Legal advice

When can you say no to your manager?

Can you be friends with your manager? Can you refuse to solve a task? And who can you talk to if you have a conflict with your manager? Here you will find answers to your questions.

The relationship with your manager is important for your well-being and your framework at work. In fact, according to a study by Ballisager, the manager is the most frequent reason why Danes change jobs – a picture that IDA's career and legal advisers recognize from their many conversations with members.

Your contract or collective agreement states what you will be paid and what your working hours are. Here or in the staff handbook, the rules for different types of absence are also described, and in the legislation you can find rules about, for example, holiday and parental leave. But you cannot find a description of the manager's role.

Therefore, here you will get answers to a number of questions that can set the framework for your relationship with your manager and for aligning expectations in the collaboration.

What tasks can my manager decide for me?

Your manager can give you tasks within your professional area and that for which you are employed. This will often be described in your contract and/or job description.

However, the manager can also give you tasks that are not described, as long as they are within your area of ​​expertise. If the task is outside your professional area, you can say no - for example, if you, as an IT specialist, are asked to build a bridge. 

However, you may also be given tasks that are outside your area of ​​expertise, for example being asked to help with a clean-up or take some phone shifts in another department during a busy period. But your tasks must predominantly lie within your field of expertise.

Does my manager decide when and how I solve my tasks?

Your manager has the right to lead and distribute the work - this is called the right of management. This means that he or she must prioritize which tasks you must complete and when. Hopefully you can have a constructive dialogue with your manager about prioritizing your tasks.

The manager can also decide at what level and to what quality you must solve a task. Therefore, you may well be asked to let go of a task, even if you yourself do not think that it has been properly solved. But of course it is good to take professional responsibility and explain to your manager what consequences this may have if the quality could have been better. At the same time, you can also rely on the manager taking final responsibility.

If the lack of quality can have serious consequences for life and safety - and the manager does not listen to your warning, you can use a whistleblower scheme instead.

Read about your option for advice from IDA if you make use of a whistleblower scheme (In Danish)

Are there matters and tasks that my manager cannot decide for me?

A manager cannot, without your consent, change your contract from one day to the next, i.e. your rights regarding salary, working hours, holidays, parental leave and rules for termination, or change other conditions described in the staff handbook. Such a change can be equated with a termination, where there are rules that you must be given notice.

When it comes to your job tasks or your job description, your manager can make changes as long as they lie within your professional area. But the manager cannot change the content of your position to a significant extent. This will be the case, for example, if you have to do something completely different from what you are employed for, e.g. being moved to a HK position, or you have to go from being a middle manager to an employee or vice versa.

Read about the rules for changing your terms

Contact IDA's legal advisers if your employment changes

Can I say no to a task that my manager asks me to do, and what are the consequences if I don't want to do it?

As a starting point, you cannot say no to solving a task. From a legal point of view, it can be regarded as a so-called refusal to work and a breach of the employment relationship, which in the extreme can lead to dismissal.

Having said that, fortunately it happens very rarely for IDA's members. After all, a good relationship means that you have a good dialogue with your manager, where you feel safe and can openly tell why you would like to say no to an assignment. It is also a way of looking after yourself, which your manager can only be interested in.

Here's how you say no to your manager in a professional and respectful way

Who should I contact if I have a conflict or disagreement with my manager?

If you have a disagreement or conflict with your manager, it is initially best if you can take it up with the manager directly. It requires both courage and honesty, but is a good investment if your manager is responsive.

If this is not an option, you can contact your trade union representative or occupational health and safety representative at the workplace. The person can either be a bystander for a conversation that you find difficult to have, or the trade union representative can have a conversation with your manager on your behalf. In any case, it would be good if your trade union representative is informed about the situation.

You can also talk to some of your colleagues with whom you are familiar. It may be that others experience similar conflicts. It is, of course, important that you keep the tone constructive in your confidential conversations with a few colleagues.

At IDA, we are also ready to give you sparring and advice in such a situation. It can be both our legal advisers and our career counsellors, depending on what the conflict and disagreement is about.

You can possibly also get hold of the HR department at your workplace, but you must be aware that in the end, HR represents the company and the management in a conflict situation.

Don't approach the manager's manager, because then you're bypassing the chain of command. If you need to involve a higher managerial level, you must go to your trade union representative. She or he is your representative and can contact the relevant managers in the workplace hierarchy on your behalf.

Read more about how you can get help from your trustees

Can I be friends with my manager?

It's great to have a relaxed relationship with your manager, where you share everyday experiences and laugh together. Maybe you have really good chemistry with your manager - so be happy about that.

But you must still be aware that the relationship is also a power relationship, where it is the manager who has the power. Even in good times, you must remember that the relationship with the manager is an employee-employer relationship, and you must not pretend that your friendly relationship with the manager protects you in connection with cutbacks, for example.

Does my manager have a duty of confidentiality if I tell them about something private?

Your manager is not subject to a duty of confidentiality, so you cannot initially perceive your conversations as a confidential space. If you are in doubt about confidentiality, you must be aware of what you say about yourself, your privacy and your health. Anything you share may potentialle be passed on to other managers in the management group or HR. In addition, however, it must be said that good managers want to protect their employees and in practice fulfill a duty of confidentiality.

Can I get a new manager overnight?

Yes you can. It is a management decision and there are no rules that you have to be notified about it. It can of course be a shame, especially if you like your manager, and you are welcome to ask why the management has made that decision.