Remember the letter-writer last month who was dealing with everyone thinking she was her boss’s assistant because her desk was right in front of his office? To complicate matters, she was the only woman in a large IT department. Here’s the update.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful advice, and for the advice of your wonderful commenters. I have an update for you, which is sort of a mixed bag.
The bad news is, I wasn’t able to move to a different desk. I had a whole list of reasons why the move made sense, and a couple of possible solutions for where I could go, but my boss just wouldn’t budge. I talked over the whole situation with him, to explain where I was coming from and what the problem was, but he really didn’t seem to understand why I was so bothered by it. So, that sucked.
I did mention that I thought sexism might also be in play, and his reaction was basically “I don’t think it’s sexism, but I’m not a woman so maybe I’m wrong.” He just didn’t think it was terrible enough to justify moving people around to accommodate me.
The good news is, I proposed a few different things I could say to people who asked me to do assistant-type work for them, and he agreed to all of them. He’s a pretty blunt guy in general, so he would’ve been fine with me calling everyone sexist a-holes, but I chose to go a softer route :)
I spoke to a few of the worst offenders proactively, and explained what I was dealing with and how they could help. For the most part, they were mortified that they’d ever assumed I was an assistant rather than a technician, and were extremely apologetic. A couple people (who I knew would be difficult) pushed back and told me that they know I’m not an assistant and just don’t care – they come to me because it’s more convenient than going straight to my boss, and I just needed to deal with it.
So, at the very least, I’ve cleared up a lot of the incorrect assumptions about my job title and what I do for the company. I’ve dealt with some one-offs, but I’ve confidently made it clear to them that I’m not an assistant and that they’d need to go to my boss directly, and for the most part that’s worked really well. I just needed to be less of a pushover and not worry as much about possibly offending someone. Hopefully, with a little more time and patience these interruptions will disappear entirely!