I don’t want my young coworker to be taken advantage of

A reader writes:

I have a young colleague on my team at a rather large company — let’s call her Arya. Arya doesn’t report to me, but I’m senior to her and participated in her interview process. She’s been with us a couple years, and this is her first job out of college. She’s proven to be bright, enthusiastic, and eager to learn.

Here’s the issue: Due to some family connections, Arya was on a first-name basis with several of our senior office managers prior to working here. And ever since she was hired, those managers have treated her as their go-to warm body for various favors, from arranging venues for outside meetings to securing catering to planning office parties.

I should mention that Arya’s role at the company has nothing to do with event planning or office management or any role that would typically handle these kinds of arrangements. Her work is entirely separate from this arena.

And while I know that in many workplaces, people from all departments will pitch in to help with things like party planning committees on work off hours, that’s not what happening here. It seems that she’s increasingly being given organizer role for company events, and she’s having to use office hours to complete the tasks.

It irks me because I feel that the senior managers are taking advantage of Arya’s youth and enthusiasm to rope her into tasks that aren’t what she was hired for — and that, being young and eager to gain favor with the higher-ups, she’s not inclined to speak up when it’s interfering with her actual workload. It’s also particularly grating that these extra tasks are ones that historically get foisted onto female employees.

I floated my concern to our mutual manger (who is excellent, by the way), and she agreed that it was problematic but felt that it would be inappropriate to intervene unless Arya voices concern about this on her own. I think she’s right, but I also worry that, being new to the working world, Arya might not know what’s okay to complain about, you know?

So what say you? Should I mind my own business? If we find out that Arya actually enjoys this type of work, does it affect whether or not it’s appropriate for management to keep giving it to her?

In theory, this isn’t really your business or something that you have standing to intervene on.

In practice, it’s possible that you have the kind of role and/or standing in the organization where it would make sense for you to talk to Arya about the situation.

But it’s harder to do that now, when you’re already talked to your manager and your manager has essentially said “we’re leaving this alone.”

And even if you did talk to Arya, I suspect it would be a tricky and maybe fruitless conversation. Since Arya is new to the work world, she probably doesn’t yet have the experience or judgment to know if she should be concerned about what’s going on or not. So there’s a high chance that she’d tell you that she doesn’t mind helping out at all — because that’s the kind of thing people say when they’re new to the work world and want to make a good impression.

Because of that, her manager is the one who’s best positioned to address this, since she can take a better look at how it’s really impacting Arya’s workload and Arya in general.

But for some reason, her manager is taking a weird stance on this. Her statement that it would inappropriate for her to talk to Arya about it unless Arya raises it herself is bizarre. Managers need to intervene in all kinds of things that an employee might not raise on their own.

But for whatever reason, her manager has told you clearly that she isn’t getting involved, and I think ultimately you can’t circumvent that call.

Big-picture, is it a problem that senior managers are pulling Arya into this sort of work? Maybe, maybe not. Who knows, maybe she’s expressed an interest in doing that sort of work, and she’s thrilled they’re delegating it to her. Or maybe not — maybe she’s being pigeon-holded into work that has nothing to do with her career goals and either doesn’t spot it or doesn’t know how to push back against it. That’s where her manager talking to her would be really helpful.

{ 128 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Toph

    The manager’s position here is really weird to me. If she agrees it’s problematic, I’d think she’d want to talk to the senior staff herself, regardless of whether Arya broached the subject. If these tasks aren’t what she was hired for and her manager agrees it’s interfering with her work on what she was hired for, isn’t that textbook what a manager is for? The manager should be going to bat for Arya because of her own goals/needs within the company, regardless of whether Arya minds having this other stuff on her plate. I suppose there may be politics involved in why the manager might not want to go to the senior staff, maybe the manager isn’t high enough to feel like she can do so, but it shouldn’t have anything to do with Arya bringing it up or expressing discomfort.
    That said, since manager has basically said she’s not going to do anything, I don’t know that there’s much the LW can do here.

    Reply
    1. Snark

      Is it at all remotely possible that OP could have a friendly word with Arya over coffee? I don’t think it’d be out of line for OP to discuss this in the spirit of friendly mentorship, particularly if OP is female and can offer the perspective of an older and more experienced woman in the workforce. And if Arya is so bright and cheerful and accomodating that she’s becoming the go-to warm body, she may really need that.

      Now, I’m a dude, so maybe I’m 100% misreading this, but.

      Reply
      1. Bookworm

        I think that’s a lovely suggestion. I had some people do that for me when I was starting out, and I didn’t think it was weird at all. It was actually really encouraging to have people take an interest.

        The only caveat being that I think OP really needs to take her cues from Arya, and if Arya doesn’t seem like she’s interested in pushing back, OP has to respect that. I did have one coworker who really felt that I was “too nice” and spent years pushing me to be firmer with other people. But she was actually really disliked in other departments and I’m not sure her advice was helpful…it put me in an awkward position because she was still senior to me.

        Reply
        1. Snark

          Yeah, that’s what I’m kind of thinking. Lots of leading questions, lots of letting Arya steer the convo, read the cues and see how she reacts. Just feel it out from a perspective of a friendly person who wants to know how things are going. Being in on the interview process leaves enough of a window open, there.

