Boss is treating me like his personal assistant - how to deal?
June 17, 2014 10:29 AM   Subscribe

I'm a woman who works in a very male-dominated profession as a specialist in a scientific/engineering discipline. In my workplace, about 95% of the people with my role are men, and most of the women there besides me are admin. However, there is a huge shortage of admin support and we end up doing most of our own admin ourselves. My boss, though, seems to think he has found a "solution" to this - he just asks me to do his admin. And then he gets annoyed with me if I don't do it.

I have already taken my boss aside and asked him why he was giving me all the admin tasks and none to the guys on the team. He pointed out that he had given one, very small, admin task to the new guy on the team. He admitted not giving any to the other two guys because one of them is difficult to communicate with and the other is being groomed for management. I said that I didn't feel it was right for me to be doing 95+% of the admin just because I'm fairly easy-going and that I needed development opportunities too. He admitted I had a point and got better about it for a while. Now about a month on from our discussion he seems to have fallen back into his old habits.

Today we were going over the work program and he said that he wanted me to be the point of contact for the biannual meetings we have. That means I'm going to be ordering the lunches, making sure people have hotel rooms booked, printing out all the handouts, etc. etc. I suggested that, instead, I lead on one of the two meetings and also do all the admin for it, and he lead on the other and do the admin for that. He said no, he is going to lead both meetings because he set them up originally and that basically he is the "star" of those meetings. He then said that maybe in 2-3 years we can transition to me leading one of the meetings.

So what do I do? Generally he and I get along well and, generally, he has been an advocate for me with upper management. He is usually pretty fair apart from the admin stuff, and he gives me good reviews. So do I just give up and do the admin? I could try to take the attitude that I'm making $100k+ to run off copies so more fool him, but I generally just end up fuming. Or I could refuse and bring him up on it every time, but that would turn him into an enemy rather than an ally. I don't think this merits getting HR involved at this point - I'm positive they would have my back on this, but again, I don't want to make an enemy.
posted by hazyjane to Work & Money (41 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
"Did you check with Kyle? I don't think he has anything admin on his plate right now."
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:32 AM on June 17, 2014 [11 favorites]

Can you get another job?
posted by KokuRyu at 10:46 AM on June 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you have a good relationship with the guy, so I would explicitly tell him that you feel like you're being given these tasks because you're a woman. If he has half a brain in his head that will put a stop to it right away.
posted by something something at 10:48 AM on June 17, 2014 [28 favorites]

I could get another job but it would mean a longer commute, longer hours and a pay cut. Not worth it!
posted by hazyjane at 10:49 AM on June 17, 2014

Do you have a schedule of everything already on your plate? With prioritized tasks and such?

Because in addition to "Did you check with X?" you can then point out:
- "Task Priority OMG whose deadline is [soon] is taking up 60% of my time"
- "Task Priority Major whose deadline is [relatively soon] is using up another 20%"
- "Task Priority Moderate with a deadline [afterwards] takes up the remaining 20%"
- "Meanwhile tasks priorities [blabla] with a deadline [in future] are coming up afterwards"
- "Which task do you want me to put aside?"

If your schedule clearly shows, which I bet it does, that you really do not have time for all this, you can also point out that the people involved, if they have their own admins, can go through their own admins to get lunches ordered and have their hotels taken care of. I've always had to double-check my own logistics. Always. These people can be expected to do the same, as grown, professional adults. (Anecdotally, our friggin' directors are expected to do this.)
posted by fraula at 10:49 AM on June 17, 2014 [6 favorites]

That sucks.

Two possible strategies:
Do you have any allies among your coworkers? Would they be willing to volunatrily take on some of the admin stuff, either taking it off your hands or telling the boss they are available for it?

Encourage your boss to make a business case for more admin staff.

