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I'll be your... secretary.
June 15, 2013 12:28 PM   Subscribe

I've noticed lately that a lot of my work day involves colleagues asking me to help them with things. Finding them a new apartment, helping them deal with parking tickets, making telephone calls to get them free stuff (using our professional network). I am sort of a secretary... but I am not their secretary, if you get what I mean. How do I deflect the sense that these are appropriate for my role?

I am the lowest person of technical ran" in our office, but I also feel like sometimes, these requests verge on bullying, especially when the person starts holding a grudge that I didn't use my work or free time to help them. There is a lot of girl on girl, "why aren't you being helpful" implications behind this. I don't know if you know what I mean, but there's a sort of sense when I say no like, "why aren't you being cooperative?" I am typically not invited socially to hang out with these people, but I am invited over and over into their lives, to help. Our office is very much busy, but can verge on informal. It's mostly everybody who tends to assume that because I'm in a service role, I'm there to help. I'm not.

I don't know if I'm allowed to say no, so if my boss is standing there or might overhear, I usually say yes. I figure he would set these limits for me if this was not expected. I get that secretaries can do this stuff sometimes for their offices, so I'll do it-- there's enough tension and conflict for me in my role that it's just easier. I also don't want to piss off my colleagues. But basically I get nothing in return, and I have had colleagues get angry or irate at me if I say no, or if they feel I'm not getting their stuff for them in time.

We also share phone calls and emails, and I get contacted on weekends sometimes.

I'm bewildered, but I think it's just that some people don't have boundaries. How do I navigate this situation? Is this a common issue for a secretary, one who doesn't cozy up to people, but is rather perceived as "useful" or "helpful" on the sidelines. I can't help but noticing I can't win. If I try hard, I just reinforce the demands. If I say no, I have the potential to seriously go against my cliquish colleagues. What do I do? Suck it up?
posted by kettleoffish to Work & Money (40 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know if I'm allowed to say no, so if my boss is standing there or might overhear, I usually say yes. I figure he would set these limits for me if this was not expected

He'd be kind of a controlling asshole if he explicitly told you you couldn't do nice things for your co-workers when you wanted to. How is he supposed to know that you don't want to?

This question should be directed at him.
posted by toomuchpete at 12:36 PM on June 15, 2013 [22 favorites]


"I figure he would set these limits," meaning your boss, is, unfortunately not really how folks operate. He's thinking, If she's fine with it, great, one less headache for me.

Unless you speak up in a professional, calm, reasonable manner to ask for a definition of roles, accountabilities and specific job scope, I think you will continue to get dumped on. And I'm not sure you can blame the dumpers -- they might believe (because of your boss's tacit acknowledgment) that everything they are asking is YOUR job.
posted by thinkpiece at 12:37 PM on June 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Probably the easiest way to handle this is to ask yourself: does doing a given task contribute to your manager's rosy performance reviews? If not, why would you think it affects yours?

Or better yet don't hypothetically ask yourself the question, ask your boss. Ask what they're measured by, what you're measured by, and how to politely decline requests that don't fit into those buckets.
posted by pwnguin at 12:40 PM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Tell them: "Sorry, but this isn't my responsibility"
posted by brujita at 12:43 PM on June 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


It sounds like the expectation is that you help others in the office with secretarial stuff, even though you are not *their* secretary. I'd do that (within limits) in the name of being a team player. However, I'd draw the line at the personal business you name at the beginning (apartment hunt, parking tickets, etc.) even your boss.

You are calling them "colleagues" but they are not treating you as a colleague, they're treating you as a servant/gopher. They don't invite you to gather with them socially because they don't see you or treat you as an equal. Do not say yes to their requests in front of your boss. Say assertively in front of boss "I'm sorry but I'm swamped with xyz activities for BOSS" and expect boss to back you up. If boss does not back you, explain to boss that doing people's personal tasks and errands detracts from your effectiveness at your actual work. Make it clear to your boss and to them that you're not being paid by the company to handle their personal lives.

