This is Not in My Job Description

This is Not in My Job Description


For those of you who are young, idealistic, and just brimming with shiny hopes and dreams, I have some unfortunate news: Life isn’t fair. Nor is it reasonable, rational, sensible, logical, nice, or fluffy. Life is strange, ridiculous, cruel, fantastic, bizarre, whimsical, capricious, and just a little bit dirty.

I tell you this because one day, possibly one day quite soon, your boss (or someone who wields even more power over your fragile working existence) is going to ask you to do something that you don’t think you should be doing. And you are going to be very unhappy about it.

These types of requests can take many forms.

The Personal Jobs

The most obvious sort of thing your boss will ask you to do that you don’t think you should be doing will be something rather personal.

For example, despite the fact that you are a Web designer, the president of the company is going to ask you to go pick up his car at a work site, take it to a car wash, and then bring it back to the office. And the odds are fairly good that this will take half the day, leave you sitting in traffic for hours, put you hours behind your actual work, and force you to drive a frighteningly high-priced car with a fairly finicky manual transmission. This is annoying, though not terrible.

Or perhaps, despite the fact that you are proposal writer, your boss will stride into your office and explain, in far too much detail, that he needs your help collecting his in-laws at the airport to make sure they get to a family event on time…on your birthday. So you drive to an unfamiliar part of the city and stand at a receiving gate holding a sign while a hundred grumpy travelers file past you and none of them respond to your sign, leaving you standing alone, unsure of what to do…while your family assembles at a restaurant quite far away from the airport to celebrate your birthday.

Or perhaps, despite the fact that you are a contracts officer, your boss, who drives an over-priced luxury sedan or maybe even a company car, will call you up at the office on a particularly snowy morning to tell you to come to his house in your much-less-expensive car to fetch him across the icy roads because he doesn’t think his car will survive the trip…but yours is expendable. So after already braving the morning commute to the office once, you bundle up again and spend the next 90 minutes driving white-knuckled through the upscale yet unplowed neighborhoods where your boss lives, all the while wondering if you will be required to drive him home later that night.

Or perhaps, despite the fact that you are a publications manager, your boss will announce that he is throwing a party for family and friends, which has absolutely nothing to do with work at all, but he needs you to run to the grocery store and put together a cheese platter and some fruit to provide his guests with something to eat before the caterers arrive. At his house.

These personal requests are clearly not in your job description, but you won’t see them coming. They are obviously ridiculous, but they aren’t difficult. And since you won’t have prepared a good excuse for why you can’t just run out and do them, you do them. These things waste time, both work time and your own personal time, and they will put you in uncomfortable positions, and they may even cost you some of your own money (toll booths, gas, food, etc.).

What should you do?

Get over it. Unemployment is high and people are starving to death all over the world. Your ego will survive running a few personal errands for your boss. At least you will get a lot of crazy stories to use in an article that you will one day write about things that were not in your job description.

The Professional Jobs

In a recent article, I counseled readers to go the extra distance to make themselves more valuable around the office by developing secondary skills, including maintaining equipment and mastering software. And that is pretty good advice, until it backfires and completely ruins your life.

You see, sooner or later, if you are very good at getting things done, then bosses will stop bothering with the useless employees and bring all their problems to you. Because you’re so quick. You’re so precise. You know how to do that thing in Microsoft Word. So can you just do this little task for me, right now, because you’re the best? Pretty please?

At first you will be flattered by the extra attention. Your boss knows your name, and her boss knows your name, and some bosses from the other departments know your name. Great! But now you have all these other tasks to do, and some of them you don’t completely understand, and many of them are due in five minutes (or five minutes ago). And every minute you spend on these tasks is a minute you don’t spend on your own work.

Perhaps you’ll be asked to work on a Vice President’s presentation (because you’re quick in PowerPoint), or a financial report (because you’re good at formulas in Excel), or the invitations to the company’s holiday party (because you’re so creative).

You may find this merely inconvenient from time to time. You might also find it more than a little frustrating, especially when you are told point blank that someone else ought to be doing this task, but instead of making that other person do their job, you are going to do it for them. To “reward” your excellence.

What should you do?

Manage it. The bottom line is that you have succeeded in making yourself both valuable and popular. This position actually gives you a little power. People tend to be slightly more respectful and considerate of others when they need them. So feel free to push back a little bit and turn down those extra requests if you really can’t handle any more on your plate. But as long as you can shoulder the burden, do it.

The Dangerous Jobs

It is unlikely, but not impossible, that you will be asked to do something illegal at work. It may be something semi-minor, like copying a confidential document or emailing data that ought to be encrypted. Sometimes bosses become fed up with rules and protocols and just want the job done, so they will ask you to do it the fast way, instead of the strictly correct way. I can’t advise you how to handle a rule-bender situation. You will have to decide for yourself whether the task is really illicit, whether there will be consequences, and whether you personally will be held accountable.

But it might also be something major. Your boss may tell you to scuttle a project, or fire a good employee, or falsify data. Or, just as a random example purely from my imagination, to walk into the Pentagon with a bag full of power tools to do a little unauthorized remodeling of a Department of Defense facility. That’s a fictional example, mind you. Completely made up.

What should you do?

Well, you’re in the hot seat now. You can say “No” and risk all sorts of angry-boss fallout. You can try to find a non-illegal alternative course of action. Or you can do it and hope for the best. None of these are great options, and you’re well within your rights for feeling angry at the world (and at your boss) for putting you in such a position, but there it is.

This is the sort of moment where you learn something very fundamental about yourself. What are your priorities? Where are the lines you won’t cross? What are you willing to risk or sacrifice for an ideal? What really matters to you at the end of the day?

That’s life. It’s not fair, but I already told you that.


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Joseph Lewis is a writer and editor who has worked in the public and private sectors, including military, health care, and technology firms. Visit Joe's site
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Discussion

  1. Jamie on the 2nd December

    C’mon man, really? This isn’t the 19th Century, and workers aren’t serfs. It’s one thing to be helpful around the office and make yourself valuable at work, but quite another to pick up your boss’ dry-cleaning or in-laws, or even do something illegal.
    Where’s “Talk to HR”? or “Keep good documentation and file for unemployment if you’re let go”?
    And not running personal errands for your boss isn’t about ego, it’s about setting clear boundaries between work and life. If you agree to run out and get him a cheese tray, before you know it, you’ll be getting calls at all hours to do other errands for him too, even on your days off.
    Too many young people in the workforce are already inclined to let their boss walk all over them, and too many bosses are all too happy to do so. Workers don’t need to be thankful for their jobs; they do work in exchange for money.

    • Joseph Lewis on the 2nd December

      Jamie,

      Unfortunately, in the US most people are employed “at will” which means you can be legally terminated at any time for almost any reason (or no reason). If you work for someone who does not respect professional boundaries, then you are already dealing with someone who is more likely than others to replace you with someone easier to “manage.”

      While it is good practice to document infractions and report them, as I mentioned in an earlier article, the reality is that many HR teams are not white knights eager to ride to your rescue, especially if that means confronting a powerful executive. In fact, HR may blatantly avoid a conflict over anything less than egregious sexual harassment.

      You say that workers don’t need to be thankful for their jobs, but I must disagree. We are facing 10% unemployment in the US right now. If you are young and flexible, then perhaps it is easy to stick to your guns and risk hurting your career at a particular job. But if you have a mortgage and a family to support, then financial survival is much more important than anything else.

  2. Joseph Lewis on the 2nd December

    I should add that these sorts of requests are not likely to come from your immediate supervisor. These are more likely to come from high-value clients and from your executives. These are individuals who are quite used to getting whatever they ask for, and who leave you no convenient recourse for declining (or objecting to) their requests.

    The type of individual who makes these requests is also the type of individual who rewards allies and punishes enemies within the office. So these requests really boil down to whether you want to be on the CEO’s good side, or not.

