Expected To Do Chores !

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about work being dumped on by boss and other staff: I think this is a sex issue because I don’t see why the men in the office cannot do their own dishes.

I just recently started a new job as an Executive Assistant/HR representative. I have had nothing but hassles from my boss and other staff members since I got here. It seems that from my first day, I am being tasked more and more frequently with work that each of these individuals had been doing in the past. I am not afraid of the work, but I feel like I am being abused because I am new.

I was told that I had a week’s paid vacation that was a “use it or lose it” by the end of the year. I put in for time off over a month in advance and was accused of trying to steal from the company by my boss. I do not feel like I can talk with him about anything at all. He is very aggressive and swears a lot.

Also, when I was hired, I was told about the HR duties and some general Administrative duties. But now I am being told that it is my responsibility to do the dishes for all of the employees after they eat lunch, and I constantly have to run errands for all of the office staff. I was not told that I would be a cleaning person or a runner when I was hired.I don’t know how to handle this situation. I feel like that I do dishes for grown ups is very wrong. I am a professional person and feel degraded. I think this is a sex issue because I don’t see why the men in the office cannot do their own dishes. This employer also takes the men in the office on company dollars to fishing trips, while excluding the women in the office.

Signed, New and Annoyed

Dear New and Annoyed:

I can understand your irritation and frustration about your new job. I checked with other sources to see if there are legal or other issues that might benefit you. What I found is that essentially, an employee can be given “other work, as assigned” as long as it is not harmful or a legal violation related to EEO matters. So, the various tasks you were not told about (being an errand runner, washing dishes, etc.) can be assigned–even though they seem far beneath you and your abilities.

I would also find it irritating and offensive to wash the dishes of other people in an office setting. But, if I were given that as part of my job, I’d have no choice if I kept the job. If you could talk to your boss, that would be helpful. But apparently he is not a very nice person! The company is large enough to be required to comply with EEO laws. That means that the work environment cannot be permeated with sexual remarks or comments, and you cannot be refused opportunities based on your gender. Men with your same job title would have to be required to do the same work–but it doesn’t sound as though there is anyone else with your job title. The issues of fishing expeditions and so forth may be a problem if women, with similar job titles as the men who are going, have asked to go along and been refused.

If you feel there are EEO violations, you could ask for a consultation with an attorney. There is usually no charge for a one-time consultation about such issues. I think that might be a worthwhile thing to do, just to get a local perspective. Another thought is that the way to gain more respect from others, which might improve their views of your role, is to be very credible about your basic work and value to them as a co-worker and to communicate effectively with them and to them.

If you are seen as less than capable in your job, lacking in overall value to others and do not have a good interpersonal relationship with them, they are likely to think nothing of leaving dishes for you to do. But, if you can establish yourself as someone worthy of respect, they’ll be less likely to view you as the dishwasher. That might not change, because many people don’t want to do their own dishes…as evidenced by the kitchenette areas in offices all over the country. But, perhaps it might make you feel better about it if people approached you differently about the various tasks required. You might also want to take the approach that if you are paid sufficiently, you’ll be the best dishwasher and errand runner possible.

At least you know you can do those jobs well! As for the other tasks, such as IT and safety work: If you cannot perform them, you might not be able to keep your job. But if you try to perform them and can’t do it, you also might not be able to keep your job. IT work is specialized, but you could learn the safety information through websites and research. Whether or not you want to learn those areas is something else.

One key is how much time you have available for the work for which you were originally hired. If you can show that you are very busy and doing productive work, you might be better able to show that you can’t take on anymore work. Frankly, I think I’d take my vacation time to job-hunt! This doesn’t seem to be a good place for a person who wants to have self-respect and a motivating work environment. However if you feel you need to stay, you will probably need to adapt to the situation, unless you are truly treated in a way that rises to the levels of illegalities. I hope these thoughts help you sort out your own thinking about your work situation. Best wishes as you work through these challenges. WEGO mindedness when earned and deserved

Follow-up: My boss is the “owner” so really there is no one above him. There is no real HR, You are right, it is mostly just I. The payroll assistant knows something about the HR role, but she is not able to make HR decisions. I did have a supporter with another new hire, a receptionist, who was also struggling a bit when she got here. She was unfortunately let go because the “owner” did not really like her. He said she didn’t do something right for his mother. I now am stuck with a group of folks that have been here forever, and most of them kind of see me as the office runner etc. I have also now been tasked to do safety work and IT work, even though I have no knowledge of any of these fields. I look forward to hearing from you. I don’t really see at this point a real way for me to keep this job, but I am in a position right now where I can’t really be without one. I feel like I am kind of in a catch 22 because I cannot really get away during the day here to go to job interviews either.Thank you so much for responding back to me.

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.