But from the tenor of the post, it sounds like it's an annoying and frustrating aspect of the job/boss, but otherwise the job/boss is good. That being the case, I'd grit my teeth and do the admin work. With occasional gentle pushback. who knows, it might take one of these times. Other options, confrontation, HR, seem more likely to turn a basically good situation with some real frustrations into something worse than something better.
posted by pseudonick at 10:50 AM on June 17, 2014

I like the suggestions above of explicitly saying you think you're being given these tasks because you're female, and listing out your other tasks already on your plate. But also, why can't your company hire more admins?
posted by three_red_balloons at 10:51 AM on June 17, 2014 [6 favorites]

He admitted not giving any to the other two guys because one of them is difficult to communicate with and the other is being groomed for management.

This is your boss straight up telling you that he's being sexist. Translation: you are nice and easy to deal with (not difficult to communicate with) and are not management material (because of your gender). This is total bullshit, and there aren't great ways to deal with it. Pretty much anything you do will require you to not be nice. I would probably look for another job. Other options are to say no to him, start being difficult to communicate with, talk to HR, and document what's happening and talk to an employment lawyer to find out what your options are/might be later.
posted by medusa at 10:52 AM on June 17, 2014 [49 favorites]

I hate when people do this, but I'm going to suggest a different tack.

Rather than saying, "Why aren't you giving some of the scut work to so-and-so," You want to say, "I do not want to do the scut work."

As a woman, you need to stand up to others, especially sexist people, not as a 'it's not fair' thing, but more of an assertive, "This is not what I signed up for."

I would make a list of the admin duties that you've been doing (don't worry about what others are or aren't doing, it's pointless.) and say, "this is a list of things that someone at the administrative level needs to do. I am sure that with my background and abilities that you would much rather have me working on X, Y and Z, than this type of thing. I've been telling you now for X months that this is a problem for me, and I'm not feeling heard. I do not want to do these tasks anymore. Will you be hiring anyone as an administrator for this, or shall I start to farm out these tasks to other team members?"

Frankly, I'd start looking for a new job, but I'd try this first, if you're otherwise happy there.

You're accepting this bullshit because you're comfortable. I could get another job but it would mean a longer commute, longer hours and a pay cut. Not worth it!

I'll challenge you. Sometimes as women, educated, intelligent women, we're willing to let the little stuff slide because it's little stuff. But as you see, it snowballs. Here's the insidious part. One day, there will be a promotion, or a new opening or a department that needs to be headed, and you will want that job. You apply for the job. What does anyone know about you? That you ordered lunch for meetings, and that you did all the admistrivia for Mr. Big. Also, the more you do, the more you'll get. After all, 'you're so good at it.'

You don't want to be the engineer, who's to-do's are full of admin duties, because if we're weighing up who does what around ain't pretty.

Suddenly, you won't be asked to head the X project, because you've got to plan the annual meeting. You won't be doing the Gazingus Pin Report, because those paper clips won't order themselves.

You've heard that metaphore about the frog in the boiling water. It's a gradual thing. Stop this shit in its tracks. It's bad for you, it's bad for women and it's bad for business.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:58 AM on June 17, 2014 [190 favorites]

Put the admin work dead last on your to do list. "I'm sorry, I haven't been able to get to that because I've been doing Actual Real Engineering Thing."

"Boss, we really need to ask for an admin headcount. I don't have the time to be doing this admin work."
posted by amaire at 10:59 AM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't understand how it is possible that there is admin staff consisting of multiple persons, but you have to book hotel rooms and lunches yourself. What is the admin staff doing? Can you press for making this the responsibility of the admin staff? I understand they're busy, but presumably so are you. I am actually usually on the side of "do your own admin" when it comes to things like printing copies or calling one specific person to make an appointment, but booking lunches and hotels is a lot of work that definitely should be done by support staff.
posted by blub at 11:00 AM on June 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh man, nthing so hard Ruthless Bunny's comment. I've been there. Don't give in.

