6 Phrases to Use When You're Asked to Do Work Outside of Your Role

woman talking to coworker

Adobe Stock / Fairygodboss Staff

Profile Picture
Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
May 30, 2024 at 3:24PM UTC

You think your job is clearly defined. But every once in a while — or maybe frequently, in your case — someone asks you to do something that’s clearly outside the boundaries of your job description. Perhaps it’s your boss who is asking you to take on these additional responsibilities, or maybe it’s a coworker. How do you respond?

Saying “That’s not my job” or “That’s not my responsibility” won’t come off well. It makes it sound like you’re not a team player, and it’s a little rude.

So, what can you say instead? Try these six phrases.

6 phrases to try when you’re asked to do work outside of your role

1. “I have a lot on my plate right now.”

You’re overworked as it is. You have a ton to do, and you simply can’t take on this additional task at the moment. Just say so! You’re working on more pressing projects — ones that do fall under the purview of your role — and dealing with tight deadlines. You simply can’t take on an additional task, especially when it’s not your job. 

2. “That’s not my area of expertise.”

If you don’t have the requisite skill set to do the job your coworker or boss is asking you to do, be honest with them. Not only is this not your responsibility, but it’s also something you can't do — or, at least, not as well as someone else might be able to.

If possible, you can suggest someone else for the task — someone who does have the skills necessary to do it well, someone whose job it is to do it. 

Alternatively, if this requires a skill you’re interested in gaining, ask whether they can help you navigate it so you learn something at the same time. 

3. “Could we discuss my additional responsibilities?”

Perhaps you can make lemonade out of lemons. If you’re frequently being asked to take on new responsibilities outside of your role, the one you were hired to do, why not use this as an opportunity to grow professionally?

Ask your manager to discuss your additional job responsibilities. Perhaps it’s time for a raise/and or promotion — a chance to advance in your role and career. That way, there’s something in it for both of you.

4. “Could I get some support from other team members?”

Taking on an additional task could make affect your work. If you’re willing to do it but worry that it will impact your performance, ask for assistance. Maybe others will be able to lend a hand and help you with the project, taking away some of the burden and sharing the load.

5. “I’m happy to help, but I’d like to discuss setting priorities.”

When you feel like you’re constantly being bombarded with tasks and assignments, it’s natural to be frustrated. It can also seem a little chaotic and overwhelming. You don’t know where to start. By asking for clarity on priorities, you’re giving your manager the opportunity to shed light on what should be at the top of your list and what can be saved until later. You’re also conveying that you are feeling overwhelmed, which encourages them to take a harder look at everything they’re asking you to do.

6. “Would you give me some clarity on roles and responsibilities?”

Perhaps the organization doesn’t have a clear structure in terms of who’s supposed to be doing what. This can lead to confusion for everyone and isn’t setting up the business or its employees for success.

In order to better focus yourself (and, in some cases, your colleagues), you’ll need some clarity on who’s supposed to be doing what. This can be beneficial for your manager, too, who may not have taken the time to solidify roles and relationships.

The 1 time you should say yes to doing work outside of your role

You’re actually eager to do it! This could be an opportunity to gain a new skill, demonstrate that you’re ready to advance in your career or simply perform a responsibility you’ll enjoy taking on. 

That said, you should also be a team player by going above and beyond. If this is becoming a regular occurrence, it’s natural to get frustrated, but it’s also important to understand that we all have to do the occasional task we’re not that excited to do. For example, if the person who usually takes on this responsibility, you’re going to seem like a lazy employee if you gripe about taking it on, especially if you’re well-equipped to do it. That’s why it’s important to assess whether it’s really worth making a big deal about it — or whether you can let this one slide.

What's your no. 1 piece of advice for when you're asked to do something outside of your role? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

About the Career Expert:

 Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.

Why women love us:

  • Daily articles on career topics
  • Jobs at companies dedicated to hiring more women
  • Advice and support from an authentic community
  • Events that help you level up in your career
  • Free membership, always