A friend of mine is starting a new job in a few weeks. The contract is already signed.

The manager just send her an email in the morning asking her to do some work until next day.

She currently has a another job and the manager knows this. It looks like a lot of work - it will take at least several hours, maybe even a whole day.

She doesn't want to start on bad terms by rejecting the request. On the other hand she won't get paid for this and would need to work the whole night (or at the weekend if she asks for more time). How should one react in such a situation?


She talked to her manager and he tried to downplay the whole situation. He said that he wasn't really expecting any results and just wanted to ask her nicely if she maybe had some time to analyze a document. But in the email he forgot the part about asking nicely and wrote something like "I know you don't work for us yet, but please do this" and attached several hundred pages without mentioning which parts were relevant. The task was still way to big and simply not the kind of task that will get you any meaningful results when rushed or without carefully reading everything he had send.

Another Update

In conclusion everyone saying that this was a red flag was absolutely right. Management at that company was really bad and quite a mess, which reflected in their employees general bad mood and morale. I didn't help that she was direct subordinate of two chief officers, which both tended to frequently give her large task with unreasonable deadlines. She left the company after some month.

  • 67
    Better NOT to join the company and NOT work for your future manager.
    – samarasa
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 18:08
  • 32
    @kapep Bottom line to me is that if this is a test(which it sounds like it might be) he should have had her perform before hiring her. That raises a large red flag to me that this boss is incompetent, irrational and unprofessional. Secondly, there's no reason that her boss should be giving her a large amount of work before she's hired. None at all. I agree that she should politely, firmly say "No." and she may want to continue job hunting even though she's technically hired.
    – zfrisch
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 18:18
  • 36
    Granting the future boss's request at this time would not be starting off well. What it would mean is that your friend will be treated like this the whole time. The manager has crossed a boundary that should not have been crossed. If your friend allows it to go unchecked, that boundary will be erased, and your friend will be subject to continual encroachment.
    – Kent A.
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 19:31
  • 19
    Depending on the country, this may well not be legal, either.
    – Joe
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 20:22
  • 14
    Your friend could write to the new boss, thanking him for letting her know in advance what she'll be doing on her first day on the job. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 7:18

4 Answers 4


It is troubling that a manager would ask a future employee to work before their start date. While I understand that a good start with the new employer is desired, it seems that a polite, but firm "No" is in order. An email reply something like the following is appropriate:

Dear [future boss]:

While it is flattering that you think enough of me to trust me with this work before my start date, I cannot work on this task at this time. I understand that you need the task done tomorrow, but I am still working for [current employer]. As such, I am sure you understand that my current obligation is with them. I will be happy to provide the same level of effort and dedication when I come to work for you.


[your friend's name]

As I said above, it's troubling that the new boss would ask for such a thing. Although unreasonable, I would fear reprecussions from something such as this, since the boss has already shown him/herself to be unreasonable. Perhaps a cc to the future boss' boss would be good here, if that person's email address is known. Unfortunately, your friend may want to resume her job search and/or inquire about staying on with her current employer.

  • 73
    Perfect answer - a boss that doesn't understand that unpaid work on short deadlines is unreasonable and shouldn't even be asked does not sound promising for future satisfaction. Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 18:22
  • 6
    @Blam I agree the request is completely insane, but I'm not sure what would be the point of being more aggressive, i.e. why it would be more effective to which goal.
    – o0'.
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 18:57
  • 1
    @Lohoris As I stated I would want to get some measure of how I would be treated once I start. If he is going to do this now once I come to work is he going to send me an email on Saturday saying I need X done by Sunday. Not more aggressive in the sense of tell him how unreasonable it is. But more of is the nature of - is this the common work flow?
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 19:05
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    I really like the redirection, "I will be happy to provide the same level of effort and dedication when I come to work for you." which essentially means that if the new employer pushes, they are giving reasons not to put in full effort for them. And the suggestion, "your friend may want to resume her job search" is absolutely spot on. This is not a good employer...
    – Adam Davis
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 19:10
  • 31
    Great answer! But I wouldn't CC "the future boss' boss", as that would likely be viewed as "calling out" her soon-to-be boss. There are definitely appropriate times to do so, but I don't believe it's warranted on a first offense.
    – Lindsey D
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 19:18

In case your friend has already given his or her notice, but is leaving on good terms, it might be worth mentioning this to the previous / current boss. In the worst case, if the new boss makes more unreasonable demands (and asking you to do work for them when they should fully know that you are still in full-time employment by another company), it might not be a bad idea having a fallback position.

And the demand is unreasonable unless they tell you to check with your current employee if you are allowed to do this, if they offer to pay you, and if they give a good reason why you and nobody else should do this work.


It depends….

  • If the work is to review the job specs of people that are about to be hired to will report to her once she start her job, then she should do it.
  • If the work is to review a spec for a system that the team she is joining will be creating, maybe it is worth doing so as to have input.
  • If it is normal day to day work, then just say no.
  • Or "I could probably do this before my formal starting work date.... will I also get paid before then?" :D Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 15:46

I suggest that she answer back and say she had other plans for the weekend and that she can't cancel them on such short notice and aside from that, she is tying up all sorts of loose ends at her current job. I don't really care if her plans for that weekend were to simply sleep the whole weekend, they are still plans.

I assume that she has yet to give official notice. If so, she can wait and see how the manager reacts. If the manager reacts in an unpleasant manner, she can scrub her two-week notice.

If she has given her notice already and the manager reacts in an unpleasant manner, she can make a request to rescind her two-week notice.

I assume that the contract becomes effective only on her first day of the job, at the job site.

  • 4
    Or maybe the new boss is probing for how much he can suck out of the new employee. Since his work ethics seem low, it is indeed better to ditch this new job if the option to remain where she is exists. God knows what will be asked when she changes jobs. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 13:22
  • 2
    @Mindwin I agree that it is a very bad signal. If I were the manager and I was asking her to start work this early, you can bet your bottom dollar that I would have offered to pay her - Fair pay for fair work. But unless I was in a dire emergency, putting her in a situation where she is working for two employers simultaneously smells bad because it is interfering with her smooth transition out of her current job. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 13:50
  • Actually, by not paying her, or otherwise having any contract under which , she probably keeps the rights over that piece of work (I recommend keeping -along all interchanged emails- a proof that it was done before the start date, such as a digital timestamp).
    – Ángel
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 21:42

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