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          1. Bookworm

            Since it sounds like OP genuinely likes Arya, I think that’s not a bad idea. And frankly, even if Arya doesn’t “bite” regarding the event planning stuff now after she’s worked for a little while, or after she’s generated a good relationship with the OP, she might bring it up herself.

            Reply
          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            Yep, you could do that. You’d need to be careful that it couldn’t be construed as directly flouting the manager’s stance, if it got back to her, but there’s often a way to lead these kinds of conversations where it appears to unfold organically.

            Reply
          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I think this is smart. It sounds like OP already might be willing/interested in a quasi-mentorship relationship with Arya. If it helps to think of the coffee in that context, then I think OP can help Arya explore how she feels about those tasks in a relatively neutral, no-judgment zone (which isn’t always possible when speaking to your manager). Basically, OP can be a sounding board while also gently offering questions that might help Arya take a step back to reflect on how she feels about being delegated these tasks.

            Reply
      2. Not a Real Giraffe

        Yeah, I lean towards finding a way to drop in a casual comment about the added-on work to gauge Arya’s reaction. Sometimes people are just waiting for an opening to express to someone that they don’t like being tasked with ABC, or that it’s impacting XYZ other tasks. It’s not a guaranteed way to address it, but could potentially give OP an opening to say, “hey if it bothers you, you should really talk to Manager and I know Manager would be supportive.”

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      3. MommyMD

        I’m of the opinion that you don’t get involved in fighting battles for other coworkers unless there is blatant abuse or they enlist you. There is something to be said for doing your own job well and letting other people do theirs. I’m also detecting a subtle sense of professional jealousy of Arya being on “first name” basis with the higher ups. Arya may very well enjoy the event planning and LW may be raining on her parade.

        Reply
        1. Snark

          I don’t think a friendly coffee to feel out how things are going qualifies as “fighting battles.” Having benefited myself from more experienced but non-managerial colleagues having these kinds of chats with me, I think it would be a kindness, even if Arya does enjoy the event planning.

          And I don’t see the jealousy aspect at all.

          Reply
          1. Artemesia

            Maybe commiserating with her that as a young woman she is being pigeonholed and exploited would plant the seeds of doubt and encourage her to push back.

            Reply
            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I think that’s a bit of a jump though! The OP would need more info before concluding that, and if she’s wrong, it could be really undermining to Arya.

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              1. The Supreme Troll

                Snark, I agree with you here. The OP could simply talk about some things that she’s observed, admit that she might even be totally wrong about these things, and offer suggestions. That’s it; just drop it from there.

                I think MommyMD is reading a little too much into this letter, though.

                Reply
        2. Not a Real Giraffe

          Arya may very well enjoy the event planning and LW may be raining on her parade.

          Sure, but if that’s the case, then all it takes is Arya saying to OP “no I actually love this stuff,” and the conversation is done. She’s not trying to fight Arya’s battle; she’s trying to figure out if Arya has a battle to fight.

          Reply
          1. Snark

            Yep, then you say “Well, I’m so glad things are working out for you so well here! Shall we head back now? I’ve got my 2pm telecon.”

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        3. Dulf

          I’m not getting a sense of jealousy from the LW at all, and saying that Arya was on a “first-name basis” with senior managers is a fairly concise way of explaining how friendly their relationship was before she started working there. Can you elaborate on why you think the LW is jealous of her?

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        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I’m not seeing professional jealousy in this, at all. Instead, I’m seeing concern from an experienced coworker who sees a capable and bright junior coworker being led down a path of frivolous busy-work that does not help that junior coworker develop the skills or standing she will need to advance in her substantive work.

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          1. Karen D

            The flip side could be that there’s something going on with Arya that OP doesn’t realize.

            Several years ago, my boss brought someone in for a particular role (say, Teapot Designer 1) but kept pulling her off the design line for seemingly random tasks, even projects (organize the Glaze Room. Oversee the booth at Teapot Expo. Tag along on a brand-repping trip to PotsNMore outlets around the country.)

            Turned out she was being groomed for a management spot and was being given tasks that would help her develop a big-picture overview of departments she would oversee and/or interact with.

            Reply
          2. army12

            It seems to me the Arya is getting valuable facetime to accomplish tasks that are important to the senior managers the chance to establish credibility and competence with the senior leaders. They probably won’t know directly from experience how good she is at her primary role and that will be filtered by her boss since she is probably several levels down. They will know though from personal experience on the tasks they directly assign to her (party planning) how accomplished she is at the tasks they assign her and that often is what they will remember and assume that competence translates to her primary role. She’ll know when to push back — probably when next year’s new her arrives.