    This is far from ideal, but it is a reality.

  3. Oli on the 2nd December

    Best way is to politely explain why you can’t do that.
    “Sorry, I cannot go to the grocery store becuase that would mean delaying project XX”

    Once you let it happen ONCE.. it will continue to happen !.

    • Joseph Lewis on the 2nd December

      Oli,

      That is an ideal response, but a boss who is willing to make unreasonable requests may well say, “Oh, it will only take a minute, and you can finish your project tomorrow.”

      Once they introduce unprofessional demands on your time, they are announcing that they don’t value/respect actual work over their personal needs.

      And if this person is a very high-level manager, and your supervisor is unwilling to shield you, and HR is unwilling to confront them, then you’re stuck.

  4. Adam on the 2nd December

    Wow…so true: brilliantly written article and i couldn’t help nodding and agreeing the entire way through.

    Although, i think you’ve overlooked a topic!

    How about “The crappy/skivvy jobs”, i.e: get a degree in business management and on your first project, you find yourself making tea and fixing the printer.

    How about working in retail? No matter what position you are, you’ll find yourself having to do jobs, (be it a compulsive responsibility) or an order from a senior that simply aren’t in your contract!

    Regards,
    Adam

  5. Anton Ranestam on the 2nd December

    What a brilliant post. I had a situation yesterday when a client asked me to do a thing for his blog.
    “Can you crop some images for me, and then put it on my blog”.
    Like, why should I do that? It’s not my job to work for your blog?
    Gah!

  6. Avery on the 2nd December

    At the last company I was with my boss had been doing printing favors for co-workers for years using our big plotter to make birthday banners and such. As for me I disliked the idea of my department being used as everyone’s “free” Kinko’s and put a stop to it once they had to start coming to me (I guess I’m a jerk but I have no interest in dealing with countless individual’s bizarre creative input).

    Our VP had used me to design ads and signage for his wife’s business on a number of occasions but, for obvious reasons, I did this for him even though the CEO had made a special point of asking us to stop. So long as it was during work hours I didn’t care just as long as SOMEONE was paying me for the work. If the VP were to ask me to do the kind of personal favors listed in this article I would’ve declined. Sure, he would’ve liked me more but I demand a certain level of boundaries and some of those listed were just too much. My car is doing badly enough without having to run insane errands for people who should/can hire personal assistants.

    When I saw the picture with this article I was expecting something about washing dishes in the break room or taking out the trash. Janitor work I wouldn’t mind so long as I wasn’t targeted to do this alone. If I were targeted then I’d ask myself “why just me?” and “will they still respect me tomorrow?”. My answer to my own two questions are “because they might not respect you” and “probably not”. Becoming someone’s occasional personal assistant might make them like you but they certainly won’t respect you. There is a big difference and sometimes you have to turn down the opportunities for a little bit of butt kissing to keep your career on track.

    • Joseph Lewis on the 2nd December

      Avery,
      The worst part is, as soon as someone asks you to do one of these tasks, they are signaling that they already don’t respect you (or probably anyone else). It’s really a lose-lose scenario. Either you do the lousy job to keep everyone happy (except you), or you don’t do it and start making people unhappy with you.

  7. Ilija Brajkovic on the 2nd December

    I think it all depends on how much do you want to keep this job.
    And sometimes, when you can’t (won’t) do extra job, you can tell your boss that it will disturb your regular tasks.

    • Joseph Lewis on the 2nd December

      Exactly. When you are younger, it is easier to leave a lousy job and find a greener pasture. But when you have a mortgage and a family to support, and you’re a more senior professional yourself, it can be much harder to hop from job to job.

      Note that a boss who is willing to make one of these requests has already decided in their mind that their request is more important than your work, so it may be difficult to convince them that your work is more important than their request.

  8. Conrad Borba on the 2nd December

    Great article.

    I have been battling with this kind of thing at work. I am a graphic designer at a newspaper. The company knows that I freelance web design on the side and have tried to get me to do web related things at work. I have let them know that I don’t mind a few things here and there but a line must be drawn. They have been pushing me to do Flash work to which I refuse simply on the grounds that I usually charge double to triple of what I make an hour. Guess I might feel better about it if they would give me a raise or something.

    Turning things down is hard, especially when you usually go above and beyond most of the time.

    • Joseph Lewis on the 2nd December

      Conrad,
      I know exactly what you mean, I think a lot of us have been in that exact same position. There really is no good solution, and the situation requires you to make some hard decisions about your priorities. If you can sacrifice some work or a client to keep your standards, great. But if you need the work and can’t afford to anger the client/boss, then you’re stuck doing the lousy job.

    • Avery on the 3rd December

      I had somewhat of a similar experience except it was dealing with my still developing illustration abilities. They wanted me to go online and download known cartoon characters to print and hang on the wall of our new store’s kids area. This wasn’t going to be OK so I decided to offer illustrating a company related comic that we could use instead. It took a while but they were impressed. In fact they were so impressed they wanted to update it every few months…oops!

      I’ve never been very competent when having to illustrate in a timely manner (and environments are the worst!) let alone coming up with additional coherent short stories. So the second comic was dragging on for MUCH longer than they liked and suddenly people that liked me weren’t liking me so much anymore. It’s sucks because I shouldn’t have been expected to do this in the first place and co-workers with the same responsibilities as myself didn’t share in this task because they couldn’t draw at all (or maybe they were just smart enough not to volunteer something they couldn’t do consistently?).

      It’s awesome trying to explain to someone who has no art skills at all that your illustration abilities that looked so good before just comes and goes and that I’m not lazy so much as just not “in the zone” so maybe later. Which is of course where my “somewhat similar experience” statement comes in since you are obviously much more talented at web design than I am at drawing.

    • Thera on the 6th December

      > It’s awesome trying to explain to someone who has no art skills at all
      > that your illustration abilities that looked so good before just comes
      > and goes and that I’m not lazy so much as just not “in the zone”
      > so maybe later.

      So true.

      Also, do you notice how, when assigned 5 tasks that takes 2 weeks each ends up having to do all 5 tasks in 2 weeks rather than 10 ?

      Or the typical thursday conversation: being announced that we’ll discuss monday a new project, basically just being told the name and a very vague idea of what it is, while you’re finishing in a rush (because they know other way to setup deadlines) for that same monday, ends up with the guy coming back the day after (friday, before monday then) askin for updates on preliminary work on that new project you know nothing about given he said earlier we’d discuss it the week after.

      I also love how, when you’re that “best guy who can do things quickly”, you end up being given a friday afternoon a task for monday (of course, overtime isn’t paid: if you can’t finish in time, that means you’re lazy isn’t it), to redo the project your colleague had 8 monthes to do, and how they’re so disappointed when you end up succeeding to not only do it in two weeks instead of 8 monthes, but fix tons of nasty bugs.

  9. Ragnar on the 2nd December

    Nicely written article but I severly disagree with your advice.

    1. NO NO, NEVER!
    2. Maybe, depends on so many things. It’s called project management.
    3. NO NO, NEVER!

    Your principles and personal values are worth far more than money in the pocket! In these situations “NO” will almost always be a winner.

    • Joseph Lewis on the 2nd December

      Ragnar,

      As I have noted in response to other comments, the types of people making unreasonable demands on you are the types of people likely to be unreasonable as managers/executives/human beings.

      I have never met an executive who respected someone more, or rewarded them, for saying No. “No” signals that you are not a team player, that the executive cannot rely on you, and thus does not need you. And, depending on the extent of their unprofessionalism, they may actively hamper your career.

      And as I’ve told others, money in your pocket keeps a roof over your family’s heads and food in their bellies. This article is not about ideals, it is about realities. I wrote it to prepare young professionals for being put in unfair, unprofessional situations in which there is no good solution.

