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Maybe I'm being petty, but my friend and co-worker has, on a few occasions now, asked me to tell our manager that e.g. he's not working today or that he'll be working from home because he's sick or something else came up. This seems a bit abnormal to me.

I did it once as a favour but I'm not comfortable with it. He has appropriate contacts for our manager (I made sure of this after the first time) and it seems like he just doesn't want to have to contact them. As far as I'm concerned it's entirely his responsibility and it feels unprofessional for me to relay the message.

Thinking that his priority should be to let them know rather than me anyway, I've told him that he should probably email our boss "just so that they aren't asking why they're hearing it from someone else".

Could I have phrased that better? How do I politely bring him round to my way of thinking (i.e. that it's him they should hear it from)?

Update:

@Lilienthal mentioned in a question that his behaviour would make more sense if the manager wasn't available and my friend wouldn't be able to contact him as soon as he was. In my scenario, the manager (probably) hadn't started work at the time when I was asked to notify them. However, the manager would have been contactable by email (which my friend knows) and there wasn't really anything stopping him from calling the manager in ~20-30 min.

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    What is specified in your workplace documentation?
    – user8036
    Jan 12, 2018 at 13:52
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    @BrentHackers Have you asked him why he doesn't contact your manager himself?
    – Lilienthal
    Jan 12, 2018 at 13:52
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    "but my friend and co-worker" How close of a "friendship" do you have? Conversations different between acquaintances, friends, close friends, close-enough-to-be-brother friends, etc... I would tell my brother to... well, I can't mention it here... while I wouldn't think of saying similar things to a "friend" from work I simply see every day and am on good terms with.
    – WernerCD
    Jan 12, 2018 at 15:21
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    Next time just say (quoting you) - "As far as I'm concerned it's entirely your responsibility and it feels unprofessional for me to relay the message."
    – camden_kid
    Jan 12, 2018 at 15:45
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    What happened when you told the friend/coworker that he should be the one emailing the boss? Why is this a question, when you appear to have taken care of it?
    – Beanluc
    Jan 12, 2018 at 22:31

5 Answers 5

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Could I have phrased that better? How do I politely bring him round to my way of thinking (i.e. that it's him they should hear it from)?

You could convey this information to your friend by saying something like: "Listen, I am not comfortable speaking on your behalf regarding your affairs to management. I would rather they hear this straight from the horses mouth". What is key for you though is from this point on, don't do it.

To elaborate further, this is actually not a good idea. What if they say "Hey let the manager know I am sick", and you get busy and forget? Your friend could be fired for not showing up to work....

I would suggest that you let them know that you think its best to follow company policy and that your friend/co-worker should deliver their own updates to the manager.

This way you are not responsible for the content of the message or how its interpreted. This is a case where you should really protect yourself a bit.

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    This answer falls right into my way of thinking and offers some useful (and actually usable) example language. +1 There is probably no such policy where I work but I can at least argue that it's generally good practice. Jan 12, 2018 at 12:50
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    Also remind your friend that using you as a go between looks weak and potentially suspicious.
    – Tim
    Jan 12, 2018 at 13:58
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Point blank refuse.

No I can't, you're the one who's calling in sick - why can't you tell him yourself?

You're right, he should be making that contact. If he's well enough to contact you, he's well enough to contact the manager.

So, just refuse and tell him to self-report, the same as any sane person would do.

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  1. You are not being petty and don't let anyone tell you differently.
  2. Going forward, your response to your co-worker should be:

No thank you. That information is between you and the manager.

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    This literally adds nothing over the two answers already here..
    – Neo
    Jan 12, 2018 at 15:06
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    @IamSoNotListening and yet I think it's a much better answer. The others are too complicated. Just say no, and move on. Or don't even respond.
    – user428517
    Jan 12, 2018 at 21:23
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    @IamSoNotListening: ditto and yet I also think it's a much better answer. The point is there's no obligation to justify or explain, when dealing with an insane request like this, and an unprofessional or actively dishonest person. Important to spell that out clearly, firmly and concisely.
    – smci
    Jan 13, 2018 at 18:58
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This seems a bit abnormal to me.