If this is an ongoing expectation, I would definitely look for a new job.

Good luck!
posted by loveyallaround at 12:45 PM on June 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


I don't agree entirely with the suggestion that these people might think you are happy to do these things. It is certainly not your job to be available on weekends to help co-workers with their personal things. That is just horrible. I would look for a new job. If these people are so entitled that they continue to infringe upon your own time, that would not be an acceptable work environment, to me.

I do understand these people exist, and there is entrenched classism, and whatever else. I also understand that some people in an assistant or secretary role might be, more or less, happy to comply. But it doesn't sound like that is the case here. And it wouldn't be for me. I mean seriously, they get angry with you when you say no? If you possibly can, don't work with or spend time with, people like that.
posted by Glinn at 12:45 PM on June 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Unless your job description is "concierge", you are not being paid to manage your colleagues' personal lives. I've been an actual secretary for much of my adult career, and I've been asked to do personal things for people...hm, once or twice, when I knew them fairly well and it was urgent and it was a favor? It's not appropriate for people to ask you to do personal favors for them at work or to intrude on your weekends.

1. What about you gives off the vibe that they can treat you this way? Are you insecure and anxious to please? Were you discouraged from developing boundaries as a child or young adult? You are probably giving off some kind of "bully me" vibe and these bullies are recognizing it.

2. You could discuss this with your boss, but I'd try handling it on your own first. People ask you to do personal favors for them on work time or because they are your colleagues? You're sorry but you have work deadlines and can get to it...next week, maybe. Why didn't you do a favor for them on the weekend? You were out volunteering and since it wasn't directly work-related you felt that it could wait. (And clarify - does your office really expect a junior admin to be checking email on weekends and working for free?) You need to not have time for these things. If people ask why you don't have time now, well, you have family concerns that are taking up more of your time lately. (No need to specify that you are your own family and your "concerns" involve a good book and a glass of red.)

Absent some very clear spelling-out in your job description, you are not expected to do personal work for your colleagues. If they are in the market for a PA, that's one thing - and I'm sure that can be a fun job for the right person. But when someone hires a PA, they spell out what that person's role is.
posted by Frowner at 12:52 PM on June 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


It's mostly everybody who tends to assume that because I'm in a service role, I'm there to help. I'm not.

What is your job? That's the question you should be asking here. There's nothing legally inappropriate, ethically inappropriate, or professionally inappropriate for someone to be given the job "do whatever other people in the office want you do to [assuming it doesn't involve breaking any laws, which doesn't sound like is the case here]". I don't know if that's what your job entails because you haven't given that detail. But, if it is indeed your job, then perhaps you should be evaluating whether this job is appropriate for you. Do note that your job can change at any moment; on your side, you need to decide whether or not you want to take care of these new responsibilities or else find a new job. There is no right for someone's job never to change.

I also don't want to piss off my colleagues. But basically I get nothing in return

I don't think that's really true. You (hopefully) get paid. If you aren't getting paid for this work - for instance, by being paid hourly and not being paid for the hours worked on these tasks, then you should be pursuing a legal complaint against your employer. However, if you are getting paid for these tasks, then it's up to your employer whether it's worth your time to fulfill these tasks or not. Have you asked your manager explicitly whether these tasks are something you should be working on or if there's something higher priority for you to do?
posted by saeculorum at 12:53 PM on June 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've asked favors of my boss's admin at times in the past. In each and every case, it was work-related, and involved a great deal of gratitude and sweet-talking on my part. Your co-workers are out of line.

I think you should bring this up in private with your boss. Document examples and tell him that this is detracting from the time you spend working on his projects, and ask for clarification as to how you should prioritize things.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:53 PM on June 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Hmmm I'd like to help but I have to finish a bunch of stuff today. If you'd like me to take care of it, I can get to it later this week. Would that work?" Say this no matter what you're actually working on. They'll usually just say "Oh ok I'll do it myself or ask Xxx person instead."
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:53 PM on June 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


My inclination would be to make an itemized list of all these tasks you've done, and have a sit-down with your boss, and ask him, one by one, to say whether it falls under your job or not. If those tasks are taking you away from the work he expects of you, mention that as well.

