update: people think I’m my boss’s assistant — but I’m not

Remember the letter-writer last month who was dealing with everyone thinking she was her boss’s assistant because her desk was right in front of his office? To complicate matters, she was the only woman in a large IT department. Here’s the update.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful advice, and for the advice of your wonderful commenters. I have an update for you, which is sort of a mixed bag.

The bad news is, I wasn’t able to move to a different desk. I had a whole list of reasons why the move made sense, and a couple of possible solutions for where I could go, but my boss just wouldn’t budge. I talked over the whole situation with him, to explain where I was coming from and what the problem was, but he really didn’t seem to understand why I was so bothered by it. So, that sucked.

I did mention that I thought sexism might also be in play, and his reaction was basically “I don’t think it’s sexism, but I’m not a woman so maybe I’m wrong.” He just didn’t think it was terrible enough to justify moving people around to accommodate me.

The good news is, I proposed a few different things I could say to people who asked me to do assistant-type work for them, and he agreed to all of them. He’s a pretty blunt guy in general, so he would’ve been fine with me calling everyone sexist a-holes, but I chose to go a softer route :)

I spoke to a few of the worst offenders proactively, and explained what I was dealing with and how they could help. For the most part, they were mortified that they’d ever assumed I was an assistant rather than a technician, and were extremely apologetic. A couple people (who I knew would be difficult) pushed back and told me that they know I’m not an assistant and just don’t care – they come to me because it’s more convenient than going straight to my boss, and I just needed to deal with it.

So, at the very least, I’ve cleared up a lot of the incorrect assumptions about my job title and what I do for the company. I’ve dealt with some one-offs, but I’ve confidently made it clear to them that I’m not an assistant and that they’d need to go to my boss directly, and for the most part that’s worked really well. I just needed to be less of a pushover and not worry as much about possibly offending someone. Hopefully, with a little more time and patience these interruptions will disappear entirely!

{ 193 comments… read them below }

  1. Amber T*

    “hey come to me because it’s more convenient than going straight to my boss, and I just needed to deal with it.”

    So they just need to deal with a swift kick in the butt. Might be a slight overreaction, but I’d be soooo less likely to help them with anything. At all. Ever.

    Sorry you didn’t get moved, but it sounds like you have your boss’s support (mostly). Since you’ve already brought up your concerns with him, I think you’re all in the clear should those dumbo coworkers decide they want to complain.

    1. Analyst*

      Oh yes, be downright frosty when the difficult ones come back to you. Give them no help.

      Are any of the difficult ones the upper management? If so, it’s probably time for you to job search as these people would have the power to block your advancement in the company. Unless you’re 110% sure those who now understand would be your advocate but that’s quite a gamble.

      1. OP*

        The worst one is the COO, so unfortunately there’s not a whole lot I can do without risking problems down the line. The others are just peons like me. It’s hard for me to be unhelpful, because I naturally want to be super nice and helpful to everyone. Learning to say ‘no’ to people is a struggle, but I’m getting there!

        1. TootsNYC*

          remember this:

          You aren’t helping him by doing things that aren’t yours to do. It’s actually slower to have you intervene in these things.

          What will help him most is for him to get in the habit of reach your boss directly. So just say, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you.” “I’m sorry, I really don’t know.”

          It’s a bit like the concept of “enabling an addict.”
          Don’t enable him anymore.

          It’s not actually helping him to let him develop bad habits.

          1. lowercase holly*

            i wouldn’t even apologize if blunt is what you’ve been given leave to be. i’d just say: “i can’t help you with that.”

            you can say it nicely. or neutrally. whatever.

          2. BeckDuer*

            First time commenter, and I realize this is a fairly old thread, but your advice to say “I’m sorry, I can’t help” or “I’m sorry, I don’t know” really struck me.

            She’s already dealing with sexist a**holes. APOLOGIZING for not knowing will completely undermine her goal of being recognized as a technician, not an admin. It’s like saying, “Well, I should know, but I don’t know. Clearly, I’m not doing/not capable of doing my job.”

            Perhaps, instead, her response should be, “I can’t help you, you’ll need to ask him directly” or “I don’t know, you would need to ask him that yourself.”

        2. College Career Counselor*

          You could still consider the scripts from last month–even with the COO. “You’ll have to contact Boss directly; I’m unable to assist you with that matter.” I get that this may be difficult to do, given the power differential, but your boss has explicitly said to be blunt. And if it becomes more of a pain in the ass for this guy to ask you, then it’s possible he’ll pivot to a more productive behavior. Or at least be nicer about asking.

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          But you can still be politely unable to help him.

          “I’m sorry, I don’t keep Fergus’s schedule.”
          “No, I’m sorry, I don’t know where he is right now.”
          “He didn’t answer his phone? No, he’s not with me either. Let me transfer you back and you can leave him a voicemail.”

          1. TootsNYC*

            “He didn’t answer his phone? You’ll have to call him back and leave him a message; sorry.” >click<

            Don't transfer him back to voicemail; that's assistant work. Make him dial it all over again.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              I’m not an assistant and I happily transfer calls if it turns out I can’t help the person on the other end, but yeah, I can see that she might not even want to go that far. (And also, it can be a quick way to get rid of someone who’s going to argue the point, without actually going to far as to hang up on them.)

              1. Windchime*

                I will happily transfer calls if a patient call gets accidentally routed to me, but that’s different from an internal person insisting on treating me like an assistant. In that case, I would cheerly offer to transfer and then just be really, really bad at transferring.

              2. annonymouse*

                But the fact OP is handling the call or re forwarding it to his phone makes her look……. Like his assistant.
                Meaning her arguments of “I’m not his assistant” are being directly undermined by following your advice.

                It’s different if someone calls you by mistake – wrong department, wrong non-boss person – then yes, be as helpful as possible.

                Otherwise “I am actually a technician, not an administrator. I’m afraid I can’t help with that.” Should get the message through.

        4. KR*

          My other job is in customer service, so it’s hard sometimes for me to realize that while it’s my job to make people’s computers work well for them I can say “no” with no repercussions when it’s a truly ridiculous request, something that isn’t safe for our network, or it’s something they don’t really need to do their job and is more of a nice-to-have.

        5. Jen S 2.0*

          You want to be super nice and helpful, but remember that those are different concepts. You can be super nice without dropping everything you are doing to help somebody who it’s not your job to help.

