my male colleagues expect me to do the department’s admin work

A reader writes:

I’m most junior person in my team. But I’m not an administrator. I am the youngest person and a woman in a male-dominated team. My team is very top-heavy with mainly middle managers, and we share our floor with another team who also use the printer but never restock it.

I work for a huge corporation on a massive office site. It isn’t my job and not in my objectives but I’m asked to order stationery and go over to the main admin hub to get paper and more ink toner. Nobody else seems able to do this and if the printer runs out of toner or paper or the confidential waste bags get full and need to be collected by the porters, it just gets left. If I have a day off, nobody seems capable of ringing the IT help desk or facilities help desk. (My boss never asks me to do these things, just other people in the team. My boss acknowledges that it’s not my job to do but nobody else wants to do it.)

Am I being unreasonable to go on holiday for two weeks leaving one ream of paper, all the printers blinking because they are short of toner and the confidential waste bags needing to be collected? Mainly to see if anybody else actually sorts it?

For some more context:

I have been offered a new job internally (promotion) and will move within four weeks. It will take at least three months to have a replacement me due to the type of company and security clearance. So they will have to work out how to sort out the printer, etc. when I leave.

A friend works in another team in the office with no admin cell. If something needs doing, one of them does it, even the team leader who is senior management. It never falls to one person. So it isn’t company ethos.

More history: when a meeting room had a massive leak and none of the men were capable of ringing the facilities management help desk (clearly signposted on the intranet) when I came back two days later, the roof had almost caved in.

One of the guys told me that the men’s loos were blocked one day. I just gave them the number of the facilities help desk to ring themselves.

What is the best thing to do in this situation?

You should go on your vacation without giving this stuff another thought because it’s not part of your job. They appear to think that your uterus is actually a name tag reading “admin support,” but it’s not. So you get to leave without prepping the toner or printer just like everyone else on your team does. It’s not your problem, just like making sure the elevators are running on those days isn’t your problem.

You should also stop doing these things the rest of the time too. If someone asks you to, your answer is one of the following:
* “I’m on deadline. Someone else will need to.”
* “I’ve done it more than my share, so someone else will need to handle it.”
* “I’m confused — why are you asking me rather than doing it yourself?”

I strongly prefer that last option, because it forces the person to think through and answer to why they’re coming to you. It might be a bit less effective now that you’ve already done these tasks a bunch, because doing that may have reenforced for them the idea that you’re in charge of that stuff, but you still get to ask it.

To be clear, if your boss hadn’t explicitly told you that this stuff isn’t part of your job, I’d suggest verifying that with him before starting to flatly refuse, because it would be possible that as the most junior person on your team, it’s actually appropriate for you to be the one handling these tasks. But your boss has affirmed that it’s not, so it’s safe for you to simply decline.

The fact that your coworkers have sexist expectations of you does not obligate you to fulfill those sexist expectations. (In fact, I might argue that it obligates you not to.)

To be thorough, it’s possible that this is about age/seniority rather than gender, but given that this exact type of sexism is so very well established in so many workplaces, and given that so many women encounter this kind of expectation while far fewer men do, it seems pretty likely that if it walks like a sexist duck and talks like a sexist duck, it’s probably a sexist duck.

{ 705 comments… read them below }

  1. Mustache Cat*

    Girl. Go on vacation, let the workplace fall in on itself if they can’t be bothered to fix it. It’s what you (and they) deserve.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Amen. These fools need to figure it out, and if I were you, OP, I would stop doing any of the things they ask me to do. I particularly like Alison’s third script (“Why are you asking me rather than doing it yourself?”). Don’t let them weasel out of things by saying you’re better at it. Give them a blank look, say, “Oh, huh,” and walk away.

      But in the meantime, enjoy your vacation and try your best to excise these requests from your brain. If you can get your own mini-printer for your use, even better. And if the roof caves in, it’s on them.

      1. Specialk9*

        Replace the posted sign on where to call (help desk) with a sign that looks similar, but replaces “help desk” with “Uterus”, referring to Uterus as a person.

        For printer jams or toner replacement, contact Uterus. Look up the help desk number on the Intran- – just kidding, go ahead and embrace the helplessness of a drunk bonobo.

        And then, you know, don’t actually do this. :)

    2. Racheal*

      In my experience, simply letting the office “fall apart” while your gone doesn’t shift expectations off of you, it simply makes everyone else fake-act more appreciative of you for a day or two after you get back. Forcing people to try to put into words why they’re asking you to do something they should do for themselves should be much more effective.

      1. Cherith Ponsonby*

        This fits with my experience too – but letting the office fall apart, not picking up the pieces when you get back, and calmly and smilingly deflecting any attempts to make you do it, can be incredibly effective.

