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If Your Employer Asks You to Do Something Concerning - Work out the problem

Work out the problem

Step 1. Get all the facts

Make sure you’re fully aware of what your employer is asking you to do. If you have any doubts, ask them to restate their instruction. If it’s still unclear, try asking more specific questions. 

For example, you could say something like: 

I want to understand this a little better. Are you saying you don’t want me to document this expense for the Jones account? Why is that? Wouldn’t that be contrary to our usual practice?

Once you have the facts, decide on your next move. Resist making a knee-jerk decision. But don’t put off taking action for too long. It may become more difficult to challenge your employer’s instruction. 

Step 2. Explain your concerns

If you think your employer is open to discussion, try to reason with them. Explain the concerns you have for yourself, and for them. 

If you take issue with your employer’s instruction, it’s a good idea to offer options. Brainstorm an alternative way to handle the situation. Explain that you’re hopeful you can agree on another way to deal with the issue. 

Raising concerns with your boss can be stressful. We offer tips for talking with your employer.

If what your employer is asking for strikes you as unethical, it might be. Don’t let yourself be pressured into doing something you aren’t comfortable with. On the flip side, don’t be too aggressive in explaining your concerns. You may end up making the situation worse.

Step 3. Take steps to protect yourself

If you decide to follow your employer’s instructions, you’re still responsible for your actions. You may face liability for any illegal acts you perform on the job. It’s important to take steps to protect yourself. 

Although every work situation is different, here are some options to consider:

  • Send your employer an email restating their instruction. This may be enough to help them see it’s problematic.
  • Talk to a manager or human resources (if your workplace has an HR person).
  • Decline to carry out the ask, and explain your reason why.
  • Decline to carry out the ask, and resign. Sometimes an instruction is so concerning you may be better off leaving.