Can you get an admin and assign the tasks to him/her?
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 11:00 AM on June 17, 2014

I appreciate that you might consider your boss an advocate, but this is still heading into constructive dismissal territory, especially with the "groomed for management" timetable for one of the men on the team, versus the proposed 2-3 year waiting period before you're allowed to lead meetings. It's changing the nature of the job you've been hired to do, and it's preferable to push back at it per Ruthless Bunny's answer, and if that doesn't happen, then you need to start documenting this for potential legal recourse.
posted by holgate at 11:00 AM on June 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

Due to budget cuts affecting our admin staff levels, attendees will be responsible for their own hotel and lunch arrangements, and handouts will be posted online but not printed.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 11:08 AM on June 17, 2014 [7 favorites]

I am a woman engineer in a predominantly-male workplace, and I agree with Ruthless Bunny 100%. Doing your own admin work is one thing. Acting as the executive assistant for your boss because you are the token woman (or in his words, the person who is not a squeaky wheel and the person who is not being groomed for management) is not a line that I think you should cross.

I really wonder about the future of a company that would waste technical staff on huge admin tasks like coordinating a biannual meeting.
posted by muddgirl at 11:33 AM on June 17, 2014 [11 favorites]

This is absolutely not okay and you do need to respectfully and clearly assert yourself and do it repeatedly until a solution is found that meets everyone's needs.

Do you have annual goals?
If so I would frame any conversation around that. In a regular check-in or in a special meeting sit down and look at your goals. Show him that putting additional, non-goal oriented work on your plate will jeopardize your ability to achieve agreed upon goals.

Do you keep a detailed calendar? If not, start and fill it up with the goal oriented tasks so when someone asks you to take something one you can show them that you don't have time and that doing it would take you away from more important, goal oriented work.

And just tell him that this is not an acceptable situation and that you don't want it to continue. Remind him that you've offered a solution (he does admin for one meeting and you the other), but that it was rejected, so now it's on him to come up with a solution.

Someone else is tough to deal with so he gets a pass? Tough shit. He's the boss. It's his responsibility to manage his people and do it fairly.

And I hope you do 360 reviews at your company, because this is something I would definitely write about.
posted by brookeb at 11:34 AM on June 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nthing that something something and Ruthless Bunny have this nailed. I'd be nice but quite clear that the allocation of admin work clearly seems to be gender based. Tell him you're game to do your share, but so should the rest of the (male) team, regardless of the fact that they aren't female. Ask him to re-allocate the admin work he just gave you.

I would keep a private record of all this too but wouldn't take this further at this time IF he re-allocates the admin work this time and going forward.
posted by bearwife at 11:38 AM on June 17, 2014

As I see it, you have four options:
  1. Do the admin work.
  2. Find a new job.
  3. Complain to human resources.
  4. Push back more against your boss.
You've pretty much ruled out 2 and 3. So your only option (short of doing the work) is to tell your manager that you are unhappy with the situation and help him understand why you should come to a different agreement. From your perspective, you dislike this situation because:
  1. It keeps you from doing the other work you are paid to do.
  2. Doing admin work keeps you from being seen as a technical peer in this male-dominated profession.
  3. This decreases your job satisfaction because your working environment now appears to have a bias against women.
You also need him to see that it is in his interest to change things because otherwise:
  1. You will find a new job.
  2. You will file a grievance with HR or his supervisor.
  3. You will sue your present employer.
The trick is to get him to understand that these consequences for him are possibilities without bringing them up as a threat, which could harm your relationship with him. I would sit down with him, tell him your 1–3 and that you are currently unhappy with your job. Hearing that an employee is unhappy will hopefully help him start to contemplate things more carefully.

Repeat via writing and in person as necessary.
posted by grouse at 11:43 AM on June 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Can you re-delegate to your co-workers?

If you have a good relationship, I also don't see why you can't say something along the lines of "You know that thing I mentioned a few months back about admin duties becoming the bulk of my job? Could you possibly give the other guys some of this shit too?"

And honestly, it may not even be an overt gender thing, but that he knows you get it done with minimal fuss. "Bad communicator" and "Proto-manager" may just make more of a fuss when they get assigned this stuff, so he's going down the path of least resistance. And yes, women tend to make less of a fuss at work when given undesirable work, so it's in your ballpark to make an appropriate fuss.

