I am a manager for a small company in the UK. We are owned by a larger (but still small in terms of staff) company in another country - a country with a very different business culture.

I have direct contact with my CEO (who is not from the UK and is based outside the UK much of the time). They are repeatedly asking me to do personal favours for themselves. These favours are outside my direct duties as an employee.

As an example they have just rented a new flat for their personal use (this accommodation is not charged to the business, and only they and their family/friends stay there) very close to our office. They are asking me to receive deliveries of furniture, open and transfer utility and broadband accounts, organise cleaning of the flat, and other similar errands. The CEO is not currently in the country so is unable therefore to do these things.

What should I do? I cannot afford to just quit so this is not an option. I feel this behaviour crosses a line (they do not have, and I am not, a PA/EA) and that I need to help them understand that this is not how to treat employees in the UK before it starts to impact the rest of the team. Simply complaining could cause issues/impact my employment and is not my goal; I believe firmly in bringing solutions to a problem and this should be no different.

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    Why do you think he is asking you specifically and not someone else?
    – UIO
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 13:50
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 16:19
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    Do you think this could be a gender-norms/stereotypes issue? (I don't know your gender, or whether this is common in the UK or the other country)
    – AAM111
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 18:21
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    @OldBunny2800 given the genders involved (for me and the CEO at least) - most likely not.
    – bejeb
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 20:00
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    What does a "small staff" mean in this context ? Could you put at least approximate figures on this ? Personally I'd class this as "a waste of a valuable resource" (you !) and work that should be handled by e.g. a third party hired by the CEO directly (on a personal basis). Your time is being spent on matter not productive to the business, possibly matters you don't mention here. Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 4:27

7 Answers 7


If you are the manager for the UK office why not just delegate these tasks to someone else?

If you have nobody else to delegate to, why not just use one of those task services - task rabbit or mechanical turk or fiverr or whatever to get these tasks done (billing the company, of course). You could easily argue that a minimum wage person executing these tasks is more cost-effective than you (assuming you earn more than minimum wage!)

If you aren't keen on them, then there are temp PA agencies that can help in that work. You mention the office is near the flat in question - I would get a task-rabbit person, you can send a staff member over if you desire, but just delegate the task and get on with life.

I don't see why, however, asking the country manager to help manage the operations in the country You have added more info that these are truly personal favours for the CEO. But also, you noted in various comments - it would be better if you added all the detail to the question itself - that this is very occasional. As a result, this is still not something that crosses the line of "not how you treat employees in the UK", at least from the examples you have given.

I don't think this is as big an issue as you think, and british people are not some sort of protected class where there are mundane operations tasks that are "beneath them". Being asked to carry heavy loads is one thing - paperwork & other mundane work for most likely a company-expense office is another.

If there is more to it than the question indicates, you can also bring up to the CEO that your execution of the tasks makes you feel undervalued. If you focus on the feelings that the tasks engenders in you, rather than implying the CEO is a user or unjust, then you have a higher chance of creating understanding, and through that, change.

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    operations in the UK are my role, so fall under "help manage the operations in the country ". But is setting up a personal residence for the CEO in the UK part of the operations in the UK? I feel that it isn't.
    – bejeb
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 13:53
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    Receiving deliveries of furniture for someone's flat does not come under business operations. If you have a perspective from outside the UK, that might be useful, but I'm in the UK and would think the same as bejeb - the CEO is taking liberties. Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 13:56
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    @bejeb i think you're making mountains out of molehills. if you can delegate, then do so. do not get hungup on if it is appropriate or not work for PA - just get it done. if this happens often then work with a temp agency to pass the delegated work to. if it happens very often then arrange for an assistant.
    – bharal
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 14:22
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    I think the essence of your argument is based on the flat being a business expense, and I am grateful for your candour and opinion given that assumption; the stated facts in the question make this a fair assumption. In reality there is more detail that I can't go into as it would be inappropriate and identifying; applying either the duck test or "I know it when I see it" I believe would define the flat as a personal asset; HMRC would certainly class it as a benefit in kind, at the very least, if it were expensed given the nature of the use of the previous flat that this replaces.
    – bejeb
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 14:54
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    An important point to clarify/add: Is the renting of this flat being done by the CEO from their own money, or is it something that the company is providing? For example, Yamaha used to own & maintain a house for Executives from Japan to live in while in the UK, Santander used to own/rent several apartments in Boston during their takeover of Sovereign Bank for staff from abroad. If this is the case, then it is perfectly reasonable for the company to expect the regional offices to assist with or coordinate preparing the residence - but may have been badly communicated. Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 15:58

You say "this isn't how it's done in the UK". Okay; I agree with you for the most part. The solution presents itself in that statement though: you need to show him how it is done in the UK by offering a suggestion of how to get this done.