          It is not rude to say no. It is just rude to say no rudely.

      2. annonymouse*

        Remind people of your actual role.
        “Sorry, I can’t help with that. I am a technician.”

        “But you sit in front of his office,”

        “Sorry, I don’t do admin. I am a technician.”

        “Can’t you just take this package/forward this call/schedule an appointment?”

        “Sorry. This is something you need to get boss to deal with directly. I am a technician.”

        Should get the message across.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      told me that they know I’m not an assistant and just don’t care – they come to me because it’s more convenient than going straight to my boss, and I just needed to deal with it

      I’d go back to boss and tell them about this conversation. I’d name names. I’d then tell the boss that I’m not going to comply with their requests. I’d use the script ‘I’m not the bosses assistant so I won’t be doing that”. I’d then turn my back on them.

      That way the boss knows about it before these jerks complain to the boss. He’ll have your back.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Definitely loop in the boss, along with names. Even if they’re outside your department–then he knows when they come complaining to him, and he can say, “I know she told you that this is not her function. Now I’m telling you–that’s not how I want her to spend her time. You request a meeting with me X way.”

        1. JMegan*

          This. And I’d also consider going to the boss every time it happens. It’s possible that he genuinely doesn’t see how much of a problem it is for you, so there’s something to be gained by making it more visible.

          So every time somebody comes to you with a request, you knock on the boss’ door and say “there’s a package here for you/ Wakeen wants to schedule a meeting with you/ Fergus is looking for a copy of the TPS report from last week.” Every time. Bonus points if you can make the annoying person wait with you while you interrupt the boss, but that’s not the point of the exercise. This is about demonstrating the extent of the problem to *him,* not about retraining your colleagues.

          I have successfully used this technique in the past. The key is to be polite, but persistent. It sounds like he already has your back when it comes to saying no to people, so this may be the last push he needs to move your desk or do whatever it takes to solve the problem.

          1. KR*

            I recall the OP noting in original post that oftentimes the boss isn’t at his desk when these people ask. :/ I love that idea though.

          2. TootsNYC*

            Or better yet, take them with you to interrupt the boss.

            “Boss, here’s Wakeen here with a package for you. I stopped working on the XYZ project to bring him in to you.”

            “Boss, Joe called me while you were out to try to arrange a meeting; I stopped working on the ZYZ Project to write you an email to let you know.”

      2. neverjaunty*

        Yes. Make it MORE convenient for them to go to your boss, by making it clear that they are going to have a hard road with nothing to show for it if they keep up with this “I bother you because I’m lazy and entitled” horsecrap.

      3. auntie_cipation*

        Or use the script they used on you: “I’m sorry, I won’t be doing that because it’s not convenient for me.”

    3. Artemesia*

      “I won’t be able to do that, you’ll need to take to Mortimer”
      Rinse and repeat endlessly NEVER EVER EVER yield — this is an intermittent reinforcement situation. Do a favor for one of the dickheads who ‘pushed back’ and they will never stop. Consistently refuse to do anything and maybe they will give up. If they put anything on your desk for the boss, put it back in their box — never pass it on to them.

      Sorry your boss is so dim. WHO on earth can be a boss in an IT related setting and NOT be aware of the crushing sexism that is the norm in this field. I suspect he actually likes having a ‘girl’ at hand although he won’t tell you so and secretly assumes you are his assistant or will be. He can simply not be unaware of why you are in this situation and his unwillingness to fix it the easy way does not speak well for him. I hope some other company makes you an offer you can’t refuse a month before a giant project is due.

      I would be looking for ways to work elsewhere if possible sporadically e.g. take your stuff and head for a conference room because ‘I have a project and need to focus’ – you aren’t moving but you are absenting yourself when you can — and if there are time when the jerks most likely lean on you to assist, and you aren’t there, it might help.

      1. Koko*

        I think it’s not so much that he isn’t aware of sexism – he surely is. He just can’t imagine that it could be happening on HIS team, because he doesn’t see or perceive it. (Kinda like how Congress’s approval rating is in the low 30s but most legislators keep getting re-elected – everyone hates Congress, but MY legislator is one of the good guys.)

        And I don’t think it’s at all uncommon for men to have trouble seeing sexism because it just doesn’t impact them personally the same way. Empathy is a muscle that needs to be developed, and it takes a considerable amount of empathy to be able to not just understand the facts of what is happening to another person, but to understand how that makes them *feel*, especially when they come from a different background or have a different upbringing than you that makes the same objective facts feel subjectively different to them than they do to you. And not to stereotype–some of my best friends are geeks! ;)–but IT workers don’t typically go into the field because they’re known for being warm and empathetic.

        The most classic example is a man saying, “I wish women would catcall me!” because a man being catcalled by a woman does not feel the way a woman being catcalled by a man does. But it can also manifest in not seeing “what the big deal is” about tiny things. Because they aren’t coming from a lifetime of this tiny thing happening over and over again, of seeing their peers be held back by this tiny thing happening over and over again. “That celebrity is so rude, why couldn’t he just sign an autograph/take a picture with me? It would have taken less than 30 seconds.” Well, they would all take 30 seconds and maybe he gets mobbed every time he’s out, no matter how stressed or upset or busy or just trying to chill out he is, he’s constantly having to interrupt what he’s doing and take a photo with someone. In the same way, a man who hasn’t had to fight a career lifetime of being mistaken for an administrative assistant might not see why it’s such a big deal, because he’s imagining what it would be like if it just happened this one time, in this one office.

        1. TootsNYC*

          well, or he thinks it’s more “ingrained habit” and not “overt sexism.”

          He also may not think it’s all that big a deal–“Just tell people you can’t help them, and they go away; why is this so hard?”

          At least he says, “I might not be seeing it through the same lens.”

          1. A Bug!*

            Yeah, he probably can’t wrap his head around the idea that anyone would persist in doing it after being corrected, because of course the only reason it might be happening is through honest mistake. And since OP was complying with the requests she was unintentionally reinforcing the mistake. For most people, as OP learned, that was the case.

            Now that OP has evidence that there are people who persist, a supportive-but-oblivious boss should be prepared to intervene in some fashion. If he’s deliberately and willfully oblivious, though, he’s more likely to just throw out other reasons to avoid doing anything.

      2. Eliza Jane*

        As a woman in tech, my immediate response reading the boss’s comment was, “Wow! That’s awesome. He’s willing to acknowledge that he doesn’t have the right perspective on this.”