Really, I'd also check in with your co-workers to see if they're getting the same kind of assignments. Depending on how decentralized your work is, they may be getting admin work (Or other crappy grunt work) of their own, and you're just not realizing it.
posted by aggyface at 11:46 AM on June 17, 2014

In addition to the above advice (esp the documentation and 'line drawing') I would ask for a detailed job description. We are not there and it's quite likely that there are sexist elements at play but it's not likely going to be viewed that way from your boss's perspective.

It does seem particularly odd that a peer who is 'being groomed for management' can't be called upon to administrate and manage. It's what managers do. Someone has to make sure the trains run on time, the garbage gets collected and what not. It's important valuable work that tends to be outside of the scope of an engineering position.

This being said with _detailed_ job description (and documented calendar) in hand you are then in a position to argue that either:

1)the position is no longer one that you're interested in and you are free to move on, or your employer is free to rectify the material change in your day-to-day


2)you are being called upon to regularly perform tasks outside of the scope of your position to the detriment of your core performance factors and you should _definitely_ seek assistance in rectifying the situation from. HR. Be that the hiring of actual admin assistants, the reallocation of existing admin staff or a review of prejudicial work assignments by your direct superior.

Whether it's fair or not following almost any other course is likely to be viewed as grounds for constructive dismissal. Even if you don't live in an 'at will' jurisdiction.

Best of luck.
posted by mce at 11:49 AM on June 17, 2014

I agree with Ruthless Bunny that it is important to be assertive and clear. However, I would avoid calling the admin work 'scut work'' - admin tasks are actually important work that require dedicated resources (i.e not you) in order to free you up to do the work that you were hired to do.
posted by analog at 11:49 AM on June 17, 2014 [9 favorites]

Leaving aside the obvious sexism, this is financially inefficient.

You are being paid $100+K. These admin tasks could be done by someone earning ~$30K, which is perhaps 1/3rd of your hourly pay. It is a gross misuse of your resources, your boss's resources, and your company resources. It is, in fact, does not make any business or financial sense. (Unless of course all of you are very underworked, and you won't be doing anything else if you weren't doing these admin tasks, and in which case, you should look for another job.)

Hire admin staff. Or point out to your boss that doing these admin tasks are costing him and the company 3x more than what they should be paying. I understand that it might be HR or management policy to cut down on administrative costs, but if you lay out very clearly the costs (and if you write it to the appropriate time code!), it'll make sense to them too.
posted by moiraine at 11:50 AM on June 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

As others have said, this is flat out sexist. It has to stop.

Do you have a written job description? Hopefully you do, and hopefully it does not include the admin tasks.

I would have one more talk with your boss about it. If it doesn't stop, I would take it up with HR and tell them it has to stop. If they aren't sympathetic I'd talk to employment attorney.
posted by alms at 11:51 AM on June 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

"Sorry, I won't be able to get to that, have you talked to [one of the actual admins]?" And, in the case of a big upcoming project "Sorry, this will keep me from my priority tasks. Suggest you talk to [whoever manages the office/assigns the admins] to get someone delegated for this set of tasks."

I can't agree enough with Ruthless Bunny that you should NOT just go along with this in order to keep the peace. If your boss is devaluing you professionally by saying that someone else is being groomed for management and so can't be asked to do scut work, you two have a problem, no matter how much he smiles at you, or how softly he speaks to you. (Besides, if someone is being groomed for management, shouldn't they be tasked to organize things? I bet that if your colleague was assigned to do something like that, he would get real admin staff assigned to help him.)

In the meantime, make his tasks your last priority and smile apologetically when things fall through the cracks. If he gets upset, say "gee, I am a terrible secretary, which is why I went to XX school like you did."
posted by rpfields at 11:53 AM on June 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

In many technical lines of work it is a lot easier to hire technical staff than admin staff, who are viewed with great scrutiny. So that may not be an option for your boss.

I think intentionally screwing up the admin tasks is probably the worst path you can take. That isn't going to lead to a good relationship with your manager, and will get you bad performance reviews that will damage your other options.
posted by grouse at 12:01 PM on June 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

A couple more things I thought of:

Do you have a staff association or union representative you can talk to for advice?

