my boss is asking me to clean carpets, paint walls, and other tasks I wasn’t hired for

A reader writes:

Lately I’ve been feeling put off by my boss. I feel he is taking advantage of my helpful attitude because I do not say no.

There are only the two of us who work together. I’m the office manager, and when I accepted the position, I was told there would be “light housekeeping,” e.g. passing the vacuum and laundering the linens. Last week, I was told to rent a carpet cleaner and had to clean all the carpets and the carpets downstairs (his personal carpets as he also lives in the building). He is now talking about my painting the marks on the walls that don’t come off with regular cleaning. How do I speak to him about my feelings?

Say something like, “When I accepted the job, I understood there would be light cleaning, such as occasionally vacuuming and washing linens. Lately, however, the amount of cleaning you’ve been asking me to do has increased significantly. I’m not comfortable taking on that type of work when I was hired to be the office manager. Could I look into other options, such as occasionally bringing in a carpet cleaning company, a handyman, or a cleaning service?”

However, be aware that while it’s possible that he’ll back off and stop asking you to do this stuff, it’s also possible that he’ll tell you that it’s part of the job. And while yes, if that’s the case, he should have told you that during the hiring process, it’s also possible that the needs of the job changed and he now realizes he needs someone who’s willing to do these cleaning tasks as well as the other work you perform. And that’s his call to make.

So you want to go into this realizing that that’s possible too, and knowing how you’ll respond if that’s the case — is it a deal-breaker? You might need to decide whether you’re willing to continue doing the job under these terms, or whether you want to look elsewhere.

One last thing — you said that you feel your boss is taking advantage of your helpful attitude because you don’t say no. It’s actually not common to often, if ever, have to say a direct “no” to your manager, at least not in most jobs. Rather, you’d generally have a conversation like the one described above (“this isn’t something I realized the job entailed; is this something you really need this role to do?”), or you’d say “If I do A, it means that I won’t be able to spend as much time on High Priority B and I won’t get to Priority C at all,” or so forth.

What you want to do is talk openly about expectations and priorities, and to realize that the role may shift over time and that you can decide at any point that it’s no longer for you. It’s also important to keep it as impersonal as possible — both in your mind and in your approach. That’s the difference between “I’m insulted that you asked me to fold your laundry” versus “It sounds like you need someone to do personal tasks for you, which isn’t quite what I’m looking for; I’d like to stay focused on keeping our accounts running smoothly. Does it make sense for me to find someone who can do laundry for you, or do you need the person in my role doing it?”

So talk to your boss, but approach it as dispassionately as you can. Good luck.

{ 100 comments… read them below }

  1. Russell

    I’m not sure I agree. If your job is Office Manager and your regular duties include vacuuming, it seems quite reasonable that irregularly you will handle carpet cleaning. (Cleaning his personal carpets is a different deal.)

    1. Jubilance

      Vacuuming =/= carpet cleaning. Those are 2 separate tasks that require separate equipment, so you can’t say that it’s reasonable that she be asked to do this.

      1. Kelly L.

        Yup. It’s way more labor intensive. And I’m not even sure the boss picked up the cost–it sounds kind of like the employee may have had to rent it personally out of his or her own pocket.

        1. Jubilance

          If the employee has to pick up the cost of the equipment, that makes the request that much worse. The gall to ask an employee to perform a personal service by cleaning his personal carpets, and then not even pay for the cost of the equipment! This boss sounds like a miser who is trying to get over.

        2. Daisy

          Surely if that was the case the OP would have made that part of her complaint in the letter? I don’t see that we can assume that from what she says.

          1. Kelly L.

            I said I wasn’t sure. I’m going off the wording “I was told to rent,” though of course that could refer to the LW renting it with their own money or to the LW simply being the one to make the arrangements with the firm’s money.

          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            I’d be shocked if she had to rent it with her money and didn’t mention that here. I didn’t read “I was told to rent” as meaning “with my own money.” Maybe the OP can clarify.

      2. Anonicorn

        Not only that, but those carpet cleaning chemicals are awful. OP would need to ensure the area has proper ventilation and any protective equipment, which is why a service would be so much better.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.