        And then I realized how incredibly warped the field is that such a tepid response felt positively progressive to me.

    4. Noah*

      Assuming it’s an email, I’d probably respond, “you sent this to the wrong person, as you know” a few times, then start ignoring the emails (and mentioning to my boss that this was happening and probably naming names). If they’re calling, I think you just say “wrong person.” Give them a chance to say something the first few times, then just start hanging up after saying “wrong person.” They can deal with their own consequences.

  2. AMG*

    Good for you for pushing back! You can also have the satisfaction of telling the rude ones that you cannot help them. They actually did you a favor by unwittingly handing over the answer. As long as you are helpful they will keep it up. No help=aggravation stops and your boss will back you. It’s a win!

    1. StellsBells*

      Yep! All you have to do is make coming to you SLIGHTLY more inconvenient for them than if they went directly to your boss :)

      1. TootsNYC*

        I wouldn’t make it slightly more inconvenient.
        I would make it completely impossible.
        You ask me about boss’s schedule? My answer is, “I’m not his assistant. I have no idea.” I wouldn’t even look at them while I’m answering; I’m busy on my own job.

        1. alter_ego*

          I’d be so tempted to just lie.
          “oh yeah, boss is free at [time he’s on vacation]”
          “oh yeah, of course I’ll file those expense reports”
          “I’ll make copies and leave them on your desk”

          Then if anyone calls you on it, just stare blankly and say of course you didn’t agree to those things. Why would you? You’re not an assistant.

          I understand that this is a TERRIBLE idea. But oooooh the temptation would be there.

          1. Kelly White*

            This. This was my first thought too- just agree to everything, and do nothing.

            I know you can’t, but it sure would be satisfying!

          2. SusanIvanova*

            Yeah, it’s like the classic stories of people who were getting phone calls for hotels, often because the hotel itself was handing out the wrong number – when telling the hotel about the mistake didn’t work, they started going “oh, y0u want a room on this date? No problem!” And as soon as the customers started complaining to the hotel, suddenly the bad info got corrected.

  3. hbc*

    Wow, you’d think the repeat offenders would at least claim to have bad memories or something. If they’ve outright told you that you’re more convenient, I think you have the right to be deliberately inconvenient. As in, say you’ll help if they fetch you a coffee, roll some dice and tell them that’s the time your boss will be back, put on headphones and ignore them, whatever. Or, more realistically, just repeat endlessly, “Manager says not to spend my time on these questions, you’ll have to take it up with him.” Never, ever change the wording to make clear that this is a fixed answer.

    1. StellsBells*

      Or my favorite – “I’m working on XYZ right now and have a strict deadline. I can try to shoot you an email later when I have time to look, but it would probably be faster to go directly to my boss”

      1. KS*

        No way. She won’t have time to look, it’s not her problem. I’d straight up say “I cannot help you.” And done. Ignore to death. Ain’t no one got time for stupid.

      2. StellsBells*

        I forgot to include that in these instances, I never actually take the time to look. If person follows up, then you just keep repeating “I haven’t had a chance given project XYZ but you can always reach out to Boss directly.”

        This is a more passive subtle approach, sure, so it depends on the person you’re dealing with. But the OP has a hard time not being helpful, so this might be a good first step until she’s more comfortable with being more blunt about it.

      3. ADragon*

        “I can try to shoot you an email later if I become his assistant, however that would be a huge demotion from my actual job of Teapot Technician, and my career is currently going quite well.”

  4. Rocket Scientist*

    >>A couple people (who I knew would be difficult) pushed back and told me that they know I’m not an assistant and just don’t care – they come to me because it’s more convenient than going straight to my boss, and I just needed to deal with it.

    “Actually, no, Fergus, I don’t just need to deal with this. This will be the last time we have this conversation, by the way.”


  5. Snarkus Aurelius*

    “A couple people (who I knew would be difficult) pushed back and told me that they know I’m not an assistant and just don’t care – they come to me because it’s more convenient than going straight to my boss, and I just needed to deal with it.”

    Then you should, as professionally as possible, correct that assumption and, most importantly, do NOT make it “more convenient” for them.  Their convenience is not your problem.  If they don’t like it, they can talk to your boss who, hopefully, will clear it up for them.

    I don’t suggest revisiting the issue, though, because they know better hence the crappy response.  Don’t do whatever it is they’re asking of you because you’re not your boss’s assistant.  Or if they assume you’re going to do it, clarify with them that their assumptions are incorrect.

  6. Stranger than fiction*

    “Oh yeah? Deal with this: No!”
    Is what I wish I’d be brave enough to say to the ones that said they didn’t care.

  7. LBK*

    It’s a bit annoying that your boss didn’t see the potentially sexist element of this, but good on him for at least conceding that he might not have a good perspective on the situation. I think from here on out you just remain wildly unhelpful to the people who continue to come to you, as others suggested in the comments on the original post. “I don’t know, you’ll have to ask him” should be your new favorite phrase, and once you’ve said that you emotionally excuse yourself from caring about solving their problem.

    1. LBK*

      Oh, and much like “no” is a complete sentence, “Where is your boss?”/”I don’t know” is a complete conversation. You just go back to your own work after that. I think sometimes people have a tendency to leaving an opening after that since normally the asker would end the exchange by saying “Okay, will do” and leaving, but for these kinds of people who won’t end the conversation on their own, you have to do it for them without giving them a chance to follow up to your response.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I think OP will have to get creative with these people.

        “Can you give Joe a message?”
        -“Actually, I probably won’t see him so you better leave him a note.”

        “Can you schedule a meeting/look something up/show me xyz?”
        -“I don’t have access to that. Excuse me.”

        1. KS*

          I’d say “no” is still a complete sentence for those. They were rude and admitted to being thick-headed.

        2. adonday veeah*

          Even better:

          “Can you give Joe a message?”
          -“You should ask his assistant.”

          “But he doesn’t have an assistant.”

        3. Kyrielle*

          I wouldn’t, and they’re not productive, but I’m channelling all sorts of snarky answers that at least are fun to -think- about here.

          “Can you give Joe a message?”
          “Sure, I’ll let him know people are still assuming I’m his assistant. Any other message you want to deliver, you’ll have to send yourself.”

          “Can you schedule a meeting with Joe?”
          “I could, but I don’t have anything I need to discuss with him right now. Oh, you meant for you? No, you need to schedule your own meetings.”

