Whenever my boss wants to deliver bad news to someone, he usually tells me to do it. For example, two people in our office are having very lengthy conversations not related to work. Instead of him just telling them to stop, etc., he will email me and tell me to talk to them and tell them to stop talking so much, even if he is right next to them while the problem is taking place. He just ignores it at that moment.

I have more seniority then these individuals, but I do not tell them what to do, monitor their work, or provide feedback on what they are doing. I keep track of their hours for payroll, make sure they get paid, and tell them what the bosses generally don’t want to tell them.

They tend to listen to me though. Some gradually move back to where we started, and then have to go through it again.

My problem is that it always seems like I am the bad guy when he is usually the one that has problems with everything. However, if there is a raise or bonus to be given, he will always sit down with them for that.

In the meeting, can I say "the boss said..." or do I have to deliver the message as if it is coming from me?

  • I'm pretty sure AskAManager.org has covered this, but I'm just not finding it. I do know she'd say you have a bad boss, but that doesn't help you, and you already know that. Sep 26 '13 at 16:01
  • 2
    You might be better at delivering bad news than your boss and perhaps he knows that. Also, maybe your boss feels your coworkers will listen to you more than him because they respect you.
    – Brandon
    Sep 27 '13 at 3:37
  • By my previous comment, I am not voicing support for your boss pawning his responsibilities onto you. Simply offering possible explanations.
    – Brandon
    Sep 27 '13 at 3:38

In the meeting, can I say "the boss said..." or do I have to deliver the message as if it is coming from me?

In my opinion, it's perfectly reasonable for you to say "The boss wanted me to tell you..." or "The boss said..."

Did your boss tell you to lie, and say that it comes from you? If so, there are other problems to deal with here.

How would you handle this?

You have to either

  • do what the boss tells you to do
  • push back on your boss for agreement on better ways to handle it
  • or ignore what the boss tells you to do (and risk the wrath of your boss)

If it were me, I'd have a talk with the boss and explain why I feel uncomfortable being the middle-man for all bad news. But knowing my boss, I wouldn't need to do that anyway, since she is perfectly willing to relay all of her own news - good or bad. So clearly your case is different.

Consider talking with your boss first, explaining your feelings, and verifying what is actually being expected of you.

If your boss insists on having you handle all the bad news, try to determine if it's acceptable to start the news with "The boss says..." or not.

Then, you can decide which avenue you want to follow.

  • +1 for talking to your boss about it. We all make mistakes - your boss could be a generally good guy who's derping by asking you to stuff he should be doing, but who will admit that he's in the wrong once you bring it up with him.
    – Kevin
    Sep 27 '13 at 18:22

Since you say they are co-workers, I am assuming that these people work WITH you, not FOR you. If that is the case, your manager is asking you to do the negative parts of his job. This is inappropriate and you should discuss this with your boss. If this does not work, you should probably speak with your HR department, since your manager is putting you in a bad spot and your coworkers could actually report you to HR for how you are behaving towards them.


Since you are senior but not a manager or even a tech lead, this is definitely an awkward position.

I would tend to believe that you should tell them the source of the bad news. SO yes, telling them that "John said to tell you that you need to start coming in by 8 am." is appropriate. That way if they have problem with it they know who to take it up with.

I would suggest to you that perhaps your boss views you as either more of a tech lead than you think you are or is grooming you for a management position. In either event, it might be a good idea to discuss with him why he is asking you to do these tasks and how he would like to see it handled in terms of reporting back to him, etc. you might even use this as a way to get him to give you tech lead authority if you want it. A boss who wants to delegate all his difficult work away is often one where you can get assigned the tasks you need to be considered for higher roles in this or other organizations, so this is not entirely negative for you. (Although he is a jerk for only giving you the negative tasks.) I had a boss like this once and it really grew my skills so I could successfully apply for the next level up. Doing management tasks before you are offically a manager can be a good thing for your career.

How would you handle this?

Your options depend on what you want to happen:

Get Paid for What You're Doing

You can go to your boss and tell him that your job has started into expanding into managerial/team lead responsibilities and that you think a promotion/raise is in order.

This sends a few messages:

  1. You're not getting paid for what you're being asked to do.

  2. You're doing a manager's job.

  3. You're not complaining to anyone else, or whining about not wanting to do it.

He may be glad to find someone able to perform a role he doesn't want to perform.

He Can Do It Better

You could tell your boss that employees listen best to their manager, and that people are wondering why co-workers are the ones giving bad news. Boss, I think that the feedback would be taken more seriously coming from you.

Ask for Clarification

Before I talked to anyone else, especially HR, I'd ask for clarification.

  1. Does he want the topic brought up in a team meeting?

  2. Does he feel uncomfortable giving bad news but he's okay letting everyone know it came from him?

  3. Does he want the feedback given anonymously, management feels, ...


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