Career Advice

May 15, 2013

Q&A: Boss pressures workers to buy products

Q: The head of our department has been pressuring employees to purchase products from her husband, who recently began selling diet supplements through a multilevel marketing company. When I was invited to a “party” at their home to hear a sales pitch, I politely declined. But she still keeps trying to convince me to buy the products.

I feel that it’s wrong for someone in a position of power to put this kind of pressure on employees. I don’t know how to refuse my boss without getting in trouble. Should I tell her how I feel or just complain to human resources?

A: Your boss’s behavior is both unethical and unprofessional. No manager should ever try to sell anything to employees, including raffle tickets and Girl Scout cookies. The reason is simple: People fear saying no to the person who controls their performance appraisals and work assignments.

Admonishing the department head might damage your career, so a safer alternative is to simply keep repeating, “Thanks for asking, but I’m really not interested.” Always deliver this response with a friendly smile, and never question the merits of the product. After a while, she will turn her attention to more promising prospects.

A trip to human resources is advisable only if others share your concerns and agree to accompany you. When complaining about the boss, going with a group is much less risky than going alone.

Submit questions to Marie G. McIntyre at

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Marie on May 20, 2013 8:05 AM | Reply

Sometimes it is hesitant to turn down the boss offer. But for the boss itself, they should be very responsible for what they are doing. It really affects their morals and the respect of their employees if they continue on doing nasty things like this. Thanks for sharing this one. I have a boss like this before but I tried to turn down his offers with a smile and jokingly refuse his products.

Marianne Wallson on May 28, 2013 9:05 AM | Reply

A boss is always a boss, but we could not really deny the fact that there are some boss who are very abusive with their position. I think it is unprofessional for them to pressure workers to buy their products. The best thing for employers to do is just say “no” with respect. In that way you still showed him that you respect him even though you declined his offer.

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