            Reply
            1. LongWinded

              As someone who routinely writes one-thousand-page assessment reports and successful grant proposals for two thirds of my job, and then does event planning and admin/clerical stuff for the other third of my job (to qualify that: I was hired as a secretary, knocked some socks off pretty quickly, and got promoted a bunch of times – but we don’t have the staff line to hire an admin to replace me, so, yay, fun times), my experience is that the party planning, admin, venue-reserving stuff is not really all that respected by senior leaders. In my experience, I have senior leaders who have told me that they feel really icky about asking me to do that part of my job title, because they know for an absolute, proven-multiple-times fact that I’m capable of doing a lot more than reserving a hotel or ordering some food (not that there is anything at all wrong or easy with that kind of work). Middle management who does not work with me directly often see me more in my clerical/admin role, as it’s more visible, and, trust me, it’s very evident that they see “admin” and think “doesn’t work on important things, doesn’t know the big picture, can drop everything and put paper in the copier for me.” I’ve actually had those middle management leaders meet me in my admin role and then not realize I was the same person when they saw me later on in my accreditation/assessment/$$$ role. Like: it does not compute. There is no assumption that my great work as an admin transfers to any other primary role. Again, my experience. I think this is really interesting and love talking about it!

              But, I will say: If my senior leaders took me off my non-clerical role in order to have me do more clerical/event things so I could establish credibility and competence with other people, I would start looking to establish those two things elsewhere. My boss did exactly the opposite – put me on less clerical things – in order to get me established with his bosses. Cause here’s the thing: Clerical things as a woman is a really deep pigeonhole, and I would bet money that those bosses wouldn’t dare think to put a male recent grad on event planning duty to prove his worth. So. Yeah. Either way, it’s an issue in my book.

              Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Yeah, the manager’s response is really weird to me. Is it that she wants the CYA cover of Arya complaining before she’s willing to object to more senior people? Because, without greater context, that seems a little cowardly.

      Reply
      1. Samata

        I wondered when reading if the manager knows that Arya’s is being groomed for something bigger but can’t say anything so this is her way of handling that. I know some people think event planning is being defaulted to her because she is a woman but it’s also a great way to gauge a number of skills – follow up, handling tough situations, ability to interact with external customers or vendors and her ability to communicate along several levels within an organization (is she as nice to the service staff as she is to the C-suite).

        And, yes, it could be interfering with current work but the risk is worth it to advance her potential.

        Reply
        1. Kindling

          I think that’s a really charitable assumption, but unlikely. If you were trying to see if Arya could handle more responsibility, you’d probably just give her higher-level projects in her actual field of work, right? It seems like a weird lateral move to test her event planning skills if she’s, say, an engineer or something.

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    3. Foxina

      I agree it’s surprising the manager isn’t taking a more active role in addressing this. Particularly since the letter writer is saying that Arya is “not inclined to speak up when it’s interfering with her actual workload”. The actual workload part is what the manager should be concerned about. She was hired and is getting paid to do a job and instead her time is being filled with extra tasks. So the issue for the manager is less whether she wants to do these tasks and more is it in the best interest of the business for her to do them.

      Reply
  2. Roscoe

    Another wrinkle, its possible that those family connections helped her land the job (which seems probable that it probably had SOME bearing). I can see if I got a job where my family friend were high up (and possibly due to that fact), and they asked me to do some extra work, I would do it. Because of that fact, I don’t think I’d say anything. Because this stuff can get back to her family and it can cause all sorts of trouble. If she did ask you for help navigating it, that would be different. But for now, let it be.

    Reply
    1. Breda

      Yeah, ironically it can be HARDER to push back against these requests when it’s both your boss and your mom’s lifelong friend. Saying no can feel rude! Especially when you’re brand-new to the working world and trying to prove that you weren’t just a nepotism hire. But I think that makes it more important for the manager to get involved. Perhaps the OP could say something along the lines of, “I’m so impressed by how you’re managing to do all this extra stuff on top of your normal work – but you know, it’s not necessary to your role, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed you could mention something to Manager.”

      Reply
    2. Former Retail Manager

      I was thinking the same thing. I do think that her being on a first name basis with several senior people likely had at least something to do with her getting the job, even if she is 110% qualified. Perhaps she feels like she owes them or perhaps the senior folks are more comfortable asking a friendly face that they know well versus one they don’t know.

      If it’s really eating at the OP that badly, perhaps a casual comment the next time these additional duties are assigned would give them some insight. Maybe something to the effect of “wow, you’re so efficient being able to plan that event and get your normal stuff done!” This might give co-worker the opportunity to express pleasure or displeasure with her additional duties. Should she express displeasure, maybe a “well, if it’s impacting your regular duties, you should speak to Manager about it. I’m sure she’d be happy to discuss it with you.”

      Reply
    3. Anna

      I think that’s pushing it. There’s no reason Arya needs to show her gratitude by doing random tasks for higher ups. All she owes them is good performance and hard work.

      Reply
    4. Samata

      This is a perspective I haven’t heard of. Like is mom going to ask Arya this weekend “so, I heard you aren’t helping plan the holiday party – you know Joe really loves your taste, you should help him out!”

      Reply
  3. Fishgal

    The lw mentioned that it’s senior people asking for the tasks completed, that might why the manager is taking a hands off approach to it

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      I’m a little perplexed because it seems like very senior people would have assistants, and perhaps more extensive staff. And that it would be far easier to just have those people do the tasks. Do they perhaps view this as giving Arya a valuable opportunity to diversify her skills?

