my coworker is doing the work I’m supposed to do for him

A reader writes:

I work on a team of three (plus our manager) as a supporting associate for two salespeople. I like my role and have no problem doing what other people might view as menial tasks, such as data entry and filling out form letters, in order to free up the salespeople’s time so they can focus on their clients. I knew that was a lot of what the job entailed when I signed on and I willingly accepted.

One of the salespeople is a more recent addition to the team. In the last few months, he has taken to doing parts of my job himself. He did ask me to show him how to do some of these tasks and I gladly agreed, but at the time it was framed in more of an informational way or so he could cover those responsibilities if I’m out of the office. Now I find him doing them a few times a week while I’m here – writing letters I should be writing, responding to emails I should be answering, and so on. I don’t get the sense that he does it because he has problems with the quality of my work, but because he views it as a favor to me to do some of these tasks on his own.

I appreciate that he might feel bad that I get stuck doing some rather dull work, but it is why I’m here and what I’m getting paid to do, and I genuinely don’t mind it. In the past when we’ve been extremely busy he would constantly apologize for the amount of work he was giving me, and I would always reply with “That’s what I’m here for!” or “Well, that’s my job!” in a sincere and friendly tone. I really don’t know what triggered his deciding to take on my work for himself because I can’t imagine that I’ve given off the impression that I am overwhelmed or annoyed by my responsibilities. Frankly, what does annoy me is that he spends his time doing my job when I think that time could be better spent focusing on his sales – especially since I receive a monthly bonus based in part on his performance.

I have experience dealing with slackers who aren’t doing enough work and have no problem with those conversations, but asking someone to actually do LESS work is a new one for me. How do I get him to stop doing this without seeming ungrateful or rude?

This might be the perfect time for the “I’ve noticed you’re doing X, and I’m wondering if I’ve caused that in some way” model. This model is useful in situations where something isn’t sitting quite right with you, but you want to start by checking whether you might have inadvertently contributed to it. (For instance: “I’ve noticed that you’ve been sending all my work through Bob to be checked, when you didn’t used to, and I’m wondering if something has happened on my end that made you feel you needed to.”) This is often a good approach to take because (a) sometimes you did cause the thing that’s now worrying you, and it’s useful to find that out, (b) raising it this way is a lot more polite than assuming that you didn’t contribute in some way, and (c) you end up sounding like someone open to feedback, which is always a good thing.

In your case, it could sound like this: ”I’ve noticed you’re doing X, Y, and Z yourself. I normally do those tasks for the other salespeople, and I’m wondering if I’ve given you the impression that it’s an imposition for me to take this work for you or if I’ve handled any of it differently than you would have liked.”

If he assures you that no, he just prefers to do this stuff himself, then your next move really comes down to whether or not it’s his prerogative to make this call. If it is, then you could say, “I’m happier when I’m busy, and I’m here to do this stuff, so my preference is to handle this stuff, unless you strongly prefer to do it yourself. And of course, if you have preferences about how it’s done, I’d be glad to do it the way you want.”

But if it’s not entirely his prerogative — it it’s eventually going to turn into a problem (if, for instance, your manager concludes at some point that your time — and/or his — isn’t being spent well) — then you need to be straightforward about that. In that case, you could say something like, “My sense is that Manager Jane does want to funnel this stuff to me, but I hear you that you prefer to handle it on your own. Let me talk with her about what would make sense — I just want to make sure she’s in the loop since it’s a change in the systems we’ve used so far.” (Note: You don’t to say this with a tone that implies “Jane will overrule you on this when she hears about it,” because Jane very well might not. Jane might be totally fine with this guy handling this stuff. So your tone is neutral and helpful, not annoyed or implying “this will not stand!”)

As so often is the case, this is mostly about being straightforward but finding non-weird, non-accusatory language to do that with.

{ 65 comments… read them below }

  1. CH

    Some managers (including me) have the mentality of “If you want something done right, do it yourself”. This salesperson may feel that way or he hasn’t had administrative support before.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      Some managers (including me) have the mentality of “If you want something done right, do it yourself”

      It’s not a sustainable mentality and my having that mentality rides high on the list of reasons that I sucked at management for a very long time.

