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My former boss who is a manager in the company regularly asks me to do work for him. I have that under control as my current boss backs me up and I can take on the assignments I find interesting and valuable and turn down the ones that aren't. However; mixed in with these requests are assignments to speak or present at industry conferences or trade shows. My former boss over commits himself and is regularly passing these talks/presentations onto his staff, and he continues to do that to me. He always presents it as a 'development opportunity' or 'way to get more exposure'. In reality, he commits and then tries to get out of it himself. I know what I want to do; which is only take on the assignments that are interesting or of value.

My question; how do I turn down these requests, politely, because I need to have a good relationship with this former boss, as he is characterising them as benefits to my career?

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    "I can take on the assignments I find interesting and valuable and turn down the ones that aren't" - So what's the problem here? Presumably you've turned down assignments before? – Lilienthal Oct 30 '16 at 23:10
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    I just want to point out giving talks/presentations if done at industry conferences can be very valuable to your career development. I recommend you consider it. – Benjamin Gruenbaum Oct 31 '16 at 7:55
  • He must have had on some really nice pants. – Manoj Kumar Oct 31 '16 at 8:21
  • Just explain that he's not your boss any more, and there's a limit to what you'll do on his behalf. You could even present and invoice. – AJFaraday Oct 31 '16 at 10:59
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    People can die of exposure - that's why I never work for it. – PeteCon Oct 31 '16 at 14:48
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Thank you for sending this opportunity my way! However, after discussing it with new boss, I unfortunately cannot accept this engagement at this time, since projects Foo, Bar and Baz are in critical stages right now. Thanks again, and sorry!

Feel free to add "I feel honored you think so highly of me" as appropriate, without crossing the threshold into sycophancy - you know your old boss better than we do. And do think about accepting some of these engagements once in a while, especially the ones that do make you more visible.

It seems like your ex-boss has a high opinion of you, and that can't hurt, so try to stay on his good side.

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    It would probably be good to have a conversation with the current boss, too, so that if/when the old boss comes to ask them, "hey is johnB available for doing this presentation?" the new boss has some context and can more easily back up johnB and tell the old boss, "no, sorry." – enderland Oct 30 '16 at 19:31
  • This is a bit sacharine and doesn't necessarily get across the "don't tell me what to do" factor, but it could be appropriate in some cultures. – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 31 '16 at 10:18
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    Strongly agree with @enderland -- you've already said your new boss has your back... so make sure your stories are straight. This way in case old boss goes to new boss and says "hey, I know you told johnB you needed him for Foo, Bar, and Baz, but could I borrow him for a day or two?" you won't have NB responding with a puzzled "What do you mean? johnB isn't working on Foo Bar or Baz?" -- and then you're in it deep. – Doktor J Oct 31 '16 at 14:44
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Simple solution, pass the requests on to your boss, you should be doing this anyway. Your boss is overall responsible for your time management.

Your manager should be a buffer between you and the rest of the World. He/she has the authority to outright veto anything without you upsetting anyone. So inform your former manager that it needs to go through your manager, and cc your manager. They can deal with it amongst themselves. It's not your responsibility.

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My question; how do I turn down these requests, politely, because I need to have a good relationship with this former boss, as he is characterising them as benefits to my career?

You already have the ability to turn down tasks that you'd rather not do. You said that your current boss backs you up and you can take on the assignments you find interesting and valuable and turn down the ones that aren't.

Just continue to use your current boss as an excuse and say that you are too busy with your real work. There's nothing impolite about that.

Eventually, your former boss will get the hint and stop asking.

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    I got the impression that the OP doesn't want the requests to stop, only to avoid accepting some of them - they want to accept others. – Móż Oct 30 '16 at 23:55

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