      In my experience, the best solution is to find a job/boss who takes good care of you, rather than stay and fight a bad boss.

  10. Belinda on the 2nd December

    I agree with Conrad. Once you start saying yes to everything, the things that you *honestly* can’t do, become almost impossible to say no to.

    It’s one thing to pitch in and help out, but it’s another to stay back until 8pm when everyone else has gone home, researching the value of infomercials in the USA (I actually had to do this. I live in Australia).

    I also find that I’m more than happy to do those random/weird/unrelated/boring tasks when they’re lumped on me by my manager or his manager – but then other employees see me doing them and think that they too can ask me to upload files to the internet, or look up someones details in our database.

    end rant.

    • Joseph Lewis on the 2nd December

      Belinda,
      You’re right, it is a slippery slope. Unfortunately, it can be hard to realize when you’ve crossed the line from being friendly and helpful to being a doormat. And in some office environments, with some coworkers, standing up for yourself can just make your office life miserable.

      And also unfortunately, your best bet for fixing your work world is usually not to confront these people but to find a better work environment. It can take weeks to get managers or HR folks to seriously address these issues, and the odds of a truly positive outcome are slim.

      Many people don’t want to be involved in a spat over personal errands or semi-professional requests, especially if the requests are coming from a senior manager.

    • Krystal on the 10th August

      “In my experience, the best solution is to find a job/boss who takes good
      care of you, rather than stay and fight a bad boss.”

      –Amen brother. I am 26-years-old and have been working since I’ve graduated college. In my experience, I’ve noticed the two choices given to you are to either suck it up and settle in your misery or to leave. They are out to look for themselves and I suggest you do the same. It’s not easy when you have a house to pay and kids but planning should have been a priority in the first place. Why have a zillion kids and buy a house you can’t afford in the first place in order to impress people you hate and to stay at a job you cannot stand? I have noticed a few old timers at my job calling it quits. It was indeed shocking.

      I highly agree with your article. Thank you for putting the word out there which these fresh out of college graduates need to hear about the workforce. I’ve learned quick!

  11. Joni on the 2nd December

    The doing something illegal part is tricky. I had a boss who knew the rules but kept asking me to break them because he thought-his words-it was the “right thing to do.” Once he knew what he was asking was wrong, I’d simply ask him to send me an email detailing what he wants so that I could get right on it. Then at least I knew someone else was going down with me if things got hairy!!!

    • Joseph Lewis on the 2nd December

      Joni,

      Keeping records is always advisable, but at the end of the day, you need to decide whether to actually take the questionable action. It would easy to say, “Don’t break the rules” or “Ask for help when something bad happens” but the reality is that you might find no one is on your side.

      If an executive asks you to do something bad, and your supervisor goes along with it, and HR claims it’s not an HR problem, then it’s all up to you, and whether you’re willing to risk your job to keep your nose clean.

      The best advice is to get out and find a better job with better bosses as soon as you can!

    • Belinda on the 2nd December

      I do the same thing Joni – whenever someone asks me to do something that I don’t quite agree with (even things that aren’t illegal, just things that are a bit out of the ordinary like placing orders without receiving a deposit, etc) I just smile politely and say “sure thing, can you just pop that in an email for me?” Glad to know that I’m not the only one with that outlook! haha.

  12. Kelly on the 2nd December

    Good grief – this article sounds like it was pulled straight from “The Devil Wears Prada”.

    I’ve been very fortunate in my career to not have bosses or CEO’s or VP’s etc, expect me to do them personal favors on my free time. I did have one psycho boss that asked me to house-sit for her and that sort of thing, but she always paid me for my time.

    Boundaries are IMPORTANT – and YES, even in the workforce. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been at my current job because I told myself when I started that I would STOP saying “yeah, I’ll do that” to every single request brought my way – most especially if I’m too busy or if it’s beyond my abilities (and beyond can also mean “beneath”).

    It’s a major misconception that you’ll only get respect if you are “helpful” and do whatever is asked of you. It’s up to each individual to define their boundaries, but the more you let people trample them, the more miserable and resentful you’re going to make yourself.

    This doesn’t mean be a hard-nosed Grinch and block everything coming your way, but if there’s any possibility that you’re going to feel taken advantage of in doing a special favor, then you’d best say “Thank you for thinking of me, but I will not be able to do that for you. Let me know if you’d like some recommendations on who could do that for you.”

    Respect comes when they see you will speak up for yourself and stick to your boundaries and do so in a respectful manner yourself.

    Being a “Yes Man” will only get you so far. And if you think it’s the only way to keep the peace at your job, I’d suggest pulling out and reading some materials on co-dependency, because being a “people-pleaser” is what co-dependency is all about, and it is NOT a fun place to be.

    • Joseph Lewis on the 2nd December

      Kelly,

      It’s great that you have had good luck with your bosses/jobs, but folks need to be aware that unreasonable and unprofessional bosses are very real and not confined to movies/TV. The examples in the article were all taken from my personal experiences and those of my friends and colleagues.

      A person who tries to walk all over you is already a person who does not respect others, and is not going to change because you say “No.” Their unprofessionalism and immaturity will likely just motivate them to make your life a little worse if and when they can.

  13. Jon Clark on the 2nd December

    I can’t agree to a single word of this article.

    As I found many years ago, be too helpful and you’ll soon end up running errands 24/7 and not doing the job you were hired to do.

    The art of saying “no” politely and non-confrontationally is a more important workskill that helping out with every little task.

    • Rob on the 4th December

      I’m glad someone else is of like mind here; I read this article and was fairly outraged that someone would ENCOURAGE people to just suck it up for such reasons as “It’s a tough economy” and “Life isn’t fair”.

      I get your points there Joseph; they just come off a little like my grandfathers “When I was your age…” stories.

      Jon Clark is 100% correct in regard to the art of saying ‘no’. Yes; your boss or client may still insist that you do it and place you in an awkward position, but if all you ever do is cave in to every little demand everyone at your work place is going to walk over you anyway – and why would you want to work in that sort of environment?

    • Joseph Lewis on the 12th December

      @Rob, it’s nice that you are outraged that some people should suffer in a bad economy. And it’s too bad you don’t put much stock in your grandfather’s stories.

      But if you asked the 8,000 people just laid off from Johnson & Johnson, they might tell you they would rather feed their children than their self-esteem.

      By all means, look for a better job, but don’t fly off the handle every time someone tries to take advantage of you, and certainly don’t jeopardize a paycheck you can’t afford to lose.

  14. Jay on the 3rd December

    Having read the article I agree that there are going to be times when you will be asked to do something that isn’t quite in your contract / job description however from experience doing these things whether they are for colleagues, friends, people more senior than you is good if you want to build bridges with these people however you should always be mindful of the tasks / objectives in your job profile.

    Being only 23 I am still a ‘young pup’ when it comes to experience in my working life and only having been working for this particular company for 4 years. Until recently I have always been very receptive and accommodating to requests, mainly because I like to help but sometimes because I’ve felt compelled to when asked by senior management.

    It is in my experience that doing this too often hurts your job more than it helps I have been placed on a certain capability plan not because I’m unable to do my job but simply because I do too much and help people out too often.

    My advise for anyone as mentioned above is to stick to the tasks and objectives set out as part of your job description / contract if you are asked to do things outside of these then it’s your absolute right to judge whether you feel you should do it or not. Telling people you can’t do something because you are far too busy already is more than reasonable make sure you have something to hold as evidence to show people what you are currently working on because this will give you some ammunition to go back.

    There is always union support if you feel like you are being treated unfairly often employers don’t give you details of the union when you first start in a job but it’s worth querying with HR who the union representatives are in your place of work.

