employees laid off with less than two weeks' notice because they were higher income earners and the company needed to save money. Mind you, they are still hiring ... but hiring much lower pay people who'll require alot of training meanwhile these higher salary folks know things inside +out and are shafted after working so hard.

So no way I'm staying around this company long term, money isn't worth these sh-t "corporate values" --- I'll do what I'm asked to do/what's required but without the quilt of not going the extra mile.

How do you explain a short stint on your resume - or do you even put it down there?
« Last Edit: February 04, 2018, 01:15:10 PM by MacGyverIt »

clarkfan1979

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #25 on: February 04, 2018, 09:11:57 PM »
You can use the good economy as leverage. They probably need you more than you need them. You would prefer to stay, but it would be very easy to find another job. In reality, you will probably make more money with a new job.

I would tell them that you are really happy with the current situation and would prefer that it didn't change. If your boss is smart, they will interpret this as a polite "no". If they don't get it you can go ahead with a more direct "no" by saying, "my current situation doesn't allow me to work more hours. If you really need me to work more hours then I should start looking for another job". Try to ask a lot of bull shit questions and let them do most of the talking.  If you do most of talking you will seem ungrateful. 

Igelfreundin

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #26 on: February 07, 2018, 05:31:17 PM »
Here's was the follow-up conversation with my boss:

Me: "I've thought about our discussion from last week, and I'm not able to work more than the forty hours. Can I ask why you're considering this?" [This is me shutting up and not saying anything extra.]
Boss: "I'm just looking ahead to the future. There's a lot of work. [Pause.] Okay. I thought that might be your answer."

There was no pushback at all! I'm so happy I never considered accepting extra hours - she would have handed them to me willingly, but seems perfectly fine with the current setup.

FU money and good mustachian forum advice for the win! Thanks, everyone.

wordnerd

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #27 on: February 07, 2018, 06:29:44 PM »
Yay! Congrats!

Finances_With_Purpose

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #28 on: February 07, 2018, 10:19:15 PM »
Here's was the follow-up conversation with my boss:

Me: "I've thought about our discussion from last week, and I'm not able to work more than the forty hours. Can I ask why you're considering this?" [This is me shutting up and not saying anything extra.]
Boss: "I'm just looking ahead to the future. There's a lot of work. [Pause.] Okay. I thought that might be your answer."

There was no pushback at all! I'm so happy I never considered accepting extra hours - she would have handed them to me willingly, but seems perfectly fine with the current setup.

FU money and good mustachian forum advice for the win! Thanks, everyone.

Congrats, and kudos to you!  It sounds like it went extremely well. 

It can be tough having those conversations... 

Dicey

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #29 on: February 07, 2018, 10:47:47 PM »
Love your results!

Linea_Norway

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #30 on: February 08, 2018, 12:32:16 AM »
Here's was the follow-up conversation with my boss:

Me: "I've thought about our discussion from last week, and I'm not able to work more than the forty hours. Can I ask why you're considering this?" [This is me shutting up and not saying anything extra.]
Boss: "I'm just looking ahead to the future. There's a lot of work. [Pause.] Okay. I thought that might be your answer."

There was no pushback at all! I'm so happy I never considered accepting extra hours - she would have handed them to me willingly, but seems perfectly fine with the current setup.

FU money and good mustachian forum advice for the win! Thanks, everyone.

Very good. That was a lot less drama than you had anticipated.

Now your boss needs to make an alternative plan for the future, like hiring an extra person.

Adventine

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #31 on: February 08, 2018, 04:07:45 AM »
Here's was the follow-up conversation with my boss:

Me: "I've thought about our discussion from last week, and I'm not able to work more than the forty hours. Can I ask why you're considering this?" [This is me shutting up and not saying anything extra.]
Boss: "I'm just looking ahead to the future. There's a lot of work. [Pause.] Okay. I thought that might be your answer."

Congrats on keeping the work hours that you originally negotiated! Now you've got to pay atention that the boss doesn't sneakily give you extra work anyway.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #32 on: February 08, 2018, 05:00:44 AM »
I manage a team of people and I would be mortified if any of them worked longer than 35-40hrs. Every now and then we have special reasons to work longer but I let them get the time off later. I believe itís my job as boss to put in systems to make sure people donít have to work longer. I donít work longer than that at the office, although I do work at homes sometimes.  I would have explored the rationale as people shouldnít work longer to prove they are more committed. If there is more work to do, then look at removing some work or become more efficient. Or maybe they need to hire more people? Itís stunning how bad some people are at management.

Slee_stack

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #33 on: February 08, 2018, 01:12:47 PM »
Great job OP!

My boss has hinted at the same for me in the past.  I will remember this thread if she ever actually comes out and pointedly asks for more hours.

I always found it interesting that salary has no MAX hours limit, but (in my experience thus far) always has a MIN hours limit.

Why is it that 60 hrs is OK anytime, but 35 is not allowed?

I can't submit a time card that totals less than 40!

Gronnie

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #34 on: February 08, 2018, 01:27:19 PM »
Why are you submitting a timecard if you are salaried?

bluebelle

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #35 on: February 08, 2018, 02:08:49 PM »
Why are you submitting a timecard if you are salaried?
I don't have a physical timecard, but I have to do on-line time reporting and it needs to add up to 40 hours (even if I work more), and it can't be less than 40 hours....

Lady SA

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #36 on: February 08, 2018, 02:15:26 PM »
Why are you submitting a timecard if you are salaried?
I don't have a physical timecard, but I have to do on-line time reporting and it needs to add up to 40 hours (even if I work more), and it can't be less than 40 hours....
I am salaried but at our company, we do time tracking for mostly tax purposes (basically tracking to see how much time/money the company can claim), plus keeping track of work being done on various projects/products. It doesn't affect/isn't tied to my paycheck at all, tracking is entirely for my company's benefit.

MaybeBabyMustache

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Re: How to tell the boss no
« Reply #37 on: February 08, 2018, 02:39:59 PM »
While "no" certainly suffices, here's one alternate path:

Reframe the conversation to one about deliverables. What exactly is not getting done in your current hours, that your boss believes would be completed with five extra hours?

This, plus what a few others have suggested. I'd want to understand why my manager is asking. Are there specific he/she want me to cover? Thinks I can prioritize by dropping other, less important work? Delegate another project to a peer? I'm always open for a dialogue, but a direct ask for more hours without any context on why seems strange & unhelpful. I am in a global people manager role (manage people in 6 time zones) & work hard to keep balance. It's not perfect, but I push back on anything unnecessary, and try to flex for the things that matter. It's impossible to do that without the context of priorities & what your boss is really trying to accomplish.

If it's a "butt in seat for more hours" type of feedback, then I think you defer back to the "no, as previously discussed, that won't work for me."