So I wrote a post in November and caught some flack. In “How To Delegate Effectively – Part 2”, I said you should never delegate to your boss because it’s essentially whining.
But but but Buzz, sometimes I really am super busy. Just because I’m not the boss doesn’t mean I don’t have lots to do, too. You’re telling me that if I’m honest about that with my boss, I’m wrong?
Maybe I didn’t accept the assignment because I’m not interested in learning that task. Are you really saying that’s not OK? Are you telling me I can never say no? Are you telling me I just have to do whatever work my boss give me?
In a word … Yes.
Yes, you’re wrong. Yes, that really is not OK. Yes, I’m telling you that you can never say no. Yes, I’m telling you to do whatever work your boss gives you.
Yes. All the yes.
Unless you’re being asked to do something illegal, immoral or unethical, you should do what you’re asked — even if you’re really busy doing other stuff and even if the task isn’t something that especially interests you.
- All tasks have value … Whether it is some really important, highly visible project or taking out the trash, all tasks add to your learning, knowing and professional experience. That’s how you should embrace the work that is assigned to you, even if it is not something you’re especially interested in doing or learning more about. Refusing work delegated to you, no matter the reason or how politely you do it, flies in the face of this — and you’ll come off looking unappreciative and unwilling.
- No one cares that you’re busy, especially your boss. If your boss cared that you’re busy, your boss wouldn’t have assigned the task to you … I know that’s harsh — but it’s generally true. Your boss knows the work you’re doing. And if your boss knows and is giving you more work, there’s a reason. Maybe it’s a test. Maybe it’s for learning. Maybe it’s because you’re busy but your boss is busier. Maybe your boss is a lazy, stupid, arrogant jerkface who likes to watch you suffer (because that’s what you’re really thinking). The reason is ultimately irrelevant because …
- Not doing the tasks assigned to you is insubordinate and grounds for disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment … I know no one likes to hear that — but it is still true. I’m not sure who started the rumor that refusing assignments and talking negatively about and to your boss was acceptable and cool. It’s not and it isn’t. Doing it could get you in more trouble than you want. Don’t hurt your reputation or your livelihood by being insolent and argumentative.
Fine, Buzz. I get it. But if I can’t refuse the task, what can I do?
Try this instead:
- Ask about the learning goal is for the task. “Hey boss, is there something specific you want me to gain from this? I just want to be sure so I know what to look out for and focus on as I’m working on this.” Understanding the objective can help you get into the spirit of the activity, even if it’s not something you love or truly want to do.
- Ask for help setting priorities. “Hey boss, can I have about 10 minutes of your time to go over my to-do list? I could use your help setting priorities so I can be sure to meet all my deadlines.” With your boss fully aware of your work and on your side for the order in which things should be done, you’re free to attack all the tasks without worry for what might get missed.
Approach the tasks assigned to you with an open mind and a willing spirit. Always and in all ways.