      The truth, I believe, is that the manager who has that mentality hasn’t done something very basic right: hire and build people around them who can also do things right. AND that is much more the manager’s job responsbility than whatever tasks the manager is doing to make sure they are done correctly.

      I still fall into old patterns. As I am better at giving up whole things than pieces of things, I periodically force myself to shed a chunk of whole responsibilities and give other people a chance to succeed with them.

      And learn. And grow.

      You gotta do it.

  2. Sarahnova

    Confession: I was a bit like this with my PA in my old role. I knew she didn’t mind supporting me, and I thought her work was great, but in my secret heart I didn’t really feel like I deserved her, and so if I thought I could do something quickly I often didn’t want to “bother” her by asking her to do it. Of course, sometimes I was also just impatient and wanted something done now, so I did it rather than waiting for her to address it.

    I can’t predict how your coworker will react, but I would have reacted positively to “is there any reason you’re doing these things yourself, because I’m happy to”. We can be retrained!

  3. kdizzle

    I’m sure he/she’s just trying to be nice, and save you some work.

    The salesman could be coming from a former work environment where the admin was completely overwhelmed, and the admin was grateful whenever folks took initiative to pitch in here or there.

    This was the case in our old office, where certain individuals would interrupt the admin on the phone, in the middle of a meeting, etc, and say that the copier was out of paper.

    Honestly? The paper is right next to the copier. Is it really necessary to ask someone else?

    The admin baked cookies for individuals who proved they weren’t completely helpless.

  4. BB

    This happened to me before and my boss who was very distant and uninvolved with our work drew the conclusion that I was passing my work off to other coworkers. Not to go into detail about the poor management we had, but the point is that it was misinterpreted as me not wanting to do my assigned work.

  5. Anon

    I’ve done this before when the admin was a total wack-a-do that I didn’t feel I could trust with anything. She would change the tone of my reports, convey inaccurate or incomplete information to others, and tried to undermine me to our mutual boss. Since the boss trusted her (for reasons beyond my comprehension) my option was to work with a crazy woman or avoid her as much as possible, I chose the latter.

  6. JM

    I used to have this trouble at my old job where I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to hand down tasks when I could easily do them myself. Generally, when someone would ask for something to do, I would hand something over but still not as much as it should have been. Now, I have the opposite problem where I have to help them with issues they should solving on their own.

  7. Mena

    I agree with Alison – ask him! Years ago, I was the guilty party of doing some things that a person with adminstrative focus was supposed to do. It came up in discussion and come to find out it was assumed that I didn’t trust this person to do these things and instead chose to do them myself. SO NOT TRUE!!! It would have take me more time to write a note to instruct what I wanted than it did for me to simply do it, so I did it. But, wow was it interpreted in a different way …. So you never know – best to talk about why this is happening.

  8. Anon

    This is probably not likely, but maybe he’s doing the tasks to get away from his actual work? Either as a break or, just because he really doesn’t like his normal tasks.

    1. A

      That’s what I was thinking too, uses it to break up their routine or maybe needs more tasks to help keep them focused. I know it helps my attention span when I can switch gears to something else for a while.

    2. Contessa

      This is what I was going to say, too. Sometimes I get so sick of the more substantive parts of my job that I take a break for the afternoon and, say, do filing, or organize something. One afternoon I stayed late to collate mailings, because I was so frustrated with a project that the simple act of organizing things in envelopes was relaxing. It’s never a comment on my assistant, it just means I need a break (besides, you know, commenting on AAM).

      1. Elizabeth West

        I used to LOVE stuffing envelopes for the same reason. When my supervisor at Exjob would give me invoices to mail, I would be so happy. Even if there was a great big pile of them.

    3. Ann O'Nemity

      Yes, I was thinking that this was possible.

      I’ve seen a co-worker devote his time to administrative busy work when he had more pressing projects. I think he just preferred doing the easy work. Eventually, he was let go for not meeting his primary responsibilities. (On a positive note, all his files and documentation were in excellent shape when he left.)

