I started work in the beginning of this year as a volunteer in a charity. I was working for a manager in the office and I was originally hired to help him on a project that he was working on. When I first came into the office some of the other co-workers stated asking me to do some of their work for them because someone told them I had creative writing skills. I was okay with it, however, my boss sort of came up behind me while I was helping them with some of their stuff and he said that he didn't want me doing other people's work for them. He spoke to one of them and told them not to hand over any work to me anymore and that I was only supposed to work on whatever projects he handed over to me.

How ever, I became quite friendly with someone else whom I will call Lady XYZ and would occasionally help her with things if I had time to. Last week Friday, (my manager had traveled for a few days) she asked me to do her a favor, which was helping her with some part of the post. I did this. The next week, she asked me again if I could help with the post, while she was away from the office for the next few days and I said no because I remembered what my boss had told me. I asked her who was going to do the post when she left .She said she didn't know and that it wasn't her job to figure it out. That it was HR's job to make sure the post is done. She also said she didn't know how she ended up doing the post, that shes tried to tell HR to create a rota of people to do the post so its not just one person doing it as well as having their own workload to do but for the past one year she has mostly been the only one doing the post which was not her job in the first place. She also said that the HR manager doesn't have an assistant so she tries to offload it on whoever she can basically. A day after the HR manager comes up to me, and says "I understand Lady XYZ trained you to do the post" and dumps it on my table and walks off. I explained to her that I already told Lady XYZ that I wasn't doing the post but she was just like, "well you've been trained to do it, so ..." So I did it that day.

Today again she came back and asked me to do the post, and I was working on something my manager had asked me to do while he was away and I said I couldn't and that I was working on something. She dumped it on my table again and said its not optional and then she leaves . The manner of her doing it was very rude, and also, I don't know how doing someone a favor translates to something that I'm now expected to do everyday.

I spoke to her again afterwards and she then said she felt I was only busy when I wanted to be because she claims that she sees me walking around chatting to people in the office . I told her that I only go to ask people things which I genuinely need to know and unfortunately I've been told in the past that I just come to work , do my work and go home and I was getting a lot of attitude for that because others felt I wasn't friendly. I didn't want them to think that so I started trying to be more friendly with colleagues so when I need to ask someone something I try to make conversation with them so they don't feel that I only talk to them when I want something. Unfortunately this seems to have backfired because the HR manager then assumed that since I was being friendly and helpful that I didn't have any work to do , so when she brought me the post and I said no , she assumed that I simply wasn't doing it because I just didn't want to. Which to me doesn't make any sense because I genuinely do have work to do . Shes not the one in charge of my workload, so I'm curious as to how and why she would assume that I wasn't doing anything.

I feel slightly uncomfortable with this situation as it seems that me trying to be helpful is being taken for granted. At the same time I understand that it is a business and we are all required to pitch in from time to time which I am very willing to do. Which is why I helped in the first place. At the same time I don't know if maybe I am in the wrong, for firstly taking on co-workers duties when I was already told not to (the answer to that is probably yes, but I simply didn't know how to say my manager told me not to do XYZ without them thinking I was just being lazy/ uncooperative/ teamworker) or if I'm wrong for saying that I was genuinely working on something and so I couldn't do it.

In either case, what should I do now?

  • 5
    HR asks you to do work, you say, "My boss told me to only do his work." You could always go back to her and clarify the situation.
    – user8365
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 0:35
  • 4
    I don't see why HR is involved in work schedules - she (or her manager) should be talking with your manager to get the work done.
    – Johnny
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 0:43
  • 2
    What does this have to do with volunteering for charity? If this work is volunteer work then really all you have to do is walk out.
    – NotMe
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 1:35
  • 2
    You've learned a valuable lesson with this. If you give a mouse a cookie, he'll want a glass of milk. Be judicious with the "help" you give and put strict bounds on it. If your supervisor/manager tells you not to, then adhere to it. Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 13:47
  • Remember that hr isn't writing your performance review. At most they can send a note praising you or grumbling about you to your management. You already know your own manager's opinion of this particular activity ..
    – keshlam
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 14:31

3 Answers 3


Well the first thing you should do is listen to your boss in the future. Your boss asked you to not partake in these things and you basically went behind his back and started helping with things.

Being a manager in a global organization I know how easy it is for job roles to get hazy when the manager isn't physically next to the employee. What happens is people find a way to shove their work onto someone else. They establish a pattern and then act like it is that person's job. This could be because they don't think you are busy, because they really need help, because they don't know how to do something, because they don't have the qualifications they should, or simply because they are lazy and like to have others do their work (this is the most common).

So even if you decided to help someone out when you are free it isn't that simple. You will have follow up conversations and emails and you will be expected to do those when your boss has a full plate for you. Then you either work more hours or don't get to things that your boss wants you to do.

The only person who is going to solve this is your boss. He will need to go to the others and tell them not to hand you stuff without his approval. You will simply need to come clean to him, say that you had good intentions and it blew up - basically play dumb.

From an employee standpoint what you are doing is hardly ever smart. I have seen many people do what you do in our offices and I have seen the people that they help get promoted.


You need to be blunt with "Lady XYZ:" I'm sorry, but my manager has my time committed. I was happy to help when I had time, but today I do not. If this is a priority, please give it to {my manager} and tell him you would like my help."

I used to "Be helpful" and a "Team Player" when I was younger. I finally wised up, realizing that when you "help" someone by doing their job, the only thing you've taught them is how to get away with not doing their own job.

There's a reason your manager is "Your" manager. He is a resource to you. In this case, he is (or should be) a gatekeeper. User your resource.

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    I think the OP is saying the HR person is not Lady XYZ, but believes Lady XYZ "trained" the OP to do this task. So now the HR person is telling her that they needs to do it every day.
    – Jane S
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 0:50
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    HR doesn't get to assign work. HR gets to talk to the manager and ask if they can borrow Marla for this. Repeat the quote above, politely but firmly, until they get the point, intermixing it with "Sure You can ask me unofficially, but then it gets done unofficially -- meaning whenever I happen to find spare time to work on it. The fact that I know how to do it does not mean I committed to doing it on a regular basis; I can't make that commitment unless my manager so directs me." If they have nobody else trained, offer to train someone; they shouldn't be relying on a single person anyway.
    – keshlam
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 1:36

I simply didn't know how to say my manager told me not to do XYZ without them thinking I was just being lazy/ uncooperative/ teamworker)

This isn't difficult.

You simply say something along the lines of "I'd be happy to help you, but my manager specifically told me I was only supposed to work on whatever projects he handed over to me. Why don't we go to my manager together, and ask if it would be okay if I did this work?"

That way, you are doing what your boss asked you to do, but you are still offering your assistance, contingent on gaining permission.

Sometimes folks will take you up on your offer. Other times, they will decide it isn't worth their effort to try and convince your boss.

Either way, it's not really your problem.


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