      I agree with Russell. They are two different tasks but are closely related, and I think if I had an office manager that did vacuuming, and the carpets needed shampooing once or twice a year, I would not think twice about asking that person to do it. The personal carpets might be a little different, but I know it’s part of my job description to do some personal assistant tasks, so I wouldn’t personally balk at it (though obviously OP’s job might be very different from mine).

      1. Rayner

        I would balk at it. You hired me to do the ‘occasional’ vaccuming. I read that as “if someone important is coming’, not to be a cleaner, or to deep clean the carpets. Anything more than light work, and the job is not office manager, it’s office manager with a sideline in cleaning.

  2. bemo12

    I agree with Alison’s comments about keeping it impersonal, don’t make your boss out to be your adversary.

    As an aside, I find it so common, especially with younger workers, to have the “that’s not my job” attitude. It’s so infuriating.

    1. Jubilance

      So what’s the line? Workers are really expected to do EVERYTHING their boss tells them to do? What if it’s illegal? Or unsafe? Or degrading?

      The boss has the right to ask but this worker isn’t a slave and isn’t required to do any and all tasks the boss assigns. There are people out there who will clean carpets, paint, etc and my guess is that the boss isn’t willing to pay that much. The worker isn’t wrong for not wanting to take on these additional new tasks that were never disclosed just because the boss is too cheap to hire a carpet cleaning service or a painter.

      1. Kelly L.

        This. There’s reasonable “other duties as assigned” and then there’s just plain taking advantage of people and taking advantage of the bad job market.

      2. RLS

        agreed. I hate the “that’s not my job” attitude when it DOES fall in the general scope of your work. But there IS a line. That’s what job titles and descriptions are for.

      3. Anonymous

        This is the part where someone says if you don’t like it find a new job and that is how we aren’t required to do it.

        1. Mike C.

          And this is the part where I tell you that this is a complete cop out that is used to excuse all bad behavior from management. It’s not a choice when the alternative is to lose the means to pay for things like food and shelter, lose access to health care and become ineligible for unemployment insurance.

          Also, if you’re on an H-1B visa, your choice now becomes “do what I say or get deported”.

      4. Mike C.

        BINGO. Calling someone “entitled” for not wanting to do work that is clearly outside of the job description is out of line. Especially if it’s personal rather than business.

        If the boss needs someone to do maintenance, then hire someone with those skills and equipment.

      5. glennis

        The worker isn’t wrong for not wanting to do it, but the worker is going to suffer consequences if he/she simply refuses to do a task unilaterally.

        The scenario where the worker says “Nope. Not my job,” and then all is the same as before is unrealistic, in this context.

        it’s smart to have an objective discussion as Alison advises, and on the other end of the spectrum, there’s nothing wrong with quitting the job if you decide this is a deal-breaker, but the worker can’t expect to just refuse without something changing in the work relationship.

        And let me just say that this is a great example of the benefits of union representation – in a represented position, the worker would be able to grieve if she was assigned out-of-jurisdiction work, or the bargaining unit deprived of that work would be able to file a grievance to be able to perform it. So anyone who feels that a worker should just stand firm and refuse to do things they don’t think are their jobs should consider finding work in a unionized situation – or consider organizing their own workplace. That and civil service are pretty much the only situations where a worker can effectively say “That’s not my job and I’m not doing it.”

        1. Vicki

          Unfortunately, most “professional” (exempt) salaried jobs are not unionized.

          I’ve begun to think programmers should unionize but I don’t think it will ever happen.

        2. Anonymous

          Except it doesn’t work so well when the boss says to you “you know what, you did a bang up job on the vacuuming. I’m going to put an extra $100 bucks on your check for that.”

          1. esra

            Somehow I doubt the bosses who ask for these kinds of things are the ones who really appreciate it and show it monetarily.

            1. Joey

              But its true that there is a trade off. And that’s usually that regardless of how well you perform in a union environment the high performers take home the same paycheck as the folks doing the minimum to get by. There are positives to unions, but there are also major negatives.

      6. Anonymous

        The line is where you decide if the tasks given with that job are things you are willing to do. If they are not, hopefully you’ve saved up a little and are in a good financial position to get out there and find a new job.

        The line is where you make it. If it’s over the line, it’s up to you to make a change, not your boss.

        1. RedStateBlues

          Agreed.

          OP, if you don’t want to do it, talk to your boss and maybe he’s a reasonable person and will find someone else to do it. On the other hand, you don’t get to make this choice in a vacuum. If you don’t want to do it, he may decide he no longer needs your services… I know its crappy, but it certainly a possibility.

