How to be clear with boss
September 10, 2020 6:48 AM   Subscribe

I need a script to tell my boss I cannot work on certain days. Please help.

My boss wants me to work some weekends in addition to regular full-time hours. I truly cannot work weekends and they are not technically part of my official job. How do I tell my boss firmly but nicely that I cannot work weekends?
posted by Crystal Fox to Work & Money (16 answers total)
This is a classic "I'm sorry, that won' t be possible" situation.
posted by Dashy at 6:54 AM on September 10 [4 favorites]

"That won't be possible." Don't qualify it or say you wish you could, but. Just stick with the impossibility of the request.
posted by Mizu at 6:56 AM on September 10 [4 favorites]

You haven't given us too much information about the nature of your relationship with your boss or the type of work, so this advice is rather generic but here goes..

Be explicit. I can't count the number of times I've seen people have issues with a boss or employee who doesn't seem to be listening or understanding when what the person was saying wasn't very explicit in the first place. If you cannot do it you need to say so very clearly. So many times people think "no" and then say "gee that would be difficult", which are not the same thing at all. (On preview, what the first two comments said.)

You may also find other relevant advice here: Ask A Manager

The other option is, be honest about what it would take for you to work weekends. You say you can't, but if they gave you a million dollars you probably would right? Issues with child care? Tell them, listen I've got kids and no child care, if you really need me to work this weekend I'm going to need to you pay for full time professional child care and then give me two days off later so I can still spend the same total amount of time with my children. If you're helping someone move tell them you need to hire a mover and it'll be $X,XXX to have someone else do it if you're busy. You're not just "not working" when you're off, you have a life and do other things. If your boss wants to interrupt that it's not just a question of paying you extra salary, it's a question of paying for the opportunity cost of what you could or should be doing instead.
posted by tiamat at 7:07 AM on September 10 [22 favorites]

The advice above is fine advice, but at least I’m the environments/jurisdictions I work in (US organizations), they can change your job responsibilities. So think about what you’ll do if your boss says, sorry, our needs have changed, if you can’t do this we’ll have to let you go/demote you/whatever.
posted by mskyle at 7:16 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]

Basically, it's two businesses run out of one space, and I am being asked to cover for the second business whenever people over there call out. It happens to be that it operates primarily on weekends.
posted by Crystal Fox at 7:26 AM on September 10

"I'm sorry, that won't be possible" is a great response in many circumstances, but doesn't really work when it is a boss making a request of an employee.

Try something like, "I'm sorry, but I can't help with that. Given that my job is scheduled to only ever be M-F, my weekends are filled with personal obligations which I am unable to reschedule" (or similar - adjust to fit your specific circumstances).
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:31 AM on September 10 [27 favorites]

You have other commitments.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:57 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]

A somewhat similar situation, the discussion here might help you.

Ask A Manager: can I flat-out refuse to do a project?

See also:
Ask A Manager: what to do when you’re overworked
posted by tiamat at 7:59 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]

I think that if you could suggest other options for your boss, like how to find a dependable person to cover weekends, that might be helpful and show that you're on the same team.
posted by amtho at 8:48 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]

"I'm really sorry but I can't work weekends, I have other commitments."
posted by stillnocturnal at 9:05 AM on September 10

Check with the Dept. of Labor in your state, they'll be on the web. It might be legal to dismiss you for refusing to change your hours. This is horrible, but may be the law. Ask An Expert; I am not an expert.
posted by theora55 at 10:35 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]

^^^Basically, it's two businesses run out of one space, and I am being asked to cover for the second business whenever people over there call out. It happens to be that it operates primarily on weekends.

Please tell me if I have this right:

Company A and Company B work out of the same space, but they are two separate businesses, and Company B "operates primarily on weekends."

You were hired by Company A, and now your boss wants you to be able to cover for employees of Company B when they can't make in to work.

And this would be in addition to your full-time job at Company A.

If that's the scenario, that sounds really strange to me, but it would be a great question for Alison at Ask a Manager. Here's how to ask her a question.
posted by virago at 1:09 PM on September 10 [2 favorites]

Yes, Virago - it is wierd, but there you have it.

I used some of the advice here and addressed the situation. Thank you all who answered.
posted by Crystal Fox at 2:50 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]

it is weird, but there you have it.

I was trying to gather information before I offered any advice. But looking at my question now, I realize that my observations did not exactly move the discussion along.

I will add:

1. Your boss has a lot of nerve.

2. I'm glad that other MeFites were able to be more helpful than I was!
posted by virago at 3:08 PM on September 10 [2 favorites]

I actually wouldn’t give any details to your boss about why you can’t do it because that’ll just give them ammunition in helping you ‘solve’ your scheduling issues so you can work instead. For eg;
You: I can’t do it, I have an art class.
Boss: oh that’s easy, just reschedule it and do a make up class later. They’ll understand.

The less info you give, the better and given that you don’t even work for the company he’s trying to get you in for, I agree with other posters, this guy has an absolute nerve. Tell him you wish you could help but you have commitments on the weekends and for personal reasons, you can’t go into it. If you want to be helpful, given him the number of a temp agency. His business, his problem.
posted by Jubey at 9:14 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]

So when you "cover" company B how would that income get reported? Are you being asked to fill out a separate W4? Because if not, and if these two different companies have different employer IDs (which they must) then it's going to look like they're trying to evade taxes. Even if they aren't and are just a sloppily-run small businesses it's going to look bad in a way you don't want your name attached to.
posted by East14thTaco at 7:57 AM on September 11

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