    3. Anonymoose*

      And do it while saying ‘muahahahaha!’ and petting a furless cat.

      OP, seriously, lady-face, stuff them. They didn’t even call in a leak when THE CEILING WAS CAVING IN. That said, when you return you really need to start employing a RBF (google it) and responding to their admin tasks with succinct ‘….And…?’. Maybe cock your head too while looking confused. They’ll give up soon enough. Or complain to your boss and then he’ll remind them that they’re lazy and that they can stock their own damn towner and UNCLOG THEIR OWN TOILETS. *shudder*

  2. Red Reader*

    Yeah, no. Go. Enjoy your vacation. Either they’ll figure it out or they won’t — either way, not your circus or monkeys.

  3. TallTeapot*

    So, IMHO, the fact that the manager of this group isn’t addressing this bothers me. The roof caving in!! And at no point did the boss say “hey, someone needs to call this in?” Or, shiver, call it in himself? People need to be reminded when they’re not pulling their weight as a member of the team. And it’s not your job to police that, OP.

    1. CM*

      Yes, absolutely. Of course the OP should ask coworkers to do things themselves, but it seems like there’s some learned helplessness happening here and a big part of the problem is the manager accepting that the OP should take responsibility because it’s easier for everybody else.

      I think it’s great that this problem will soon solve itself. The OP will move away and either the office will literally collapse or they’ll find some other way to get things done. And OP, in your next role, make sure that you’re not in the position of doing the housekeeping work because nobody else feels like it. Since you’re getting a promotion, you may feel more able to tell them to shove it.

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I’m not surprised. I’ve worked for plenty of people who literally don’t see traditionally female work duties.

      I had a boss who regularly volunteered our conference room for all day meetings. He wouldn’t tell anyone because he’d immediately forget his commitment. People would show up and expect lunches ordered, materials printed and collated, projectors set up, etc. After several instances of this, I came to the conclusion my boss just shows up to these meetings and sees all this stuff done so he never questions how it gets done. Someone, somewhere figures it out.

        1. JulieBulie*

          The worst boss I ever had like this was a woman. I’ll admit that she was the exception – but she was really the worst. (When they let our only admin go, boss distributed all of the admin’s duties to the female employees only.)

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yeah, I did have a female boss once who was this bad, but she came from a background involving a lot of servants.

        2. ErinW*

          This might be a boss thing, not a sexism thing, as my very non-sexist female boss does the same. I’ve started asking: “OK, should I order a lunch? Do you need a conference line set up?” and get a lot of “Oh, good idea–why don’t you set that up” answers.

          1. Lars the Real Girl*

            But delegating administrative tasks to otherwise non-admin women IS a form of institutionalized sexism. Whether your boss means to or not, she IS perpetuating the belief that admin work should be done by women. And you’re happily falling into that role – which will, at some point in your career, end up hurting you.

          1. JeanB in NC*

            I have been a long-time practitioner of learned helplessness. I am, however, making a real effort to stop asking other people to do something that I could do myself. It’s hard to change a habit like that but I just have to keep working at it.

          2. Not a Morning Person*

            I’m familiar with learned helplessness from a completely different perspective. It occurs when you fail at something and so decide not to try because you’ve learned that you can’t. Like the story of why big adult elephants can be held in place by a little rope with a small stake in the ground. As babies they had a stronger bind that was staked and that they could not escape, so they learned not to pull. Then as adults, even though they are stronger, they don’t pull because they don’t expect to succeed. That is learned helplessness. I’ve not heard it applied to the stuff that people “forget” how to do because now they have someone else to palm it off onto. But it kind of makes sense.

              1. BetterInGreen*

                I’m afraid to ask, given how sad that elephant revelation is … but what was the saddest?

        1. Karen D*

          And its corollary, the Make-it-So syndrome.

          One of my former bosses was fond of announcing treats: “At Tuesday’s 2 p.m. meeting there will be ice cream.” And then … crickets. No consideration of where theice cream was coming from, nor how it was to get there. What sorts of ice cream, how much, serving options, etc ? Nope. He would provide the corporate credit card if someone knew to ask for it. But other than that, well … he had decreed ice cream, and thus expected ice cream to just appear.

            1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

              Jean-Luc Picard could get away with just declaring that there would be ice cream, though, because the computer would hear him and start materializing ice cream in the replicator.

      1. nnn*

        As a woman who literally doesn’t see all too many emotional labour tasks, I’m kind of boggled that it even occurs to him to volunteer to host the meeting.

        I would never volunteer to host the meeting because I have no idea how (as a result of literally not seeing all the stuff that needs to be done). Meetings should be hosted by someone competent, which I most definitely am not. I mean, if there were no volunteers and I had to do it to do my fair share of the work, I’d go about finding out how. But I certainly wouldn’t volunteer regularly without knowing how!

