Miss Manners: the boss asks me to do tasks that are not in my job description

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Dear Miss Manners: I work for a public university, and my boss is the head of the division. When I was hired, my duties included supervising her executive assistant, but she was terminated in 2020. My title is not related to administration.

My problem stems from being assigned tasks that I believe were often required of administrative assistants in the past, but should no longer be required of the role in modern times (in my opinion). However, I may be wrong about the dividing line between professional and personal tasks.

These are tasks like ordering flowers for a colleague of my boss who suffered a disaster; send a card or food in his name to the family; order and pick up food as a contribution to an office potluck; send a fruit basket to one of his colleagues who was sick, etc. I usually don’t know the person they’re asking me to buy these items for, and I don’t know their dietary needs or preferences. And writing a condolence card for someone I don’t know hurts me.

Even before his executive assistant was fired, I was often asked to do these things. I consider the requests to be inappropriate and personal in nature, not business-related. These are things he could ask his spouse for help with, if he really couldn’t do it himself (which he could, but he just doesn’t want to). He pays for these items with his own funds, and they come directly from him, not from the university or the division.

These tasks were not mentioned in the job description for which I was hired and, frankly, they are sexist in nature: he does not ask any of his male employees to help him in these areas.

Am I overreacting when asked to do these things, or do I have a legitimate complaint? Is there anything I can say to politely say that these requests make me uncomfortable? I fear that if I object, I will put myself on the wrong side of my boss and I could face retaliation. Should I just smile and bear it?

Absolutely not. But Miss Manners also doesn’t recommend opening up a gender-based fight, as accurate as that assessment might be, when you could make your case by being professional – where he wasn’t – and presenting the facts.

Ask for a date and tell her you’re confused by the parameters of your job: “I feel like I’m spending a lot of time on things that aren’t my job. I don’t remember that being in his requirements, and I really need to focus on my own college-related work. Perhaps you can ask HR if there is room in the budget for you to hire a personal assistant. »

The smell of an HR threat should be enough for your boss to recognize that he doesn’t want them involved – and therefore it would be easier for him to take on his own dry cleaning.

New Miss Manners columns are published Monday to Saturday at washingtonpost.com/board. You can send questions to Miss Manners on her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

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