          “When will Joe be back?”
          “Sometime later than now.”

          “Can you look up teapot lid analyses?”
          “I can, but I don’t need to, since I’m working on fine-tuning the spout database right now and the teapot lid analyses have nothing to do with that.”

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            “Can you schedule a meeting with Joe?”
            “I could, but I don’t have anything I need to discuss with him right now. Oh, you meant for you? No, you need to schedule your own meetings.”


          2. lunch meat*

            Keep a large and obvious stopwatch clock on your desk. Press start whenever one of the repeat offenders starts to bother you. “What are you doing?” “Oh, Tyrion wanted to know how much of my time these interruptions are wasting, so he can discuss them with your supervisor.”

            1. lunch meat*

              “Oh, that’s below my pay grade,” said in that smilingly self-deprecating tone in which people usually say the opposite.”

          3. motherofdragons*

            My own snarky inner voice that never sees the light of day is channeling Mark Wahlberg in The Departed for these requests.

            “Can you give Joe a message?”
            “Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe go f*ck yaself.”

        4. TootsNYC*

          My edit:

          “Can you give Joe a message?”
          -“No, I can’t. I’m not his assistant. Excuse me, I’m in the middle of my own work.”

          “Can you schedule a meeting/look something up/show me zyx?”
          -“I don’t have access to that; I’m not his assistant. Excuse me.”

          1. Chameleon*

            Mine would be even shorter:
            My edit:

            “Can you give Joe a message?”

            “Can you schedule a meeting/look something up/show me zyx?”

            They’ve already been rude by telling you they don’t respect your work or your time. You don’t need to show them even the slightest politeness.

            1. March*


              Especially since OP’s boss has told her to be blunt, I’m sure that if OP keeps him in the loop the boss will field any complaints about her “being rude”.

      2. DuckDuckMøøse*

        In theory, “I don’t know” is a complete conversation. Until you run up against the hard head that wants to argue the point, or just blather to hear themselves talk. I’ve had people stare at me, look around my area, see no one else, and loudly say “You mean no one knows {whatever they want}” ; “I can’t believe no one knows this!!” Ugh, go away already! I’m not playing a game with you. If I knew who you could ask, I would tell you, not make you pull it out of me. Asked and answered, now move along.

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      As I have sadly learned, admitting a problem exists means you might have to do something about it. As long as he denies it, he never has to do anything.

      Easy peasy!

      1. Roscoe*

        I think that’s a little unfair. He gave his opinion that he didn’t think the problem was what she attributed to. He didn’t deny the problem, just what the cause was. Much like if there is a guy who is generally a jerk, and a woman says its sexist, someone who knows him can definitely say “I don’t think he’s sexist, just a jerk”. That doesn’t make that person WRONG just because you think its so. The fact that he acknowledged that he could be incorrect is something. But I know from experience with family and friends that just because someone feels something is motivated by one opinion, doesn’t make it so. If you asked me little brother, every bad thing that happens is because he’s black, but he brings a lot of it on himself. (Not that its the SAME, but its similar)

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I think it’s a situation that IS sexist, but more like a type of gendered conditioning imprinted on people.

          People have to use the information they have to make decisions. In this situation, all other managers/execs had admin assistants, so when faced with a younger female and a man in front of the boss’s desk, people assumed she was the admin because, what, 90% of the time, the female in the IT department is the admin. I think the boss is missing the mark. It’s not sexist in the “we don’t allow women to do job XYZ” or “have Jane get clean up because we men will probably do it wrong” way, but it’s still sexist. It’s the type of sexism I fight the most, as a female project manager in mechanical engineering, and I’d love people to all become more aware of their assumptions.

          1. TootsNYC*

            “I think it’s a situation that IS sexist, but more like a type of gendered conditioning imprinted on people.”

            I agree.

            With all your points.

            But the fact that there is a logical, factual history behind that unspoken assumption is probably part of why the boss doesn’t think of it as “sexist.”

            It’s not that these people say, “Oh, I think all women should just be assistants.” It’s that they’s unthinkingly relying on a outdated (but factual) paradigm.

            Still sexist; perhaps harder to counteract.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            This is all true. They actually do have pretty good reasons for assuming the LW is the assistant. And yet I wonder if the LW would be the victim of these assumptions if she were actually a male, or if the transgressors would look around in confusion and say “Doesn’t Fergus have an assistant?”

            1. TootsNYC*

              I think the 2nd. Or, perhaps a little bit of asking stuff like, “do you know where the boss is,” but not nearly as much.

              So yes, gendered expectations definitely factor into this.
              Then there’s the debate about when those become sexism.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Looks like that question got answered. There’s a guy in the same proximity, and he doesn’t get treated as the admin.

          3. OP*

            Wow, this comment really hit home with me. This explains exactly how I felt, in a way I couldn’t put into words. I may use your words later, if you don’t mind.

            Working in IT has shown me how much subtle sexism still exists in workplaces, and how harmful it can be. At least with overt sexism, other people are more likely to recognize it and think the person is a jerk. With subtle sexism, it’s harder to recognize and give a name to what’s going on, which makes the victims feel like it might be all in their heads (like I did).

                1. Thunder*

                  Have you ever considered just up and moving your stuff to another desk, even without permission as a way of making a statement? Let the new guy stew with the boss.

        2. KS*

          Nah, if he actually admitted there was a problem, he’d do something very simple about it instead of continuing to let it be her problem.

          1. TootsNYC*

            He did something relatively simple–simpler, in his mind, than moving people all around.

            He told her to tell people, and he promised to back her up on it. And he worked with her on what to say.

            1. Roscoe*

              Agreed. I think that its a pretty good compromise. Moving a bunch of people around is a good way to piss off an office. He’s trying to not do that, but does want to back her up

            2. LBK*

              Yeah, it’s not like he sat back and said “this isn’t a problem, period, and therefore I refuse to do anything about it.” And frankly given some of the responses to the OP pushing back on people, I’m not even sure that moving her would have fixed the problem so easily – sounds like some of these coworkers are determined to treat her like an admin no matter what, so putting her somewhere else probably wouldn’t have matter.

        3. Artemesia*

          He is in IT. There have been a couple thousand articles written about this problem. There are panels on it at every conference. EVERYONE in management KNOWS it is an issue. He cannot not see that the reason the only woman who works for him is in this situation is because he has put her right outside his door and she is the only woman. The only real question is WHY has he seated the only woman who works for him right outside his office?