      7. Anonymous

        Yeah, I get that from a legal point of view, your job is what the boss says it is unless it’s illegal/noncompliant with regulations, but if the task has nothing to do with what the employee has been hired to do, that’s ridiculous.

        Case in point, I worked in a department where one of the PIs expected his post-docs to come over to his house one weekend and help him renovate the house. (It’s probably not a coincidence that they were in the US on visas and if the PI fired him, they’d have something like five days to find another job or go back home.) Their salaries were paid for by NIH money, so I suspect that if the NIH found out about it, there might have been some trouble, but nobody complained.

    2. Kelly L.

      Do we need to get into the age wars here? And in this case, it really isn’t their job. Some unscrupulous employers are doing this at the moment–hiring someone and then taking advantage of them by dumping jobs on them that have nothing to do with the position, as a way to save money by not hiring a second person.

      1. Joex

        And that I praise. I know how it is. Working 3-4 full time different positions for one hourly rate. Can’t quit because the job market sucks.

    3. Calla

      Sometimes it’s legitimately not your job though. In a previous job as a legal/office clerk, the in-house attorney would ask her secretaries to do things like book her hair appointments or make up a card (create, not buy) for her sister. That’s really not in the job description of a legal clerk or secretary (with the exception of an EA for a partner maybe). We did it because we liked her a lot, but I think that would warrant a “I’m not sure this is really what someone in my position should be doing” conversation.

      And I’ve had to do this a LOT lately, though more subtly. I’m the assistant for 2 VPs. Recently, a few people not even in my department have been treating me like I’m *their* assistant. I’m usually happy to assist anyone with quick things, but asking me to do time-intensive things I only do for my bosses and in this case has very little to do with them… not my job!

      1. Anonymous

        I’m a senior level programmer and I vacuum. Totally not my job by your definition, but if it needs doing and I have time I’ll do it. I think it is important to consider whether OP feels it is not her job because that is not in her job description as written by her boss, or if it is not in her own description of her job as she would like it to be. There is no perfect job.

        1. Calla

          Well A, my comment was in response to the “the ‘it’s not my job attitude’ is so infuriating” general comment, not the OP’s situation specifically, because there are legitimate situations to push back on. And B, as I said, I’m happy to help someone if it’s a quick thing even if it’s “not my job.” You say you vacuum *if you have time.* That’s fair. Shampooing the carpet and painting, on the other hand, is not a quick task. It may or may not fall under the OP’s job, but if it doesn’t, it’s not something that you can do quickly in your (non-existent) spare time just to help out.

          1. Anonymous

            I would love to paint my walls. Actually I have been assigned to help stuff envelopes for an entire day. I don’t understand why I should care, I get paid the same. It’s their choice to pay me six figures to do office chores. That said, if they assigned me to do that every day for the next six months, I would pull my resume together, as that doesn’t get me closer to the goals in my personal 5/10 year plans. But that’s my choice. I guess I have to disagree with you here.

              1. Felicia

                I love stuffing envelopes too! I thought I was the only one:) Though if it wasn’t part of my job description and I got asked to do it like every day I would no longer enjoy my job very much. I think the worst is when you get asked to do something that you were specifically told wouldn’t be part of your job. I mentioned my weakness in graphic design in an interview and was told it was ok, I would not be doing any graphic design in that position. They ended up asking me to do a whole lot of graphic design. My main duties took up more time but being asked to do that at all when I was told I wouldn’t have to I found upsetting. The only time I’ve actually said no was when I was physically incapable, in that it involved lifting heavy things and the doctor said I shouldn’t lift heavy things for the next few weeks.

              2. Jamie

                You stuff them, I’ll open. I love opening the mail. The sorting, the stamping, the way the letter opener makes such a perfect slit in the envelope. It’s soothing.

                I only get to do it like twice a year when I’m the only one here, but I love that task.

          2. Jazzy Red

            If you’re sensitive to the chemicals used in these activities, it can be hell on earth.

            The cheapskate boss should hire people who do that kind of work for a living.

