Hi folks, 

BLUF: An employee refused a work assignment I made to him.  I want to make sure my response is measured and appropriate. 

And I need to figure out a contingency plan.

Background - I followed the MT instruction, asking, "would you please..." and then gave the details of the assignment. 

The employee resisted, giving numerous reasons why this task makes no sense and sets a bad precedent, yada yada yada. 

Knowing that I phrased my request as a question, I fully intend to honor his answer.  But this task needs to be done, and he is the only technician I have with the expertise to accomplish it.  Any guidance?  Allowing it to go undone could expose myself and my department to repercussions from the client and in turn, from my Director. 

If anyone has faced a similar situation, I'd love to hear how you handled it. 

As far as dealing with the employee, I will give him feedback in our next O3, document it, and see if it happens again.  is there anything else I should do? 


rrothwell's picture

 So you fully intend to honour his refusal, but he is the only person who can do it, and it must be done?

Can you somehow repackage the work into something else he will accept? Perhaps you can make a change to it, then assign it without making it a question if it's a non-optional task?


DiogenesPerez's picture
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You asked and you intend to honor his refusal that's OK. When you say " he is the only technician I have with the expertise to accomplish it."  meaning you have other technician(s) that can appreciate the opportunity to learn a new skill, accomplish the work, gain expertise and gain some positive feedback from the boss? Yes, it might  take them more time but he/they can be motivated and the other technician will notice that work will be done even if he refuses while he lose the good feedback.

 If he's your only technician and you have no one else who can do the job (while learning) then I would listen to what he has to say about the task; he might have valid reasons and I'm pretty sure that if the task is really important there's no argument he can present you can't overcome.

 The contingency plan should be in your mind even before you consider asking a direct. When you can't think of an alternative and he needs to do the job then remember Alcatraz's regulation 21: You are required to work at whatever you are told to do.


mattpalmer's picture

I think you've handled this situation poorly, and really haven't given some important details that would help us to give a recommendation on how to proceed (mostly contained within your "yada yada yada" -- we really need to know what the direct's objections were in order to go around them).  Surely if you, your client, and your director all see the need for this work to be done, and you all see the need for *this* person to do it, you could give enough information to your direct to make *them* see the need for them to do it, too?

Essentially, what you have here is a sales situation.  You need to counter your direct's objections to doing the work, in order to go from "no" to "yes".  Unless you do this, there's only two options: forcing the situation with role power (ouch), or not getting the work done (if, in fact, this person really *is* the only one who can do the work, which I suspect is totally bogus: I can't think of too many things which only one person on the planet is capable of).  If you can't determine how to overcome your direct's objections on your own, we can help you work that out, if you give us the actual objections involved.

What really drove me to comment here, though, is your intention of giving feedback.  While I'm all in favour of giving feedback on anything and everything, I'm worried that you're going to give feedback about saying "no" to your request.  The chances of this *not* being perceived as failing to honour the answer are... slim, to say the least.  I sense a lot of frustration in your post, and that will probably come through in your feedback, which would not be a good thing.

Dave75's picture
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I think there's an important point to note here.  If you're assigning a work task, by definition this is something your direct is expected to do as part of their employment.  If they refuse work tasking, they must be given explicit feedback about how this affects the performance of the work unit.  As Mattpalmer says, the feedback should not be about saying "no".  It should be about the consequences of not achieving the tasks expected of the team.

This is quite different to delegating, where you are assigning one of your own responsibilities to your direct.  It seems to me that from your post, this is not the case.

Feedback is the answer, but make sure it is the correct feedback.

dan west's picture
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 If they say no the first couple of times I think it's fine. However, by the 3rd or 4th time I would give feedback around team work. My expectation of my team is that everyone steps up and takes on more tasks. If one person consistently says no, that impacts the rest of the team because they end up carrying greater loads.

And if they still don't get it, you may want to let them know that the people that do more get rewarded. So they can keep saying no and they will eventually get left behind. The do-ers don't just get more work. They get more compensation, more leeway when something comes up, more of my time and ALL of the promotions. 

I may not raise the last part, but if they don't get the message after a couple of instances of feedback on teamwork, they are going to hear the rest.