I would couch the discussion as wanting to clarify your responsibilities so you can best meet his performance expectations. Just a factual, businesslike talk.

This will let you know more clearly exactly what is expected of you. If it is in fact expected that you do those types of tasks, you can then decide whether you want to continue there or not.

I understand what you mean about the subtle (or not so subtle) girl-on-girl pressure. But just remember: they aren't reciprocating. They aren't playing nice. They aren't your friends. So, it's OK to not give them what they want, if it falls outside of your work scope.

"I have to run that by the boss" is often a good way to get people to knock it off.
posted by nacho fries at 12:55 PM on June 15, 2013 [33 favorites]


Okay, to start: the phone calls and emails on your days off? Ignore them until you are once again on the clock --- do not use your personal time to do their errands. They can wait until your normal work hours, or if they're in a hurry, they can do it themselves.

As for doing these favors while you are on the clock: prioritize. In other words, put actual work first; if you have the time available after that, then you can hunt up their new apartments(!) or whatever..... but work always comes first, even if it arrives on your desk after the favor is asked of you.

And finally, "I am typically not invited to hang out socially with these people"..... considering what they're like at work, perhaps you ought to consider this a good thing.
posted by easily confused at 1:04 PM on June 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


Definitely do what nacho fries said - that's perfect.
posted by hazyjane at 1:07 PM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


1. What about you gives off the vibe that they can treat you this way? Are you insecure and anxious to please? Were you discouraged from developing boundaries as a child or young adult? You are probably giving off some kind of "bully me" vibe and these bullies are recognizing it.

I actually held a job before (in my early 20s), where my boss asked me to put together a powerpoint presentation for her for 7 am the next morning. The problem was called me at 11 pm the day before. I said no, and it was maybe one of the biggest professional mistakes I have ever made. She took it very, very, very personally.
posted by kettleoffish at 1:11 PM on June 15, 2013


I don't know if you are relatively new to the workforce, but I have had many jobs and many roles and I have never ever heard of this scenario. It's weird to delegate out personal chores, and doubly weird that the people delegating their personal chores are not your bosses. Definitely talk to your boss and find out if this is part of your job, and if it isn't, feel free to repeat the standard Metafilter line: "Sorry, that won't be possible." If they've ever worked anywhere else, they already know damn well they're out of line and that they are just taking advantage of you.
posted by Wordwoman at 1:12 PM on June 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


And finally, "I am typically not invited to hang out socially with these people"..... considering what they're like at work, perhaps you ought to consider this a good thing.

Haha, fantastic.

Yes, professionalism is always the way to go. There is always a way to be more correct and more "on target" for a job-- it just has to be found sometimes amid the conflicting demands.

It's weird to delegate out personal chores, and doubly weird that the people delegating their personal chores are not your bosses.

I know. It sounds weird. We have a very informal office-- several people are roommates, they often hang out, people at all levels are friends outside of work, etc. It is not uncommon for people to ask each other favors like this, but usually the more entitled, pot-stirring people tend to ask for these extras from me. For example, and some people have had relatives stay with colleagues when they come to visit, stayed with them rent-free for periods, etc.
posted by kettleoffish at 1:13 PM on June 15, 2013


I actually held a job before (in my early 20s), where my boss asked me to put together a powerpoint presentation for her for 7 am the next morning. The problem was called me at 11 pm the day before. I said no, and it was maybe one of the biggest professional mistakes I have ever made. She took it very, very, very personally.