        So this boss of yours is like the Dunning-Kruger effect of emotional labour!

      2. Katie the Fed*

        Honestly, this stuff happens at home way too much too. There’s a really good article in Esquire this month about emotional labor at home.

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          I was so struck reading the article because it was practically identical to the Metafilter crowdsourced PDF about emotional labor, like including specific examples (the part about having to manage CONVERSATIONS about emotional labor being emotional labor in itself, really jumped out at me)

          It took me a minute to find it because it was actually in Harper’s:

          I’m not sure if that’s because the article used it as background source material or, depressingly, because it’s so unbelievably ubiquitous and common that exactly the same thing happens in a million households.

          1. Anonymous!!!*

            Thank you! My husband is wonderful and a feminist, but he was raised by a very traditional mother and his ex-wife was likewise very traditional, so while he knows this is an area he needs to work on, he just doesn’t really grasp the magnitude of it, or where to start. I have a hard time explaining it, in part because it just really ticks me off that I should have to.

            I have two lovely stepsons and a lovely supportive husband, so we’re really working on getting to the bottom of this at an early stage with them so they start to figure it out before they set out on their own.

            Can’t wait to read this article and share with him.

            1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

              It’s depressing how there are a bunch of male names in the comments under the video saying things like “Hey, we have that coffee table, too!” I know they’re joking, but it feels like they’re also kind of… not joking?

          2. Liz2*

            That irked me though- it’s not like those people suddenly became inept in those ways. They chose them as lifelong partners and now they get all cranky cause they are the same people they always were? That’s as irrational as someone telling them not to care about those areas.

            If you want someone who will do X work well, then be with someone who does it well! Don’t get all cranky later cause you knowingly chose to be with someone who is really bad at X for being bad at X.

            Yes, it’s a problem that generally society expects X and Y, but this is your relationship and you pick the values and priorities within it.

            1. Aardvark*

              So I was with my ex-husband for about 11 years, of which we lived together for 10. When we first moved in together, we were both very young and both TERRIBLE at all emotional labor. Over the years, I got better at it…and got better at managing our combined emotional labor because someone had to do it, people expected me to do it, and so on. And he did not. And finally toward the end (when he fell in love with someone else and expected me to keep managing all this emotional labor for the household while he was out half the time with another woman) it dawned on me that I was so stressed out in the marriage not just because of everyday stuff and my issues (and the fact he had fallen in love with someone else and that was not something we had agreed on) but because I was managing everything in the house and he had abdicated any responsibility toward all of it. Sure, he occasionally did dishes and helped with cooking, but that was pretty much it. So I left him.
              All of this to say…you don’t always see it at the beginning, and sometimes you change and they don’t. And now I won’t date men who don’t at least vacuum their floors and clean their bathrooms regularly.

              1. Specialk9*

                My ex used to clean his entire bachelor apartment every Saturday, including bleach scrubbing his toilet. (I was decidedly less inclined toward cleaning.) The day before we got married was the last time he cleaned ANYTHING. Instead he guilted and berated me into cleaning to his standards. So yeah, you don’t always get the X you were led to believe you are getting. Sometimes they promise X and give X-1,000,000.

                1. Anon with a lazy ex*

                  People don’t deliberately marry household shirkers.

                  My ex was similar to Specialk9’s. Part of my initial interest in him was his commitment to equality around household tasks etc. Fast forward past three kids and a couple of decades and he was doing nothing and expecting me to be responsible for not just the physical labour, but the emotional labour. I realised as our marriage fell apart that he had deliberately manipulated our relationship over the years to ensure that I was taking more and more of the emotional labour, while he was less responsible and had a lot more free time. It started with him not doing as much around the hourse, but saying “just let me know if there is anything else I should do” to expecting me to allocate household tasks or remind him of tasks to then telling me I was nagging if I did “let him know what to do” to verbally abusing me for “selfishly” expecting him to do anything ie “everything” (“everything” in his view was vacuuming about once every six weeks after I begged repeatedly for help). He started out adult and organised and then slowly morphed to a pretended helplessness when he wanted me to find/do things. If I told him to sort stuff out himself when he wanted something done, he would throw a tantrum about me not caring for him, caring more about other people or me “controlling” him by forcing him to do things. He even derided me as naive and stupid for not challenging him about his various excuses sooner, when I did directly challenge him on some of them. He mocked me by saying he knew he was doing all this deliberately, but I deserved it for letting him do it.
                  (These are some of the reasons he is an ex!)

                  It’s like the (fake) story about boiling a frog. The change is gradual and tolerated, until it is suddenly intolerable. It’s also socially supported (women are expected to do emotional and domestic work, while men are expected to be “helpless” or “useless” or emotionally stunted, which is a great disservice to both groups). Good men either don’t do this or don’t realise the extent of the labour, but pick up the slack when it is pointed out. Manipulative people like my ex take advantage of the social norms to get their own way.

