When my boss goes out of town, which he does frequently, he asks me to stop by his house twice a day to feed his dog, since I don’t live very far from him. I feel put on the spot whenever he asks and it’s really starting to irritate me, even though he always offers to pay me. I’ve tried hinting that he put the dog in a kennel or get a pet sitter, but he says his dog doesn’t like being around strangers, and he just goes on and on about how much his dog loves me. I really like my boss – and his dog, for that matter – but one of the reasons I’ve chosen not to have a dog myself is that I don’t want this kind of obligation taking up my free time. How can I get out of this without jeopardizing a good working relationship with the guy who signs my paycheck?
A.This is the reason many organizations have conflict of interest policies which prohibit supervisors from hiring their subordinates for outside work. It’s completely inappropriate for your boss to ask you to perform personal favors for him that are not part of your job, even if he pays you. It puts you in a very uncomfortable position because there is an inherent power imbalance in his request. But you don’t need me to tell you that. What you do need is to level with your boss. Instead of hinting, be compassionate but frank. Let him know that while you sympathize with his predicament, you’re no longer going to be able to take care of his dog. You don’t need to give a reason, but if you want to, just tell him the truth: It’s taking up personal time that you prefer to spend on other things. That’s reasonable. If you want to help him out, you could suggest he post a notice in the office seeking someone who would like to make a little extra money this way. Even if none of your co-workers wants the job, they may know someone they could recommend. Or, if you feel like going the extra mile, you might do a little research and see if there are any pet-sitting services in your area that have gotten good reviews from dog owners. There are people out there who would enjoy the canine contact or the extra income or both. You just aren’t one of them.