Annoying, yes, but a totally different scenario.
posted by Wordwoman at 1:17 PM on June 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


I would clarify this all with your boss - whoever it is that is the person who would do your performance review if you were to have one (this isn't always the person you support in your role as an admin. )

If s/he says yes, Bob was justified in expecting you to help with his parking ticket issue, then you know where you stand. If (as I expect) you are told that isn't part of your job -- especially if you imply that tasks like that are taking away from time spent doing your actual job -- then things get much easier. Next time someone asks something random you say "I've been asked to focus on office workflow and not to spend time on tasks outside of it, so sorry I can't help."
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:25 PM on June 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I actually held a job before (in my early 20s), where my boss asked me to put together a powerpoint presentation for her for 7 am the next morning. The problem was called me at 11 pm the day before. I said no, and it was maybe one of the biggest professional mistakes I have ever made. She took it very, very, very personally.

I do not see how this is YOUR professional mistake.
posted by bunderful at 1:31 PM on June 15, 2013 [30 favorites]


There is a lot of girl on girl, "why aren't you being helpful" implications behind this. I don't know if you know what I mean, but there's a sort of sense when I say no like, "why aren't you being cooperative?"

This is where you hide behind your boss. "Oh sorry, [Boss] said I'm supposed to focus on [plausible task] from now on." This has worked for me in the past.

Also, that thing about your old boss? You did not make a mistake there. You have to stop telling yourself that you did. Just because you're the lowest person on the totem pole doesn't mean you're not a human being.
posted by bleep at 1:41 PM on June 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


I actually held a job before (in my early 20s), where my boss asked me to put together a powerpoint presentation for her for 7 am the next morning. The problem was called me at 11 pm the day before. I said no, and it was maybe one of the biggest professional mistakes I have ever made. She took it very, very, very personally.

Your mistake there was answering the phone.
posted by loveyallaround at 1:44 PM on June 15, 2013 [45 favorites]


To add to my previous comment: When you say no to an unreasonable request, and the requestor reacts unreasonably, that is not your fault and it does not mean you were wrong to say no.
posted by bunderful at 2:01 PM on June 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


Gosh, I would love to help but I am swamped with my regular work right now. If I get a free moment, I'll check in with you, okay?

Gee, I would love to help but I am concerned about spending work time doing something that is more of a personal time thing. Would you mind running that by my boss first? I wouldn't want us to get in trouble.

Go to your boss, tell him that you feel like you are running personal errands for people and it is taking you away from your actual job (even if it isn't). Ask him if he would support you saying no. Avoid naming names. Do not ask him to send out a memo or tell the staff himself- just ask that he support you when you say no. You don't want to seem weak to your boss or the staff. Look them in the eyes when you say no. Be direct, no shuffling or mumbling. "Boss and I were concerned that the personal errands were affecting my actual work so I can't do them anymore, sorry."
posted by myselfasme at 2:09 PM on June 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


One thing that worked for me when I was in your situation was to ask for a few minutes of time from my boss to go over workflow priorities. So I would rattle off the list of things I was working on, in the order I planned to get to them, and he would nod and say "check, check, check, check, wait, WHAT? No, no no." Then I had cover to say no.

From your description of your workplace, though, it sounds like people are way into everyone else's dishes for my comfort, and if I were you, I would figure out what I needed to get out of this gig so that I could move someplace else ASAP.
posted by ambrosia at 2:42 PM on June 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you really can't say no (and can't say "I'll run that by my supervisor," which is probably best practices) is to nod and say you'll "try to help with that." Then don't get around to it. A week later, ask if they still need help. They'll stop asking.
posted by musofire at 2:45 PM on June 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Definitely talk to your boss about this, but be careful to frame it in a way that makes it clear that these extra tasks ate interfering with your real work. (If you are not sure what that is, spend some time defining it, t least for yourself.) That way you will not come across as whiny or resentful.

In the meantime, start being "very busy" and "not wanting to let someone down" by agreeing to do these things and not being able to follow through. If they won't back off, say you will do it if you can, and then just don't. Apologize profusely for the inconvenience, but do not deliver. Once they realize that you are simply not a reliable source of help with their parking tickets, or whatever, they will find another way to deal.
posted by rpfields at 2:51 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Really, what is your job?