            2. Emi.*

              I don’t think it’s that simple, though–you might not know someone is bad at X when you choose him. I kind of suspected my husband would be bad at mental load stuff before we got married, and I was right (although he is learning/we’re working out a balance), but I didn’t realize how much he “didn’t see” mess. There was just no context for it to come up before. I guess we could have done tidying exercises during marriage prep? (I kind of wrote that as a joke but now I think it would be a good idea–way more helpful than those stupid questionnaires.)

            3. nnn*

              I myself didn’t know that I was bad at it, because I didn’t know that emotional labour was even a thing until I read the Metafilter thread last year (and I’m well into my 30s). I didn’t even see that other people are doing it.

              1. AWall*

                The emotional labour stuff is so interesting. I’ve noticed that I clean when I see mess, my partner cleans when he sees me clean. Better than nothing but still very frustrating. It means that if I ever have a week where I feel lazy/sick/whatever, nothing is cleaned unless I ask for it. But if he is lazy/sick/whatever, I end up doing more household chores. After pointing it out, he has got a lot better + he does nearly all the cooking so could be a lot worse.

            4. Ann O.*

              I found the article extremely irritating, too, but I think you’re oversimplifying a bit. The tipping point often comes in with kids. Social science research confirms that when kids come, mothers end up taking on much more than their fair share of the domestic work even in marriages with an egalitarian ideal. I think there are some structural, physical issues that make this not a simplistic men-are-slackers type of thing, but it’s not something that’s easily predictable in part because the way kids increase labor isn’t easily predictable.

              However, I agree with you that there’s a certain ridiculousness to being cranky that husbands don’t magically change as desired. It is emotional labor to re-balance the labor in a household. It’s unfair and it’s sucky. But it also is what it is. And at least taken at face value, a lot of the Harper column complaints could have been resolved by a combination of quick and medium-length discussion. You put the unfair work in the short term so that you have a better situation in the long term. As far as I can tell, the alternatives are stew in passive-aggressive resentment or divorce… maybe there’s another option of outsourcing labor depending on financial circumstances. We don’t have the option of retroactively changing things so that the men we marry are socialized differently in the first place. (but we CAN work to change things for our children!)

            5. Missy*

              My husband was a single father when I met him. I know that he’s capable of running a house, taking care of kids, and holding down a job all by himself. The first year of our marriage, he actually taught me how to do those things (I’m almost a decade younger and had a lot less experience.) Additionally, I have a chronic illness, that used to be really bad and is now much better. The theme of our early marriage was him helping me learn how to manage my illness, and being incredibly, amazingly supportive. As I got better (I went from being functional about 10% of the time to being functional about 90% of the time) I took on more of the physical and emotional work of running our household. Which was great, for a long time I was so happy about being able to do things for myself, that I didn’t notice he stopped doing anything. It got to the point where he did nothing but go to work and play video games, and I couldn’t leave him alone with the kids for an hour or he freaked out.

              Fortunately, my husband is a really great guy. And was willing to make changes and do more around the house. He’ll do pretty much anything I ask him to do. Unfortunately, he’s completely resistant to the idea of seeing tasks for himself or figuring out for himself what needs to be done. He calls that me asking him to read my mind. Instead I have to figure everything out, assign tasks to him, write them on his to-do list for him, remind him to do them, and follow up to find out whether he’s done it or forgotten.

              The biggest problem with that, is that I’m still sick and will be for the rest of my life. We could go for months where everything is great, and I’m taking care of everything, but then I get sick and can’t do anything for a week, and our whole life falls apart because he literally doesn’t do anything unless I tell him to. It makes me feel like I can’t get sick. The honest fact is that he’s great, but I need a partner in life, not an assistant. And no, this is not something I already knew going into it.

        2. Artemesia*

          When my husband sat down 45 years ago and figured out how to run our household, the most important division of labor was ‘responsibility’ i.e. Whoever is cooking has to figure out what to eat, buy the stuff and then make it. The person not on cooking duty only has to show up to eat it and clean up. etc etc

          It is the planning and managing that are exhausting in the home, not the running a mop or a load of laundry. Same at work.

          1. Any Mouse Wife*

            I wish I could figure out a way to convey this to my husband. I’ve been trying for years, and I can’t get it through to him. It drives me crazy, and I’m honestly thinking about a divorce, after 14 years together, because I’m sick to death of wanting to live with a responsible adult partner and instead having a perpetual 30-year-old teenager.

