I work as a designer/front end developer for a small software company, and the CEO is currently acting the role of the only sales person. Lately I've been asked to create e-mail campaigns for various marketing reasons, which is fairly easy to do. However, I have gotten caught up in an unending cycle of "spammy" email lists that get the campaign system blocked. I've tried to explain that I need to be provided with cleaned email lists, but the CEO just gets frustrated and expects me to somehow force them through.

At this point, after being locked out of the 2nd email campaign account, I feel strongly that I need to back out of this task. The list would need to be cleaned by someone who knows which people/companies we still have relations to, but that is clearly not going to happen. The CEO often leaves it to the last minute, and gets mad when it doesn't get sent out on time, blaming either me or the email system. I'm frustrated at being forced to spend so much time sending spam, and have no ability or desire to continue doing the company email campaigns, but I don't know how to back out.

Basically, since the CEO fails to understand that I cannot work with his lists, I really just want to get out of it entirely and back to doing my other work. The problem is, I have already admitted and proved that I know how to do email campaigns, so I can't think of how to get out in a polite way, or if it is even possible

4 Answers 4


On the general question:

Especially in a small company, employees must often do things that are outside of their areas of expertise.

The worst thing you can do for the company and for your own long-term prospects is to refuse to do work that you consider outside your area or beneath your dignity. When I've been in management positions, I've found nothing more frustrating than employees who say, "That's not MY job". If there was someone else whose job it obviously was, I'd be giving it to them. I'm giving it to you because you're the best person I can think of to do this job, whether in terms of skill, availability, whatever. Maybe we don't have anyone truly qualified to do this job, but you're our best hope. Or you're sitting around with nothing important to do while everyone else is running around like crazy trying to keep up.

On the specific issue:

I'm not entirely clear what the problem is from your description. I suppose if you could state exactly what's wrong, then you'd know how to fix it and you'd do so. But okay, you can't get these email lists to work. I'd go to the boss and explain the problem to him as best I can. Then I'd discuss possible solutions. Whether those solutions are "get better lists from wherever we're getting these lists", "I need to spend 2 weeks (or 2 days or 2 months or whatever it is) cleaning up the lists", or "I have no idea how to do this and we either need to get someone who does or give me time to research how to do this right", or whatever.

If the boss demands that you do a job with inadequate resources, that's a different problem.

  • You make a good point, I am normally okay with this task, but my real problem is not the job itself, but the resources that I need to complete the task. I felt that the implication of this task is that I should be the one to solve a problem that I have no ability to solve, or forcibly send out the emails without solving the problem at all, but maybe I should be making it more clear that I simply can't do it without the proper resources.
    – Niahc
    Feb 16, 2016 at 17:08
  • 2
    @Niahc Yes. I wouldn't say, "This isn't my job." I'd say, "I am having a very hard time doing this because ..."
    – Jay
    Feb 16, 2016 at 17:44

Nearly every job description that I have seen includes a phrase similar to "other duties as assigned". That means that pretty much anything that your boss asks you to do that isn't illegal, unethical, or immoral is part of your job.

That said, one way out of your mailing-list-hell would be to give it to someone whose primary job description is closer to including "sending out mass emails". In another question, you mention a marketing company that your company is working with. Perhaps you could find a way to have the mass-email task included in their responsibilities. Or, if there's another employee at your company with "marketing" or "assistant" in their title, you could offer to train that person how to do email campaigns.

  • This answer is on the right track, but it assumes the OP is high up enough to task others. It's more likely (though I can't know for sure) that such action has to go through to CEO in question rather than the marketing/assistant directly.
    – rath
    Feb 13, 2016 at 4:01
  • I understand that all jobs involve other tasks, but I don't agree that I should be forced to do things that I am not qualified or comfortable doing.
    – Niahc
    Feb 16, 2016 at 16:55

the CEO is currently acting the role of the only sales person

It sounds like your boss is wearing multiple hats, which probably means other people in the company are as well. Hopefully it's temporary, but it sounds like he's really counting on everyone to give 110% to keep the ship running.

If you're not interested in doing this extra work that is out of the scope of the position you were hired for then I'd bring it up with your boss. I wouldn't expect it to go well.

If you're interested in doing your boss and the company a solid try thinking of this as your problem. Instead of saying someone needs to clean the list, ask "Who can I pair up with to clean this list?".

I've gotten ahead by flipping my attitude on stuff I didn't want to do. I'm in software so instead of saying "The framework doesn't do that", I respond with "In order for us to do this here are our options, this is how long it's going to take, and we need these resources in order to do it effectively."


You have three options.

Just tell your boss you don't know how to clean the lists so don't want to do the task.

Find out how to clean the lists.

Just keep spamming, when the account gets blocked open a new one and continue.

  • Options 1. Just leads the boss telling you to do Option 2. Option 3 just leads to frustations for the OP which leads to Option 2. The only real options is 2. Feb 14, 2016 at 19:57
  • Na... option one is unlikely but worth a try. Option 3 is fine, why get frustrated? It's only work.
    – Kilisi
    Feb 15, 2016 at 5:34

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