    I believe ENRO is the best way to deal with any requests that you can’t do due to heavy work loads Empathy, No, Reason, Options – this simply means empathize with the person making the request you understand it’s important but you have things on your own priorities that need to be done, No is very important and it’s important that you say it with some authority, Reason backs up why you are saying no and is very important if you want to be taken seriously, and options gives the person options on how else they can get this done if you can’t or potentially you may feel you’d like to facilitate at a later time.

    Hope this helps anyone in a similar situation!

    • Joseph Lewis on the 3rd December

      Jay, I’m not sure what it means to be placed on a “capability plan.”

      Office workers today (at least in the United States) typically do not have any resources that resemble a union. As I mentioned in another comment, most people are employed “at will” and can be legally terminated at any time for any reason.

  15. Stephanie Lewis on the 3rd December

    Also, check your job description. Your boss could just say that these random tasks fall under the “other duties as assigned” bullet.

    • Joseph Lewis on the 3rd December

      Excellent point. In this day and age, it can be difficult to say definitively what is or is not “in your job description”!

  16. David Singer on the 4th December

    As someone who occasional hires people (and as a former employee) I can’t believe all the whiners in the comments.

    Your job description is always do whatever the person writing your pay check wants (within legal limits). If you don’t like picking up your bosses dry cleaning find a new boss. With 10% unemployment they will have no problem replacing you (likely at well below your current salary).

    Bitching about it will get your no where. When its time for a raise who do you think your boss promotes? The guy that documented this “abuse” and made a scene at HR, or the guy who picked up his dry cleaning and was smart enough to stop off at Starbucks to pick him up a latte knowing he had a long day ahead of him.

    • Kelly on the 4th December

      The answer to that would be neither candidate. ;)

      Go-fers just don’t get raises like you’d think they would (or should). Go-fers have basically turned themselves into an Administrative Assistant (AKA Secretary) and that’s all the person using them will see they’re good for. And that’s all fine and great to be a Go-fer if that’s what you like doing. Nothing wrong with it. But if you feel like you’re being taken advantage of, then it’s NOT worth it.

      The people getting the good raises are the ones who stick within their job specifications, going above and beyond where their work expectations are concerned (and I mean WITHIN their true job description, not the “Go-fer” tasks) and hold their ground with respect, not complaints.

      I agree with Rob. “Why would you want to work in that sort of environment?”

      Tanking economy or no. This just sounds like a way to give upper-crusts an excuse to disrespect their employees. “Oh, you want your job? Then clean my underwear. Muuaaahahahahaaa!”

      Folks, there are no victims. Only volunteers.

  17. Martijn Mer on the 4th December

    There is only one true solution:

    Grow some balls and be your own boss!

    Seriously, go and make some serious money…. dont know how? go figure it out and do something usefull with it for e.g. help other people or animals with it… you’ll feel much better when your nearing the end of your life… just trust me.

  18. Tai Travis on the 4th December

    This is why freelancing is so much better for me. If I am stuck doing menial tasks then how can I get better at what I do?

    Being my own boss, just like having a real one, is about having clear boundaries.

    Sure I could run my errands in the middle of the work day but am I respecting myself professionally for doing so?

  19. DJ Silly on the 12th December

    Live life how you want. Don’t listen to people who say they are higher than you. Just show them your unique and enjoy your self!

  20. Bogdan Pop on the 14th December

    What’s wrong with a car that has manual transmition?

  21. Bryan on the 17th December

    I read through all the comments and can’t help but take the stance-

    In today’s economy, how many of you are willing to tell your company, or boss, to pack sand when it comes to personal or non-job description tasks? If your in a position to be able to do that then congrats. Unfortunately, most people aren’t.

    I have to remind myself everyday that at least I have a job. I’m renting a room in a house that’s 1051 miles away from my wife and three daughters and have been doing so for a year now. I’m missing school/church/sporting events that they participate in, my oldest daughters senior year in high school, the oldest two getting their license, family time, birthdays, anniversaries, daddy-daughter dates, and the list goes on. At least I have a job that allows me to put food on the table for them, clothe them, and pay the mortgage so they have a roof over their head.

    Does that mean I wouldn’t tell file a complaint or quit my current employer over egregious requests/actions like lying or sexual harassment? No. But it does mean I wouldn’t bat an eye about performing job functions that aren’t necessarily within my ‘job description’. Why? Because at least I have a job.

    I’m not asking you to feel sorry for me but giving you a little perspective on what people are willing to do in order to keep their jobs right now. If you do have a steady job you should be thankful for it and be willing to flex a little bit in order to keep it.

    Who knows, that job the boss is asking you to do, that isn’t in your job description, may have been something he or she might have asked the person they had to lay off the last week.

    • Rob on the 17th December

      There is a definite difference between ‘helping out’ and being taken advantage of. I think that is a line that must be defined by each individual, and likely on a case-by-case basis. Certainly if my boss asked me to do something as a one-time thing I would consider (and likely do) it.

      But that’s not how your article comes off. It’s not apologetic about the situation, it doesn’t offer much other option than “Suck it up at least you’re employed”

      And that’s a poor argument “The economy is bad so you have to suffer”. That’s the sort of argument used by poor managers for the sole purpose of taking advantage of a situation. “Sorry to ask this of you Bob; you know how the economy is”. “Gotta have you do this Bob, no one else can and you know how the economy is” and eventually of course “You know how this economy is Bob; you better do this”.

      You make a very valid point that sometimes it’s just easier and BETTER to dip your hat and make the concession; but the manner in which you make it comes off more as an unfeeling boss / manager than as an employee who is actually going through the situation.

  22. Joseph Lewis on the 17th December

    @Rob,

    I have never been a manager of any kind, and as indicated in the article, I have often been an employee actually going through these situations. But since I don’t see any point in feeling sorry for myself, or even angry at the world, I feel no need to be “apologetic about the situation.” It is what it is.

    So my advice is, similarly, to get over your feelings and get on with your life. It won’t punish your evil boss one jot to fill yourself up with anger and resentment, and in my experience it won’t do any good to fight the system. Go find yourself a better system (job).

  23. Nina on the 20th December

    I wonder what would happen if every single person refused to do these types of things, like a global united front against bad bosses? :)

    Sometimes though, it seems that this bad economy is actually exposing companies that are badly managed and people that take personal advantage – isn’t that what got us into this mess in the first place? I guess it’s easy to say to refuse to do anything that is unreasonable (without a family or mortgage) but I’ve seen people given tasks that would otherwise be required of a much more senior position (READ = HIGHER SALARY) than what the person was on. Bosses and accountants will always try to push the envelope but that only hurts the industry in the end. This is something that I would take a stance on (as well as illegal requests – good advice to keep records of people asking you to do them!).

  24. George on the 29th December

    I hate how people mainly employers of small business are using the economy as an excuse to mistreat and abuse there employees. I’ll give you an example of my work place.. its a garage ( popular in the county ) I work at all 3 of the establishments the oil change, the service center and the inspection station. When I was hired I was told I would be at one of these 3 buildings doing regular duties oil changes, tuneups and other mechanical and or state inspections…no problem thats what I do… I dont have a problem doing any of these tasks. I do have a problem with the owner being a cheep skate ( Mr.Crabs) and wanting me to dig a ditch 6 inches deep from one building to the next 300 -500 ft with a shovel. He wants to extend the security service from his building to ours but does not want to pay the security company to dig the ditch …only to install the line and cameras. I have to do this tommrrow its cold and the ground is hard redclay I am a mechanic not a construction worker. But some how he thinks he has the right to have me doing this… plus I have cars to work on… Im about to just quite… Ive been with the company for 8 yrs and talking to him is not an option… he has become a greedy rich man.

    • George on the 29th December

      Sorry about the typos and lack of punctuation.

  25. Mel on the 8th January

    I couldn’t agree more….

