Bizarre Boss Requests – 5 Ways To Say No And Not Get Fired

By VICKIE ELMER— Bosses’ requests can be bizarre – and occasionally illegal.

Take for example, the boss who asked a co-worker to spy on senior management. Or the one who asked to have her dog’s toenails clipped.

Ways to Say 'No' To Bizarre Boss Requests

Ways to Say ‘No’ To Bizarre Boss Requests

Then there’s the one who asked a colleague to serve as a surrogate mother for his child.

All three showed up in a recent CareerBuilder survey on the strangest assignments supervisors have made.

“It’s absolutely crazy,” said Diane Seltzer, an employment lawyer in Washington D.C. “The list, I thought, was a fantastic compilation of what not to ask an employee to do.”

Many of the requests cross the line and could be illegal or an invasion of privacy, she said.

Posting false or inflated reviews. Whether on LinkedIn for the manager or on a business review site for the employer, “my attitude is always ‘ what’s the downside?’ Can I at least say things that are factually accurate,” said Seltzer.  Don’t say the greatest manager if she isn’t, but you could say she fosters a casual laid back culture that is quite appealing.

Create a child’s science fair project.  If your schedule permits, show good faith and give the boss a few articles on how to create great projects or a book that describes 100 5th grade science projects. If they press for more hands-on help, you ought to demur – and mention an important project that you need to concentrate on as one reason.

Spy on senior management. This could create problems for you with the brass. So figure out: What exactly does your boss expect you to do? “Be particularly attentive,” is fine, Seltzer said. Rifling through credenzas or computers is not.

Almost one in four workers in the CareerBuilder survey say they’ve been asked to do something outside their job descriptions.

Saying no can lead your boss to lower your in-office clout, or even to fire you.

Most workers are at-will employees which means they can be fired for anything or nothing. Exceptions are those with union contracts or employment agreements.

With that in mind, here’s more suggestions on how to skip stupid boss requests:

  • Duck the assignment by pleading ignorance or incompetence. “I don’t know how to do that,” you could say. “I don’t have time time and I don’t have the talent,” Seltzer said.
  • Refuse on moral grounds.  Say something like ‘I’m not going to lie,’ or “I believe what your’e asking me is immoral or illegal or both.”  You should not undertake activities that could be illegal, and if you refuse and are fired, Seltzer noted that gives you the right to file a wrongful discharge lawsuit.
  • Explain that the request is outside of your job assignments, and that you cannot serve as their personal assistant. Say something like: “I’m not comfortable with this and I’m going to talk to Human Resources about your request.”
  • Instead of saying no, focus on what you will do instead, Susan Fletcher, a psychologist and author says in a CareerPath post that originally appeared in If your bosses asks you to start a new company initiative, offer to brainstorm strategies or line up team members to help, she suggests.

If you’re not sure what you’re getting asked to do, consider this response: “Could you put in writing for me exactly what you want me to do?  so i understand exactly what you want me to do,” Seltzer suggested. That way if you refuse and are written up or fired, you have a record of what was asked that seemed inappropriate or illegal.

This post originally appear on Vickie Elmer’s Working Kind blog.

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