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I have the issue that my boss wants me to do some regular stuff for the workshop. I am an engineer.

We have a technician that is supposed to take care of these matters as they don't require engineering skills but he will be busy next two days in a different place.

I don't mind shopping these items to not delay the project but I don't know when is the specific point that I should object to requests that are not mine to fulfill and not my job to do.

Especially that he made it as an order not a request.

Kindly offer me some details on whether this is normal or not and when to object if any objection is required.

Its a AI startup that recently decided to dive in the robotics area, only 4 people in the department of robotics a manager two engineers and the technician.

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    will you be using special tools? Have4 you been properly trained for them? Will you be covered by work insurance doing work outside the scope of your contract? will your "real" tasks suffer? – Solar Mike Oct 11 at 13:36
  • Curiosity, what is the size of the company? – Sebastien DErrico Oct 11 at 16:13
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    Its a AI startup that recently decided to dive in the robotics area, only 4 people in the department of robotics a manager two engineers and the technician. I will also not be using the tool just buying them and transporting them to the workshop. – Grey Mahagone Oct 11 at 18:12
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    Objecting to an order (as you described it) would put you at the top of my list for replacement. – Joel Etherton Oct 11 at 21:57
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    Are you being asked to pay for the tools yourself or are you using a company card? If you're being told to buy it yourself, are you going to be reimbursed? Are you being asked to do this outside of work hours? – BSMP Oct 12 at 3:28
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that is not mine to fullfill and not my job to do.

Unless you have a contract or local labor rules that specifically exempt you from certain activities, your job is whatever your boss says your job is.

It's perfectly normal for an engineer to help out if work needs to get done and the techs are busy or overloaded.

Now if you don't like this type of work or if you feel it's too much or unfairly distributed, you should have a discussion with your boss around it. This could be a warning sign: If you need to dip into the engineering pool to deal with a tech shortage, you typically start with the engineers that are least busy, least capable and/or least productive. I think should try to find out whether you are in this category.

The best way to avoid tech duty is to do outstanding engineering work on a key project.

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    Although, frankly, all (for example) mechanical engineers should have to assemble something they designed. It will make them better engineers. – Jon Custer Oct 11 at 15:20
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    @JonCuster some design engineers work in companies so large that that just does not happen, often manufacturing and assembly are in different countries. – Solar Mike Oct 11 at 16:19
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    @SolarMike - nobody said they had to do it for every design. But at some point they should have - it teaches them some humility as well as the need to consider the impact of their design choices. – Jon Custer Oct 11 at 16:41
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    @SolarMike - so they were born into the position and never did anything before starting to work there? Like maybe going to university and doing projects there? – Jon Custer Oct 11 at 16:46
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    @MohamedAshref As an experienced control systems professional previously in a small company I have done everything from collecting the mail and shipping products all the way through to high level systems design. In a small team you don't always have the luxury of using specific personal to perform specific tasks. As a self employed contractor I don't even have the luxury of someone else. You do what needs to be done to get the job done. – Peter M Oct 11 at 18:39
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Most contracts have “other duties as assigned”. And refusing the duties is grounds for dismissal. Unless you are being consistently picked for the scut work, it’s not a problem, and even then the thing you should be concerned about is that they are paying an awful lot for scut work — if you spend 50 % of your time cleaning the bathroom and the break room they are going to wise up and realize that someone cheaper can do that.

On the other hand, if someone is sick, throws up, and then rushes out of the building, someone needs to clean up the mess. It’s a one time thing, could be done by anyone.

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Stick it out for now

As other answers have said - its not unusual to be given other tasks than your specific title may indicate.

However at the moment it sounds like this is a one off (or at least a rare occurrence) if you find a few months down the line you're doing this sort of work 4 days a week and rushing the engineering then you need to have a conversation with your boss.

At this point you're no longer an engineer. You joined to be an engineer, you need to tell your boss that. If they want someone who does both then you're not the employee for them (find other opportunities before you phrase it like that). They either need to find themselves someone else to do your extra jobs so you can get back to being an engineer or find themselves a new engineer.

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  • The thing is i actually this the task, what i found was that the thing he wanted me to buy was a 20kg or 45 pounds (didnt know that until i saw it) and he wanted me to bring it back using public transportation with a laptop on my back in case he wants me to do some extra job whilst i am there. Which i now find incresibly unreasonable. What do you think i should do now because i feel that he is a bit inconsiderate. – Grey Mahagone Oct 15 at 21:05
  • @GreyMahagone I would ask for some equipment to transport the item safely. I'm not sure where you live but in the UK the standard guidance says "if a load is carried for an excessive distance, physical stresses are prolonged, leading to fatigue and increased risk of injury". Also if the public transport is anything but a long train journey you should ask about claiming back taxi fare used to make this trip. There is nothing wrong with a manager asking you to do occasional jobs that go beyond your job description as long as you can do them safely – Lio Elbammalf Oct 15 at 22:31
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Flexibility is a two-way street: if you show you're flexible for this kind of request, other people might be more flexible to your requests.

My suggestion would be that as long as it's not something entirely unreasonable, or that would make your regular tasks suffer, just do it and show that you're not making a fuss out of it.

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  • The thing is i actually this the task, what i found was that the thing he wanted me to buy was a 20kg or 45 pounds (didnt know that until i saw it) and he wanted me to bring it back using public transportation with a laptop on my back in case he wants me to do some extra job whilst i am there. Which i now find incresibly unreasonable. What do you think i should do now because i feel that he is a bit inconsiderate. – Grey Mahagone Oct 15 at 21:11

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