If your boss doesn't back down, is there a means by which you can get informal advice from HR? So you could come to him and say HR says this is not OK, rather than getting him called before HR, which might irritate him?
posted by grouse at 12:14 PM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ask him next time "Which of my responsibilities, for which you are paying me x times more than an Admin Assistant to do, should I put on hold to do this thing for you?" If he can't realize it's sexist, maybe he'll realize it's a stupid waste of money and skills and terrible delegation.
posted by wwax at 12:29 PM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

If your boss simply can't hire an admin assistant, then it's not going to help you to point out how much more expensive you are than an admin assistant. Your boss probably makes even more, so anything he can delegate to you makes the company more efficient from within those constraints.
posted by grouse at 12:34 PM on June 17, 2014

I'm female (just to put that out there) and I actually think a lot of this advice is dangerous to pursue. There's right, and then there's smart in a work environment. My advice would actually be to write into Ask A Manager and get her take (a female manager) because she usually has a knack for handling things with tact, not just plain antagonism.

A lot of this advice is going to create an adversarial relationship with your boss. Do you think you will get promoted by accusing him of sexism outright, pushing back every single time when he delegates tasks to you (literally his job to decide what you do, whether you think they are beneath your position or a wise use of company resources), or (seriously, this is a recommendation?!) failing to complete these tasks out of spite? His reasons are not, on the surface, overtly sexist even though I and you and everyone here can obviously see a probable sexist bent. Also, it's not illegal or necessarily wrong to change your job description; it seems obviously financially stupid in this situation, but maybe you can tactfully point that out rather than positioning yourself vs. your boss or calling him out as a "bad guy."

Instead, I think you should focus on being a super star at your actual "job description" work, ask for more responsibility in those areas, or come up with ideas to shine in that regard so you are also front and center and have positive aspects to point to when he needs to decide among his staff who does what. If you want more development opportunities, ask! It's clear that may not be on his radar, but showing initiative may raise your esteem. There's another recent thread on how easy-going women could conduct themselves to be taken more seriously that may help in the long-term. And maybe this is a situation where going to HR, asking upfront for the conversation to be private (they do not legally have to respect this, but hopefully they won't lie to your face), and using them as a sounding board to better gauge the situation would be more productive than making a scene with your boss.
posted by rawralphadawg at 12:47 PM on June 17, 2014 [11 favorites]

I personally wouldn't say "you're just doing this because I'm a woman" even though it is true, it doesn't set a good tone. They get defensive about it in a #NOTALLMEN kinda way.

I am so sorry this is happening.

This is NOT a development opportunity.

FWIW I was leading technical projects after a year of working. So the promise of running a meeting in 2-3 years is BS.

You could document all this, then speak to a lawyer re: constructive dismissal, then talk with HR and casually mention the lawyer bit and see if they hop. You are making enough $$ to pay a lawyer for an hour's consult.

Do you have interns? That is intern work fo sho.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:46 PM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

"That's not in my job description. By the way, have you asked for more admin help yet? I have some things I need done, too."
posted by Riverine at 2:22 PM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just skimming, but I have not seen anything listed here which I would advocate. Here is what I would do if I were in your shoes. You mentioned that: "95% of the people with my role are men, and most of the women there besides me are admin". This implies that there are some women who are not in admin roles. Is there any woman who is a leader in your company/division? I would try to initiate contact with that person ask for time to introduce yourself. I would keep the tone of the meeting about introduction/building your network etc. then say you had a question about something you were not sure how to handle and ask then for her advice. Alternatively, if there is absolutely no women in leadership, you could bring this to a male whose judgement you trust.

I absolutely would not bring up the issue in a way such as "this is not what i signed up for" or "I am being assigned these tasks b/c I'm a woman" and would instead phrase the issue this way: "Last month, I was asked to do X, Y, and Z. I have A,B, and C on my plate and boss knows that. Jimbob has nothing on his plate to my knowledge and has never been asked to do X, Y, Z. These events make me wonder if X Y Z is being assigned to me solely due to my gender. What do you think?".

Last, all of this advice requires that there is someone at or above boss's level that you trust to talk to openly. If this does not apply, then I think chances of this changing in the way you want is unlikely.
posted by seesom at 2:39 PM on June 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Firstly, I am not a woman, so feel free to disregard this advice if it's not appropriate because of my lack of insight into the sexist elements of this.