            1. Jessa

              That’s a separate issue though. I could vacuum but not carpet clean because I can’t handle the chemicals (asthma and COPD issues,) in fact I can’t be IN the office when the carpet is being done by someone else. Any boss I had would be aware of this however. It would not in this case however be an issue of me saying “not my job,” but “medically cannot DO this thing, I will do these OTHER things, you need to tackle this one, or get it hired out.”

              And that’s a substantively different conversation. Not saying that in some cases “not my job, or not a job I’m willing to do,” is not a conversation that needs to be had (some bosses are crazy abusive in piling on tasks,) but “cannot do, period, full stop,” is a horse of a different colour.

            2. Twentymilehike

              I noticed a few comments on the chemicals… Can’t you use whatever you want in a carpet cleaner? Even just plain water for a steam clean if you wanted? We have one at home and we’ve used water and whatever soap we like for it. I can’t remember the last soap we used, but you couldn’t even notice a smell or anything, it was so mild.

          3. Elizabeth

            It didn’t sound to me like the OP was being asked to pain entire walls – maybe more like going around with a little can of paint and dabbing it on places where the paint had been damaged or scuffed. Whether that is a short job or a time-consuming one depends on how many rooms/hallways we’re talking about and how bad the paint looks right now – could be a 15-minute task if it’s just a few marks in one hallway, or half a day if it’s a big office complex.

        2. Ornery PR

          In response to Anonymous at 2:03: it seems odd that your company is unwilling to hire and pay someone who cleans for a living to clean, but is willing to pay a senior level programmer to clean? Doesn’t seem like a wise use of their money, even if you have spare time.

          1. Jamie

            That’s my problem with that – it’s a bad use of resources. Why pay someone $45 an hour to vacuum when you can get a cheaper service.

            The exception would be if you’re cleaning up a mess you just made. I scrubbed carpets once, when I realized unbeknownst to me I’d stepped in the fresh parking lot paint and tracked in some bright yellow converse shoe marks from the front door to my office. One of the owners of the company, the COO, and me were all on hands and knees getting it up before it dried.

            That was embarrassing. But routine stuff – it can be an issue if you’re working too far below your pay grade too often…because if that’s the case they can get more bang for their labor buck elsewhere.

          2. Anonymous

            That anon here, the thing is, it is not my call to make. My Director gets to make that decision, and on that day we had thing that had to get out, so she called for “all hands” to stuff envelopes. That was her call, and my call was to either say yes or no. Saying no would have real and lasting consequences for my continued employment that only I can decide if I am willing to pay.

            1. Ornery PR

              I totally understand having a rare day when deadlines must be met by any means available. And I agree with you that you should not push back on something like that just because you make six figures. But it doesn’t sound like the company has someone to regularly vacuum, and by having you do it, they are mishandling their funds. Who does the vacuuming when you don’t have time? I’m all about chipping in, but it makes more financial sense to hire the right people at the right price for the job that needs to be (consistently) done.

              1. OP

                If I don’t do it, it will not get done. When I am away on vacation the office gets zero attention. I honestly don’t mind vacuuming, spraying and cleaning surfaces, etc. I even lint roll the fabric chairs in the waiting area. I take pride in my office. I just really feel he could have approached things better.

      2. Elizabeth West

        Ask your bosses. “Bosses, you’ve given me X amount to do; I’m not sure I’ll be able to accommodate Susan’s timeline with all that on my plate. How would you like me to prioritize?” or something similar. I bet these requests vanish pretty quickly.

      3. A

        I know this is an old thread, but I just had to respond to this. I’m an in-house lawyer, and my boss makes me do things like entertaining his guests and filling out paperwork for his personal things!

    4. AMownLawn

      Fun fact: it’s not a “younger worker” problem, so maybe think twice about your language before you post. Thanks.

    5. Rayner

      I find it way annoying as a younger worker, pointing out that something that is vastly outside my job description is somehow wrong, and I should be expected to be a general dogsbody for any and all.

      ‘It’s not my job’ can be said by any age group, and it’s always infuriating no matter who says it but you should also be thinking about whether it is their job, or if you’re being unreasonable.

  3. Snadia

    Once in college I worked for a company that hired individuals for certain areas and as soon as the manager saw you had a 2 minute break to breathe and think after a grueling task, they would give you some crap work to do to keep you busy.

    Someone said no to a task because it wasn’t what she was hired for. The next team meeting management told us they hired us to help the office and not for one individual position. The company had a lot of turnover and I was there for 3 yrs.