            He managed to schedule two week-long vacations (without me attending, or helping) for himself this year. I asked him to schedule one for the two of us (long weekend to a neighboring town one hour away – not a Big Deal vacation). I made it explicit that I wanted him to work out the details because I was busy with something else for work. He comes back and asks me what hotel to book – I tell him I trust his judgement, any hotel he picks is fine. But he wants to discuss different hotels, and I have to shut it down. Then he comes back and asks how many days (after I’ve already told him my availability) – I reiterate my availability and tell him to pick something in that range. Then he wants to discuss it, to talk out the pros and cons of traveling on various different days, and I remind him point-blank that I asked him to arrange it because I didn’t have the time or bandwidth to deal with these details right now. Then he comes back and wants to talk about an itinerary. And I started googling “divorce laws” after I finished my work.

            1. Close Bracket*

              Google “You should have asked.” He is throwing you into the project manager role, which is just as much labor as the actual execution.

            2. Katie the Fed*

              I don’t want to hijack this thread too much but maybe we can continue it on the weekend open thread next weekend?

            3. Jules the Third*

              My response: “I gave you the parameters, I will be enthusiastic about whatever you pick, now go surprise me.”

              My husband really responds positively to that challenge. Though, fortunately, he is generally pretty good about this stuff.

              1. Any Mouse Wife*

                This is my husband’s response to that exact approach. That’s the core problem, more so than any of the specific details.

                I swear, I did not question or complain in any way about any decision he (eventually…) made, and I enthusiastically participated in the vacation.

                I less-enthusiastically went through the exact same problem, but with laundry, when we got home. And started collecting financial info I’d need in case of a split.

        3. Kindling*

          Just quickly – I believe the article you’re referring to is actually from Harper’s Bazaar. And it actually misuses the phrase ’emotional labour’. It’s more domestic labour/gendered labour, not emotional labour, which typically refers to providing emotional support without reciprocity in relationships with men. Still enjoyed that article in general! Would simply recommend people read it knowing that it’s misusing a phrase.

          1. Triangle Pose*

            The article is not misusing the phrase. That is how emotional labor is used in the US and in many publications here and abroad.

            1. Mpls*

              +1 – emotional labor is used somewhat interchangeably with mental load – the responsibility of figuring out how to do something, or that something needs to be done. Can refer to remembering to send birthday cards to everyone to keep them happy (emotional labor) to the logistics of actually sending out the darn things. Or the emotional labor of how/when to have the conversation (without making someone upset) about them taking on the responsibility of doing that for themselves.

              TL;DR – the phrase has evolved.

              1. TootsNYC*

                I like the idea of keeping them separate–esp. the note below that “emotional labor” was originally coined to mean “part of your actual work [as a low-level employee] is managing your emotions to make other people happy”

              2. Emi.*

                This is insane, though. Household management overhead is “the niche purview of white women booking cleaning services”? For crying out loud. The kind of work the author of the Harper’s Bazaar article describes is exactly what I, a non-white woman, went through trying to get my husband to repair our crappy bargain-warehouse china cabinet.

                1. Kindling*

                  Yes, that’s specifically the part of the thread I didn’t agree with. I’m white so I couldn’t speak to it personally, but I figured it couldn’t only be white women dealing with this issue. I found the initial few tweets interesting but then it veered off for me.

            1. Elizabeth H.*

              This is interesting to me bc I’ve never heard the phrase ‘mental load’ in this context (I can tell what it means in this context and from extrapolating what the words mean, but it doesn’t strike me as a set phrase or as a term I have heard before) but the term ’emotional labor’ has been around for so long and I’ve seen it so many places. Is it a UK/US thing?

              1. Emi.*

                I dunno if it’s a US/UK thing! I’m from the US, and I understand emotional labor to encompass the work of phrasing things “nicely,” dancing around people’s feelings, soothing people, making people feel appreciated, helping people get along, etc etc etc, and then more broadly work that involves a lot of this, like child-care and elder-care, social work, and basically anything that’s considered “rewarding” but not, y’know, financially so. “Mental load” is just the project-management of household (or other) work. Keeping track of birthdays and what kinds of presents people like is both. Does “emotional labor” mean both of those to you? I learned the term “emotional labor” first (from The Toast), but I think I realized mental load was a thing in my personal life first.

                1. Elizabeth H.*

                  Emotional labor means both of those things to me, but that’s partly bc that is how I see it used colloquially – i.e. the famous Metafilter thread on emotional labor, is referred to as such, rather than “the famous Metafilter thread on emotional labor and mental load.”
                  I see the difference between the two concepts, but they seem interrelated to me in almost every case (besides just birthdays, presents, nice things for people etc.)

          2. KG, Ph.D.*

            Except that the article also talks about the emotional labor aspect of it — the fact that her husband constantly expects praise for doing basic chores, the fact that she has to very gingerly approach any conversation about the division of labor, etc.

