What to Do When You’re Always Asked to Do Things That Aren’t Your Job

You’ve been at your company for a number of years and are considered a veteran. Time and again, junior employees are coming to you for help.You’re happy to assist – to a point. But now it’s hindering your ability to do your job.

When is it ok to say “no”?

Obviously, there will be times your boss will ask you to take on work or do things that aren’t in your job description. And you should acquiesce – but not when your regular work is starting to suffer.

If this is the case, it’s time to talk to your boss or co-workers about the situation. You don’t want to just say “that’s not my job.” That sounds too abrasive. Instead, communicate why you’re turning down the work or added responsibility.

For instance, you can say something along the lines of:

  • “I’m swamped with X, Y and Z project and don’t have the extra time to help out on this,” or
  • “I’m on a deadline and can’t really dig into that task to help you with it.”
  • You can also try “I’m not typically the person who handles that and I’m not sure who does.”

In addition, if there’s someone else who you know is up to the task, then point your boss or co-worker in their direction – i.e. “I know Rita in accounting is really good at that. You may want to ask her for help.”

If this is becoming a regular issue – where your boss is overloading your plate with tasks totally outside the scope of your job, or your co-workers keep coming to you for help – then you need to go beyond just saying “no” to a particular ask. You need to have a conversation with your boss about your job duties and priorities.

You can say something like:

“A lot of people are coming to me for extra help with project A. I just wanted to let you know that it seems like almost everybody us unclear about what they’re supposed to be doing, so they might need some extra guidance from you.”

If it’s your boss doing the asking, consider saying:

“Lately, you’ve been coming to me for extra help with A, B and C. I appreciate your confidence in me, but now I don’t have time for X, Y, Z. Can I delegate Y and Z to someone else, or should I be prioritizing my responsibilities differently?”

It’s important to let your boss know the situation, so that together you can talk the problem out and come up with a solution going forward.

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