    You can always try to have a meeting to discuss what your priorities are like AAM suggested. Make that list from what you understand before with the amount of time you think it will take. Then rank them with your boss.

    1. voluptuousfire

      +1. I worked at a place like that. It was for a locally notorious doctor’s office in my area and he had his receptionists do things like go out and pick up cigarette butts off the property (with gloves at least!) and go around the waiting room, on hands and knees with a scissor to trim any stray threads from the carpet.

      Among other things, they ended up getting busted I think the state medical board for allowing non-licensed, inexperienced employees to take blood and do x-rays.

  4. Brett

    Since the OP is also cleaning, laundering, and painting the boss’s residence, doesn’t this create the risk of reclassifying the OP as a domestic employee (at least for those hours)?

    Being classified as a domestic employee can trigger a bunch of labor law requirements that a business of two employees might otherwise be exempt from.

    1. Jessa

      You have a point here. Also are there issues if the employee gets hurt working in the boss’s personal space vs the office? Worker’s comp issues? Someone needs to take a look at (I know I hate to say it here because it’s probably not ILLEGAL per se) but the legal ramifications of doing work on the boss’s personal property during business hours.

  5. Mena

    I’m unsure he is actually taking advantage of you. You agreed to light housekeeping; he hasn’t asked you to paint the exterior of the building. Taking advantage would be cleaning the carpets without being paid.

    Are these tasks getting in the way of office management responsibilities? Do you need to say that the cleaning doesn’t leave you enough time to get your other work done? Of, if your other work is done and you have the time, are these occassional requests ok??

    1. Maire

      Cleaning carpets and painting walls as part of an office management job? I’m pretty sure that’s taking advantage. Light housekeeping is polishing, vacuuming, cleaning dishes etc. Heavier housekeeping is mopping floors, cleaning windows. Cleaning carpets and painting walls is DIY.

      1. fposte

        I think it depends. Doing it every few years as part of a big office clean of the space you’re already responsible for housekeeping in? I could see that. We’d do it here if there weren’t union issues. Doing it for the boss’s apartment is another matter, as it would be if the boss had the OP going out to do it for clients, and she absolutely shouldn’t have to be out of pocket for it. I also think it would make sense for her to check to see if her normal rate is *lower* than cleaning professionals, which it might easily be, and to make that part of the conversation if she really is looking to change this situation.

  6. Chuchundra

    I really don’t get the whole, “You can’t tell your boss no” thing. I think many of the issues presented on this blog would be fairly quickly resolved with a polite, but firm no from the subordinate.

    Maybe it’s the job cultures I’ve work in or maybe it’s because I’m a man, but I’ve never had a problem saying no to a superior. I haven’t done it often because I’ve generally had pretty good bosses and I like to think I’m a good employee so I make the effort to go the extra mile whenever possible, but sometimes you have to say no.

    Look, anyone who makes their office manager shampoo his personal carpets is probably not going to be dissuaded by polite noises about hiring a cleaning service or a handyman. If you’re not willing to say no, you’re probably going to be painting the walls and shampooing the carpets and who knows…washing his car maybe…for as long as you have this job.

    In any relationship, you must set boundaries, even if you are subordinate. I’d say especially if you are the subordinate.

    Obviously if you tell him that you’re not going to be his cleaning lady he might fire you or threaten to to fire you. You need to be ready for that.

    1. Kristen

      I agree that you can set reasonable boundaries that don’t qualify you as a naive “that’s not my job” type. There’s a difference between saying a flat “no” to doing your job and your boss taking advantage of your nature to get you to do personal errands (cleaning his residence): I would never refuse a business task from my boss, but I also sure as heck wouldn’t comply if she asked me to clean her house!

      1. Elizabeth West

        Agreed. If my boss wanted me to edit a family member’s term paper and was willing to pay me to do it at work, I’d probably be fine with it if I had time. But if she wanted me to do it outside of work, or do something like cleaning/painting her personal home, we’d have to negotiate a contract and it would probably cost her a lot more. Now my boss is awesome and wouldn’t do that but the way I said no would definitely affect our future relationship.

        I’d probably just say I suck at cleaning and painting and here’s a couple of people who can do it quite well for a reasonable rate.

