How to politely refuse a request which does not fall under my role or responsibilities and are simply thrown upon me with a tag of "professional development" by a colleague.


At least make fellow colleagues understand that its okay to request for favours once or maybe twice but not always. I enjoy solving problems but I end up learning that while solving other's problems I end up losing track of my own projects, I am mostly busy in future growth and matters which are in the interest of my company and me.

  • 2
    "By my manager" and "by a colleague" would have entirely different answers. Your manager should, to a large extent, tell you what to do and how to prioritise (and thus also how this unrelated work fits into that). For a colleague you basically just want a polite way to say "sorry, not my job". Is this work done during work hours or in your free time? Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 13:34
  • @Dukeling Honestly I know I am more capable than the amount of work I am assigned lately. But does that mean that anyone can assign me any random gig? Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 13:39
  • 1
    Your manager can, random colleagues can't, as per my comment above. Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 13:49
  • It's sucks hard but who can assign work and how it is assigned is not the same in every organization. Balanced matrix organizations can be an nightmare in this regard. Luckily "When in doubt, talk to your line manager" is pretty universally good advice.
    – Myles
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 18:14

2 Answers 2


Your job is whatever your boss decides it is. So yes he can assign you any random thing he wants to. You mention some are in the name of career development so those are things he thinks you need to work on to be qualified for promotion. They aren't random things, they are important. Just because they aren't what you wanted to do doesn't make them random. Often junior people have no idea of the skills they will need at a more senior level.

Further, sometimes he just has tasks that no one wants to do. Those are going to be assigned to people as well. Sometimes that person is going to be you.

It is unrealistic to expect that you will never have work assigned that is not what you personally are interested in doing.

As far as colleagues, you can sometimes say no, but it is often not a good idea from a teamwork standpoint. Discuss with your boss the types of requests you get from colleagues and come up with a plan for what you should say yes to, what you should turn down, what your priorities are and how to handle turning down the request. The most common way to turn down a colleague's request is to point to your priorities and tell them that if they need your time, then they need to talk to your boss. It is his job to juggle priorities, so let him do it.

As you get more experienced, you will find that doing some of those tasks that take only a couple of minutes is well worth your time. People will be more cooperative when you need help.

  • +1 for the colleague - a simple "you're going to have to run that request by my boss, as he's expecting me to get 'this' done right now"
    – HorusKol
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 23:20

This one is a bit tricky.

Unless your "roles and responsibilities" are clearly outlined in a contract, you have no right to say that your manager is asking you to do something outside of your roles as they are the one who assigns the work.

Your colleague on the other hand, that is a different story. I am going to use my own career as an example. I am a COBOL developer, and one of the more efficient ones at my shop. I get asked all sorts of questions sometimes from people who aren't even on my team. Sometimes, if I have the time I will just help them out. When I am busy, or actually just don't want to deal with it because I am on a roll, I will tell them that they will have to ask my team leader to allocate some of my time towards.

This type of response could garner a couple of different outcomes:

  1. They don't go to the team leader and figure it out/do it on their own
  2. They go to your team leader and they team will not allocate you any time to help them, so they are S.O.L
  3. They go to your team leader and the team leader assigns you role of helping this person

If your team leader is assigning you to help others to the point that this is causing you hardship, then ask to speak with them directly and tell them that you find it hard to keep up with your own work when you are always jumping around. You could also start with this approach, but I have found having them ask a team leader usually puts an end to most of it.

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