          1. CEMgr*

            Yes, and refuses to move her despite overwhelming evidence of an issue that would be completely solved by moving her. Raises the presumption that he doesn’t want to solve that issue as much as he wants to keep her in that exact spot right in front of his office.

          2. TootsNYC*

            Those panels are probably more about hostility and outright sexual harassment.

            This is gender-based assumptions.

          3. LBK*

            The only real question is WHY has he seated the only woman who works for him right outside his office?

            Well at least in my office, the new person just gets whatever desk is open…I don’t think we have anywhere near enough info to assert that he specifically put her there because he wants her to act as a pseudo-admin, and if anything we have evidence to the contrary since he’s said he doesn’t expect her to do that work and is willing to back her up if people try to make her do it.

            1. Windchime*

              But we do know that a person who is newer than her is moving into the recently-vacated desk on Monday, while the OP is still stuck sitting outside the boss’s office. So it does seem to have something to do with her being a woman (unless the new developer is also a woman).

              1. LBK*

                Like my department, though, it sounds like that’s just random luck of the draw depending on the order that people leave/get hired. New person goes into open desk, rather than juggling around the department every time someone new gets hired. I understand that in this situation in particular, it’s odd that he wouldn’t just let her move to the new desk if it was available, but I really think it’s reading way too much into the situation to think that he specifically wants her to stay in that desk because she’s a woman, either consciously or subconsciously. Someone has to sit at the desk next to the boss’s office and it seems weird to make sure it’s always a man just so sexist a-holes don’t assume that person is an admin (and to me almost borders on benevolent sexism, like the letter we had recently about the company that forced women to have an escort walk them to their cars).

                FWIW, moving desks can be a big pain in the ass depending on how much your company loves bureaucracy; it’s not always just a case of walking over to the other desk, plugging in your laptop and ta-daa! you’re moved. It took my coworker over a week to get officially moved to her new cube approximately 30 feet away from her old cube.

        4. Wonder Woman*

          It’s sexism, conscious or not. I used to be in a cubicle nearer the door to my area. I wasn’t in the first cube, in fact you had to pass several cubes to get to mine. Those cubes were occupied by men – men in junior roles, even, while I am in a senior role.

          And yet, nearly every day, some visitor on the floor would walk past those men to ask me where so-and-so’s office was, when they would be back, can I leave them a message?

          Deliberately seeking out the closest woman to help you when you’re too lazy to read the name plates on the offices or to use your own email? Sexist.

    3. TowerofJoy*

      Yep. No reason to do anything but say you don’t know. They will just have to deal with that.

    4. KS*

      I would be like “I wouldn’t know” in the most condescending manner possible. Because why on earth would I?

  8. Apollo Warbucks*

    It’s good it worked out reasonably well for you, although I’m still picking my jaw up from the attitude of the people who think you’re more convenient than your boss is a reason you should be his admin.

  9. KS*

    “I’m not an assistant and just don’t care – they come to me because it’s more convenient than going straight to my boss, and I just needed to deal with it.” Ooh, that would bring out the bitch in me from then on, because they asked for it. “No, it’s not convenient, because I cannot help you.” And ignore them so hard they start to question their own existence if they come back.

    1. Solidus Pilcrow*

      I’d be so tempted to create a request form for every admin-type task they ask of me, then promptly throw it away.

      Jerks: Schedule a meeting with your boss.
      OP: You have to complete this Extraneous Work Request form, since I’m not his admin. [hands jerk a pre-printed form]
      Jerks: 8=*grumble grumble* [completes the form]
      OP: Thank you. I’ll file this appropriately. [drops form in trash right in front of them]

  10. CMT*

    What is wrong with your boss that he won’t let you move? It sounds like he’s glad you’re acting like his assistant. It probably makes his life easier, too.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      She said other people would have to be moved around. If I didn’t think there was a problem, I’d be reluctant to move people who weren’t even involved in the not-problem. (Which doesn’t mean he’s right. It just means he’s wrong for a different reason.)

      1. TootsNYC*

        He thinks there’s a problem. He doesn’t think it’s the same root cause as she does, but he thinks there’s a problem.

        And he DID spend energy on fixing it; he spent time talking w/ her about how to deal with it, and he promised to back her up.

        He just didn’t pick that particular solution.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          That’s one interpretation. The other interpretation, and the one I’m going with, is that anyone who says they don’t understand why something bothers you doesn’t really consider it a problem. They may listen to you complain about it. They may give you permission to attempt to try to fix it in a way that doesn’t impact them at all. But that doesn’t mean they consider it a problem.

          1. Observer*

            He didn’t say he doesn’t understand why it’s a problem. He said he doesn’t think it’s sexism. Not the same thing at all.

    2. TootsNYC*

      Well, it probably doesn’t make his life that much easier, bcs the OP can’t actually do those tasks.

      But the OP said this:
      “He just didn’t think it was terrible enough to justify moving people around to accommodate me.”

      Moving people around is disruptive. He thinks, “Just tell them, however rudely you want, that you’re not my admin. That ought to be enough to fix this. And, *I* am not making you act like an admin, so it’s really just a little annoyance now and then.”

      I have to say, I kind of get where he’s coming from.

      And what happened? The OP went directly to people and said, “This is a problem,” and some of them are mending their ways.
      Others, of course, have declared that they won’t–but that’s, OK; they’ve declared themselves. And the OP will have her boss’s backing to deal with it directly.

      1. OP*

        Yeah, basically our IT department is 90% developers, with two infrastructure people (me and one other guy who sits right next to me). Switching with the other infrastructure guy will still leave me right in front of the boss’s office. Switching with somebody else would mean that a lone developer is separated from the rest of his team, while I’m separated from my team.

        I definitely understand why he didn’t let me move, even if it is frustrating.

        1. The Butcher of Luverne*

          Switching with the other infrastructure guy will still leave me right in front of the boss’s office.

          So the other infrastructure guy is, in fact, a guy, and essentially sits next to you * in front of Boss’s office * as well — but no one asks him to schedule/pass on messages/do things? Then I call sexism.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Absolutely. And when people (other than the COO) who’ve been informed otherwise still try to treat you as the assistant, I might say “I don’t need Fergus’s mail. You can ask Bob over there if *he* wants it, though. Oh, you don’t see why Bob wants it? Then why do you think *I* want it?”