      1. theellsee

        Yep, I had a supervisor who would do this. She did my tasks to avoid doing hers. Then when her deadlines came around, her work wasn’t done because she spent so much time doing my work. Then it became a huge crisis that I had to help her with. Really not enjoyable at all.

    4. Artemesia

      Maybe he is a lousy salesman and so does tasks he feels competent doing. Often people who are promoted continue to do their old job rather than embrace the critical tasks of the new job — big problem when people are promoted to supervisory roles. If he is a less effective salesman, he may take comfort in being ‘busy’ with your work.

  9. Parfait

    Eons ago, I was an admin and I didn’t have enough work to do, so it definitely annoyed me when one of the folks I supported did her own menial tasks. PLEASE give them to me! I’m dying from boredom over here.

    1. seetpal singh

      as you just said, you do becasuse you are dying from boredom.

      i do the same . but somewhere i feel its because i start feeling that my job will get unsecured, if i stay out of tasks for long time . as may be the management is keep tracking on things like this

  10. jlf

    Please keep in mind that proper delegation is a career skill that needs to be learned like any other. If you are used to doing easy, minor tasks yourself, it can seem really bizarre/uncomfortable to give them to another person, and you have to make an effort to do so.

    I have been out of school and at my current position for a couple of years and only today did I ask to meet with my assistant to see if I could be better utilizing her. I have no concerns about her work at all– it just never seemed necessary to have her do anything other than a few tasks that I don’t already know how to do. But I realize now that it is her job to do these quick, routine tasks for me– that is why she gets out of bed and comes to work in the morning– and I am being less efficient with my own time and misusing hers by not letting her do what she is being paid to do.

    1. Cassie

      This is definitely a big thing, that I find lacking in my coworkers who are supervisors. I can be picky about stuff and I used to believe that if you want something done right, do it yourself.

      Over the years, though, I realized that that viewpoint is not always right. If I have 3 staff working under me, it’s inefficient for me to just do their jobs for them. It’s my job to coach them to perform the way I want – which, yes, will take time and effort, but that’s (partly) what you get paid for as a supervisor!

      It reminds me of a scene from Borgen (the Danish political drama) where Bent Sejro tells Prime Minister Brigitte Nyborg something along the lines of “if you do the ministers’ jobs, who will do the prime minister’s job?” (I can’t remember what episode it is – it’s in Season 1 – and it’s driving me crazy!).

  11. Steve G

    Push back now! This always happens with sales reps. So many sales people don’t actually like sales but view it as the only way to make good $, also alot of them do such work as busy work to avoid doing the inevitable, painful parts of sales such as cold calling.

    It would behoove your company if you cut him off immediately or talked to your supervisor about it. This is a constant struggle at my current and last 2 jobs. All 3 times, the manager wanted to set it up so sales had nothing to do when they come in. It makes the sales people feel very uncomfortable at first, but the point was to make it so they came up with their own work (finding prospects, scheduling their own meetings, etc.)

    1. Celeste

      Agree, I’ve seen this in people who are looking to procrastinate jobs they themselves don’t want to do. Sometimes it’s fear of failure, sometimes they have ADD, other times they just don’t want to be there. They have to fill the day somehow, and they look for busywork. It can make them feel good and productive, in ways their own job does not.

      But yeah, he’s due for a chat.

  12. SBL

    The sales guy may not realize that the mgt wants to ‘Push down”, that is, have the lowest level employee that is capable of doing the work do it, freeing him to do more sales type work that the writer can’t do.

    Like everyone says, this works if the writer is competent at her job which it sounds like she is.

    1. Anon

      Something that would be interesting to add in here is society’s perception of certain roles and how it makes other people feel. It is interesting how society can view administration and certain types of jobs as easy and therefore worth less thus creating these situations. Yet if you look at it from a business perspective, it has nothing to do with these stigmas and merely has to do with filling a role in the larger view of the business. He may need this explained so he understands. It may also have to do with we are often told that our job description doesn’t solely describe what we are expected to do – so what we’re expected to do and what we’re not expected to do can blur together.