    2. Eric

      I’ve told a boss “no” exactly once, and that was after she came in and gave me a huge stack of monthly paperwork (that was late) to process, that was due that day. It was late very often because Payroll would wait until the last possible second to complete their part of it, and I was deep into something else that day. I had also talked to her many times about it. It was the classic “bad planning on your part does not equal an emergency on mine” situation.

    3. AdAgencyChick

      As an employee, I very much avoid saying a flat “no,” and I don’t want to hear one from my subordinates either (unless I’ve asked for something truly egregious, which I like to think I don’t do). That to me sounds like “I don’t wanna,” and sometimes you just have to suck it up and do things you don’t wanna.

      I respond much better to my direct reports, and I get much better results from my own supervisors, with a no that has a reason (preferably business-related, but I’m also sympathetic to work-life balance reasons) behind it. “No, I can’t, because I’m working on the XYZ account and we’re on deadline.” “No, I can’t stay late tonight because I have plans, but I can stay late tomorrow instead.” “No, if I clean your carpets I’m afraid I’ll screw it up royally, because I’ve never used a carpet cleaning machine before.”

      For the OP — there are tasks that fall under the category of “no one should have to say yes to this” (such as “babysit my kid”) and others that fall under the category of “this is menial work, but you’re acting really entitled if you refuse to do it.” I think cleaning carpets and doing touch-up paint jobs, especially when you work for a small business where everyone has to wear lots of hats, falls into a gray area between the two. I can see why your boss might ask, but I can see how a reasonable, non-entitled person wouldn’t want to do this.

      So, I think you’ll have better luck if you can back up your “I don’t want to” with a business reason. “If I clean your carpets, I think we’re going to have to rent the machine for two whole days because I’ve never used one before and I’ll need some time to learn . That costs $500. But if we hire a service, it’s only $300, and there’s no risk that I’ll screw it up. Why don’t we just do that?” is far likelier to have good results than “I don’t want to do this, can we just hire a service?” (Or the old standby of “If I do this, I won’t be able to get [insert normal job-related task] done on time.”)

      1. Elizabeth

        Also, the machine you rent don’t do as good a job as the professionals that come in, and usually soap residue gets left in the carpets that can make them stiff and icky. My current lease has a clause that I will *not* clean the carpets myself with a rented machine, but that I’ll hire pros if it needs it. That might be an argument the OP could use around this…

        (The machines I rented at my former apartment didn’t cost anywhere near $500, though. I think it was more like $50.)

        1. Natalie

          Yep, cleaning commercial grade carpet is much better left to commercial cleaners. It’s better for the carpet and they generally do a better job anyway.

  7. SCW

    Working in a public space, with the public, means sometimes we have gross things happen outside the hours our custodian works. When I first got to work at this location all the staff assumed that dealing with them was the manager’s job–that it was above their pay grade. Yeah, not so much. Honestly, after four times cleaning the bathroom when it was reported to me by another staff member, who had been told by someone else, I arranged training for everyone and have started offering to get out the cleaner and offer pointers to the staff member who tried to pass the buck. It would be one thing if they were leaving for the day or busy with something else, but sometimes gross jobs have to be shared by everyone. So now we have a system, where who ever it is reported to gets to clean it up.

    1. Elizabeth West

      I once had to clean a major poo explosion in a restaurant bathroom. It would have sucked to be the go-to person for that. I must heartily applaud your method.

  8. Daisy

    It’s not quite clear from the letter whether ‘two of us who work together’ means that it’s just a two-person business, but I assume so since the boss lives next to the office. I think that dynamic is sort of different from a bigger office. If someone hires one person it’s often to ‘do the things I don’t have time for’ and they come up with the nearest title, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they thought of every single thing that might have to be done. I was in the same situation (‘office manager’ to one guy with his own business), and I often did things that were not strictly accounts/admin. The difference was, I suppose, that he always asked ‘Do you mind doing X’, but I wouldn’t have said no unless it was something awful, which for me wasn’t manual things or even the odd personal errand. I think basically I agree with AAM, needs change and it’s up to you to decide if you still want the job with those things in it.

    1. AP

      True – I think this is what’s happening here, and I’ve worked in similar situations. Everyone’s personal metric of what’s acceptable is different (the gray area that AdAgencyChick mentions above), but in my office, touch-up paint on the walls is considered a fair job for a staff assistant but cleaning the carpets would not be (and we have a regular office cleaner).