      Reply
      1. Camellia

        The letter actually says these are “senior OFFICE managers”, not “senior managers”. Does that make a difference to your answer?

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          That’s always confusing because some people use the terms differently. Some people say “office manager” when they mean “the manager of everyone” even though more often it means “the admin for the office.”

          Reply
  4. Snark

    “Big-picture, is it a problem that senior managers are pulling Arya into this sort of work? Maybe, maybe not”

    Oooh…mmmnghhh. Eh. I really can’t see how this isn’t a problem – even if Arya is willing and eager to do it, she’s stepping into a problematic role. A lot of young women feel like they have to be chipper and accomodating of anything that’s delegated their way, and especially if she likes doing these particular tasks, she might not have it on her radar that doing this could get her sidelined into Office Mom or Office Cute Little Sister Who’s So Helpful. That could really affect her standing in the company and career progression, and with that much at stake, I think someone needs to suss out how she feels about it and clue her in if she’s not aware of what’s going on.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      An example of how it could turn out not to be hugely problematic: Arya is passionate about going into event planning, and they told her that if she took the job, they’d throw some related work her way to help build her resume. (This should have been communicated to Arya’s manager, of course, but it would be a different picture than what the OP is worried about.)

      Reply
      1. Snark

        I see where you’re going with that, but….given that her regular work duties have nothing to do with that, I feel like I’m erring on the “this isn’t her career ambition and she’s being taken advantage of” interpretation. What you’re suggesting is by no means impossible, so I guess I can see a way it’s not a problem, I just think that’s a reach. Whereas, Office Moms are really common.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          This kind of thing isn’t unheard of:

          Arya’s mom: “My daughter just graduated and is really interested in event planning.”
          VP: “Hmmm, we wouldn’t hire someone entry level for that, but is she willing to do admin work while she gets started? We could bring her on as an admin and give her some events experience on the side, but she’d need to be willing to do a lot of admin support.”

          (I have no idea if that’s what happened here, of course. Just explaining one way it could end being not hugely problematic for Arya.)

          Reply
          1. Snark

            Definitely not unheard of. Would like to see what you think of my comment, above, about having a friendly chat with Arya over coffee just to feel it out.

            Reply
          2. teclatrans

            Hm, I got the impression Arya wasn’t doing admin woek of any sort, and was getting pulled to do administrative sorts of projects and tasks (including event planning), which makes that scenario seem unlikely.

            Reply
      2. NW Mossy

        Another example would be Arya not really being sure of what she wants to do yet and being willing to try anything and everything to get a better grasp of what she wants to do long term.

        Pigeon-holing is a risk, but probably not a huge one for someone so early in their career when the off-ramps on the road to the future are a lot more plentiful. She’s not locked into working at this organization or in this capacity just yet, being all of two years into the full-time working world.

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        1. Elemeno P.

          Yes, this. I volunteered for event planning type stuff early in my career because it was fun and gave me something different to do. It actually helped my career because I was enthusiastic about helping with things, and that enthusiasm was noticed by higher-up people. It’s 100% true that there are issues with women getting these extra tasks piled on them unwanted and having their work seen as less-than, but it’s luckily not always the case.

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      3. Liz2

        This is exactly where my mind went- squirreling away all that leverage and building positive relationships in a super easy way for later. It depends on how savvy and maneuverable she is.

        It could go disastrously exactly as the letter writer is worried also, but I guess that’s a reason to keep ears open for a good opportunity to offer that it’s ok to say no, but accept that opportunity may never arised and Arya will take care of Arya.

        Reply
      4. Emi.

        Karen D. gave another example in an earlier thread about how she saw someone getting assigned to all sorts of random projects that weren’t related to her job, and it turned out they were grooming her for management and wanted her to have a broader perspective.

        Reply
    2. Bookworm

      I hear what you’re saying, but I’m not sure I agree that this is necessarily a guaranteed slide into ‘Office Mom/Sister’. In fact, I think that making these sorts of connections actually might really beneficial for her career. Two or three years from now, when she’s interviewing for other positions, she’ll have developed working relationships with her familial connections that could be very advantageous for her.

      In fact, I’d maybe argue the opposite of you and suggest that this could be problematic because Arya is being given extra opportunity to prove herself to senior management that other entry level employees are not privy to.

      Obviously, without knowing more details, we can’t be sure of either ‘track’, but I do think the latter is possible.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        “In fact, I think that making these sorts of connections actually might really beneficial for her career. ”

        Like I said, I’m a dude, so I might be 100% off base, but I don’t think being the go-to warm body for catering really generates much professional capital.

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          1. Camellia

            The first part of the letter calls them “senior office managers”, while the latter part says “senior managers”. To me, these are two different levels. I can totally see office managers doing event planning and office parties; not so much senior managers.

            I think it makes a difference whether we are talking about office managers or senior executives. Maybe I’m splitting hairs but to me this is an important distinction, or am I totally misreading this?

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            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              I don’t think you’re misreading, but people use “senior office managers” to mean different things. Sometimes it can mean “senior managers in this office location.”

              So it’s unclear to me what that reference means in OP’s office, but regardless, I’m not sure the title difference would change the advice to OP, though, no?