    Business find inside the crisis an excuse to lay off people, cut off their sallaries e.t.c. especially now that many goverments to avoid raising the unemployment levels let businesses behave any way they like …. I think the way out of this is freelancing… Freelancers do not have to put up with such a behavior… and the Internet with so many different freelancing related sites, makes it easy for anyone to find projects…….just to mention some of them are

    http://www.getafreelancer.com
    http://www.rentacoder.com
    http://www.auctionsforbusiness.com
    freelanceswitch.com

    It is very common today to go to an interview and have people (HR usually) promising all this nice things and showing you a great list (with only a few bullets) with your day to day duties…and after putting down your signature to see this “Duties” list double or triple in size….and in reality have nothing to do with the job they promised you…..

  26. Will Von Wizzlepig on the 24th February

    People throw around “at will employment” in a manner that implies it is an excellent excuse to give up and just tolerate what an employer does to you because you have no other choice.

    That is not entirely the case, but you have to know your rights and be willing to push back and possibly lose your job- and if you don’t lose your job, you have to be willing to tolerate being treated like a leper for the rest of your time there.

    Retaliatory firing + employee handbook that states you should only have been written up for what you did = opportunity to make them wish they hadn’t.

    When you are lucky enough to have a job which has a job description, they tend come with a description that includes “and other duties as assigned”, so, in most cases when they ask you to clean the nuclear reactor, it’s just your way to discover that you are not unlike a square of toilet tissue to them.

    While I hate to agree with the “just do what they’re telling you to” way of thinking, in a lot of cases, what’s wrong with the picture is what’s in your head.

  27. Emily on the 31st May

    I have to disagree with the “just deal with it” response to a situation in which your boss presumes that you’re available to corral his relatives at the airport.

    The better response is, “I’m so sorry, but I’m not available that day.” Presuming of course that you’re being asked to do this outside of normal work hours. If it’s during your normal workday? Whatever, you’re getting paid to be someplace different than normal. But if it’s not, and you had plans, that involve other people having made a commitment to be there for you?

    “Sorry, I won’t be available, I have a prior appointment.” No other explanation necessary.

  28. beth broemer on the 23rd June

    every time my boss wants me to do something and i say no she changes my job description. i have had at least 4 different job descriptions in the last 2 years. its just not right. so today i had to sign yet another new description and she said i had to sign it today. i did reluctantely but i think im actually going to put my resignation in.

  29. RealNameHere on the 19th July

    I really appreciate this article. Its hard to search for “not fair, job description” and find remedy or at least common circumstances from people, and the ensuing sense one gets of themselves. Just being able to say so helps, even though my story is like everyone else’s.

    Bad days for finding a job. All you can do is as the article states, unless you have something else to go to.

  30. Joe K on the 22nd January

    Joseph,

    All I need to say is that you really need to get a set of ..you know what… Learn how to stick up for yourself and have people treat you with respect in the workplace. If you feel like you are going to get fired because you did not run out and pick up some donuts, but your real job is that you are an accountant and they want to let you go because of the push back, then that is their loss. I would not want to work for a company that would do that.

  31. David Davis on the 27th April

    I know this is a really passive-aggressive solution, but given the lose-lose situation that such “other duties as assigned” requests put you in, why not make it even more of a lose-lose for both you and your boss?

    Take forever to pick up the dry cleaning. Bring it back slightly rumpled or bring in the suit folded up in your arms as you carry steaming hot cups of coffee you got for your boss, but dangle everything precariously and scare your boss into think you’re about to spill the the double mochaccino onto the Valentino suit/dress.

    Going to pick up the boss’s relatives at the airport? Oh, geez, the car stalled at a stop light and I couldn’t get it going, so that’s why I was 45 minutes late picking up your relatives. You might want to get the car checked out; it was making a funny noise.

    The point is: you don’t say no to the request, but you perform eagerly, but just below par enough that the boss has to give you an “A” for effort, but a “C” for execution and might think twice about asking you to do these tasks and instead move on to the next chump.

    Passive-aggressive? Absolutely. But sometimes that’s the only way. It’s a lose-lose. Why do you have to be the only mature one?

  32. Jason on the 30th April

    Sad.

    No wonder this country is going down the sh****** with a bunch of serfs like 75% of the above.

  33. Justin B on the 24th May

    Utter nonsense, most companies get their employees to do additonal tasks that’s not in their job description because they can’t be bothered paying you more or changing your job title.

    I am a team leader and my company recently got rid of my project manager. Since he left they haven’t replaced him and instead I am now doing my own job plus his. At first I thought I would be eventually rewarded for this but it turns out our manager basically doesn’t want to pay extra and expects us to do this extra work for nothing!

    I am now suffering from severe stress as I’m doing double work for nothing and I’m also getting rubbish pay.

  34. Stefan on the 14th July

    My Boss just read this website and told me to reply for him encouraging people to do what their bosses say.

  35. Pam on the 19th August

    I’ve been lucky over my working career to have very good bosses and haven’t been taken advantage of. Recently, I’ve been working for a company as a computer technician. The head CEO feels it is his right to get me to work on his personal computers (his wife’s, aunt’s, children’s, etc.). I feel he is taking advantage of me and I can’t get any support from the HR department. She needs her job too. My former boss didn’t want me to do this. This caused a problem and the CEO would expect me to go to another room and work on these computers without my boss knowing. This made it very difficult for me and has made me resentful of the CEO. Now I have a new boss and this is going on openly in my office. He’s not going to stand up for me.

    I don’t feel I can do anything to change the situation. So, I just smile and put up with it until I retire in another 4 1/2 years. I can’t wait to retire!

  36. Corinne on the 22nd August

    I work for an attorney, sole practitioner. I came into the firm as an attorney, but when the secretary quit, the boss didn’t hire another one, instead putting those duties on me. He did give me a modest raise for doing both jobs at the same time. The situation was supposed to go on 3 mos. tops, and it’s now been over a year. On top of that, he asks me to make personal phone calls and write personal letters for him. I finally drew the line at lunch orders. I told him I’m happy to do it as a personal favor or if I’m ordering for myself already, but I don’t think it should be part of my job description.

    When other things cross the line, sometimes I just do it anyway to keep things running smoothly or because I don’t have the energy to argue. Other times, I just say “Isn’t that a little personal?” He’ll fuss about it a little but generally respect the boundary I set. Now he’s starting to give me better projects again, like writing briefs and motions.

    On the other hand, when I was charged with a crime, he came to my defense and only charged me a fraction of his normal fee. So in some ways, the favors go both ways (though the types of tasks are different). Even though I’m uncomfortable taking care of personal tasks, and do need to stand up for myself from time to time, it could be much, much worse.

    Bottom line: stand up for yourself, but choose your battles wisely.

  37. Oliver on the 12th September

    So as a young idealist I’ve come to check and.. Yup, life is still unfair. Great update, I’ll check back later to see if anything’s changed or if people are still going to recite that vague bit of “told-ya-so” without any further insight or substance…

  38. Shane on the 22nd September

    Seriously disappointed in this article. This is the type of attitude that allows workers to be taken advantage of. While unemployment is high keep in mind that if you are not being taken care of by your boss or company why should you take care of them. Just because a lot of people are looking for work doesn’t mean you should take it in the @$$ for the mediocre paycheck that most jobs are handing out right now. My wife is constantly being asked to do other peoples work and pull extra slack for less capable employess, oh and my personal favorite use her own personal vehicle on company time. She does this all with a smile cause she thinks she is lucky to have a job and cause shhe thinks it will pay off in the end. However so far all it has done is show all her supervisors she is willing to be walked on. She makes a fair amount less than a man she helped train who has the exact same position as her but doesn’t get ask to do the extras cause he can barely accomplish his own work and when she mentioned it the bigwig laugher it off like it was no big deal and after months of my nagging her to at least ask for a raise. They said yes we will work out the details next week, oh I should probably mention that was months ago andnext week hasn’t happened yet. She says that they will bring it up when they see how hard she is working or she will eventually get a promotion cause she is so good. When in fact they will probably promote the douche who keeps complaining and doesn’t finish his work cause she has shown she will do whatever whenever and not complain so why give her more money or respect when she doesn’t demand it. This attitude is horrible.

