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Workers should never be required to work in unsafe conditions and safeguarding any workplace in these times is indeed challenging. Prospect believes that workers should not be required to attend workplaces without proper precautions and urges employers, and government, to work with unions to ensure risks are minimised through full risk assessments, social distancing, hygiene, and PPE provision. See our health and safety advice for more information.


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Parts of the country have begun the process of returning to work, in places where COVID infection rates have flattened or shown a decline. But the risk of becoming infected with COVID remains, and some employers may be faced with parts of their workforces refusing to return to work or to perform certain asments, citing the health risk.

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While complying with an occasional request from your supervisor to assist with tasks that are not part of your job description is part of being a good employee, there are occasions when you have every right and, in fact, are obligated to refuse to take on someone else's work load. A coworker who takes advantage of your generous nature or tries to pass off responsibilities is one instance in which you should stand up for yourself.

Additionally, an employer who tries to saddle you with additional or unfamiliar work to avoid hiring more people is taking unfair advantage and should be confronted. Get a copy of your formal, written job description from human resources, if one exists, and familiarize yourself with your specific responsibilities.

How to tell your boss you are overwhelmed

This will clarify whether you are being asked to do something outside the realm of your responsibility, and will give you documentation to take to your boss in the event you need to protest the addition of someone else's workload. If no such job description exists, or includes the fine print wording, "and other duties as ased," talk directly to your immediate supervisor for clarification of your ased responsibilities.

Note your objection as soon as a request for additional work is made.

For example, if a coworker stops by your desk and asks you to take over managing several of her customer service s because she is too busy to do them herself, immediately respond that you are also too busy to take on any additional clients. Smile and stay positive during this exchange.

For example, you could say, "Oh, I'm sorry, I'm afraid I have too much on my plate to be of any help to you. Tell a workload-dumping colleague you need confirmation from your supervisor before taking on herjob responsibilities. This may stop the colleague in her tracks.

If not, it gives you the opportunity to go to your boss and get clarification about your specific job responsibilities. For example, "Susan asked me to take over several of her s.

I'm not familiar with her clients and I don't have any additional free time, so I'm coming to you for direction on how to tell her I can't take over her work. Use extreme caution if a supervisor or manager directs you to do something you are not qualified or trained to do. This is especially important if the task is potentially dangerous, such as operating a piece of heavy machinery.

Respond by saying something like, "I'm not qualified to run the crane and I don't want to risk injuring someone or damaging expensive equipment. If your supervisor asks you to pitch in for a short period of time, request additional compensation for your increased responsibilities.

A long-term transfer of responsibilities should be addressed in a private conversation with your boss. Explain that the additional workload is impeding your productivity and the quality of your overall work. Ask for a specific timetable on when the responsibilities will be transferred to another party, and decide if that is something you can reasonably handle. If it is not, firmly tell your boss you are unable to comply with the request.

Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since Inshe launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, inhad her first young-adult novel published by Glass Books.

By Lisa McQuerrey. You can maintain a cordial relationship with colleagues if you are friendly and polite in the way you decline a request to take on additional work. Related Articles.