      He is there to be sales, and maybe communication is not being laid out clearly enough for him to understand. He may be the type of person who needs to be told straight out “this is your job do it.”

    2. The OP

      Heh, I am actually a he, not a she. I wonder what it was about my letter that made it sound like I was female – but I appreciate that at least I sounded like a competent female!

      1. Broke Philosopher

        I don’t think you sound female, but Alison often uses “she” as a pronoun when she doesn’t know someone’s gender, and I think a lot of us have picked up on that. I do think it’s interesting when a lot of people “read” a letter writer as one gender, and then the letter takes on a different tone when it becomes clear that the person is actually of the other gender.

        1. TK

          Not to open a can of worms, but I also really wonder if this would be as much of a problem if the OP were a woman. I think it’s quite possible that the salesman– probably without even realizing it– subconsciously feels worse at having a man, rather than a woman, do this type of “menial” support work.

  13. S.K.

    God, I am having this exact issue right now with the support staff at my newish job. It’s so close that I even wondered if I was the one being talked about here until about halfway through.

    I absolutely hate being seen as wasting other people’s time. It’s ironic because I’m a “pop in” kind of guy around the office when I’m trying to work something out, but when it comes to data mining or simple things like changing the printer ink it drives me crazy to have to farm that out (both in a “i don’t want to bother you” kind of way, but also because sometimes it is just quicker or more efficient to do something rather than explain it all out).

    So, as to what to do – in addition to Alison’s notes above, I’d work out your priorities in advance, figure out which tasks you feel like you HAVE TO DO (ie the form letters might need to conform to a certain template or set of standards) and which things you simply might as well do (like changing the printer ink in my example above). That way you’re able to have a productive discussion in case the salesperson wants to hold onto them for some solid business reason, or is doing a certain task because he enjoys it, etc. (In my case I actually enjoy clearing paper jams and such from the printer, it’s a nice tactile break from writing emails and talking on the phone all day – once I made that clear, it wasn’t an issue).

    1. The OP

      This is really helpful – I know his behavior irks me extra because I’m a control freak myself, so any task that’s maybe a 50/50 tossup of who can do it always falls under me in my head. I think actually writing down a list of tasks and determining which I absolutely should do vs. which I am generally supposed to/would prefer to do will help me when I talk to him. That way I can specifically say “I totally understand if you like to answer X type of questions yourself and I can certainly leave those for you to do in the future. However, when it comes to putting the Y reports together, that’s really something I should handle unless there’s a specific reason you’d rather do it.”

      1. Gjest

        I like the idea of having a written list of tasks that you should do versus the sales staff. At my past job, there was nothing written down about what the admin staff should do versus the research staff. We (the research staff) found out the hard way that we were inadvertently pissing off the admin staff by filling out our own travel authorizations, and further pissing them off by NOT filling out our own purchase order requests. But there was nothing written down, and huge turnover of admin staff, so how were we supposed to know? My point- write it down and then it’s clear for everyone!

  14. AB

    I was once an assistant to a sales department with anywhere from 6-10 sales people (depending, sales tends to be a high-turnover position). My job was to handle all the back end paperwork and errands like running proofs to the customer, etc.

    There are two reasons why having a salesperson like this runs up red flags for me. First, there is the fear that the manager will view you as expendable. I was part time and when I left my position, they decided not to fill the vacancy. When I left, there was a brand new manager, and the new manager decided that these little tasks could easily be handled by the sales force. Who knows what would have happened if I had decided to stay… I kept in touch with several people at that office, and after I left those things I did started to fall between the cracks, and they eventually had to hire another part time dept assistant. But, I would not want to be the person who was looked at as expendable because someone else decided not to hand off the work they were supposed to.

    Reason two. Sales tends to be high turnover, and I was there for several years, long enough to notice a pattern. I noticed the the super stars tended to be the ones that depended on me the most. They hated being stuck in the office doing busy work or out running proofs for signatures. The ones that insisted on handling their own proofs or coding their own invoices or writing their own letters, tended to be the ones that didn’t do so hot and were almost always out the door sooner rather than later.