My suggestion is to offer him the phone number of an agency that can handle these things for him. Depending on the exact nature of those tasks, it could be a temp agency or an agency that acts as a PA for you.

It's not clear to me if this sort of thing is appropriate to be paid for by the company or not (I'm not an expert in company expensing/finances/accounting), but if it is, then you could offer to call them for him and arrange things; if it's not, then you could offer to start getting things rolling with a phone call and screening them and then pass them off.

That way you're giving him a solution and guiding him to the correct way to do things; neither compromising your integrity nor appearing unhelpful.

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    This is a good approach; I like presenting the problem and at least one viable solution rather than just complaining about things, and this does just that.
    – bejeb
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 20:01
  • This is a terrible approach. My answer would be "This is how it is done in my company, and you are fired".
    – TomTom
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 7:21
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    @TomTom You may misunderstand; I don’t mean OP should say that. I used ‘you say’ in the meaning that OP said that in the question to us.
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 8:46

Being asked to do things outside your job description occasionally isn't an uncommon or unreasonable thing. It happens a lot. I couldn't begin to tell you how many times I've been asked to do things outside my JD. Sadly, this is the modern working world we live in, the 'its not my job' attitude just the attitude to have anymore.

Asking you to do them a few favours while they run a company isn't really the end of the world. From the kind of errands they are asking of you, they are new home related and probably won't last forever.

If anything, look at it as an opportunity. There must have been a reason they asked you. You're building a close relationship with them and you could transform this into something bigger. For example, next time you need something or the company, they will remember what you did, how you helped them, and be more inclined to do the same.

Playing devil's advocate, if you tell them "this isn't my job", they will go to someone else willing and this could potentially give them the impression you are unreliable (not that I'm saying you are). What would you do if one of your team did the same thing when you asked them a favour?

Sadly, as I said, sometimes you're asked to do things you don't want to do. If you don't like it, you can always seek new opportunities, or put a business case forward to hire a PR/Assistant*. But telling your CEO the favour he has asked you to do is beneath you or not your job likely won't sit well at all.

Edit *

Come from one of the comments I posted below. If it’s really an issue for you then fix it, point out that you fear it’s making less productive and a PA could be beneficial to them, rather than saying you don’t want to do it. Solving the overarching problem for them (and you) rather than creating one it will be way better for you both and I cant imagine a well thought out proposal that helps him would go down badly.

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    Agreed. Being asked to help make it easy for the CEO visit should be embraced even if you personally feel the expense is unjustified or the work is not what you expected to be asked to do.
    – Ben Mz
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 16:50
  • The problem seems to be that the OP presumably agreed the first time, thinking it was a one-time favor, but now the CEO has come to expect extra work on a regular basis, which does seem unreasonable.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 19:31
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    @Barmar because they have found someone that is now reliable and he can trust. Long term, this bodes well. But again, people so things that is not in their job description all the time. If it’s really an issue for you then fix it, point out that you fear it’s making less productive and a PA could be beneficial to them, rather than saying you don’t want to do it. Solving the problem rather than creating one for them will be way better and they will likely love you for it.
    – UIO
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 19:37
  • the **'its not my job'** attitude just the attitude to have anymore. Could you provide any objective citation, reference or article to support that?
    – xDaizu
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 8:35
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    "this is the modern working world we live in, the 'its not my job' attitude just the attitude to have anymore" - Defeatist advice won't help change that. If I understand the OP correctly, the problem is that the tasks they're being given wouldn't be in anyone's job-description because they're not actually business-tasks for the company. It's less, "hey programmer, man the phones for an hour", and more "hey employee, forget about work for today and go pick up my dry-cleaning".
    – aroth
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 9:03

In the US, this would fall under the umbrella of corporate compliance/governance, usually attached to the audit department. I've worked places where there were very strict policies about people in management positions asking people under them to do things like this, and even the CEO is not exempt from those policies.

Suspected violations are reported to the governance/audit office (there's a form that you fill out) and investigated from there. Various levels of anonymity are provided but in your case, that would be pretty hard to do because presumably the CEO is only asking you.

If you have a group in your company like this, consult with them. If not, look to HR for policies that address extracurricular activities like this. Do these before agreeing to do these tasks because once you say yes "once", the floodgates will be open and there's no going back.