Something I have found in jobs where I ended up doing unpleasant things I didn't want to do, was because getting me to do it was the easiest option for my manager. My manager knew I would do Unpleasant Thing with a minimum of fuss, do it professionally and do it with a good job. By way of contrast, other , more 'difficult' team members would: a) make a huge song and dance about doing it, b) do a totally bullshit job of it that would require more work if not outright fixing by manager, c) do such a terrible job of stakeholder management that manager would have to be involved in fixing it.

This got to such a point with one colleague that I found myself effectively swapping Job Descriptions with him, giving up a role I had literally worked years positioning myself for and going back to something I didn't enjoy - I was being punished for being professional and good at my job, and he was being rewarded for being too shit to do anything but a couple of tasks (that he did worse than me, btw, but at an acceptable level). It fucking sucked, I tell you, and I was never able to solve that one.

But, more broadly, the way I approached issues like this without getting my manager offside was to make choosing me the more difficult option - without using the three options of incompetence outlined above.

This meant I had to refuse to do those things - but I couldn't say "I refuse to do this thing", I had to say "If you give me this thing, you need to find someone else to do X,Y Z thing [that will be way, way more difficult to resource] as my schedule can't accommodate both." And I would say "To do this thing, I will need your direct help with A, B, C part of the admin job", and then I would say, "I won't be able to do this part of the job at all for Reasons. I will only be able to do parts of this admin job so you will need to get someone else to do it."

The other thing is, right, if these subtle theatrics didn't work, I looked at my colleagues who didn't end up doing a lot of shit kicking, and you know what? They just said that they wouldn't do it. Think about it like a manager - resourcing a new hire to replace someone with solid performance and years of experience in the org is a nightmare; it's a huge amount of hours lost, paperwork, and headaches. You have to be quite incompetent to make the prospect of hiring someone completely new more appealing. It's easy to be "agreeable" - I often think my job is making problems go away for my manager, but sometimes I think you need to be the problm. So push back, say "Bob I'm not going to do this admin; it is holding me back from other opportunities, the other team members aren't doing any, and I feel that I'm being given an unfair proportion of it because I'm the only woman on the team." Don't accuse the manager of being sexist, just say that it feels sexist. Call the bluff. Sharing the workload around will be infinitely easier than firing you, I guarantee.

Best of luck, it sucks when this happens.
posted by smoke at 4:29 PM on June 17, 2014 [30 favorites]

"Hi hazy jane, I'd like you to take some notes, grab me a coffee and do some filing for me."
"Sure thing, boss. Can you just let Biggest Most Profitable Client know that we're going to miss their deadline for their widget design then, because I can't do both at once. Not a problem though, Biggest Client has said they'll just give whatever we can't handle to Major Competitor, I'm sure they can manage our overflow. So, how do you like your coffee?"
posted by Jubey at 5:20 PM on June 17, 2014

The trick is to politely refuse to take this stuff on without making it seem as though you are a shirker, totally overwhelmed by your regular work, or just plain incompetent.

Does your team ever have group meetings? I might take the position that of course this sort of thing should be equally divided amongst all the workers. "You know, boss, I understand that we are really short on admin support and I see you really need the help, but I really can't take all these things on as a regular practice*, so I thought maybe we could take a few minutes out of our weekly Widget Improvement meeting to divvy up the admin tasks among the four of us subordinates so that everyone is doing a fair share of the scut work." Hopefully he'll envision how that meeting will go and find someone else to do the work. If not, you helpfully list out a bunch of tasks and start asking for volunteers. One of two things will happen: The guys will grumble and take on assignments, or none of the guys will volunteer. You don't volunteer either. Unless he is totally brazen, he won't assign it all to you. With luck he'll go scrape up some admin support.

