I'm looking for some advice on how to say no to a recent temporary role I've been forced into taking.

Recently, I was asked to take the position of 'lead' on a project management position which I politely rejected. Unfortunately, my name was still assigned to this position after telling 3 different managers this role wouldn't suit me.

I'm continuing to receive emails regarding expected deliveries even though I've already told my manager multiple times that this position wouldn't suit me and that it is in fact a step away from the direction I would like my career to go.

How do I politely tell them to find someone else for this?

  • @tehjoker I'm still a little confused as to what's going on, how the overseer, manager, and project manager relate, and who is exactly asking you to do what. I get the sense that you're being ignored but the context is unclear.
    – mcknz
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 20:31
  • Who do you think should be doing the task? Or do you have a case that the task does not need doing? Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 20:40
  • +1. CV retracted. Good edits. How much work does this box checking exercise involve though? In some companies and for some entry level roles minor administrative tasks are par for the course. But if it rises to the level of even a part-time responsibility it's very reasonable to push back.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 20:50
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    By the way, given your comments here and on the answer below, I'd encourage you to join The Workplace Chat at this point or create a room for this question to avoid spamming the comment section.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 20:54
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    To me it sounds like you really aren't the team lead. Isn't this what you have been told, explicitly? It just still says so in some list somewhere, and people keep sending you e-mails since yours is the only address they have. Just reply and, politely, point out the mistake. Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by corporate slowness in updating lists of e-mail addresses. Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 5:22

4 Answers 4


This is a great case of being your own worst enemy.

I've done everything from clean graffiti off of road signs to project management at a prestigious financial firm. If you want to get off what you consider "grunt duty" or some other derisive term, here is my advice.

  • Work hard
  • Work well
  • Work without complaint
  • Work with enthusiasm
  • Treat Even the most insignificant task with reverence
  • Respect your superiors
  • Understand that as the newbie, you WILL be disrespected. Suck it up, toughen up, and get the job done
  • Leave your temper at home, it has no place at work
  • Ask don't demand
  • Negotiate

Right now, you are coming across as an insolent child who is throwing a tantrum. This will get you nowhere.

Act like a professional, do your work, and ask questions like, "For my next task, I would like to stretch my talents a bit. That shows initiative instead of insolence.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 15:11

People in all jobs have to do tasks they don't want to do. The work needs to get done and like it or not you are the one they have selected to do it. Your manager said:

He explained that I wasn't appointed 'lead' for this project and that there was no 'lead', we're currently looking for one.

Well the work on the project can't stop while they find someone to be a lead. So you have to do it until then. It seems to me he told you that you were not doing it forever. That doesn't change the due date of the deliverables in the meantime. Professionals accept things like this. The PM is right in what she is doing by assigning the work to someone until the lead is found. So you have zero cause to be mad at her.

By the way, your behavior has probably marked you out as someone who will not be given more interesting work or projects. You need to be aware of your reputation at the company and you are now identified as someone who refuses career-enhancing tasks, who behaves like a child about and who is generally unpleasant and uncooperative.

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer. Plenty to think about now. It's more down to the fact that it was an optional role which I had said no to and was receiving no respect on my decision for not taking the position prior to a lead being chosen. I am indeed completing the task as it stands but it's the thought of being the disrespected 'newbie' that's being forced to do the work that noone else that wants to do is annoying me. The task is infact a career-enchancing one, in a direction I don't want to go in. I'm a software developer who has no interest in business management, administration or presentation.
    – AlanK
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 20:38
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    +1. Note that the wording here matches the original wording of the question in terms of tone and specific words.
    – enderland
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 21:15
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    "What you do is grow up." How patronizing. Ugh...
    – tmaj
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 3:05
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    +1 for mentioning reputation. Reputation is everything in a career. @Tymski "grow up" is excellent advice for people who need it, though it's often not well received by the immature. Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 12:33
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    "grow up" - Best advice I received to be honest. Went back the next day, apologised to the managers for not accepting the responsibility when initially asked and today signed off with the first initial review. Sometimes I need to be told this and I'm glad I came here last week for that advice.
    – AlanK
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 17:16

It's quite common as an employee to be asked to perform a task one doesn't want to do. Sometimes the best course of action is to accept the responsibility, and get it over with quickly.

It's also not unheard of for managers to take the course of least resistance when assigning work -- give the mundane tasks to the person who is most junior, or one who is unlikely to say no, even if that person is very busy already.

In those situations you have to be creative and positive. Give constructive reasons why you are not the best person for the task. Talk with others to see who might want to trade work with you.

You may not get out of the work, but you'll certainly get farther than if you resort to telling your superiors where they can go, and what they can do when they get there.


Let's look at the options:

  • you are a good employee, they feel really bad about having to make you do this role knowing you don't want to but feel that they need you in it right now. They will make it up to you once project is over.
  • you are an OK employee, they want you to do this because no one else wants to or they don't want to hire someone to do it. They don't care about you being pissed because they view you as an "OK" employee.
  • you are a OK/Good employee and your boss made a promise he/she needs to stand by and hung you out to dry. Only if you are more valuable than your boss to your company will anyone care.
  • you are a bad employee and they just needed to throw you some where.
  • you are a bad employee, knew this didn't meet your skill sets, want to see you fail so they can fire you.
  • you are a good employee, you work for a bunch of ass clowns who do random things and make no sense out of anything. They don't want to give in, well because they are ass clowns.

So either this is temporary and they will make it up to you (doesn't seem like it), your manager is hanging you out to dry, they don't think much of you, or you work for clowns. Most of these scenarios show that you should be looking for a new job not ranting about current one.

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    How about "you are an OK employee but with very little understanding of how businesses are run. They hope the project management role will give you a wider vision of business needs and trade-offs, making you more generally useful."? Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 21:45

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