              Reply
        1. Bookworm

          I don’t think you’re 100% off-base, that’s not what I meant to express at all! I think your concerns are valid, but I do think the potential for good or bad could vary greatly depending on the office and Arya herself.

          It’s plausible that two years from now when Arya applying for another role within the organization, she’s able to call in on that goodwill she’s building now and get references from high-up in the org. Or that she’s able to connect with them on LinkedIn and take advantage of their networks. And unlike a random family friend, they’ll be able to attest to the fact that she’s responsive and helpful and cheerful at work.

          Reply
          1. Snark

            No disagreement with any of that, but there’s a caveat to something you said at the end. I do think that a recommendation that a person is “responsive and helpful and cheerful” carries weight…as long as it comes with “and she knows teapot design forwards and backwards” or “and she came up with some innovative process improvements that really saved us time and money” or something.

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            1. Snark

              Drat, my point wasn’t clear…so, to wrap up, I think there’s a danger there, if she’s not an aspiring event planner, for her references and reputation to revolve more around her helpfulness than around her skills and knowledge. That’s not without value, but it’s not as strong a recommendation.

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              1. Not a Real Giraffe

                Oh for sure, I can see that. But event planning involves any number of skills and knowledge that can be translated into relevance for other roles, so I don’t think the work itself is detrimental.

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        2. Not a Real Giraffe

          It does in a “I could count on Arya to jump right in to whatever task was assigned to her” kind of way. Being a higher-up’s go-to for any scenario can lend itself to any number of positive pieces of feedback that could help her in her next step.

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          1. DDJ

            I do an awful lot of things that “aren’t my job,” and have for many years. I’ll jump in when help is needed, or take a task on to take it off someone’s plate when they’ve got too much going on.

            I started out as a temp at my current company when I was 23, moved into a higher-level role permanently at 24, received a promotion at 28 (after filling in for the role during personnel changes), had my job changed (given supervisory responsibilities, accompanied by a significant salary adjustment) when I was 30…

            I’ve been given training and professional development opportunities that have not been offered to some of my “less helpful” coworkers. I’ve received coaching from upper level management. My career has ended up in a completely different place than I ever thought it would, all because I was willing to do things that “weren’t my job.”

            Becoming known as a go-to person tends not to be the worst thing, that’s for sure.

            Reply
      2. Hey Karma, Over here.

        Speaking from experience. Like Alison said, there can be good reasons that benefit Arya.

        I am in a position doing Work A, something I really enjoy, but had included skills in my company file that I have experience doing Work B. they queried the database for people with that skillset. When a project popped up, that department contacted me. And it’s been once a quarter for a year now. In my case, it’s great.
        But my supervisor is in the loop. I talked with my supervisor and we came up with a game plan. Now I get to do cool things I like, I’m getting professional experience and added content to my last annual review.

        Maybe her supervisor does not know what’s going on, but maybe she and Arya have had a conversation. Possibilities: Supervisor was told Arya will be doing X,Y,Z because she and higher ups have agreed on it so supervisor has to go along. Supervisor was included in the decision but doesn’t want to get into it with LW and is making it incredibly awkward.

        I think the type of work (planning) is creating an extra level of concern. And rightly so. I just don’t know if there is a way for LW to ask Arya about it if management at all levels wants it quiet.

        Reply
    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      So this is less common, but sometimes being asked to undertake planning-related responsibilities also helps other managers see that not only do you have substantive skills, you can plan and execute. Planning and execution are the kinds of skills you need to demonstrate for advancement, particularly into management. I don’t know that that’s what’s happening, here, but it’s an example of a context in which these tasks may not harm her standing, but rather, support Arya’s overall career progression.

      Reply
  5. voyager1

    When one uses family connections to get a job… sorry but not really feeling for Arya in this. Just wait till the LW writes an update on how Arya gets a very good promotion over her or some good job posting. These kinds of things can end that way, at least in situations I have seen.

    Reply
      1. Helpful Curmudgeon

        I agree; that’s unfair. People get jobs in all kinds of ways. I’m certainly glad for any advantage I can get when job searching.

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      2. voyager1

        It is more like cynicism, sadly the business world can be a who you know kind of world. And no I don’t ageee with it being like that. But when you know the right people and they trust you to do things that gives you a chance to shine more then others.

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        1. Artemesia

          I have seen presentable but somewhat dim young men with family connections get promoting right on up past diligent and competent and bright young women. It is pretty much impossible to be too cynical in the world of work, although showing it too much can be unwise.

          Reply
    1. Hey Karma, Over here.

      Or, like Alison said, Arya could have been hired into the position as a favor with the purpose of giving her practical experience in her real area of interest. Don’t be surprised if she leaves for an event planning/coordinator job. Or if one is created in your company because they happened to have an experienced person for the position. And if she does a good job, well good on her.

      Reply
      1. voyager1

        All true. It also could be that these tasks get Arya extra face time with deciders in the company, and when a promotion or a good job comes along they will think of her. There is a lot of possible good outcomes for Arya in this situation.

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    2. Electric Hedgehog

      If you’re not taking advantage of every leg up you have in finding the best possible job for yourself, I think you’re probably job searching wrong. If that means using family connections as a network, why the heck wouldn’t you?!