    1. S.K.

      AB, I don’t think the generalization you’re making at the end there is accurate. I’ve known several outstanding salespeople who were absolute control freaks and/or micromanagers, and I’ve known careless salespeople who farmed out tasks and lost business because they didn’t keep a close enough eye on things. (there are obviously examples that support your point as well).
      Everyone has their own style, and the true superstars are the ones who know how to strike a balance.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        I’ve known several outstanding salespeople who were absolute control freaks and/or micromanagers, and I’ve known careless salespeople who farmed out tasks and lost business because they didn’t keep a close enough eye on things.

        I’ll nod in agreement here.

        One of the reasons we don’t make our reps give up any particular tasks is because I don’t want to screw with the mojo of a superstar or a superstar in the making. Over time, our best reps have proved to be the ones that care the most about the end result.

        I had to blow up and redesign our entire sample dept/sample system when I found our best reps hugging their sample requests and packing and filling them themselves. A top sales rep packing a carton and standing at the UPS machine makes me nuts, but the problem was mine, not theirs because I’d failed to deliver a tool that a control freak could trust.

        That only took about two years of my life. O.o (Half of that was internal selling, that the brand new dept and systems could be trusted and would work and everything would be great even if you don’t write ***** RUSH!!!********** on every single request.)

        The difference, exactly as you point out, is that the best ones will strike a balance if you provide the right tools. I’ve known a handful of others who were dysfunctional and could never rise above because of they way they mired themselves in things that they irrationally would not give up.

        1. Elizabeth West

          I had a sales rep who would pack his own sample boxes. That made me nuts, because 1) it was MY job to do that, and 2) I had to enter the shipments into a database and I would not know what was in the box without opening it. He claimed he was trying to help, but I finally had to tell him please, let me do it because it’s part of my job to track how many of X sample or catalog we’re sending out.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

            That’s a whole ‘nother thing and I’ll get bossy in these situations.

            I crabbed at a rep the other day for sending a sample for a $20,000 order herself, and outside our systems. There’s 20,000 reasons that sample should have been sent within flow, with tracking numbers and notes and dates. All she had to do was hand the sample to the people whose job it is. The total documentation now is a tracking number piece of paper floating on her desk.

  15. hilde

    I am not in sales, but I have a loosely similar situation. I am part of a staff that has a secretary that does admin work for all of us collectively. In my job I have to have a lot of manuals for training classes printed up routinely and the secretary always did that for the person previously in my position. When I got into the position I slowly started taking back the manual thing. One reason is because she’d order so damn many of them to be safe that we’d end up with tons of extra waste. Another reason is that I’d change the manual content often enough that we’d have so many versions going on it was messy and disorganized. Another reason I wanted to do that task myself was because by doing it I felt much more connected to the task and organized. It’s hard to explain but it seemed easier to cut out the middle man. I was free to make changes to the manual, order as few or as many copies as necessary, and always know what I had on the shelf rather than relying on her to keep tabs of my stuff. So part of it was becuase I didn’t like her organization method and style and part of it was becuase I needed to stay more connected to those tasks just for my own performance.

    I never really have any advice in my comments….so I guess I just wanted to share my perspective since I’ve been the person doing that do an admin.

    1. Laura

      Did you explain any of this to the admin? Even just “Hey, can you order X number this time? Last time we had too many.”?

  16. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

    This isn’t an uncommon problem with sales reps.

    We have good support staff and systems available for our reps, but we leave it up to them how much they want to control the smaller parts of their work and how much they want to let go. As a boss in this realm the only thing that is important to me is the bottom line: sales produced + good experience for the customer. How the sausage is made I do not care. I want the reps to be able to work in a flow that is most productive to them personally because one size does not fit all.

    THAT said, people who choose to hug all of the details of their work are never the reps with highest numbers. If a rep has lower numbers but happy customers, we’ll coach them to unclinch a bit more slowly than we’d have to do if they also had unhappy customers.