      My major Points of Demarcation in a past job (2 person company, I worked in my boss’s home office) were handing out drinks and food at his personal holiday party (it was sold as a company party for clients but I got there and it just wasn’t) and coming in on a Saturday to feed his cat when he took a surprise trip to Miami. I wish I had handled it with the calm conversation Alison outlined above, though!

      1. Elizabeth West

        I would have fed the cat, but the party thing would have ticked me off royally. If it was a client thing, fine. If not, hire a freaking server for the evening.

      2. Jazzy Red

        After you drop a tray or two of drinks, and accidentally let his cat out, he would probably stop asking you to be his maid.

    2. Lindsay J

      +1. I didn’t have an actual title at my one job at a small office (owner, two employees, 1-2 SLP independent contractors). Doing the things she didn’t have time for was pretty much my job description.

      This sometimes included assisting her children with their homework or in setting up home electronics.

      I never minded because I was still getting paid whether I was ripping songs to their iPod or ordering therapy materials, and it was the environment of the job. If I was being asked to do similar tasks at one of my other employers that were major corporations with tens of thousands of employees it would have been a different thing altogether.

  9. Jan Arzooman

    It’s sort of mind-boggling that there have been lots of suggestions about how the employee can nicely explain a job is a bit past what she was hired for and no suggestions that the manager say, “Hey, I know this isn’t part of your job, but we’re in a bind–can you help just this once?” The situation described by the OP does not sound like a bind or a one-time request. Where did this notion start that you can hire a person for one thing and start making them do other things for the same salary?

    I’m assuming Alison means that LEGALLY the boss can ask you to do so, and I’ll agree with that, but it’s certainly unethical and cheap and abusive. It’s also a great way to lose what might have been a loyal employee. Then again, that’s met with a shrug these days by employers.

    1. Kelly L.

      Well, the problem is that it’s the employee who wrote in, so the manager isn’t reading here for advice–hence why the advice is directed at the employee. Your wording is good for someone who finds themselves on the opposite side of this, though.

      1. Jan Arzooman

        Oh, yeah, I know, but I’m thinking there are other managers who read this! … and as usual, I’m bemoaning the state of things in the working world.

    2. Elizabeth West

      I get the feeling the manager isn’t thinking “Oh we need her to do this just this once.” Because he asked her to vacuum his personal carpets, I’m thinking he’s taking advantage and extending the light housekeeping to an area where it’s inappropriate. The insurance issues alone should keep him from doing it, but he either hasn’t thought of that or doesn’t care.

      1. fposte

        It’s the personal space that would bug me on this one. If I’m the support person in a two-person office, I figure all kinds of stuff would come my way periodically, so the carpet-cleaning thing doesn’t bug me (and even the paint stuff not so much, though you really aren’t going to be happy with matching paint for a touchup). But I would really hate to do it in somebody’s house unless that was what I’d signed on for.

        1. Jamie

          That’s where the line would be for me, too.

          For me walking around with a little pot of touch up paint or even the carpets…if my job included light housekeeping I don’t think I’d balk at either of those (but you’d get better results with a professional.)

          It’s the cleaning of someone’s personal residence that would skeeve me out. People’s work germs just don’t seem as gross to me as I assume their home germs would be. And I know that’s nonsensical – but there it is.

          1. KellyK

            Yep, I’d draw the line in the same place. Less because of germs and more because “Keep the work environment in good condition” makes sense as an office manager’s task, especially in such a small office. “Keep the boss’s personal residence in good condition,” is unrelated housekeeping.

  10. dustycrown

    The problem with “Does it make sense for me to find someone who can do laundry for you, or do you need the person in my role doing it?” is that you may find that you’re still responsible for the laundry–you’re just delegating it to someone else, and all that entails. You’ll have to find someone to do the job, train them to do it, supervise them and pick up the slack when it doesn’t get done. It would be faster to just fold the laundry. (I don’t think the OP should have to fold the laundry, and I don’t think he or she should just give in and do it, either. But suggesting the OP find someone else to handle it may not get her entirely out of the loop.)

    1. Ruffingit

      Presumably, the person who was found to do it would be doing that as a job and would already know how to do it. In other words, a fluff and fold service or perhaps a maid service that includes laundry in the service contract.

