Today I received a mail from the senior lead of my team asking whether I can take up an administrative task which was previously done by another colleague.

(UPDATE: Initially this mail was routed as: requesting for volunteers. No one from the team apparently had replied. Then, later, the lead mailed me asking whether it could be taken up by me. Please note that the lead did not directly assign the task to me.)

I replied in a mail saying: No.

He responded that I would get some administrative experience.

I again declined saying: No.

Over lunch, he asked, "Is it because you earlier had differences with that colleague that you did not want to take up that task, or is it for some other reason?".

I said, "I am not interested in taking up that task".

And I also continued saying, I am interested in checking if there are scripts which could be executed to do that task, instead of doing it manually.

I am currently unsure whether my response is correct professionally or not.

Or how do I professionally reject doing an administrative task?

  • 18
    How do you professional react to getting fired for not doing what is requested of you?
    – paparazzo
    Aug 8, 2017 at 9:00
  • 25
    Are you really sending single-word "no" replies to your manager?
    – Lilienthal
    Aug 8, 2017 at 9:42
  • it was not my manager, it was my team lead. Aug 8, 2017 at 10:06
  • 3
    I am confident that, by now, the department manager knows of this. If I were the manager, I'd interpret your rejections as evidence that you do not wish to learn more so as to prepare you for future advancement. Is that what you meant?
    – chili555
    Aug 8, 2017 at 13:29

5 Answers 5


Well if your response to the request from your senior was actually as curt as you describe it in the question then yes, I'd say that's pretty unprofessional.

It's okay to express a preference for not doing certain types of task, actually refusing isn't often wise however. You don't specify your location but certainly in many places (e.g. US, UK) your employment contract will have a clause around "other duties as assigned" which is aimed to cover off additional tasks for the business that are not your primary job description (things such as admin).

At this point it does sound like your team lead is asking you to do this rather than telling you so it's more a question of how you want to be seen by the lead (and by extension the organisation), are you the helpful, willing employee who wants to help the organisation get things done or are siloed "not my job" type? It's totally up to you and I'm not telling you to be one or the other but be aware of how these sort of actions are percieved (because in many ways perception == reality in the workplace) and don't be suprised if future "interesting" tasks or projects end up getting assigned to the employees who stepped up and took on a "boring" task previously.

  • Well I obviously don't know exactly what's going on in your team lead's head but from how you've described it he's very much trying to engage with you and drive your professional development. To which you basically responded "No"
    – motosubatsu
    Aug 8, 2017 at 9:23
  • @a3.14_Infinity apologies.. that last comment probably comes across a bit harsh!
    – motosubatsu
    Aug 8, 2017 at 9:43
  • no problem, i did not take it harshly Aug 8, 2017 at 10:25
  • now, what do I do? Should I go and apologize? Aug 8, 2017 at 12:23
  • 2
    @a3.14_Infinity I would, probably coupled with a follow up to the suggestion of automating the task
    – motosubatsu
    Aug 8, 2017 at 13:28

In my experience, it's best not to turn down a task without a good reason. This can include a lack of interest, but should be phrased in a way that you are given assurances and all concerns are addressed.

For example

I've got a lot of work already and don't have capacity


Although it's quiet at the moment, I don't want to get too involved with this because I've got xxx coming up soon. I'll only take this on if you can assure me that I can hand it over when I need to do xxx.

or even

This really doesn't fit with my job spec at all. I can do this as a one-off, but I don't want this to become my regular job.

Depending on your workplace, you might want to try something more or less assertive.


You have to understand what is happening here. They asked for volunteers, nobody wanted to do it. SO the manager picked you out to do it and phrased it politely as a request. It was NOT a request. Someone one has to to the task and you were chosen. The fact that he followed up your no several times indicates that. Everyone has to do tasks they don't want to do at work and you are no exception to that. You point blank refused, so now your manager has a negative view of you and that will color you performance appraisals, you assignments to more fun tasks and your salary increases.

  • 4
    The only thing I find weird here is that the manager seems over-invested in persuading the questioner to take up the task "voluntarily". Around the point of saying "you would get some administrative experience", I think most managers would just have given up phrasing it as a question. Aug 8, 2017 at 14:39
  • That just shows the manager is incompetent and a coward, too afraid to simply assign the work on the theory that everything should be voluntary.
    – HLGEM
    Aug 8, 2017 at 14:59
  • That certainly is a strong possibility, although to say it "shows" this means that there is no other possibility. Ideal for the questioner would be if it turns out the manager actually doesn't have the authority to assign this, for some bizarre bureaucratic or legal reason ;-) Aug 8, 2017 at 15:32

Where I live (Germany), refusal to do work assigned to you is not only unprofessional but usually is a valid reason for an instant termination. The exception is when the request is unreasonable or the contract specifically states that only a certain type of work is required.

So the answer is: you don´t - but you can make it clear that you´d rather not do that kind of work.

  • 2
    please note that it was not assigned to me, they were asking for volunteers. And when he approached me via mail, I said no. Aug 8, 2017 at 12:58
  • 1
    Ok, in that case it is more of an informal "mail chat". Then I think it´s ok to just say no. Maybe add that you´d do it if you have to, but you rather not do it at all.
    – Daniel
    Aug 8, 2017 at 13:02
  • 1
    I have updated question with details.. Aug 8, 2017 at 13:03
  • 1
    What do you do in Germany when you get assigned tasks by multiple managers and the day does not have enough hours to do them? You cannot refuse them? Aug 8, 2017 at 15:55
  • Failing is not refusing. You can suck at work but not denying to try (in your working hours). Also, I believe this would fall under the unreasonable category.
    – Daniel
    Aug 9, 2017 at 9:27

Professionally, you should have handled this in a more subtle way. To a certain extent you'd be doing your boss a favor. Someday, you may want a favor; don't expect anything in return. Everything is a negotiation.

Weigh the pros and cons of the request. Is this really the worse thing you could do? If not, why not ask to having something you hate taken off of your list of duties? Make a request to do it for a limited amount of time.

You would be in a better position to do this task manually for a short period of time, so you could then develop a script for it. That would be the best compromise of all.

  • i thought of this approach earlier today.. to do it manually and then find automation... Aug 8, 2017 at 16:51

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