      Reply
      1. voyager1

        I am not saying don’t use it. But let’s not say that being able to call someone and help land your family member a job is the same as a regular person applying. That connection the first person has is privledge and privledged people are going to have more connections then poor folks.

        Reply
        1. SarahTheEntwife

          I think you can be angry that this is so often a pattern in society that reinforces disadvantaged groups without blaming specific people for taking advantage of their connections rather than declining for some nebulous societal fairness. From everything in this letter it sounds like Arya is a skilled and diligent employee rather than some VIP’s kid given a cushy job as a favor to their parent.

          Reply
      2. Snark

        I kind of tend to this viewpoint. I mean, yes, it’s not fair, and yes, it leads to the perpetuation of privelege, so a cynical view of it isn’t unwarranted, but…don’t we all use our networks looking for jobs? Don’t we all need paid?

        Reply
    3. SarahKay

      We don’t even know for sure that Arya did get the job through her connections – the OP certainly doesn’t say so. OP simply says that “Arya was on a first-name basis with several of our senior office managers prior to working here”. OP also says that
      Yes, that could mean nepotism,but it could also mean Arya applied like any other person and got the job on her own merits. Since OP also says:
      (a) that she participated in Arya’s interview process – and OP makes no mention that Arya was being interviewed / favoured because of family connections.
      (b) it’s a rather large company.
      I’d say given both of these, saying that it’s nepotism so Arya is on her own is a bit unfair.

      Reply
    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I don’t understand the relationship between a person’s network connections and being saddled with tasks that are not relevant to your immediate job (assuming you do not want to do them). I understand the privilege critique, but I can’t get behind the idea that certain people get to suffer because we assume their network means they lack merit or that they are inherently unqualified.

      Reply
      1. Samata

        This is one of my biggest issues with the way people use the word “privilege”. it is too often linked to “not qualified” and “not hard-working” and it makes me sad for people who have been able to build success on their own merit.

        Reply
        1. Zahra

          It’s not so much that as “qualified/hard-working, but better qualified/harder-working people were not considered because of [characteristic]”.

          On a small scale, it may not seem like such a big deal (although if you’ve been passed over for a promotion because of [characteristic], it is a big deal). But on a larger, societal scale, it means that some groups of people are being disadvantaged : women (glass ceiling/glass cliff, anyone?), people of color, people from lower classes (blue collar, middle class vs upper class), etc. It is each person’s responsibility to stop perpetuating this problem, because society will never evolve beyond discrimination otherwise.

          Reply
  6. MommyMD

    Leave Ayra alone. She has not come to you with these concerns. At this point they are only of your making. Let her navigate her own matters. Are you sure you are not envious of her close relationship to the powers that be? And maybe her job is evolving to include these kind of events.

    Reply
    1. Not a Real Giraffe

      I’m not getting a jealous vibe from OP, just a protective one. It’s entirely possible that it’s an issue for Arya and she’s new enough to the work world that she doesn’t know that she’s *allowed* to express concerns about her workload or the outside-of-normal-tasks assignments she’s been given.

      Reply
      1. Roscoe

        But everyone doesn’t need protecting. Nothing here screams that Arya NEEDS a protector in the form of this white knight. I think her heart is in the right place, but that doesn’t mean that she needs to do anything. Part of maturing in the workplace IS knowing when you can set boundaries and when to push back. But if Arya doesn’t feel she needs to do that, let her be.

        Reply
        1. Not a Real Giraffe

          Of course, and I’m not saying Arya *needs* a protector. I’m just suggesting that Arya might not know, due to youth/inexperience, that she has the option of pushing back if she’s so inclined.

          Reply
          1. Anna

            It’s the difference between a protector and a mentor. A mentor or someone who wants to give guidance would want to say something. After that, it really is up to Arya to make that decision on her own, but the OP could certainly offer some insight.

            If I sat around just letting the young adults I work with “be free” I would have nothing to do. Young adults frequently don’t know what help to ask for, much less when help might be needed.

            Reply
                1. Anna

                  Exactly. OP isn’t telling Arya she can’t do that anymore; OP is asking Arya if she feels okay about taking on these tasks, and if Arya doesn’t feel okay about it, possibly offering some advice on how to get out of the tasks.

          2. LongWinded

            I really agree with you. Two years ago, I was underemployed as a secretary (desperate for a job), and my perception of the role was, like, SECRETARY! I made copies for people. I returned their voicemails. I handled their calendars. These people ran me ragged, and I just took it, because I was a SECRETARY! I hated being that, but, damn it, I took the job, and I was going to own it. So: I didn’t speak up, because I was the lowest person on a very large totem pole.

            …until two co-workers pulled me in to speak with our boss, and they FINALLY explained that, no, that’s not what they wanted. They didn’t want the culture of “everyone is helpless and must have an admin.” They didn’t want me standing at the copy machine. They wanted me to push back – and so I did. And then a bunch of other things happened, and I’m nowhere near that same SECRETARY! role anymore, in any capacity. Being empowered to speak up, push back, and use a voice I definitely had honed in my prior career (…managing 200 people…) kicked open a lot of doors, but I wouldn’t have done that unless my boss and coworkers told me “yeah, don’t do a lot of those things you’re being asked to do.”

