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No. 60 – Help! My boss keeps treating me like his assistant

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18 May 2022

My boss always asks me to get his lunch and do other errands for him during my lunch break. I’m not his assistant and I work in a project team with five others, but I’m the only woman. My boss never asks my male colleagues to do jobs for him so I feel resentful of being asked just because I am female. I don’t know how to say something without risking my job and none of my teammates seem to understand why it is a big deal. What should I do?

It takes a deeply entrenched sense of entitlement to expect direct reports to go outside their job description and get your lunch or do your personal errands. It may have been the way things worked in the past but fortunately, times have changed. Unless you are Kim Kardashian or another Hollywood type with an entourage of people ready to meet your every need, your boss is more than capable of organising his own lunch. The fact he is asking you – the only woman in the team – is an example of everyday sexism in action.

I’m going to give your boss the benefit of the doubt and assume he hasn’t even noticed he has never asked one of the men. You can help bring that to his attention. Depending on your relationship with your boss, I would start by lightly suggesting he rotate his lunch orders through the team for a bit of variety. If he persists, or if you really don’t want this to continue, you might be able to say in a firm but respectful way that it feels strange that he asks you, the only woman, to do these things and you would prefer he didn’t. If he ignores you, gets angry or continues, I would have a chat to someone else at work you trust and ask their advice.

I’m a casual in hospitality and work for a busy catering company where I wait tables at big events. When it’s really busy, it’s all hands on deck and our supervisors generally lose track of where everyone is. Some of my fellow workers sit in the toilets and stay on their phones during their shifts and my supervisor doesn’t seem to notice. I really hate that they get paid for doing nothing but I don’t want to dob them in either. Is there anything I can do to make it a little fairer for those of us working hard?

If you don’t want to report them to your supervisor, then the only real option is to say something to them directly. Their behaviour is not only disrespectful to the person employing them but also to their colleagues who are having to pick up the load.

As unprofessional as your lazy co-workers’ behaviour is, I am more shocked that your supervisor doesn’t notice that members of their team are missing in action. I recommend you try to find a way to raise this with your supervisor. To do that safely, go with others you work with who feel the same way for strength in numbers. If nothing works, I would try to transfer to another supervisor within the company who is capable enough to pay attention to what their team members are actually doing.

I left a job I had been at for about five years at the start of this year. I was really excited to start a new role with a new company in a new industry but have discovered it is not the right fit for me. I feel like I made a big mistake and want to go back to my old job but feel really foolish. I don’t see how I can ask them to take me back when they were disappointed I left in the first place. Do you think I should ask anyway? Or look for a completely new role?

You should definitely speak to your old employer as more and more “boomerang” employees are returning to their old jobs. It sounds like your old employer was sorry to see you go so they would be very happy to welcome you back. They won’t need to train you and you will be able to slot right back into the organisational culture.

There’s no shame in trying something new and realising it was not for you. Be upfront with your old employer, let them know what you learnt through the experience and what will help make you even more successful when you return.

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