    Anyway, OP, your outlook is terrific. You are a model for the way that sales support should think. If I were your boss I’d advise you to approach the rep and say, “Hey, my job is to help you make more sales and more money. How can I do that?” Maybe he really wants to answer those emails (I’d want to myself), but there are some other parts that the two of you can come up with together that the two of you can cooperate on.

    1. Laura

      When I wanted to leave sales and pursue positions in sales support (due to stress and burnout) I found it very difficult to find positions that were well defined and not just Receptionist + Misc Stuff No One Wants To Do. Do you have any tips or insight on how best to find positions that know how to use someone who really wants to help sales teams “make more sales and more money”?

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        I’ll trade you for tips on how to find those people to hire! Administrative people with a sales mindset (understanding that the end goal is moar sales not more tasks completed) are rare and valuable.

        Because sales organizations can be more dysfunctional than the next place, I think the best way to find a job is through networking, where you get the opportunity to choose where you want to work by having some foreknowledge of the company and what the atmosphere there is like.

        A functional sales organization will always have a position for an admin you describe, whether there is a posted job or not. Sales management is 100% unable to resist interviewing anyone who has worked for a competitor, so if you can work your way through an industry, landing your resume in the hands of sales management, you might have good results.

        Also, think about inside sales jobs. My inside sales reps are account managers. They don’t have to do any account generation or lead development or much of anything “salesy”. They work off of incoming and develop accounts and sales off of being friendly and amazing at their jobs. A job title that includes “inside” implies a set up like this, although is certainly not always the case. (It could well be a boiler room also.) Sometimes, folks have inside sales reps to support outside sales reps with a large travel territory and in that case the job is part administration and part account management and rarely reception + changing the toner.

        1. Laura

          Belated thanks! re: tips for finding those people to hire, I was languishing in retail sales as a “Lead” Sales Rep (second in command but not technically management) finding much joy in all the administrative and operational stuff my boss didn’t like: inventory, supply, merchandising, and developing helpful documentation for the other sales reps. This was in addition to having the highest sales numbers on the team and consistent kudos from customers. Also look for those working in consumer sales but have been selected to work on small business accounts.

    2. The OP

      I think I can incorporate that approach when I talk to him – maybe a big picture view of what I’m there for will help him put things in perspective, so it’s not just dividing up what we currently do but engaging him in coming up with new things for me to work on in order to help him succeed. Now you’ve got me wondering if there are other admin/support tasks that he would actually prefer I do, but he doesn’t even think of passing them to me because my role in respect to his has been defined more as “does this list of tasks for you” rather than “exists to help you make money” (which I agree is the #1 purpose of sales support and it’s why I love doing it!).

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        How he responds to that is going to tell you how much of your time he’s worth.

        Best! You sound terrific. I wish you all the success.

  17. Carrie in Scotland

    Someone I do admin for – I support a team of 8 – always does this type of thing. Everyone else lets me submit reports but she wants them back to her “because then she can just male any changes to it rather than ask me/someone else if I am not there to sent it to her. I have learnt that its just her way of working.

  18. webDev

    I used to work with an admin who, despite long and frequent claims of boredom and nothing to do, would bristle if any of us lowly techies asked for her help with a mailing or formatting a Word document or something. I learned self-sufficiency. I would never dream of asking any admin for anything ever again.

  19. ND

    I worked in the small corporate office of an organization for a very long time. Since the Administrative Assistant was usually busy, I just handled these tasks myself. I moved over to my current employer, a very large agency, about a year ago, and I still can’t shake the habit of doing these things myself! Additionally, these tasks are sometimes my ‘downtime’, as I don’t have to interact heavily with anyone while I’m doing them. So in my case, it’s not personal, it’s just habit (and relaxing!)

  20. Gilby

    Just to throw this out there….

    A lot are assuming the sales rep is ADD, doesn’t want to do his job so he does some of hers, isn’t making his numbers and so on.

    OP can you please weight in on this? Do you know if his productivity is poor? Is he decent to work with? Is he screwing up the work you are suppose to do? Do you know if he is NOT doing his own work ?