Nthing on the "I am swamped with [core duties]" response. My job calls upon me to do "extra work" in two cases-- one is related to the projects I'm working on where my job is essentially to do "extra work" showing how the project can be extended and expanded. This stresses me out, but it's my job, and the payoff comes in more projects and more responsibility for me, which I want. But many times we get called upon to contribute to "community" work at my job-- things like helping out with the [xyz] club, helping organize the spring social, etc., etc. The latter category of things I beg off from saying I am just too busy with work and project deadlines to help out ("but good luck! sounds like fun!") While these are certainly not personal chores, for me they're distractions from an already stressful set of tasks I'm responsible for. I suppose the latter category of things are necessary, to some degree, but I leave it to others to pick up the slack for that kind of "affective labor" that I don't want to do or be associated with.

Heed the wise words of Frowner on handling yourself in the office to shut down the "be my servant" requests.
posted by deanc at 2:51 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are some office cultures where being too competent, and being known as competent, is a mistake.

I'm imagining a range of behavior between playing dumb and sabotage. Depends on what you're comfortable with. What if you weren't so good at getting people out of parking tickets and finding apartments? The colleague who winds up in a 5th-floor walk-up over a fishmonger's probably won't be asking you for favors anymore.
posted by thebazilist at 2:54 PM on June 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


"If you clear it with Boss first, I'll be happy to separate the green M&Ms from the blue ones. Oh, and if it's a yes, remind Boss to postpone Biggest Client's project delivery so I can run your personal errand. There's not enough time to do both, unless you pick up my other jobs. Let me know, toodles."
posted by Jubey at 3:15 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are some office cultures where being too competent, and being known as competent, is a mistake.

Having been in that terrible trap I agree and add that those are terrible places to work.
posted by winna at 3:59 PM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Am I understanding correctly that you are doing personal errands for your colleagues, for free, on the weekends and at the expense of your actual job and they berate you when you don't?

I've got laundry and piles of tedious paperwork, can you be here in an hour? I won't even yell at you.

I'm sorry, but they are taking terrible advantage of you. This is not what typical admin work looks like and this is not a professional environment. My first priority would be to find another job, but I understand that's not always possible. It may be difficult to turn this situation around now that your desk is where bullshit lands, but here's what I would do -

1) Get a written job description from your actual boss, i.e. the person responsible for your hiring/firing/pay grade/daily activity

2) Put all your energy into following that job description and keeping that person happy

3) Refer all requests that fall outside your written job description to the person in #1

People will not be happy with this change, but you don't have to worry about that. What you do have to worry about is whether your boss is happy, and you do that by redirecting your energy back to the actual job you were hired to do.

And hey - if people trust you with highly sensitive tasks, maybe consider doing (well compensated!) PA work on the side. If not, learn to draw better boundaries for yourself from the start; it's much easier to avoid this pit than to dig your way out of it. Good luck in this and in your future job search.
posted by Space Kitty at 4:35 PM on June 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


I hope that didn't sound too harsh, I really feel for you. I've had too many thankless jobs where I mistakenly prioritized tasks for the squeakiest wheels to my own detriment. These people do not have your best interests at heart, so look out for yourself by prioritizing your career over their comfort. The only 'reward' for being most accommodating of unrealistic requests is... more unrealistic requests. There's a reason they say no good deed goes unpunished and I'd hate to see you fall into that trap. Best of luck.
posted by Space Kitty at 4:45 PM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


The basic problem is that there is no separation of the personal and the professional in your workplace. As the lowest status person you are getting the brunt of it: having to do personal chores that would *never* be asked of you in a normal environment, while having your professional status and livelihood threatened if you refuse.

For the record, I have never heard of any secretary being given personal chores to do unless they were actually a PA to *one* boss (that's what Personal Assistant means, yo). Even then, the worst bully I ever worked for was at least cognisant of this issue up front and "will it bother you to be sent out to get my dry cleaning, etc." - it didn't, as I got paid just the same regardless of how I spent my time, but others feel differently. I have never ever heard of admin staff being used as gofers for the personal business of everyone in the office. That is outrageous.

