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I work for a small company where one of the primary investors and managing partners happens to be a national celebrity (who will go unnamed). This person also plays the role of spokesperson and advises my direct manager on direction from time to time.

He is always in a mad rush and occasionaly will ask bizarre and unusual requests and odd jobs from people as he sees them in the office. Most of them are small and quick things that I personally don't mind doing from time to time, and besides it is hard to refuse such a charismatic and powerful personality.

The other day he asked a manager to sign his name on a few letters that needed to go in the mail ASAP. The manager was on her way out the door so she asked me to do it for her real quick while she finished something else up.

I felt highly uncomfortable by this request. I am not sure if it is that I felt it ethically wrong, certainly a lot of very busy famous people have others sign their name for them on correspondence, so it wasn't an unusual request I felt. I really didn't feel comfortable doing this because if I did a poor job then I would make the spokesperson mad at me and I would end up making him look really bad. Besides, I have never forged a signature in my life, I can barely write cursive as it is so I know that I would suck if I tried anyway. A quick Google search gave hundreds of examples of his signature but I still don't think I would have done a good job.

I refused to do this basically stating the above, at which point she started whining. I continued to refuse and she completely flew off the handle at me and started yelling. I was starting to get angry so I got up and walked away from her before I started yelling back. I got back from a quick walk and she up and down apologized for her behavior but she still seemed to either resent me or maybe she was just incredibly stressed out by how much work she has to do in a given day.

I wonder if maybe I was making a mountain out of a mole hill here, is it better to succumb to a simple request that makes you uncomfortable and that you will suck at, or is it better to refuse and potentially cause a blow up or an even more uncomfortable situation?

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    Signing on behalf of superiors. TL;DR - put in your signature and name, plus a pp to explain you are signing on behalf of this person. – Oded Aug 1 '12 at 11:47
  • @Oded That would defeat the nature and the purpose of the letter, it was essentially supposed to feel like an informal thank you for your time letter. If I were to get such a letter I would find it hypocritical that they are thanking me for my valuable time, when their time is obviously too valuable to even take 5 seconds and sign their own name on the letter they sent me. It was purposely supposed to be a forgery. – maple_shaft Aug 1 '12 at 11:50
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    All I can say to that is that in that case, it shouldn't have been delegated. If you do this and get challenged, you have a legal precedence and fallback. Easy enough of a defense - "I am unwilling to forge signatures". – Oded Aug 1 '12 at 11:52
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    I am confused what the question here is? Is it should you have signed as the document or how should you have told them no? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 1 '12 at 15:22
  • Is it just me, or did the celebrity change sex half way through that story? – TRiG Sep 2 '12 at 1:20
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There are certainly ways to legitimately delegate signature authority. But from what I'm hearing (both in the post and the comments) none of them make sense or apply. The number of degrees of separation on this one would freak me out as well. I've signed for bosses above me... maybe even two levels of boss (depending on vacation cycles) - but in very formalized settings where it was clear why I had the authority.

In this case, it's not at all clear... especially given the fact that you don't directly report to this person.

The freak out makes even less sense - IMO - generally, freaking out is a bad option for a boss... but it also sounds like she sees you as someone who will do her a favor, and someone who will help her.

Knowing she's not in your chain of management, I'd actually have an informal chat with your management on this one... the other boss asked for something kind of weird, and then really lost her cool for an unclear reason. That's not normal behavior and your actual boss has a right to know about it. You could also make clear with your regular boss that you are not comfortable with this sort of request, so if it comes up in the future, they should find someone else for this...

  • Maybe I wasn't clear enough in my question, the Boss (stressed woman), was delegated to sign the celebrities name by the celebrity. The Boss asked me to do this as a favor to her. She is not MY Boss so I have no obligation to obey her. Most of the time when she asks me for things outside of my job description I defer her to my boss and that is usually the end of it. I do LIKE her though on an personal level and I admit I sometimes do things for her as a friend but maybe she doesn't see it this way. – maple_shaft Aug 1 '12 at 13:29

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