*The patented Miss Manners cordial "I'm sorry, that won't be possible." It really works, IF you can stymie your culturally-ingrained impulse to be helpful and offer to do things.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 7:36 PM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe instead of saying "why don't you ask Bob, John, or Mark to share these admin tasks?" you could phrase it as "why don't you ever ask my male coworkers to share these admin tasks?" That would get the point across pretty clearly and succinctly.
posted by alms at 7:42 PM on June 17, 2014

"I've been telling you now for X months that this is a problem for me, and I'm not feeling heard. I do not want to do these tasks anymore. Will you be hiring anyone as an administrator for this, or shall I start to farm out these tasks to other team members?"

I also completely second Ruthless Bunny that you need to make your objection clear, but I disagree on the actual suggested words. This sounds like a scolding adult talking to a child, not one professional talking to another. I wouldn't recommend talking to your boss that way, or a colleague, or even a respected subordinate if you can avoid. It makes little difference that you're talking about things you "feel" you shouldn't be asked to do (please don't talk about your feelings in this situation at all, including any "feeling" that you're not being heard). I'd ditch the phrase "scut work" too. Workplaces where the "professionals" have "scut work" done for them by the "admins" are increasingly rare; as noted above, it's also terribly condescending to those who, you know, do this hard work professionally. The issue is not that you don't want to do these tasks because they are beneath you, it's that you don't want to be the only woman asked to do these tasks if it's perceived as beneath all others because they are men. Right? Keep those lines clear, and at the same time keep it well in mind that this guy is your boss. "I'm sorry that's not possible" is also not a line that works with a boss. Maybe something like:

"This is a list of administrative things that we need done. Can we divide these tasks between the team or hire some administrative support? If you do need your technical staff to do these things, at minimum these tasks need to be divided out among myself, Joe, and Blow, so that I can also be working on X, Y and Z. I've requested this before, so I want to make my specific objection clearer: I do not want to be the only person on the team asked to do these kinds of tasks, because the only difference between me and the rest of the team is that I am a woman. If you see other differences, I need to know what those are so that we can both honestly evaluate my future in the company."


You're accepting this bullshit because you're comfortable. "I could get another job but it would mean a longer commute, longer hours and a pay cut. Not worth it!"

True. Also true: accepting a longer commute, longer hours, and a pay cut so you can claim a moral victory is also bullshit that is bad for you, bad for women, and bad for business. It's important that women get and stay in jobs with shorter commutes, shorter hours, and -- most importantly -- better pay precisely because they are more comfortable that way. Stay comfortable in terms of commute, hours, and pay. Get more and more, not less and less, so comfortable.
posted by beanie at 8:01 PM on June 17, 2014 [19 favorites]

He's as good as said that you are getting this work because you don't stand up for yourself. That other person gets out of all this because he's difficult and, yet, he is tolerated. I would not say to myself "I am getting this because I am a woman." I would say "I am the only engineer in the office asked to do this." You need to be doing just as much real work as the other people in your office if you are to thrive in your profession.

"I need to further my career just as much as the engineer sitting next to me. I want the same percent of career building opportunities as everybody else."
posted by Foam Pants at 2:03 PM on June 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't think this merits getting HR involved at this point - I'm positive they would have my back on this, but again, I don't want to make an enemy.

I think you need to seriously reconsider this assumption.

HR exists to protect management, not to be your advocate. Never forget that.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:27 AM on June 20, 2014

HR exists to protect the company, not individual line managers. If a line manager is doing something that obviously puts the company at risk of a lawsuit, HR will want to stop it, even if they care not a whit about individual employees.
posted by grouse at 11:05 AM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

one of them is difficult to communicate with

"Hey Fred, do you want to do all the admin work?"
"Hell no, go get stuffed."

the other is being groomed for management

"Hey Bob, do you want to do all my admin work?"
"I talked with Uncle Jack and he doesn't think I should be doing admin work."

This is the slippery slope to women getting paid 70% of their male counterparts and no promotions. Your boss is a sexist, but that doesn't mean he isn't a nice guy. Push back and document as much as you can in a subtle way (e.g. add admin duties to public tasklists).
posted by benzenedream at 12:00 PM on June 21, 2014

« Older There's a hole in my siding, Dear Liza, Dear Liza   |   Aw, bless. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.