Two weeks ago, I shifted to a new role/department at our workplace & I'm reporting to a new boss. So far there has not been much work for me as I am attending some trainings and started working on some non-critical and less intense projects. As a result, I have been getting quite some free time at work.

Now, since a few days back, my ex-boss has been approaching me and asking me directly about which tasks I am doing these days, and how many hours I am spending on each task. He wants me to take up some of his projects since he feels that I have lot of free time now in my new role.

I got a bit shocked with him asking me so, but at the same time I did not want to flat out refuse his tasks. If he wanted to give some work to me, then shouldn't he approach my new boss and seek his permission to give me work? Isn't this direct approach actually unethical?

Please advise me on how to deal with this situation. Also, there is a chance that after a year or two, I may be switched back to his team and will have to face him.


2 Answers 2


Very simply, you can speak to your current line manager, or you can ask your former line manager to speak to your current one.

As an employee, your "free" time during your working day isn't really yours* or anyone else's to spend without the approval of your current manager as they may prefer you to be studying some specific new skill, helping out another team member or suchlike if you do have any 'slack' in your working day. This includes your former manager, some random senior person, or even C-Level executives.

The general case is, you agree to the work in a tone that's affirmative to the wisdom of the suggestion, but you defer the commitment to your manager. Something generic like this will work:

"That sounds great! Let me run it by with my manager to schedule it so our deliverable deadlines are not affected."

* Of course, a progressive manager will trust and empower you to manage your own time to some degree, which in most organisations will not include being lumbered with work by an old boss.


This is simple: you don't make the decision on what you do, your (new) manager does. If anyone else approaches you to do some work, your first question should always be:

Have you cleared this with my manager?

If the answer isn't an explicit "yes", your response is then

I'd be glad to help you, but you'll have to chat to my manager first.

Note here that the action is on the person requesting you to do work, not on you.

  • 1
    +1 There was a question here some time ago about people circumventing the official channels and going to the OP directly for work items. From that I learned the correct answer to these situations: Sure, I'll be happy to do that with you. Could you speak to ${manager} so he can prioritize it for me? Now this guy used to be OP's boss, but that doesn't matter at all. And if they claim they already spoke to ${manager}, you just let ${manager} know if it's cool to switch to the task they should already know about.
    – rath
    Sep 25, 2017 at 14:42
  • Seeing programming variables was so natural to me that I had to do a double-take on that comment...
    – Nelson
    Sep 26, 2017 at 2:25

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