            Not the same scenario, but perhaps an example of when letting someone figure this kind of stuff out for themselves isn’t the best route.

            Reply
        2. The Supreme Troll

          I don’t think it really is protection, just some observations, nuances that come with experience.

          Reply
    2. El

      I don’t see any jealousy at all – if anything, the LW has spoken only of how “She’s proven to be bright, enthusiastic, and eager to learn.” If LW was jealous, she wouldn’t be giving this young woman all these kudos.

      Reply
  7. Snarkus Aurelius

    It would help to know if Arya is being evaluated on these “other duties as assigned.” I know you said that these duties were “entirely separate,” and my hunch is this event planning, much like party planning and other workplace emotional labor assigned to women, is probably not in Arya’s performance evaluation.

    The other thing that would be good to know is if Arya’s relevant work is getting completed and its done well. If it is, then great, but still not okay because Arya is probably running herself ragged. If not, then there’s the opening to talk about this other stuff.

    But Arya’s manager’s response really sucks. It’s not okay, even for higher ups, to assign other manager’s employees work without asking first. Waiting for Arya to mention it first completely disregards the power differential here, which is more burdensome on someone new to the workforce.

    Sounds like that manager is afraid to do anything against the higher ups. The only opening you have is if Arya gets a less than stellar review and asks you for advice.

    Reply
    1. Kyrielle

      Actually, LW, I think you could still approach her. Not about the higher-ups assignments, but just a general conversation. “How are you settling in? How is your workload treating you?” That sort of thing. Maybe, if it’s true, something like, “I just got out from under a deluge – I had to go to $Manager to get the priorities straightened, since I was overloaded.”

      Just something to give her an opening to know she can come to you or bring the topic up with you if she wants, that you’re interested in how she’s doing. (I wouldn’t approach it by pointing out that she seems overloaded, even if that’s true, because that might force you to mention the extra assignments, and/or come across as judging her for not handling her workload, even if you don’t mean it that way.)

      Reply
      1. SarahKay

        Yes, I like this approach. Assuming it’s true, it never hurts to know that there are options if you’re being overworked, other than just sucking it up in silence.

        Reply
      2. The Supreme Troll

        Yes, like Snark suggested above. Going out for coffee or tea and casually bringing this up as an observation. Then dropping it if Arya is completely cool with it.

        Reply
  8. Edith

    To be able to truly get at the meat of this issue I am going to need to know how good her pies are. Does she ever bring baked goods to share with the office?

    Reply
      1. Edith

        I would advise against eating anything Arya bakes. I understand she doesn’t even brown the butter first.

        Reply
        1. Callalily

          You’d think her mother would’ve impressed the importance of browning the butter… maybe if she attended one less wedding she could’ve taught her!

          Reply
        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          This whole thread cracked me up. Nothing like dark humor to get you through the midday slump :)

          Reply
        3. Emi.

          I guess this is a specific GoT reference, but all I could think was “You don’t brown the butter for piecrust!”

          Reply
          1. Edith

            Sure you can. It makes for a nuttier taste. I mean, you’re not going to brown the butter for a key lime pie, but for apple? Sure.

            And you see it a lot in recipes for savory pies, which you couldn’t have known, but does happen to be what Arya’s baker friend who mentioned browning the butter was talking about.

            Reply
    1. Anion

      This was my thought. Those senior managers ought to be careful about crossing Arya. She might offer them some wine one day, and it all goes downhill from there.

      Reply
  9. lb

    It may not be your place, but I would seriously consider talking to Arya about it anyway. I would have *really* appreciated someone explaining this stuff to me at my first job, because it took me a long time and several jobs to learn it! It’s so easy for young women to get stuck in this place without even realizing it. You should allow for the possibility that she really does enjoy it and wants to do the work, of course, but if you can manage a friendly chat I think it would be good for her.

    Reply
    1. MommyMD

      As long as Company is not forcing overtime on Arya or bugging her about her other workload, they are entitled to ask for help in planning events. That’s not the business of OP. Unless Boss is getting Arya out of bed in her pajamas in the middle of the night to pick him up at the airport or showing up to her medical appointments with work talk or forcing her to parade around in a dunce cap while whistling Dixie coworker needs to worry about her own job, not Arya’s.

      Reply
    2. JulieBulie

      I agree, because the manager more or less said that Arya has to figure out on her own that this is something that she can legitimately protest against. Which sucks.

      There are a lot of things that new workers don’t know. Sometimes, people don’t think to tell them, but it’s another thing entirely when their own managers are deliberately refusing to tell them.

      If I were in OP’s shoes, I would want to give Arya a heads-up on what is happening and what she can do about it.

      Now, it’s quite possible that Arya actually does know, and/or likes doing this kind of work, maybe even more than her regular job. That’s fine and then she don’t have to take any action, drama over. Hell, she can even ask her manager to assign her less of the regular work if she and the manager think it’s mutually beneficial for Arya to do more stuff for the senior managers.