            1. Persephone Mulberry*

              I kind of like this.

              “I have no idea. Have you checked with Bob?”
              “Er, why would Bob know?”
              “Good question. If Bob wouldn’t know, why would I know?”

          2. OP*

            Yep, he is right next to me, and he doesn’t get asked to do this stuff at all (I’ve asked him about it).

            1. Persephone Mulberry*

              You should recruit Neighbor Bob to switch desks with you – for a week, a day, an hour, at random, whatever works with your workload – and enjoy the chaos as people veer toward your desk/cube and stop short in confusion.

            2. Sparrow*

              Your boss knows that and is still skeptical that it’s sexism? I don’t know how that can be interpreted as anything else.

              1. Observer*

                Very easily, in fact. All he needs to do is tell himself that the reason they keep going to her is that she is “too nice” while the other guy isn’t. Considering that the boss has told her to be as rude as she likes and she prefers to not be so rude (as well as struggling not to be too helpful), and that’s also apparently the way he operates, it’s easy to see why that would seem eminently reasonable to him.

            3. Trillian*

              Then you could try, “Ask Bob.” And when you get variations of “It’s not his job” you can point out that it’s not yours, either. Or, “And why do you think it’s mine?”

            4. Artemesia*

              How about every time the COO or someone comes to you with an assistant’s task you say ‘Why don’t you ask Fred, he’s right here’ And prepare Fred to say ‘why are you asking me, I’m not his assistant.’

        2. Wanna-Alp*

          Can’t you just turn your desk around on the spot so that people coming by see only your back? You could do some creative thinking with the guy who sits right next to you and figure out the best “no I’m not here to help you” furniture arrangement.

        3. Michelle*

          I’m starting to think your boss might be right, at least about the solution. It sounds like moving your seat would be a huge deal, and really, there’s nothing inherently wrong with sitting outside the boss’ office. There is something inherently wrong with people assuming you are the admin just because you’re a woman. And that’s definitely what’s happening. (It’s worth noting another commenter who had totally different seating, and people still walked past other employees to ask the woman when the boss will be back. So moving your desk might not even fix anything.)

          Bluntly and forthrightly telling people that you are not an admin and shouldn’t be treated as one is addressing the problem head on, rather than just moving your desk and hoping they take the hint.

  11. VintageLydia*

    “A couple people (who I knew would be difficult) pushed back and told me that they know I’m not an assistant and just don’t care – they come to me because it’s more convenient than going straight to my boss, and I just needed to deal with it.”

    Wasn’t the icing on the cake of this problem was that you don’t have access to the information they were requesting or had the ability to schedule meetings with him and stuff even if you wanted to? How is coming to you any easier than going directly to him? They’re just creating extra steps for themselves coming to you.

    1. OP*

      From what I’ve heard, the main issue is that my boss is kind of an a-hole. So people would rather go through me on the off-chance that I can help them, than go straight to my boss and have to deal with his attitude.

      1. neverjaunty*

        “I’m sorry, but my boss has told me that I’m supposed to be as rude to you as is necessary to get you to stop treating me as an admin.” I mean, that’s true, right?

      2. TootsNYC*

        I had a colleague like that. Since he was a colleague, I finally sat him down and told him that his temper tantrums were scaring people off from bringing him the info that he needed.

  12. CM*

    Good for you, OP! It’s easy to tell people they should be confident and stand up for themselves and not worry so much about offending people, but so much harder to actually do it. I’m disappointed by your boss’s reaction that “it doesn’t seem like sexism but I’m a man so what do I know,” but whatever. At least you made him aware of the problem and he’s supporting you in refusing these requests.

    1. hayling*

      Well, I’d rather the boss acknowledge his lack of perspective than completely shut her down. Baby steps with some people.

  13. M from NY*

    You train people how to treat you. Since your boss has your back just don’t respond to the repeat offendor that doesn’t care. Seriously. You don’t have to yell and cuss just stare blankly as if the words that came out of their mouth was Klingon. Then return to your work. If they repeat request, point to bosses office. Be warned, the quieter you are, the louder the other person will be. Challenge yourself to say nothing. The satisfaction of them losing it will be worth the effort.

    1. AFT123*

      “You train people how to treat you.” I swear this is my mantra. I try to ingrain this into my husband’s psyche as well but he just doesn’t get it.

    2. LQ*

      I understand why you are saying this but “You were beat as a child because you trained people to beat you as a child.”

  14. Court*

    My husband jokes that people like this go on “his special list” … he’s in IT, really good at his job, and regularly goes above and beyond to make everyone’s life easier. But, once you’re on “the list” — no more special favors for you, just the basic, required service.

      1. OP*

        I absolutely have a list. I actually have two lists – people who are always really nice to me and deserve extra favors, and people who are always really rude to me and should be given the lowest possible priority.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          I’m not even in IT and I have the same lists (in my head). Nice coworkers get helped right away, rude ones when I feel like it (or at least as long as I can go without getting in trouble)

          1. Cecily*

            Not in IT and saaaaaaame! Nice inshoppers get whatever help they want when I’m not on delivery, not so nice ones I can pretend my manager needs me to do something else.

            1. 2 Cents*

              Ditto! Someone who asks nicely, thanks me and understands any rush on my part is something special = good list. Someone who treats me poorly = gets the minimum and definitely no extra help on anything.

        2. LBK*

          I actually had a post-it on my phone at one point with the number of a woman that was always miserable and rude to me so I could recognize it when it came up on caller ID and ignore her.

        3. JessaB*

          Make sure though that the “good folks” list does NOT ever get the kind of favours you are pushing back against vis you running interference with boss, because then nobody will ever stop treating you like the admin. If you do ONE for anyone, you’re going to continue to be mired in this.

          I agree with everyone above me, “no, I am not his admin,” is a full sentence. Rinse and repeat. “Just because you don’t want to talk to boss does not mean I am going to do it for you, I don’t care if you keep coming to me because you don’t care about what I said, I’m still not ever doing it.”

    1. Noah*

      Not in IT, but also have a list of people I will go out of my way to help and those who can be prioritized lower or shuffled off onto someone else. I learned early in my career that having ways to go around the system can be a good thing and building those relationships is important.

  15. Observer*

    I’m going to assume that your way of “dealing with it” is to not help them when they come to you. And, that when they push back and tell you that you “have to deal with it” aka “have to help them out even though it’s not your job” you tell them “No, I don’t” or something similarly short and to the point, then refuse to argue further.