In the meantime, find any and every reason to not do it. Too many tasks on your plate. Outside the official duties as written in your contract/job description. Security/safety/privacy concerns. Lack of transportation to the location(s). No method of payment (you are not going to pay for this and get reimbursement).

Your CEO needs a personal assistant to handle these personal tasks and errands to make his personal life easier. That individual should be separate and distinct from the employees of the company he works for.

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    There is nothing unethical in the CEOs requests. The CEO needs these things done to perform his job, i.e. he is getting a flat and furniture in another country only because he has a subsidiary company in that country.
    – Ben Mz
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 14:49
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    I agree with Ben Mz. Additionally: Maybe the CEO doesn’t know anyone else to ask. And since they are asking a simple “Sorry, no, I don’t want to do this task and don’t feel responsible, please find somebody else to do it.” might be a possible answer.
    – Michael
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 16:37
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    @BenMz Surely there's a point where you'd agree it would be unethical, right? Commandeering a dozen employees for a week to hang new wallpaper in his personal home, for instance? Unless the CEO is the sole owner of the company (and even then, because of tax law), there's an issue with using non-trivial amounts of company resources for personal benefit. We don't have enough details to know whether this situation crosses the line (and that would be a question for the company's board in any case), but I'm not comfortable with the idea that there's no ethical issue here. Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 19:29
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    @BenMz the CEO's rented flat is paid for out of his personal funds, and used by his friends and family. It is not a resource owned/leased and managed by the company. He does not "need these things done to perform his job" as it's his personal residence. As these are personal tasks not required for conducting company business, employees of the company should not be asked to perform.
    – alroc
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 21:28
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    @alroc Nothing in the old or new versions of this question suggests these are not unreasonable accommodations for someone who has to regularly visit an office in another country.
    – Ben Mz
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 0:46

There's what is right, and what is expedient.

If you find the situation untenable, the best course of action is to seek employment elsewhere. Regardless of how right you are, taking on a CEO will work about as well as an ant picking a fight with an elephant.

Do whatever he says that will not put you in legal jeopardy until you can get a job somewhere else. This is a fight that, even if you win, you will lose. You'll get a bad rep in the industry even if the CEO takes no action against you.

The best thing an ant can do when facing an elephant is to avoid being crushed underfoot.

Don't make waves, just move on

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    "This is a fight that, even if you win, you will lose. You'll get a bad rep". This is a very real concern for me; I feel that I have been presented with Hobson's choice and it could be career affecting. "will not put you in legal jeopardy" associating my contact details with someone else's personal credit accounts, where that person could easily leave the country not to return, is not something that I am willing to do.
    – bejeb
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 13:57

I’ll just give you an example what happened to me. It’s a while ago, I was single at the time, and just bought a new flat. I had several furniture deliveries. I had the choice of not going to work, or - no other choice really because I wasn’t going to sleep on the naked floor. And my boss needed me to work.

The result was that my bosses wife stayed in my apartment on two days, while I was working.

Can you imagine what this man would make of your attitude? (I must say that most at my life I worked at places where “not my job” was not acceptable).

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    Opposite power balance - yours was a nice gesture by the boss and his wife. If you'd suggested that one of your direct reports stay in your apartment, that would be closer to what bejeb is seeing. Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 15:25

I'd suggest explaining why its a bad idea to do this on company time/money. Then offer to hire a temporary assistant at your own expense, to be reimbursed when the work is complete. If he does want a permanent assistant, help him arrange that for himself.

Think of it from his perspective; he doesn't know the country or many people in it. He doesn't need to hire a permanent assistant, and doesn't know how to hire one locally. You're the best (only?) person he knows how to ask.

By asking you to do these things off-hours, it's "not spending company money". But he's not considering how difficult it is for you to do these things. If he is trying to waste company time on this, explain that it won't pass an audit, and any laws you are aware of.

You will be doing a personal favor, but its smaller and limited compared to the current situation.

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    "explaining why its a bad idea to do this on company time/money": this is a good, and in my opinion, professional approach, and one similar to that which I have been working on. "offer to hire a temporary assistant at your own expense" that sets a precedent I don't think we can do despite the "to be reimbursed"; the company is able to pay directly for this. "doesn't need to hire a permanent assistant" this is true, but pay-as-you-go virtual assistant services exist and may be a good (if partial) solution here.
    – bejeb
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 16:02
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    Under no circumstances should the OP be paying for anything out of pocket. Even if the CEO is new in the country, the OP's company is not...the payroll department can set up a business account if this new person needs to charge expenses to the company. Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 16:33

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