You're not off-base there. It's atypical for someone to call out sick to a coworker by default. For instance it would be different if your coworker notified you because he knew your manager wouldn't be in the office yet: "I'm taking a migraine tablet and that'll knock me out for 10 hours, could you let X know I won't be in today when you see him?"

But that's not the case here. In situations where people are doing something strange and you don't know why, it's usually helpful to ask them about it. Say something like:

Hey, I've noticed you always contact me when you have to call in sick or won't be in and ask me to notify Mr. Weyland. What's up with that?

Frankly, I doubt you'll get a convincing answer to this and suspect he'll just dance around his reluctance to communicate "bad" news to his manager. But perhaps your manager told him to do this so you're also in the loop, who knows.

Assuming there are no compelling reasons why he's doing this, next you'd just tell him to cut it out. Since you enabled him in the past, you're going to have to tell him that you can't call in sick for him any longer:

It feels kind of strange/weird/uncomfortable that you ask me to call out on your behalf so going forward I'm going to ask that you contact Mr. Weyland yourself.

Odds are that he'll still call you after that. If that happens just politely refuse:

  • As I mentioned you should contact Mr. Weyland yourself. Do you need his number?

  • You should tell him yourself but thanks for letting me know. Get well soon and I'll see you tomorrow! [hang up]

  • Mr. Weyland will want to hear that from you and I have to jump on another call. Get well soon! [hang up]

He should get the message after a few times. If he doesn't roll your eyes, continue to refuse and accept that your coworker has weird quirk. Or mention it to your manager if it's really bothering you, but it's a fairly trivial matter to escalate.

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    Ah... You make a good point with the "it would be different if your coworker notified you because he knew your manager wouldn't be in the office yet" which has actually been the case and I'll update mu question to include that. But there was literally <30min to go before the manager would be in and could have been told via phone call. There was also nothing stopping him from using the manager's email as we were talking via IM anyway. Some useful stuff to think about here +1 Jan 15, 2018 at 8:33
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If you feel that your co-worker won't listen to your polite request, you could try 'stuck-record technique' from 'Assertiveness Training'.

It's really very effective - after stating your first request such as 'I'm sorry, but you need to tell him that yourself', you go into 'stuck record mode'. This means you simply continue to repeat your request, like a 'stuck or broken record' (a CD that keeps replaying) - until he gets it. Eg:

'I'm sorry, you need to do that yourself' Him 'but Oh cant you just...' You 'I'm sorry, you need to do that yourself' Him 'oh but I don't have time...' You 'I'm sorry, but you need to do that yourself' Him 'oh but I'm sick...' You 'I'm sorry, you need to do that yourself'

Etc. Until he gets it. The key is - don't go into arguing with his details. At. All. Do not get emotionally excited. Simply coolly re-assert. Like a stuck or broken record.

If he hangs up, send an sms of the assertion.

This technique works extremely well. Just stay with the assertion. He will get it.

Stuck Record Technique is described on this page:

https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ps/assertiveness-techniques.html

Hope this helps.

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  • That's not a bad technique, but that is a horrible name for it.
    – Wildcard
    Jan 13, 2018 at 3:51
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    Why? It describes it very well! Not my name - someone else created it! 😊
    – Jelila
    Jan 13, 2018 at 10:29
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    Huh... An explanation of what 'a broken record' means for the benefit of millennials? lol Thanks for the suggestion but this seems inappropriate for my situation and would probably cause unnecessary intrapersonal issues. Jan 15, 2018 at 9:00
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    Well getting stuck on the name but potentially missing out on what I and others have found to be a very useful technique - which is simply, to calmly restate your case, without giving explanation, without getting involved in argument, without giving reasons, simply repeating it until the other person hears you - which I assure you - they will! And @BrentHackers isn't your fear of what may happen, if you try something different, part of what is keeping you stuck?
    – Jelila
    Jan 16, 2018 at 3:49
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    It's how you do it, that makes it polite. You don't get upset. You're not rude. They, in fact are repeating their (unwanted, innapropriate, unfair) request, to you! They're doing it to you already. I've worked in the UK, all over Europe, Asia, and is the US. You don't bellow it at them. You just say it.
    – Jelila
    Jan 17, 2018 at 4:15

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