I am an agile project manager at my current company which is a start up. My boss is starting to take on projects where we do not have any expertise for and is expecting me to deliver it, despite the increased risks associated with them.

I have made him aware of the risks, that we do not have the resources on the floor to take on such a project, but now he is expecting me to learn the technology and do it. His attitude is, the only way you can learn more is by going outside of your comfort zone and learning new things....when it was never in my job description to go deeply hands on, especially with technology I have no background in.

I don't want to step on my boss's toes and tell him outright that I refuse to do it, so feel that I have no choice but to.

Does my boss have a right to make me work beyond my responsibilities, and then hold me accountable if anything goes wrong?

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    Yes, I am in the UK. Isn't that unfair though? – bobo2000 Oct 17 '16 at 14:05
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    I don't know how it is in the UK, but fair rarely comes into play in the workplace. Unfair places tend to collapse in time, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. If your boss is unreasonable, you only have a few options. Explain how it will negatively impact the company if you have to spend your time on this versus that, change jobs, learn the new skill and become more valuable, or tell him it's too complicated for you and you can't understand it. – UnhandledExcepSean Oct 17 '16 at 14:08
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    You're a project manager - your job is to plan, to analyze risks, etc. So do your job: "Boss, I analyzed this, and we can probably do it. But it means we need to spend £000 on the tools and training, and it will jeopardize delivery of projects X and Y that we've already spent £000 on and are already running behind schedule. It's your call in the end, but I don't think it's worth the risk." – John Feltz Oct 17 '16 at 14:11
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    "There are only 24 hours in a day and there is only 1 of me". If you have idle time, then it's completely reasonable for him to say "learn how to do this new thing". If you don't have idle time, then you need to push back and ask what you're going to drop to handle the new task. – John Feltz Oct 17 '16 at 14:14
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    "Does my boss have a right " do you mean a legal right? Or are you asking if your boss can get away with it? – WorkerDrone Oct 17 '16 at 16:17

First things first, this is a startup. All hands on deck, everyone pitches in, does a bit of everything. Usually the contract will say "and any other duties as required by the business".

That said, your boss is being more than a tad unreasonable asking a PM to take on a technical role. In fact, this raises red flags that your boss has no idea what they are doing or has no money to do the right thing (or both). Either way, it's a VERY risky approach and exposes the business to far too many potential issues down the line.

If you plan to see this business through, then suck it up or push back hard. Otherwise you should consider whether you really want to be involved with this company.


Is there a communication issue here? I've worked in places where "don't make excuses, just do it" was a default attitude and a blunt "it's not in my job description" wasn't an acceptable answer to anything, but behind that there was always willingness to listen and compromise if I could articulate concerns.

If you are in a real shouting shop where you can't respond in a reasoned way then you've got a bigger problem, but otherwise I'd agree with John Feltz in the comments above - i'd put in a positive answer ("here's how we can do it...") rather than a negative ("I won't do this...") and use terms of risk, cost, resource requirements, etc. - this might start to frame what it would take for you to do the task, what risks you'd take on by doing it, and how it might make sense to hire someone already skilled up. You say "expecting me to deliver it" and as a programme manager to me "deliver" is not automatically the same as "do it myself".

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