Conscious Communicator Tip #40:Should a Boss Ask Their Direct Report”Can You Do Me a Favor?”

“Can you do me a favor?”

Actually, I’m not asking you for a favor.

This is a statement my wife overheard her boss asking one of his direct reports yesterday.

She came home asking me if a boss should ask someone they supervise “to do them a favor” if that favor is really a job responsibility this employee should be performing within the job description.

We had an interesting discussion around this.

She thought, and I agreed, that a boss needs to use more specific direct language when giving direction to their subordinates.

We also agreed that the boss’ specific, direct language should be respectful and congenial in these situations, but asking for a favor is way too deferential.

Asking for a “favor” in this context sets the precedent that what is being requested is the boss’ responsibility and this is a one-time request for help.

What needs to be communicated is that this is a task the subordinate needs to fulfill within a certain prescribed timeframe and is something they continue to see as their responsibility for their role.

Language the boss should use is more like, “I need you to do XXXXXX and ensure its completed by YYYYYYYY.”

The respectful and deferential approach to this request would be something like, “I need you to do XXXXX and I’m wondering if you can complete it by YYYY.”

With this language you’re directly requesting the job to get done while respecting their other priorities and negotiating a time frame for completion, offering the subordinate autonomy over how and when they complete it.

If you’re not getting the results you want from your people, its because of your language, which is often non-specific and non-direct.

That’s why I’ve created Revolutionary Leadership Coaching. If you’d like to get better results from those you lead, I’d like to recommend a Revolutionary Leadership Strategy Session, you can learn more and apply for one at

’til next time, remember that communicating with specificity is power!


P.S. If you’d like help communicating to motivate your staff I encourage
you to sign up for a FREE Revolutionary Leadership Strategy Session at:

4 thoughts on “Conscious Communicator Tip #40:Should a Boss Ask Their Direct Report”Can You Do Me a Favor?”

  1. Jay Hansen says:

    I have aways found, “I need you to…” or “I want you to…” to be superfluous and personally offensive. My reaction (not verbalized) is, “Who cares what you want or need? Just tell me what to do!”

    I much prefer, “Please …”

  2. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thank you for your comments. I totally agree with them.

    It’s difficult to explain all the nuances that should be included in a communication such as this and “Please and Thank YOu’s” should always be part of it.

    My main point is that we shouldn’t be asking for a “favor” if it’s part of someone’s job description, it makes it seem as though this is a one-time request and that it is actually the boss’ responsibility, and will create a situation of mis-understood job roles and performance expectations.

    I’ve seen this time and again as the boss then eventually blames the subordinate for “not doing their job” when it was the boss who taught them to be this way.

    Your comment is very much appreciated. Thanks for being inspired to comment here.

  3. Bruce says:

    I think it greatly depends on the receiver of the message. It is not what you say but what the hearer hears. Using the DiSC profile can help identify the listening style of your direct and conveying a message in line with their personality will help build relationship, trust and be more effective. It can and should still convey do X by Y but the messaging of it may differ with a High S or High I.
    As always Skip I appreciate your encouragement to communicate clearly. As a High D I do try to buffer my tendency to command vs request.

  4. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    You are absolutely correct and I love the DISC model.

    My main point was that regardless of that, asking someone to do them “a favor” sends the wrong message and expectation.

    Leaders need to use more specific, direct language with respect, empathy, compassion and polite approaches to build the positive relationship while also communicating to not confuse job responsibilities.

    Using the “favor” language will set the expectation this task is just a one-time request and you will never get out of that mode if a manager/leader uses that style.

    Thank you for your thoughts and comments. Much appreciated having you subscribing to my blog articles.

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