    I also hope that you told your boss about this. Not so that he should change your desk or even talk to the offenders. But it’s important the he is aware of the attitudes being expressed and what you are actually dealing with.

  16. TootsNYC*

    “I spoke to a few of the worst offenders proactively, and explained what I was dealing with and how they could help.”

    This is so brilliantly direct. I’m glad it was effective with some of them. I think the language/vocabulary of architecture is very strong, and usually subtle, and so reasonable people will be glad of the head’s up.

  17. MillersSpring*

    “Oh, as I told you before, I don’t do that anymore so you’ll have to ask Boss. Nice to see you, have a good day.” [stand up and walk toward restroom, coffee pot, printer, wherever] Repeat ad nauseum.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I like the English sorry.

      “Can you schedule a meeting with Joe?”
      “Sorry, no.”
      “Where’s Joe?”
      “Haven’t a clue, sorry.”
      “Can you look up–”
      “Sorry.” (while not even glancing up from whatever you’re doing)

      It sounds totally polite, but in this context, it’s really not. >:)

      1. Cordelia Longfellow*

        Yes! Canadians can also have entire conversations made up of “sorry” in its endless connotations, from genuine apology to Southern-style “bless your heart” acidity. It’s wonderfully versatile. :-)

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          There was an awesome thing on Very British Problems twitter (@SoVeryBritish)

          Ferocious argument
          Brit 1: Sorry, what did you say?
          Brit 2: Sorry?
          1: Sorry, I thought you said something?
          2: No, I don’t think so
          1: Sorry

      2. JessaB*

        I wouldn’t actually. Women have been conditioned in the US to apologise when they shouldn’t and to use “sorry” to soften things. This issue needs not to be softened. If you apologise they’re going to think that you did something wrong, so again they’re going to keep after the OP with asking her to do things. Sorry unless you actually really made a genuine mistake or hurt someone should NOT be in the vocabulary of someone trying to make people STOP doing something.

  18. LawBee*

    “they come to me because it’s more convenient than going straight to my boss, and I just needed to deal with it.”

    Time to make it less convenient. “Is Boss in?” “I have no idea.” “Schedule a meeting with Boss for me.” “I literally cannot do that, I don’t have his schedule.” Send things back that were sent to you. Reply to emails re: admin work for your boss saying “I can’t help you with this, you need to talk to Boss.” and don’t CC boss on it. (otherwise you’ve passed the message along.)

    It’s annoying to do, and it’s passive-aggressive at best, but a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do.

    1. JMegan*

      I don’t see that as passive-aggressive at all – in fact, I see that as being just about as direct as the OP can be. “You’ll have to ask him” is exactly what she wants the others to do. Sending things back etc is just part of the retraining program for the people who have gotten used to her performing this kind of work.

  19. JMegan*

    Good for you for speaking up, OP – it sounds like you got a mostly positive result out of it! As for the few people who said they don’t care that you’re not his assistant, this sounds like a problem that solves itself. You already have the boss’ permission to say no to them, so do that.

    Pick a script, and repeat it verbatim every time one of these jerks coworkers asks you to do something that his assistant would normally do. “I don’t know, you’d have to ask him.” Repeat, repeat, repeat – eventually they’ll learn that you really *aren’t* his assistant, and that it really *isn’t* more convenient to go to you. And don’t worry about offending them. First of all, because they’re the ones being rude, not you. And second, because what are they going to do, complain to your boss?

    Them: I asked Persephone to schedule a meeting for me, and she wouldn’t, waaahhhh!
    Boss: Actually, Persephone isn’t my assistant, so you’ll have to come directly to me for things like that.

    You’re most of the way there, so hopefully with a bit of persistence (and the cooperation of your boss), you’ll be able to get these last few people out of your hair as well. Good luck!

    1. TootsNYC*

      “Pick a script, and repeat it verbatim”

      I can’t emphasize this enough. Use the cut-and-paste.

  20. WhichSister*

    This may not be as gender related as it is location. (although I am not flat out dismissing the gender aspect of it.) I was brought into a leadership position at a facility and the only available desk when I started was at the front of the office next to the copy machine and coffee pot . All related issues to those vital pieces of equipment came to my desk. Also all deliveries, packages, etc. Although I was not the only woman in the office, I was the one most convenient to this area. I spoke to my boss and and he quickly had things moved. To him, it was not value added to have me dealing with those things when he was paying me to do different work.

    1. Artemesia*

      There is another guy in a similar role seated right next to her in front of boss’s office; they don’t go to him.

  21. Amy*

    I would email your boss now an update with a list of all of the people who told you that they’re going to continue to do that, and CC those people.
    “Dear Boss,
    Today I took your advice and told everyone that I was not your assistant. The following people informed me that they intend to continue treating me like your assistant because it would be more convenient for them if I were your assistant. Please let me know if there’s anything else you’d like me to do to handle this situation.”

    If people still continue to do this, create a form email that you can send to your boss, CCing the offender, every time it happens.
    “Dear Boss,
    Today Alphonso came to my desk and asked me to perform a task as your assistant. I informed him that I am not your assistant. Please let me know if there’s anything else you’d like me to do to handle this situation.”

    Do it every single time. Do not specify what the task is or be helpful in any way. Just inform your boss of who is still treating you like an assistant, and how often. Eventually, either these people will give up, or your boss will be forced to deal with it. Either way, you’ll have excellent documentation of the problem if it ever comes to a head.

    1. Noah*

      I don’t think this is such a great idea. At a certain point you are just irritating your boss. You seem to have the backing of your boss, so just keep repeating that you cannot help them and let it go.

  22. Caitlin*

    I’d be reeeeeally tempted to respond, “oh, that sounds like a question for boss’s assistant” and then say “he sits just through there” while pointing to boss’s door when they ask who/where assistant is.

  23. Rusty Shackelford*

    Are you in cubicle? And if so, would it be possible to rearrange your walls so that your opening doesn’t face the boss’s office?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      And if you’re at an open desk, would it be possible to get a tall divider to separate you from the open area in front of his office? Not as an “I’m tired of people treating me like your assistant” move, but as an “I get interrupted several times during the day and it affects my work” move.

      1. OP*

        I’m in a sort of half-cubicle, so my walls are very low and they’re attached to the desk, so they can’t be arranged. The way my desk is situated, there’s no way to separate me from the open area in front of his office without completely walling me in…which would give me some much-needed privacy, but would also make me extremely claustrophobic!