If I were you I would first ask for a job description, to see what I had agreed to when I took the job. Then I would object in writing to the universal gofer work which presumably is not in the job description (in the UK, this is the way to avoid being demoted, not sure how it works where you are). If it is in the job description you're SOL, it's your job. Also in the UK there are restrictions on how many hours you work and you can sign that away, but if you want the restrictions back you can give written notice that you're taking them back. Again, not sure how it works where you are, but you may be able to object to having so much of your personal time taken up.

I also recommend doing an action sheet of every action you take daily: every outgoing phone call, etc. at the end of each week submit them to your boss. He may not be fully aware of how much time and (presumably company) resources you are spending on the trust fund brats' personal lives.

If he is, though, wow! Time to get another job! I say this seriously, nobody ever does it, but... Srsly.
posted by tel3path at 4:53 PM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is your actual boss one of the people asking you to do this stuff? It doesn't seem like it. Unless you're explicitly a PA or you work in an industry like fashion or film where this sort of thing is more common, you definitely don't need to be doing this stuff and in fact, by running these personal errands, you are sending the message that 1) you don't have enough actual work to do and 2) other people's time is more valuable than yours.

These aren't like the 11PM PowerPoint request, which was asking a lot but at least came from your boss and was work-related.

Here is a question from Ask A Manager along the same lines, except posed by the doofus who wanted time from the assistant. As you can see, he got thoroughly rebuked, and that was for proposing to use her time for his work-related projects! If you read the follow-up, you'll see that the assistant in question also got her boss to have a single quiet word about the issue with the asker, who quite properly apologized profusely and never asked again.

Since you have been accommodating these requests, I think it's going to be hard to just start saying no, but you can definitely say "I'm afraid I'm too busy with Random Work Issue right now to be of much help" or "I don't think I'll have time for that till Thursday" if it's marginally work-related but clearly not a work priority. That's assuming you do have enough to do that your colleagues aren't seeing you surf Facebook--if that's true, you should talk to your boss about developing some more opportunities for you so that you don't have visible down time.

I get the sense that there are a couple of particular offenders who are either asking for more favors than the others or who are at least pushier about it. I would definitely start with the polite deflections but if they start to give you a hard time, I don't think it's unreasonable to talk to your boss about it. You can phrase it as asking for help prioritizing tasks or clarifying responsibilities, but DON'T offer things you're not willing to give. (Like, don't say "of course I don't mind doing these things" because you do--say something like "I definitely want to make sure I'm using my time in the most productive and useful way". Avoid the word "helpful."--you are doing your work, not "helping" other people do theirs, even if your work is of a supportive nature.

The other thing to remember is that the kind of interconnectedness you're seeing in your workplace is the sort of reciprocal favor that friends/equals share--having someone stay with a coworker is a favor I might ask of a good friend, but I would never ask my good friends to drop off my dry cleaning or find me an apartment, because I value their time as much as I do my own. You need to find some ways to get your colleagues to see you as a peer rather than a lackey.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 6:15 PM on June 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm bewildered, but I think it's just that some people don't have boundaries.
You are one of those people.

"Sorry, I am working on X for Y, and then A for B, and C for D." Then you turn back to whatever you were doing before they interrupted you.

Are there people there who treat you like you want to be treated? If so, and you find yourself without a full plate, see if you can help those people with anything.

Reward good behavior, ignore bad behavior. Repeat.
posted by Good Brain at 8:28 PM on June 15, 2013


I don't know if you know what I mean, but there's a sort of sense when I say no like, "why aren't you being cooperative?"

This is really their problem. Don't allow it to be yours. Make sure you have a conversation with your boss to understand your responsibilities. Then operate within that framework, not the framework of high school cliques and second guessing what other people feel. It doesn't matter what they feel about you not doing duties that don't belong to you.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:54 PM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Do you find you have free time in your day to do these tasks? Or are you pushing back your real work in order to do this for them?

Either one requires a talk with your boss, but here's how to make yourself look good if you actually do have pockets of free time here and there:

"Hey Boss, I'm finding that I often have some free time during the day, even after completing (xyz) tasks. I'd really like to learn (something that makes you valuable to the company), so could I (take on doing part of that) or are there any special projects I could be working on?"