            1. Kindling*

              Sure! It talks about both. But it doesn’t differentiate, and I think they’re two slightly different things and the distinction is important for talking precisely about these kind of issues.

              1. ZTwo*

                Actually, what you’re talking about still isn’t the original use of the word emotional labor, which was developed by Arlie Hochschild to talk about the work (usually service workers) have to do to convey specific emotions, for example a waiter being told to smile more because otherwise the customers are upset.

                I’m only being pedantic because I agree that the distinction is important, but the original distinction was very much a discussion of the ways in which (usually lower paid) jobs often want to control the workers feelings/actions and not just have them perform the job. That’s why the twitter thread you linked to was talking about how the cleaning lady they’d hire would be a much more salient example of emotional labor, because she’d be expected to act certain ways in front of her employer.

                Associating emotional labor with the emotional work of relationships with men is something that largely came out of the Toast article/Metafiltrer thread, although the original article was using it more in the traditional sense.

                1. Kindling*

                  Thank you, that’s really good to know! As I learn more it is interesting to see the ways terms that were originally intended to critique capitalism have since been co-opted for relationships.

                  I’m not a great resource and if people want to learn more they should certainly do further research, but I just wanted to raise that I’ve seen people more educated than me on this topic raising objections to this use of the phrase emotional labour. I will do my own research later as I find this very interesting.

                2. ZTwo*

                  @Kindling yea it’s totally interesting how the term has gotten attached! And I think both conversations are important to have, but it’s strange to see this phrase that was much more about capitalism be attached to relationships although both deal with unpaid and unacknowledged labor.

            2. Ann O.*

              I think it was unclear whether the husband actually constantly expected praise for doing basic chores or whether he wanted praise/reassurance for doing new-to-him-chores that he didn’t personally find basic. She kind of tossed away that he did dinner/dinner clean up/frequent-sounding solo bedtimes, but it didn’t sound like he expected praise for the dinner/dinner clean up or the majority of the bedtime.

              I’m actually a strong proponent of praising people when they do things that are new to them. I teach, and I’m a big believer in praising what students do well rather than primarily negatively critiquing. It’s all the same logic–a lot of people respond better, and it’s a better atmosphere for everyone. I also want praise for myself when I do something new to me, even if it’s easy for someone else.

              1. Student*

                I have a husband who does the praise-thing after chores. It’s not because he is new to the chore.

                It’s because he wants praise and attention for doing something grown-up. He generally wants my praise and attention for anything and everything; chores are just the latest thing he did that he wants praise and attention for. He will make a point of telling me he’s done the chore and stare at me expectantly, just like a teenager with a new hair-cut or a woman with a new engagement ring. There’s an undertone, sometimes a direct overtone, of “Look what I did!” as if doing a pile of laundry or running a vacuum was praise-worthy. Sometimes, if I don’t indulge his attention need right away, he’ll bring up the same chore later – “By the way, I don’t know if you noticed, but I vacuumed the living room yesterday!” to get his praise fix.

                He will sometimes notice when I have done some chore (usually only while I am doing it, because he went to go talk at me and I told him to leave me alone because I’m in the middle of something) and praise me. He’ll want to hug me, which temporarily disrupts me actually doing the chore. It squicks me out to be praised for doing the laundry, and I have tried for years to get him to stop it. I do stuff worth praise; laundry is not worth praise. Laundry is something nearly any 8-year-old can do.

                I understand he basically just wants attention. However, I find his overall need for attention exhausting, and it’s particularly grating when it manifests like this – begging for attention and praise for very minor things that are required to live in normal society.

      3. Serin*

        Oh man. One of the pastors I used to work for was like this. And if you brought these things up in a staff meeting, you’d get the Passive Voice of Not My Problem: “If you schedule a soup supper, whose job is it to supply the soup?” “Don’t worry about it. These things always get done.”

        1. Matilda Jefferies*

          In that case, I would take that instruction as confirmed. “Don’t worry about it? Okay, done.” Let the chips (or the soup) fall where they may – you have been told it’s not your job, and therefore it’s not your job. Of course the meeting will collapse and people will be embarrassed, but I can guarantee it will only happen once!

          *This of course assumes there will be no direct blowback on you for failing to either read someone’s mind or go against express instructions. If the response is likely to be “You should have KNOWN that you needed to do this!” then another strategy will probably be necessary.

          1. Jenny Next*

            But in this particular context, you can protest that you’re Mary, not Martha, and you have it on the highest authority that it is Not Your Problem.

            1. IrishUp*

              I am SUCH a Martha and would have the hardest time not stepping in! Clearly I need to Buff Up my Inner Mary!