        1. Analyst*

          Try walling in with plants? Some nice foliage and you can pretend you’re out in a forest.

          1. Windchime*

            I was going to suggest plants, too. The other thing I do to discourage interruptions is to be really, really slow to respond.

            Person: Hey, Windchime, where is the feeble blaster?
            Me: [continuing to stare at screen for several seconds] Huh? [don’t turn around yet]
            Person: I’m wondering where the feeble blaster is?
            Me:[Finally turning around] Sorry, I don’t know. [Turn back to work]

            The key is not to be rude, but to be so obviously focusing on your work that it takes you a while to turn around and switch focus, and then you give a totally unsatisfactory response. Pretty soon it won’t be worth their while to come to you. (I want to emphasize that I only do this when it’s a problem that is something that’s totally out of my wheelhouse or is someone else’s responsibility; when it’s something I can help with and is part of my responsibility I try to be as helpful and kind as possible.)

            1. Analyst*

              I employed this recently on one of my more frequent interrupters and I have no idea why I didn’t do it earlier.

  24. KR*

    I’m having kind of the opposite trouble as a 22 yr old female. I work in a two person IT team. My boss (older male) is the coordinator and I’m his assistant, though my official title is IT technician. He has years of experience in the field and I have very little educational experience, but have been learning on the job for six years. I’m taking over admin duties in this department because it’s what interests me and because when I do these duties he can focus on advanced level tasks, but I can’t help but feel like I’m perpetuating the gendered stereotype of the women assistant even though it’s what interests me.

    1. BSharp*

      There’s nothing wrong with being an assistant! The world would not function without admins. If you are the admin, that’s awesome, especially since it interests you. You are not doing womankind a disservice by focusing on the area of your career that you enjoy more.

      It would be a problem if you were getting shoved towards the admin work when you really preferred the technical work, or if the team had an assistant and people asked you to make them copies anyway just because you’re female.

    2. Kyrielle*

      It’s not your job to prevent people from ever seeing women as admins. Women who are admins can be seen as such, and should be able to do what they want. Just like the whole “women have a right to work outside the home” doesn’t mean stay-at-home mothers are betraying other women.

      Women should be free to live their lives and make their choices, and that includes working in roles that they find rewarding and fulfilling *even if* those roles are “traditionally” female. They shouldn’t be forced into roles that they don’t want just because they’re female – but there’s nothing wrong in choosing them because they want to.

  25. SMGWiseman*

    Seriously, kudos to you for dealing with this situation. It sucks, and it’s awesome that you are handling it well. Nicely done.

  26. TootsNYC*

    Maybe your script needs to be less this:
    “I don’t know, you’d have to ask him.”

    Which is still sort of helpful, in a way; you’re at least answering for yourself first.

    And instead say this:

    “Have you asked him?”

    So the first and only thing you say is the “pushing you away” thing.

    IT help desks do this. You call and say, “my comptuer’s not working,” and they say, first of all:
    “Have you restarted it?”
    They ask you that before anything else.
    The underlying message is, “go away and do this before you bother me.”

    So when someone says, “Where’s Fergus,” say, “have you asked him?”
    When they say, “Here’s Fergus’s mail,” say, “Did you give it to him / put it on his desk?”

  27. bopper*

    If you are in IT, then tell them the only way you take requests is to open a ticket. That will stop them. :-)

    1. Elizabeth S.*

      Snork. “Have you tried turning him off and on again?” Bonus if you have it on a tape recorder on your desk and just push the “play” button when they approach you.

      1. embertine*

        OK no this. This is what OP needs to do. Particularly if she does it whilst staring off into the middle distance with a bored expression on her face. This is genius.

  28. Andie*

    I am the director of a very large department and people still think I’m the department admin. In my pre-director days I had a framed print of “I am not the admin” in a sophisticated font and would just point to it when people came to ask me those questions. Wouldn’t say a word, wouldn’t even look up.

  29. Noah*

    I think you’re on the right track. Just keep repeating that you are not his assistant. Eventually people will realize that you will not help them and move on.

    I have a copier next to my desk. I do know how to change the toner or clear a jam. However, if I started helping people with that my entire day would be gone and I guarantee my boss would not be happy if I didn’t get my work done because I was fixing the copier. I just tell people to follow the instructions on the copier screen, put in headphones, and go back to work.

    The only person I would be careful with is the COO. I would be as polite as possible and say why you cannot do what he wants.

  30. Ms T*

    OP, at this point I would be bringing out the headphones. Big, bright, blindingly pink headphones. And I would wear them at all times, even if you aren’t listening to music.

    When one of the offenders comes up to you, wait. Continue working as though you don’t see him. Make him fight to get your attention. When he’s waving his hands in front of your eyes (or something like that), make a point of looking up as though you only just saw him, asking him to hold on a minute, and finish the sentence you’re currently typing/reading. Only then turn to face him and take the headphones off.
    “I need to book an appointment with your manager.”
    “I cannot help you with that. I am not an admin. You will have to talk to him directly.”
    Then put the headphones back on and turn back to your work. Immediately. Don’t give him a chance to say anything further. Your conversation here is done. If he wants to speak to your further, he now needs to go through the whole song and dance of getting your headphones off again.

    1. Analyst*

      Or alternatively, after telling them you can’t help, just walk away from your desk. Politely, with an “excuse me,” but then go get some water, bathroom, take a walk, whatever. They won’t know what to do. It’ll be great.

      1. Melissa*

        And if they leave paperwork on your desk, to be “handled”, just drop it off with their managers. And explain the situation to them.

        1. EA*

          Or just put it back on the desk of the person who gave it to you “I think you must’ve left this on my desk by accident”

  31. Narise*

    If they leave items with you after being told you are not an assistant you need to a) let them sit on your desk until they come back to claim it possibly days latter or b) put a basket in the break room for lost and found and drop it in there. Of course you can just throw it away. When they ask about it say ‘why would have given me something that has nothing to do with me? Make sure your boss is nearby. Then tell them they need to keep better track of their paperwork.

    If anyone complains go to HR and outline the timeline. They treated you this way because your a woman, you consulted your boss and told them to stop. They continue to treat you this way and are now trying to blame you because you are a woman who wouldn’t do their work for them. (Remember to keep a low g date and time of who says/does what.)

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