Colleague Treats Me Like An Assistant

Question:

My colleague continuously tells me to do things for her, for example picking up prints from reprographics, calling IT if faxes are not working, all without ever saying please.

Not only that, she delegates stuff to me instead of asking me whether I have the time to do this or not. I have two bosses who are VPs and I am an assistant to them. She doesn’t respect the fact that I am busy. She is an assistant to my bosses’ boss so that would mean that she is senior to me but we are both at the same level. However, I don’t work for her. I do help her out but I need her to be polite or at least consider my time. How do I communicate this to her?

Signed,

Tired of It


Answer:

Dear Tired of It:

You know your work culture best,but usually an assistant doesn’t have authority over other assistants based solely on the job level of her boss. So, you will probably find you are under no obligation to jump and do things for her.

Start telling her courteously that you won’t be able to help her because you’re busy. She can’t fire you and probably can’t make your bosses upset with you. So, clearing the air would probably be effective.

The important thing is not to reject her and act angry, just say no to the work she is asking you to do.

You can probably find a dozen ways to say no to her. “Jayne, I can’t help you now, I’m really busy.” “Jayne, I helped you before but I can’t do it now.” She has likely come to depend upon you and may be shocked that she’s not able to do so still.

If you want to discuss the overall situation, say what is bothering you, in a courteous tone. Say why you can’t help her as you used to be able to do. If she continues, you can talk to your VP. Explain that you’ve tried to resolve this courteously and ask if he has suggestions.

Best wishes to you with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.