  39. Touchet on the 30th September

    Here is the deal. When the boss asks you to drive there car, wreck it. Then, when you are hurt and have to pay for the damages, sue them and the company for millions and you won’t have to work again. They will be out of a job and you will be rich.

  40. Michelle on the 9th October

    I find this article ridiculous and insulting to employees everywhere. Bosses are human beings, as are their employees. Unless the job description is “personal assistant” there is no reason for anyone to feel obliged to run personal errands OR DO SOMETHING ILLEGAL for their boss.

    Just because we have a high unemployment rate doesn’t mean that we should give up our personal lives for work. By following the ideas promoted in this article, it’s sending the message to working people everywhere that this is ok. When/how did this become ok? Paid employees are not slaves and if someone is hired as a web designer, they’re there to design, not to pick people up from the airport or falsify data. What happens when you get caught and go to jail? The boss sure as hell isn’t going to stick up for you.

    I feel sorry for anyone who feels that they need to do any of this in order to keep their job. There are so many other options than staying in an abusive situation like that. And that’s what I would consider the type of employment described in this article, abuse. A good employer does not ask an employee to do anything illegal and does not run them ragged completing tasks that they were not hired to do. I mean seriously, driving for 90 minutes on icy roads? Tell your boss to call a taxi or tow truck!

  41. nichelle on the 18th October

    wow, some people here really don’t seem to get it. either you must have a GREAT job or you haven’t been a victim of this recession.

    who gives a crap about how things SHOULD be? we have to live with the way IT IS. is it right that i got hired to do customer service at a print shop but in addition to that i now also do all of the social media managing, graphic design and web design/building for no extra pay or title changes? NO. can i just say, “sorry i’m not doing all this,” and expect to keep my job? maybe. but how the hell do i know that for sure? the reason i got all of the graphic design work is because the graphic designer got fired! “having balls,” has nothing to do with it. at a job i had a couple years ago i had no problem telling my bosses that certain things weren’t in my job description… but i also had no problems finding jobs then. after being laid off twice in one year it took me 7 months of applying to jobs every single day to finally get hired somewhere. so to say, “if you’re not happy with your boss then get a new one,” is an incredibly ridiculous thing to say in 2011. sure you’ll EVENTUALLY get a new job if you keep applying but that ‘could’ literally take months/years. you think i’m going to risk not having a job again after going through that hell for almost a year? i think not.

    it’s a crappy feeling to come to work everyday and bust your ass while knowing you’re underpaid…. but, i do have to remind myself that at the end of the day, unlike a LOT of people, i do have a job (that’s in my field) and i’m making a hell of a lot more than i did on unemployment… AND this all looks good on my resume. this has been great motivation to work hard to grow my side business so hopefully i’ll be my own boss one day and not have to work for someone else… but unfortunately that day probably isn’t going to come soon for me and for a lot of people, it never will.

    • AnonymousJoe on the 24th October

      Heard that and I guess we’re all getting pimped BIGTIME! I like what you have to say and I dream about when I drop “THE TWO WEEKS NOTICE BOMB”! BUT, as you said getting a job ain’t easy!

      I just want to add that my boss is FAT, WEARS A WIG EVERYDAY, DUMB AS DIRT, AND HAS NO SELF ESTEEM WHAT-SO-EVA!

      I feel better now!

  42. Albert on the 20th October

    Just smile, grin and bare it, and do whatever the boss asks you to do. You will be rewarded for it in the end. This has never worked for me, with any boss I’ve had. It’s complete rubbish and totally unrealistic. The overwhelming majority of bosses will simply interpret your willingness to capitulate as a sign of weakness and as a green light to take further advantage of you. As the old saying goes: If you give someone an inch, they’ll take a mile. You always have the right to say ‘NO’, and you don’t relinquish that right simply because you happen to be an employee of someone else. Don’t listen to all the lectures to the contrary. The people doing the lecturing are either brainwashed, or bosses themselves.

  43. Sara on the 27th October

    Hello all, today my supervisor attacked me with anger.

    I am an accountant and working for a small company for last five years, I was reporting to the CFO directly, but once CFO decided to hire his close friend, from around two years ago I have to report to his friend.

    He is so rude, loses his temper so fast, disrespectful in society, and looking for any reason to put me down.

    I used to do all accounting jobs: AP/AR/ Expense reports and etc..but he decided to hire
    another person and took part of accounting job from my tray, and instead gave me Secretary job! Answering phones, ordering foods, placing office supplies…

    Although I am doing a great collecting job, so they didn’t take AR …so I am processing all accounts receivable job plus all the works that a secretary does.

    First year when he came to picture and started to verbally abuse me, I got my first panic attack, I started to take medication: Zoloft and Lorazepam to take it easy.

    With this medication I am a happy worker, I smile all the time in office, like every body loves Raymond…now every body loves Sara at work!!

    But I should say I am totally disagree with the writer, why? Today right between invoicing the customers, he asked me to call janitor because men restroom is dirty!!
    I told him I just called them yesterday, made a complain last week, and right now I am in middle of some important work…he came chest to chest pushed me back!! I was shocked, confused and I couldn’t stop my tears…I took two steps back and ran to humman resource, to make the story short….what a mess…friends advised me to go to go home, make a documented report and since HR person was on meeting to send an email from home to him. I did same thing, and I was so stupid to call my husband and told him what happened….he is a senor engineer and very well
    known in bayarea…he calmly told me don’t worry and just document everything .

    I don’t blame him, but he drove to our company and told my supervisor if you touch my wife, I kill you!

    Well my supervisor called 911, and they had a short conversation with my supervisor and me and the human resource. They told me my husband shouldn’t do this, and I need to document everything.

    My supervisor is an angry, bully person (in his sixties) .. I feel threatened…so scared, but he denied all, he said I was planning all this in advance to make him look like bad!!

    My idea is you have a personality, and you have self steem, don’t let anyone to bully you or boss you around..

    I have done factory job when I was younger ( I am a lady and forty three years old)…I have experienced sleeping at night hungry because I didn’t have money…I know what hungry means, but I also know what means when you end up getting nervous break down.

    If they fire me, I sue the company, if I go down, I take my supervisor down too with me. This should be a lesson for all employers to take the HR complains serious.

    Although HR told me they are happy from my performance but I don’t trust them. The asked me to go to office tomorrow to talk to them and have a new work plan.
    Even though they fire me, I don’t care, I have a personality, an accountant at 43 years old can’t be a janitor to concerns about men s restroom cleaning!!

  44. Sam on the 13th December

    Yeah this is very true. I’m an in house graphic designer for a lighting company and I have to do a ton of stuff for everyone else to look good and never get credited. For example. a Huge presentation for John Lewis I did the entire thing (43 pages of detailed photography, cut out images specs and design) in one day for a colleague and the presentation i’m told went very well and the guy i did this presentation for was praised by our boss for “Such a fantastic job on the presentation” and this colleague also was praised for the style and design of his amazing presentation. Not once was my effort and overtime mentioned or even acknowledged. But that’s life, and as much as I hate no getting credit. I can take pride in the fact that this is all helping towards a healthy portfolio and will eventually help me to get a much better job in graphic design for a larger agency at better pay. Working towards a dream here. Got to keep my head down.