            2. taco*

              What does “I’m Mary, not Martha” refer to? I Googled it but got a movie from 2013 and the biblical people. Is it like a Martha Stewart reference?

              1. Jenny Next*

                It’s a reference to the biblical story in the Gospel according to Luke (10:38-42). Basically, Martha complains to Jesus that Mary is sitting at his feet listening to her rather than helping out with the meal preparations. And Jesus tells her not to worry so much, and that Mary is fine where she is.

                I’ve never quite been able to figure out what the moral of the story is. That no one should worry about anything, and things will just magically happen? That some people are privileged to be learners, and other people have to do the work?

                1. Chinook*

                  I think the take away is that a) women don’t belong only in the kitchen and b) sometimes it is worth having a less fancy meal if it means spending more time with guests.

                  Then again, because the gospels are all written by men, nobody bothered to write down how they were fed. It just ends with Jesus words. Personally, I would have invited Jesus into the kitchen and handed Him and his followers towels and knives so we could talk while we cooked together.

                2. taco*

                  Aha, thanks! It’s been a looong time since Sunday School and didn’t remember that story. I just assumed it was some new slang or something!

                3. Specialk9*

                  Yeah, that story has always bothered me. Mary can only lollygag because Martha is working. If Martha loafed too, their guests wouldn’t have food and their family would be shamed. (But, even as a Jew, I can see how terrifically *uncomfortable* Jesus’ words and actions were all the time – he just loved poking and needling and making people squirm and sweat.)

                4. chi type*

                  I think the moral of the story was SUPPOSED to be to look to the spiritual not the earthly (that was often Jesus’ point) but you gotta love how the judeo-christian patriarchy kinda accidentally encoded their obliviousness in there.

                5. bearing*

                  I take it as a reminder that the contemplative life, or the contemplative parts of life, are also valuable. Service is not the only way to live devotion.

                6. wobbly*

                  chi-type: It really bugs me when people use the term “Judeo-Christian” to refer to things that are exclusively Christian (and/or Muslim). This is not Jewish in any way: it’s a new testament story! Maybe Christian-Islamic is the word you’re looking for? Or just straight-up Christian, I don’t know whether this story made it into Muslim or Baha’i traditions.

                  Tangentially, I’d never heard this story before, and I just had an unpleasant revelation as to why white people used to call their black servants “marthas.” :S

                7. sstabeler*

                  I think it might actually have been a rather clumsy attempt at exactly the point people are trying to make: Martha was assuming that Mary should be helping make the meals- however, Mary had not actually volunteered to make the meals, while Martha at least de facto had by immediately bustling about preparing the meal. Jesus was telling off Martha for assuming it was inherently Mary’s job to prepare the meals alongside her when Mary never actually offered.

                  IOW, had Martha not offered – by going ahead and preparing the meal without asking anyone- then SOMEONE would indeed need to volunteer- possibly even Jesus himself- however, Martha- having volunteered- could not assume Mary was also volunteering.

                8. iiii*

                  Jesus told his male followers much the same, actually – “Leave your nets and follow me.” “Sell your goods, distribute to the poor, and follow me.” Telling Martha to abandon her kitchen is just applying the same standard to women as he did to men.

                  It’s not a very practical message, for those who don’t happen to have Jesus handy to miracle up a feast on demand, but it is egalitarian.

              2. Chinook*

                The Mary and Martha comparison is a biblical one. They were family friends of Jesus (he later rose their be other Lazarus from the dead). Martha was the big sister and ran the household. Jesus stopped by with his group one day and Martha started bustling about in the kitchen to get dinner ready and was ticked off at Mary for not helping because she was in he other room, listening to Jesus.

                As big sisters do, she went to Jesus and asked him to tell Mary to come and help her get dinner ready because Mary had stuff to do. Jesus replied that Mary was doing what she was supposed to do by sitting and listening/learning.

                I can never remember what Martha’s response was, but his dynamic is one most church ladies fight in themselves and in our communities. We know someone has to make the coffee/cook the dinner but we want to participate in the activity as well. The key is finding balance and lots of volunteers.

                It also helps that Jesus clearly states that a woman’s role is not just in the kitchen but learning/talking with Tre men as well.

              3. CM*

                Ohhh, I finally understand why in The Handmaid’s Tale, the maids/kitchen workers were called Marthas.

            1. Jenna*

              Probably something like this, yes.
              (Anyone here who didn’t encounter the Fyre Festival debacle earlier this year might want to at least google it. It was a pretty spectacular fail)

            2. DArcy*

              Well, this is the *best case version* of how Fyre Festival went down. It’s far more likely, given the facts known, that Fyre Festival was an intentional scam all along and there was never any real intent to have a functional festival.

