How do you politely say no to taking on work from a coworker that’s politically connected without jeopardizing your job? Sometimes the coworker that’s politically connected, ie to the boss, passes work that they don’t want to do to me since I’m the latest hire 4 years ago. How do I politically say no?

Politically connected meaning this employee has gained the trust and ear of the boss over many many years but could also be family - can’t judge.

  • 5
    What do you mean by politically connected?
    – Seth R
    Feb 14, 2020 at 21:11

2 Answers 2


Push the question onto your boss.

Hey boss, I'm busy with X,Y,&Z.
Eric wants me to work on A,B instead.
Do you want me to drop X,Y,Z and work on A,B or what?

You have a limited amount of time, it's your boss's choice what you work on. If Eric has the political weight to move your priorities then he does.

Your actual problem should be if he wants you to do your work (at 40 hours a week) and his own (now totally a lot more than 40).

  • 3
    +1 And once that's happened either tell your co-worker what your boss has told you to do, or get your boss to do that. And in future when your co-worker gives you work say "I'll check with my boss". Feb 14, 2020 at 21:19
  • 2
    I like this answer. The key is to bring it up to your boss yourself. If you let the other guy do it for you, he'll say "Southern Belle isn't doing anything right this minute. Can I give her task A and B to do? It should only take her an hour." And of course, if you're not in the room to contradict him, the boss might just say "Sure, that sounds fine". Feb 14, 2020 at 21:20
  • 2
    This. It's your boss' job to decide what you should be working on, not your co-worker's.
    – Seth R
    Feb 14, 2020 at 21:23

This is reasonably common.

Mitigation strategy depends if the work is being given formally eg, email or informally, just a verbal order to get it done.

How do I politically say no?

You don't, you find out if you need to do it or not.

If it's informal I just ignore it since it's not coming from the appropriate hierarchy. When it doesn't get done they need to explain why as it was their task, not yours, and the issue is dealt with at the next level. Then I just apologise and say I was waiting for confirmation or busy finishing something else or some other excuse. But at the end of the day I just ignored it and watched him dig himself a hole with mild interest.

If it's emailed or otherwise written, then just forward to your manager for confirmation that you are taking over this task and whether to prioritise it over your other work or not. Do so professionally and politely. You can move forwards from whatever reply you get. Ideally someone in authority will formally define your role in these situations and everything goes smoothly.

Either way the problem ends with someone in authority to make decisions in a professional non confrontational manner. Not a problem with a colleague, just clarification of role responsibilities.

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