  45. Steve on the 16th December

    I am reading this after just giving my notice. I too disagree with this article. A little background….New boss was hired. Starts off with an action item letter that basically accuses me of being lazy. Next of course comes twice the work. A couple months go by and he asks me to wash his car and vacuum it out for him…..stunned that he could be that big of a jerk, I allowed a bad precedent to be set, which I am usually good at not letting happen. He then demands that I call him twice per day and let him know what I’m doing…..I politely refuse to do it. After a month of his urging he says that I’m putting him in a difficult position….which of course he won’t describe (He’s second only to the CEO). He then sends me an email stating that he’s holding my expense reimbursements until I comply….which is BS, if even legal as it’s MY money. Tired of his crap I submitted my notice.
    Here’s the deal. You are entitled to suffer any bad precedent you allow to be set. However, there’s nothing wrong with being a team player either. If you’re advancing the cause and you’re ok with it…..fine. A pat on the back can go a long way. If you’re not ok with it and say nothing….it’s YOUR FAULT. If your employer truly feels you have your job as an act of company charity, advise them that you’re replacement should come from a homeless shelter. The bottom line is you were hired because you were the best selection of those who applied. Eventually a failure to find and retain good employees either teaches a company to change their ways or puts them out of business. Hiring for the same position repeatedly is also expensive. You were hired to do a job, not to sacrifice your dignity.

  46. Kathy on the 8th January

    I, too, nodded the entire way through this article. I have a question about a job my boss asks everyone to do at our office. Should we expect our company cover our liability insurance because of what our boss asks us to do (and does himself)? He asks us to drive students who attend our alternative school and their infant children various places. He also does this. This has been going on for nearly two years. When I asked about obtaining or being reimbursed for an umbrella policy (because of the liability) he avoided me for months. I finally added the invoice to my expense report and he declined to pay. He cited that driving students and their infant children is not part of my job description. So true. I will add that when one employee declined to drive students, he spoke negatively of him in front of the entire office while applauding the staff member who agreed to drive the students. It is my impression that either he wants us to pay for our own umbrella policies or that he doesn’t mind putting all our jobs at stake. Has he gone too far?

  47. Steven on the 24th January

    First off, I think it’s horrible that an article like this has to be written in the first place. It is truly pathetic the way companies treat ther employees these days, and shold be ashamed of themselves. What needs to underlined here, is just how greatly “at will” hiring has ruined the working world. Not only in terms of employee abuse, but also in terms of companies putting more people on unemployment and further burdening government systems and all of us as taxpayers! As far as this article goes, though, I will take my self worth and esteem over corporate trampling any day. Our legislators are at fault for bowing to corporate lobbyists who care nothing about humanity… And allow us to be treated like crap.

  48. VG on the 12th February

    It all happens and the best you can do is start looking elsewhere to maintain your integrity because the very people who ask you to stay because the company needs you are the next offenders:
    a) Will you file my US personal taxes? – 15% Canadian owner
    b) What do you mean Rutgers denied I ever attended their University? – newly promoted CEO, (after checking with school three times)
    c) My wife & I want you to travel with us because you’re very funny. But I want to show you my mountain house alone. – COB, fanny pincher leveled with atleast three and counting EEOC claims

  49. Michael Russo on the 2nd March

    You are what’s wrong with America. You should be fired, but first go get me some #($(@! coffee.

    Moron

  50. Sudheer on the 12th March

    The situations that this article mentions do happen, more in the beginning of our career-when we are not sure of our self worth and skill levels. As we grow more experienced and skilled and become aware of techniques like affirmations, we can steer our life in our own way.
    When I joined my first job as a civil engineer, the boss once asked me to bring tea and snacks from the cafeteria for the entire staff. He claimed that he had cooked for others while a student. I felt too vulnerable at that time, having joined after a long hiatus, and had to comply. Now it seems unnecessary.
    Thanks for the nice read!

  51. Gabe on the 15th March

    Wow, I am amazed at reading many of the responses above. Guys, the moral fiber of society at large is at stake here. With all due respect, I cannot agree with much that Mr. Lewis wrote here. I don’t live in the US and I am not American, but guys, surely your great country was not built on conformism and fear. Quite the contrary. If you follow Mr. Lewis’ advice, you are going to do nothing else but feed the above listed unacceptable management practices and foster their prevalence in your society. While Mr Lewis is correct in saying that compromise is part of the game, you cannot outright blame the “bad economy” for 100% spinelessness. It is an individual decision, that comes down to the priorities, circumstances and last but not least the amount of curvature / flexibility in one’s backbone. But giving a blanket advice that says “what the boss wants the boss gets, no matter what” is just plain wrong. Life is just too short to live like that – and no, I am not 20 years old. Respect yourself first and foremost and you will soon find that others will respect you as well. Treat yourself like you’re a slave, and others will soon realize they can treat you the same way.

  52. L. Martinez on the 23rd March

    I have co-workers who say yes to all the boss demands, but they are fed up and misreable. So since they say yes all the time boss thinks its ok to say can i give you your check next week? Of course they say ok, i understand. But now its become a habit of him skipping days to pay associates on time and they still follow his demands.
    As for myself im the “No” girl and i dont allow myself to get suckered into things that i find unprofessional on his part. So while everyone is getting no paychecks and doing extra work, i get my check and he doesnt bother me on these crazy task. I say yes when its on a professionl level and its reasonable even if its not in my job description.

  53. Ricardo Cedillo on the 21st June

    I can’t believe the advice this article offers. One should take abuse because jobs are scarce and petty bosses are an inescapable part of life. Like many other comments have already stated, BULL SHIT. This is advice for cowards. So if you are a coward and are accepting abuses from your boss, your boss is in the wrong, but if you don’t find the power and confidence to put it to an end yourself, its just as much your fault. I want to recommend to everyone reading this, a book entitled Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank, and a little advice.
    The book talks about how stress is transmitted by abusers down to others along lines of perceived rank. However, this only occurs if and when people accept and allow it. From day one, you as an individual need to project a professional, friendly but firm, demeanor. It helps a lot if you already have a “not to be fucked with” look/attitude, but if not, professionalism is your best line of defense against an unprofessional cowardly boss. If you are asked to do something not in your job description, simply say so.
    Example, “It sounds like you’re looking for a chauffeur, I can recommend a good one at a very fair rate.” Or something to that effect.
    If they persist, let them know that you would prefer to keep your business relationships professional, not personal, and what they are asking is for is a personal favor on company time.
    If they insist, or become hostile, have an audio recording device ready on your desk, and simply let them know you plan to keep your communication with him or her recorded. That is often enough. It’s worked for me. (Keep in mind however, it must be audio only. Audio Video recording requires their consent.)
    Besides working to protect yourself personally, encourage and empower your coworkers and HR to speak up. Sometimes the most effective way to battle this type of boss behavior is in a group. Communicate to your boss that it is not only unprofessional, but unbecoming and embarrassing for someone with so much rank to behave so shamefully; and of course, inform their superiors. They did not get to their lofty position by being cowards and bullies, they had to be recommended and chances are that the smart people on top, the real head haunchos, don’t and won’t tolerate that level of unprofessionalism from people they’ve entrusted to help their business succeed. Most top bosses understand that the best work comes from people who are happy, and that innovation and profit is generated from work environments that are fear and oppression free. Any business and project managment class will tell you that, and intuitively any person can see and understand that. Put a child in a class room with teacher who’s a bully, grades drop. Remove bully, grades improve.
    It’s easy to believe that keeping your head down in the work place is the best thing to do, that nobody cares, and speaking up will only make things bad for you; but its just not true. It may take time, but the reality is that bullshit is bad for business, no matter who’s dishing it out, and what their rank and pay grade is. So don’t be a coward. Speak up, you’ll have more allies and support than you think.