      Having worked in the cleaning industry in the past, very rarely do you need to teach someone how to do the tasks. You find someone whose business it is to do those things so therefore they already know.

  11. OP

    I love hearing everyone’s input on this, thank you! A few clarifications: we paid for the carpet cleaner with company funds and yes, it’s just my boss and I. Originally my boss had asked casually if I’d ever used a Rug Doctor. I told him I never have but had heard of one. He asked me to gather some information for him as he wanted to clean the carpets one weekend-as in HE clean the carpets. I found him the nearest business that rents them and even scored him a coupon. A few weeks passed and he walks into my office and asks when I planned on renting the cleaner to clean the carpets. I explained to him that I thought I was gathering the info for him and that I was nervous about using it and whether or not the machine would fit in my vehicle. His reply was a nonchalant, you can handle it. The day I rented it he stayed away from the office, except to check on me an hour before I was due to leave. He then told me that he knows I must be tired but that I should do the hallway landings and the basement carpets. I said I may not finish today but could return that evening (after picking up my kids) or Saturday. Once I said that he decided he would help (my first thought was so he didn’t have to pay extra or OT). Just another example is he has me shovel in the winter while he is upstairs getting ready for work. Even our later days when we start at 9:30 I will come to work and the entrance has not been cleared. Once a patient took the shovel, shook his head and grumbled that he (my boss) should be doing that. My boss was aware and did nothing to go out and stop the patient from shoveling!! I was shocked.

    1. tangoecho5

      Sounds like a boss who doesn’t want to do cleaning or manual labor and wants anyone else to do it. If it bothers you, then by all means say something. But I expect he will then say it’s part of the job he needs you to do so you have a choice. Do it or find another job.

    2. Ruffingit

      From the use of the word patient I’m thinking you’re working in some kind of medical field. How bizarre that he wouldn’t care that one of his patients was shoveling the walk. Liability issues are rampant there for one thing, but for another it’s just a general bad impression on the patients to allow that to go on. It sounds like this guy doesn’t want to do his chores and is shoveling them off on you, pardon the pun.

  12. Jamie

    I have a question – “laundering the linens” – does that mean his personal linens from the start? Because if you’re already washing his sheets it’s not a huge leap, for me, to ask about cleaning the personal carpets. I’m wondering how much work/home housekeeping blur there was to begin with.

  13. Kpower

    I am in the same situation. I was hired as a receptionist at a small OT practice. I was told there would be “light housekeeping”. I am the only office employee so I am doing all the scheduling, billing, administrative tasks, etc. My boss gave me a “cleaning schedule” where I am expected to vacuum the whole building, clean toilets, wash windows, wash the walls. Mop equipment mats, mop floors, clean equipment, etc etc etc.

  14. housekeeper

    I Am a housekeeper at an upscale hotel which in the suites they have bunk beds, i asked my employer if i could avoide the bunk suites for now due to having to lofe the mattress out of the bunk over my head and placing it back since i am pregnant and otger duties of my job a strenuous on my body as it is, and she told me thats my job so ill have to deal with it… is that even legal!?! It is UNSAFE to my baby, and myself at the moment!

  15. annonymous

    Good day,
    Please i need help on this my job issue.
    i work as an office assistant for a lady and the office is the same house she and her family (as in her Dad, her Mum, her elder and junior Sisters) lives. During the employment process she told me that aside from my office duties i will be assisting her in some other areas which she never broke down to me. I accepted the job without asking what those off duty assistants are. After working for a month, she asked me politely to help her to bath her dog and clean her Car which she usually use the English “wipe my car”. That very first time i did it without having any negative feelings about it because i see it like she already said i will be helping her off duty and beside she ask politely.
    But now she has practically turn it into my main duty to the extend that she always want me to clean the car like very day. The worst part is that when ever her friends or and old time friends come to the office she will giving me some unnecessary work like asking me to clean the stains on her living room walls, dusting the house, clean her shoe, wash her sneakers just to prove to them that i work for her.
    Am feeling very bad about these and the office duties i do for her is even beyond normal office assistant job. The office work i do for her is more like a P.A job and she’s paying my country minimum wage salary.

    Please let me know if am the one who’s having a missed feelings here because am confused. because am already thinking about leaving the job but i want to know if there’s another way out.

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