Makes you look honest about your free time, eager to do new things, and able to honestly tell your coworkers that you don't have time.
posted by nakedmolerats at 7:46 AM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of good advice here. 2nding - Talk to your boss, explain that requests for personal tasks have escalated, and that you want Boss' clarification of your role, and support in deflecting the personal tasks. If you are expected to do tasks of this nature, you should be an hourly employee and get overtime. If you are a salaried professional, then you should have a goal-driven job where you can define the way your work is done.
hourly-vs-salary-which-is-better
Difference-Between-Salaried-And-Hourly-Employees

...Finding them a new apartment, helping them deal with parking tickets, making telephone calls to get them free stuff (using our professional network) Once you have clarification and support, treat requests as you would a personal favor for a friend
Jay, I can help you with your apartment search Thursday after work, want to meet for a beer and map out strategy? but in a way that puts the work back on them, and you advise. So, meet Jay for a beer, and when Jay asks you to make calls or look at apts., Jay, I can't possibly do all this for you, but I'd be happy to help you make a few calls right now, and I could go on a visit or 2 with you Saturday morning before my Zumba class just as you would if it was a real friend.

Chris, here's the number and address for Parking if you want to contest the ticket. Chris emails you a credit card number, and you reply To pay the ticket, you can put a check in the envelope and mail it, or go to this web site with a credit card.

Pat, our rep at BigCorp can set you up for the seminar and free lunch tomorrow. Here's Rep's email and phone. Pat drops by your desk and says Can't you just set that up for me? You reply I'm pretty busy, and I won't be able to get to that promptly. I wouldn't want you to miss the seminar.

Lee asks you to order breakfast for tomorrow's meeting Lee, here's the link to Deli's site, where you'll find the options and prices; they are the most reliable for timely delivery, and here's a link to the reimbursement form.

You kind of treat them as if the poor dears just don't know how to deal with life, so you give advice and technical assistance, but you don't do the work. Keep acting as if you are really helping by providing information. If/when somebody gives you a hard time, I'm busy, and I won't be able to get to that promptly. Your task is important, and I wouldn't want you to have a bad result. In fact, do the company a real service by putting useful info on the network, to assist everyone with getting work accomplished. I've temped a lot in the past, and am always amazed at how few departments have a good email and phone list with every staff member's name, title, extension, email, and possibly mobile #. Have a file folder with menus and phone numbers of favorite places that deliver, etc. , and keep it in a central location, even if it's on the outside of your cube wall. When menus vanish, commiserate Oh, shoot, the Chinese menu is gone? Isn't it a drag when that happens. I'm sure it's on the web; there's a link to it on the shared drive, in the UsefulStuff folder.

...I get contacted on weekends sometimes.
Weekend requests get the same I'm busy ... response. You have an active life, and may not get back to their call or email promptly, i.e., make a habit of ignoring these requests for a while.

...some people don't have boundaries. Here's the most important thing: the person who needs better boundaries is you. Once your boss has helped you define your role, dig into your job, and know with certainty that your job is important, has value, and is more important than the personal tasks of your colleagues. Take yourself seriously. I recommend against heart-to-heart, pious chats about why it's not your job to pick up their dry cleaning; use the best breezy confidence you can muster up. As far as the socializing goes, be very friendly, and start asking people to go to lunch or coffee once in a while. When somebody's going out to grab a sandwich, ask them to pick you up a sandwich, too. Ask them for help on the technical parts of your job, as you push yourself to take on more complex tasks.
posted by theora55 at 8:00 AM on June 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Please also practice some good responses to guilt trips. If someone had asked me "why can't you be more cooperative?" In this situation when I was an admin, I literally would have laughed.
posted by bq at 12:01 PM on June 16, 2013


You have to set your own boundaries when it comes to personal favors; if you leave it up to others, they'll keep asking more and more of you.
posted by RainyJay at 8:09 AM on June 17, 2013


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