    Maybe his is just a truely nice guy that wants take some work off your plate that he feels he can do on his own. Maybe he wants to have his hands in stuff because…. well that is just the way he is.
    His way of working. And if that is the case is that wrong?
    It isn’t like he is dogging on you or throwing you under the bus right?

    If he is new maybe this is helping his transition to help him understand the entire process of what he does and what you do and doing the work itself helps him.

    I had 3 top sales people I worked with and if they wanted to to ” XYZ” task that I was more than capable of doing…. well have at it. They were their accounts. Manage them how you want. Who am I to tell them they can’t get involved with their account the way they want? Yes it was ” my job “. But within all that, wiggle room is always needed.

    Is he wanting to do this stuff for certain accounts or all? Maybe he has a special account or 2 or 3 that he needs to manage differently and it is easier for him to do it? Sometimes my sales people would take stuff off me purposely if there was a problem and they didn’t want me to take the flack.

    I had a boss of course but I took direction from the sales people as that was the job. If they wanted to call the plant to see status of the order, then that is what they did. It was ” my job” but if they wanted to do it, they did. They had no problem with my capabilites they just wanted to do it.

    If his work isn’t getting done because he is doing other that stuff that is not your problem. For whatever reason that might be…. it is not your problem to manage.

    Is your boss bothered by this? Is his boss bothered by this? As AMM said that could make or break this situation. I would certainly let your boss know simply to cover yourself on this but I am really not thinking I would worry to much on it.

    You are there to assist him and have made it clear you will. He has made it clear some stuff he will do himself.

    Like I said just throwing this out there.

    1. The OP

      Thanks for this perspective and for asking for this background – I probably should have included it in the letter. He’s a really nice guy to work with, and he’s genuinely appreciative of the stuff I do handle for him, to the point that he even took me out to a pretty fancy lunch after our busy season ended to thank me. That’s what gives me the sense that it’s not a passive aggressive way to comment on the quality of my work. And he doesn’t do any kind of throwing me under the bus, etc. He’s overall a good coworker, which almost makes it harder for me to be critical of him.

      In terms of his productivity, he is generally behind his sales targets, but I don’t know if I agree that he’s doing my work to get out of his, as some people have suggested (though I acknowledge it happens, I don’t think it’s happening here). If anything, my guess is it’s a “let me control as many aspects of this process as I can and hope something makes my numbers go up” approach.

      Overall, though, your point is helpful – sometimes people just do things because they want to do them, and as long as it’s not endangering my job or hampering my ability to do it, maybe I don’t need to fret as much.

      1. Gilby

        I am glad I was able to put it differently for you. I hope it does help.

        No don’t fret. It sounds like you have a great relationship with him and that is what is important. Every work relationship is going to be different and we all just have to go with the flow.

        You sound like a great employee .. keep it up !!

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        If anything, my guess is it’s a “let me control as many aspects of this process as I can and hope something makes my numbers go up” approach.

        I know this guy. This is a bit of a death spiral.

        Ideally, management would be working with him to help him identify best use of his time, although in my world I’m not a big believer in telling people precisely how to accomplish a results oriented job.

        With somebody like you around, I think he’s got a 50/50 chance of coming out of this. What he is doing now isn’t working and doing more of the same will produce the same results. Fortunately, there’s you and you will help him if he will let you.

        Insert Jerry McGuire “help me help you” clip.

        1. S.K.

          Agree here. As a salesperson, there is nothing scarier than finding that the approach you’ve succeeded with in the past is not working for some reason. Am I doing a bad job? Is it bad luck? Is there something fundamentally different about this role that I’m not getting?

          As the best advice here has said – help him understand that you’re here to help, that this isn’t about a turf way but simply about being SUPPORT. You have the right attitude, but in the end he’s going to succeed or fail under his own merits. The sooner he understands how you can help him amplify his strengths and paper over his weaknesses, the better.

  21. tubieandthetubes

    I had to deal with this same situation as well, however, what I learned was that the person that was previously doing my job was not doing it as accurately as she could have, so Takeover Co-Worker was used to actually having to do what is essentially my job.