      But in order for Arya to make this or any decision, she has to know what is and is not normal, and what are some customary responses if she wants to nudge things in another direction. (Or ask for more event planning stuff, if applicable.)

      Reply
    3. Electric Hedgehog

      I don’t think it’s something to make into a big deal. No need to go all ‘mother hen’ on Arya – she’s a capable professional capable of establishing her own boundaries.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        No need to go mother hen, but almost all young professionals benefit from a mentor and some guidance. Don’t assume that a person in their 20s has it all figured out.

        Reply
      2. Mephyle

        Is she a capable professional capable of establishing her own boundaries? We don’t have enough information to know that here. Most critically, we don’t know whether she welcomes the “other duties as assigned” event planning, or feels obligated.

        Reply
    4. Fleeb

      Yes, as the only woman in the office, I end up doing all of the housekeeping and event planning tasks. I have the same position and more seniority than the people I work with, but these tasks get delegated to me. I wish there were another manager or HR department that I could complain to.

      Reply
      1. Zahra

        Can you push back? Or just not do them?

        “Fleeb, the conference room is filthy!”
        “Oh? I hadn’t noticed. I cleaned it last week, it must be someone else’s turn.”

        Or do what one of my past jobs used to do: make a rotation list and whoever’s responsible for this week needs to make sure the tasks are done. They can do it themselves, other can do it on their way to whatever, but if it’s your week, you’re the one catching flak if it’s not done.

        Reply
  10. animaniactoo

    If you have some semblance of a relationship with Arya yourself, you could work to raise your concerns as things that generally happen to women, vs things that are wrong for Arya personally. As part of an ongoing series of conversations about things that women and young employees in general have to deal with in the workplace and may not be aware of the longterm effects and how not to fall into some kinds of traps even when they may seem to be unavoidable.

    But… if you choose to do that, don’t let it be your only topic of conversation. Have many conversations with Arya about many things. Just let this filter in to be some of those conversations.

    And you might drop a word about manager being someone who sometimes has concerns about potential issues but won’t get involved unless things become really problematic or the employee raises it as an issue for themselves. If you do that though, you better be talking about management styles in general and how your manager is overall a really good manager, but that as with all managers, you can make different decisions about how you approach an issue if you know how they handle it, so it’s good to keep an eye open for that kind of information for your own benefit.

    Reply
  11. High Score!

    Invite Arya to your cube/office for something and have this web page prominently displayed, make sure your font is set very large.

    Reply
  12. Sibley

    My hunch is that someone, maybe not OP, should casually mention to this young woman that it is a thing that women can be pigeonholed into “domestic” type duties/roles, which can impact their career in not always desirable ways. Things like party planning, event planning, food wrangling, etc can fall into this. And that she should be aware of this, because awareness is part of ending discrimination.

    This accomplishes 2 things:
    1. if there is a problem in this scenario, this young woman has some information that might help her identify it.
    2. it really will help end discrimination, because she can see something and think, “that’s not right”, and maybe do something to fix it.

    However, OP may not have the relationship to do this.

    Reply
  13. Zahra

    Another way to force manager to deal with it: if it impacts OP’s ability to complete her work. And OP shouldn’t frame it as “party planning stuff is making her neglect primary duties” but as “Arya has been late giving me X info/report and it’s been happening with increasing frequency.” Let manager deal with Arya’s workload distribution herself.

    Reply
    1. MommyMD

      OP is not Arya’s manager or her report. And I don’t see anything about performance issues, unless I missed it. I don’t think any kind of underlying agenda is helpful in the workplace.

      Reply
  14. startuplifelisa

    Sorry to thread jack, but there’s a new ad module on the blog that’s really annoying – it pops over the content with a spammy mortgage ad and it seems to affect page performance, too. Maybe a coincidence but my typing is delayed in this window and not others. I try to keep adblock off for blogs I like but I’ve had to turn it on to use the site. I know this usually is not intentional so wanted to say something!

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Please send me a screenshot if you see it again.

      (Also, for the future, there’s an ad report form linked above the comments box that captures all the info I’d need.)

      Reply
    2. Kyrielle

      If you can see/use it with that pop-over, just above the comment box is a link to report “an ad, tech, or typo issue here” – that is the best way to get all the info to Alison.

      (Is it popping over just down near the bottom? I’ve seen that with several different ads and there’s an X you an click to close it on most of them. Maybe all, but I think only most.)

      Reply
  15. Thinking Outside the Boss

    I disagree with the suggestions in the comments that OP should have a conversation on the side with Arya anyway. OP’s manager was direct with the OP on this point, however weird–this isn’t your fight, leave it alone. To then go around the manager’s back side and still bring the issue up with Arya can backfire. If Arya goes to the manager and mentions it, then OP could find herself in her manager’s office having her manager say, “I told you to leave it alone and you didn’t. Why did you do that? Why were you insubordinate?” Not worth the risk.

    I do feel that OP has a legitimate issue with these types of events always being delegated to women in the office. That’s pejorative towards women. And that’s the issue that the manager should be taking to her boss. But that issue has nothing to do with Arya. I would like to know from the OP if she addressed this issue before or only addressed it when Arya was placed in that role?

    Reply

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