  54. Matt Turner on the 26th July

    I was hired seventeen years ago as a simple drafter, working under a degreed engineer, who was later “released” as soon as the new owners purchased the company. I then found myself running the engineering department for this, the US based company, and its sister company in the UK. Since I looked at it as an opportunity to increase my value, and hopefully salary, I proceeded with an vengeance. But, seventeen years later, ten years of record over record sales, and I am still running both engineering departments, but now, the CEO also asked me if I was any “good with computers” and of course I was, so I agreed to help other less skilled employees who earn a lot more than I, work on their computers, fix their issues, and remove viruses they download. Ive rebuilt servers with new motherboards and restored harddrives that crashed and got everyone back to work again. I also manage all of the patents and trademarks for this company, and recently for the two other companies of the co-owner. So, now I work for 3 other companies for FREE, I run four job descriptions, and get paid at the 30% mark below the median wage estimates (BLS 2011) for the least of what I do. Mechanical Drafting.
    Its sad really. Business owners who purposely view brain surgery as skinning a fish simply to save a buck. I have however, made myself incredibly valuable to this company, and the 3 others, whether the dumbass owner knows it or not. His 1970 brand X style of mgmt doesnt float anything when he has to put his ad in the newspaper. I would love to read it.
    I have a LOT of talent in a LOT of areas that I wish I could use to help a nice small company grow. This place has been a severe self-fucking.

    • Cathy on the 14th April

      What’s sad is they would get rid of you in a heart beat without a tear if it came to that.

  55. jaimie on the 31st August

    oh wow. this is actually some of the worse advice i’ve ever read.

    1. under no circumstances should you allow yourself to be taken advantage of because “unemployment is high” and someone else will gladly do the job. all that does is start a vicious cycle of employers thinking they can get away with asking for whatever they want. if you do not value your work and your time, no one else will either.

    2. sure, take on extra responsibility and prove yourself as a valuable employee, but you damn well better be getting at least a title change, if not monetary compensation. and if you are suddenly being assigned tasks you weren’t hired to do, you need to ask why and find a solution that is mutually beneficial.

    3. NO. i don’t care how much you need that job. doing something illegal and just hoping you don’t get caught is never a solution!! the sheer lack of integrity in this one is astounding. granted, morals don’t pay the bills, but promoting this sort of “i have to do anything i’m asked or else i’ll be fired and starve” mentality is really scary and makes me sad for us as a people.

  56. cro on the 16th October

    Wow, what universally terrible advice:

    1) No. At best, put up with it until you find another job, pronto. You’re rewarding unethical behavior and showing yourself as a doormat. And that unethical boss? Chances are that someone like that got where he did by pushing boundaries as much as he can. Which means he’s going to ask you to do 3) sooner or later (since you’ve already shown yourself to be a total doormat), and you should gtfo before that happens, or find some other solution that doesn’t involve “just sucking up because starving people in the third world” and doing his bidding.

    2) Almost right, except you never mentioned the most important part, which is how you turn that extra work you’re doing to your advantage. Best case, keep a record of all extra-job duties that demonstrate your skills, saved right next to your resume. Also study it before future job interviews in case you need talking points to support the idea that you’re a “team player” and “flexible hire.” And if you’re not looking for a new job? Bring it up at your next salary negotiation. (be extra sure you’re ready for the responsibility though because there’s no turning back)

    3) If you follow the advice for 1), then this will basically never happen to you. If it does, chances are he’s smart enough to back off once you “encourage” him to put it in writing and ask a few pointed questions through email (then back up your email)

  57. Cathy on the 14th April

    I can see what you are saying about some of these “extras”. I’ve done some of them and just add it to my normal list of duties.

    However, I recently was hired on for a well known IT company as a data center tape operator. I will be creating the job from ground up, which is right up my alley, really like that kind of work. btw, I’m 50 years old and 5 feet 4 inches tall and in great health (relevant info for the details below).

    Two weeks ago our shipping/receiving guy quit and since they are super short handed at this 1 year old facility they told me to go back and log in shipments and find storage for all of it as it comes in (and its coming in constantly since 3 major projects by 3 major customers are suddenly taking all the time). I’ve been lifting boxes, hauling thousand pound pallets, pulling, shoving, getting boxes lifted up into top shelves (sometimes using ladders), etc. They are going to hire a full time person for the job but they just got the ad in the paper. Their hiring process is slow; took me 5 weeks to get in once I was offered the job.

    Friday my upper back, where lower neck and back meet became swollen, pin like pain, etc. I still had all these boxes and knew I had reached my limit finally. I went up to the office and saw a couple guys playing on their computers and a couple more had left early (being friday and all). I reported the pain and told them I needed help, and one man came back and helped.

    Right now my back is hurting and I have a bad ass headache from it. It seems to me that some “extra” duties can actually go across the line of legal.

    I was never told in the interview that I might have to do physical labor involving my back. I’m still looking around the internet to see if there is legal advice about this. Otherwise, I am not going into work tomorrow. I’m going to contact their HR department which resides out of state and find out what I can do about this. If they say nothing….I’m getting a lawyer. I’ve had it with this kind of Fascism. More people need to step up to the plate to ensure we do not become another Dickensonian type era.

  58. Matt Turner on the 23rd April

    Just a side note; the company I work for also does NOT give yearly reviews or performance evaluations at all. Nothing, nada, zilch. You want a raise? You better go ask, and have all the necessary information to combat the blatant arrogant negativity this guy will throw at you, acting as if you are literally trying to take his wallet out of his pocket. Some people, just should not own businesses. they have no people-skills, and life has not taught them that just because they “can” doesnt mean they “should”. Arrogance, ignorance, and narcissistic policy to rope an entire group of career oriented individuals into being a herd of fucking sheep, there for whatever the lord master wants. Mr. IT guy, keep a shovel in your trunk, in case I need some holes dug in my yard.

    As I took on these other job descriptions and performed them very well, to the tune of “im still doing it all ten years later”, I find on the other hand, it has opened up a lot of free time for the other employees at the company. One guy, a shop hand, who has 20 years of shop fabrication experience, suddenly became my “supervisor”. Can you imagine the humiliation that a person with design and engineering experience to the tune of 22 years, suddenly is told that a shop guy is now his boss? Well, this shop guy, is apparently very good at restoring classic cars. Body work, engine work, paint, etc. And Guess Who has several classic cars needing restoration? You got it! The owner of the company.
    To date, this shop guy turned into the Operations Manager recently, and his salary has been increased by about 30K since he became OpMan. I have no idea what my title is. Still just a “Drafting” person?

    this shop guy is also permanently camped out in the owners rectum. When you hear him speaking to the owner, and every other word is “sir”, (meaning, at least seven times per sentence) you would think that the obviousness of asskissery would have a man of integrity immediately put a stop to it, but not this guy, he ate it up, wet his pantsleg, and made this shop guy his right hand favorite man.
    3 promotions and 4 increases in salary and what extra functions does he do?
    Work on the owners classic cars.
    Imagine the negative effect on productivity, as I cover these 3 job decriptions in hopes to increase profit, and eventually have room to ask for a higher salary, only to see the extra work thrown right out the window, and counteracted by this shop guy using company money, time, and expense to restore the owners classic cars.

    Here it is a couple of years later after my original post. OBama is still in office, unemployment is around 13% when you count the people who no longer qualify for unemployment benefits and have gone off the grid. I have gone no where, I have made nothing, and quite frankly at this time in my life, I am having a hard time preventing myself from just ending the struggle. I work from paycheck to paycheck, and have nothing to do anything more with. I am tired of life consisting of only this.
    To cause such great successes and profit for an unscrupulous business owner, who prefers to treat his employees like cattle and lump us all into the same group of “go-fers” with no identifying qualifications or experiences.

    The guy would tell his eye surgeon that it only looks like hes shining shoes, so why pay him for eye surgery????

    • Pooja Lohana on the 23rd April

      Matt,

      Thank you for sharing your story with such honesty and openness. I can only imagine it must be hard for you.

      You’ve told us what you don’t want in your work life. And you’ve done a great job at it. Now, what is it that you DO want? Would you like to share?

      Pooja

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