    We had a good talk about this. I let her know that I am not Former Co-Worker and that’s not how I operate. I take extreme pride in my work and if she should ever feel as though something is not up to par, I asked her to notify me immediately so that I can rectify it ASAP.

    Not only was she surprised, she was relieved to hear that I am dedicated to the tasks of my position. It allowed her to be able to manage her time more effectively as well.

  22. anonymous

    Sorry to make a suggestion based on a negative interpretation, and I’m not saying this is true at all, but could he be doing your work so that he wouldn’t have to pass on your part of the bonus? I recall this sometimes when I was waiting tables between the wait staff and bussers. If the wait staff did all their own bussing, they would feel entitled not to tip out to the bus people. This resulted in the bus people not helping those wait staff, so it was kind of self-perpetuating. Does he have a choice, or influence in whether you get your portion of the bonus, based on how much support work you did for him?

    Again, I’m not saying this is what’s going on, it just struck me as one possibility.

    1. The OP

      He doesn’t have an influence on whether I get the bonus or not, just how big it is – basically, I get paid a percentage of a certain dollar amount based on the combined percentage that the two salespeople reach towards their respective goals. He still makes his personal bonus independent of mine. I only included that aspect in the post to make it clear that beyond his actions just annoying me, I do have a financial stake in him focusing on his work and being productive.

  23. The OP

    Thank you Alison and everyone who has commented! It’s extremely helpful to get feedback from people who have been on both sides of the equation, both to validate that a) I’m not crazy for being annoyed by this and b) there are other reasons it might be occurring besides a passive aggressive message about the quality of my work. The idea of transitioning roles and getting used to having sales support from a lot of these comments also really helps me put things in perspective. I’ve only worked sales support for people who are used to having it, so I’m comfortable being leaned on and I expect people to basically drop as much busywork on me as they can get away with. My coworker’s last position had no sales support, so I can see how he’s unaccustomed to having someone who is not only willing to take on admin work, but actually exists just to do it for you.

    I will definitely be bringing it up to him the next time it happens now that I have a framework I’m comfortable with – not “please don’t do my job for me” but “I noticed something has changed and I wanted to see why” and then I can go from there based on his response. It is kind of his prerogative if he wants to do it – I don’t think I can force him since it’s not a policy violation or anything – but I don’t think it will hurt to loop in my manager once I talk to him anyway, just to make sure it’s clear from above that this was an active conversation between the two of us. Thanks again!

      1. Gilby

        OK… one last comment from the peanut gallery…. just make sure you are not coming off controlling either. Not that I think you are but make sure if he says.. ” I got this….” you drop it.

        You don’t want to come off as if you get to tell him if his choice is right or wrong according to your thinking.

        Ok I am done…. : )

  24. Taylor

    This blog post was informative and offered many options to the worker with the question. It is always a good idea to remain positive and polite in the workplace, which is a fact you stated to the readers. Your response to the question also emulated the advice you were giving: to be straightforward but finding non-accusatory language to do that with.

  25. businesslady

    I’m late to the party, but it just occurred to me that this is kind of the inverse of the question where an admin was wondering if they should teach other colleagues how to do clerical tasks themselves (http://www.askamanager.org/2011/11/should-an-admin-show-people-how-to-do-clerical-tasks-themselves.html). even if it can be helpful for more people to know how to handle this stuff, it can cause problems for the admin if they take too much ownership of it.

  26. Hooptie

    From a sales perspective – make sure that you follow Alison’s advice, then cover with your manager and document the conversation.

    Our VP constantly says that he does not want his sales staff doing admin work, and that is why he pays a support team. You just want to make sure that your manager is in the loop if his sales numbers aren’t where they need to be and he uses ‘I had to do admin work instead of making calls’ as an excuse, because it could come back on you.

    Been there, done that. Just wait until you get the sales person that sends their requests to three different people all in separate emails either because they are hoping that one of the three will tell them what they want to hear or because they don’t trust that any of the three on their own can ‘handle’ the request…

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