        2. Lil Fidget*

          Hahahahah I almost killed my boss the other day when, speaking of the big elaborate meetings that we throw, he said “don’t worry, everything always works out.” I gave him such a look of fierce disdain that he knew immediately he’d screwed up. It doesn’t WORK OUT,I work it out, and that wouldn’t happen if I didn’t “worry about it.”

          1. Specialk9*

            “Oh great, sounds like you’ve got it covered. Oh, and I’ll be on vacation the two weeks before.”

        3. I come anon*

          I work for a church–and am in training to be a priest–and this drives me up the wall. I hear it from both priests, who want to have the big ideas and let someone else figure out how to make them feasible (though my priests have gotten much better at this over the years), and also from parishioners, who often express desire for a service/activity without any clear idea what it would take to carry this out, or any sense that. A big part of my job as a church admin involves “empowering people to take ownership of the church,” i.e. pointing people toward taking responsibility, and letting projects fail when they don’t.

          I’m not sure whether this is particularly common in churches, or whether it’s ubiquitous to smaller businesses?

          1. Jenny Next*

            I think it’s common to humanity. It’s much more fun to be the generator of ideas.

            In fact, a book I read some time ago, called “Do The Work” talks about how this works within the same individual — the part of you that likes to make the big plans gets a lot of resistance from the part of you that actually has to carry them out.

      4. Turtle Candle*

        Although one thing that I have noticed is that many people who claim to “just not see” female duties notice them in a hurry (and get irate that “someone” didn’t take care of them) when it might hurt them to do so. The guy who “just doesn’t notice” that he left gross dishes in the sink often is suddenly capable of seeing them when an important client might come by. The guy who “just doesn’t notice clutter, LOL, because I’m a dude” is abruptly aware of the clutter when someone they need to impress is stopping by the apartment. Etc.

        That isn’t always the case, but I am wryly amused at how often they apparently get a vision upgrade when it becomes important to them. Sort of like the person who excuses jerkish behavior as not their fault because they’re “just socially awkward”–I only believe it if they are equally jerkish when it might hurt them, like to their boss or the cops. If they suddenly become magically less awkward when it’s convenient to them, it’s not that they’re incapable, it’s that the rest of the time they’re not trying.

        1. Rowan*

          That “I just don’t see it” excuse always bugs me. You’re not a video game character with a pathing problem. You obviously *see* the dishes or clutter or whatever because you’re not trying to walk through boxes or put another plate down where there is already a plate. You just think the fairies will deal with it or something.

          1. Man in a Gorilla Suit*

            Eh, inattentional blindness is a thing, and probably applies here. The visual system, and the brain more generally, is *very* good at sorting relevant from irrelevant and only passing relevant along for higher processing. I find it completely plausible that someone might “see” a full hamper in the sense of not tripping over it, but not “see” it in the sense of observing it as a problem that requires action taken.

            This doesn’t in any way mean it’s ok to throw up your hands and let someone else do all the work. Just that they may be telling the literal truth and need to come up with strategies to work around not noticing things need cleaning unless, as mentioned, they have a specific reason to start noticing. Like a daily checklist.

          2. Cherith Ponsonby*

            I actually am a video game character, but in an old-school text adventure game. Let’s see if I can get the formatting to work:

            You are sitting at your desk, in front of your computer, surrounded by the detritus of everyday life.
            Things that are here:
            your lunch

            What now?> eat lunch

            And then the lunch disappears from my inventory because I’ve eaten it, and the empty lunchbox just blends into the scenery until I suddenly realise there are eight of them on my desk.

        2. Gadfly*

          And that is how it gets dumped on women: by making sure they are judged for it/it is held against them at a far lower level, so it becomes important to them earlier, and they tend to take care of it to protect themselves long before it hits the men are judged stage.

      5. PM Jesper Berg*

        “People would show up and expect lunches ordered, materials printed and collated, projectors set up, etc. After several instances of this, I came to the conclusion my boss just shows up to these meetings and sees all this stuff done so he never questions how it gets done”

        This is a seniority issue, not (necessarily) a sexism issue. The boss has more important things to do than worry about ordering lunches or setting up A/V. It’s completely appropriate to farm those things out to more junior employees, without regard to gender.

        True, it would be convenient if the boss proactively brought up the issue of lunches; but the reality is that is not on the boss’ radar screen, and ultimately it’s not what the boss gets paid to do. A good administrative assistant knows to ask these questions.

        1. Ann O.*

          Except that many departments nowadays don’t have an administrative assistant, which means there is no one else whose job it is to do these things. Also, given the reality of overwork in a lot of environments, it’s also not as simple as the boss has more important things than the junior employees. That really depends on the team and the quality of the manager.

          1. PM Jesper Berg*

            So if there’s no administrative assistant, it gets delegated to the junior employee. And yes, it is that simple. You don’t want a partner who can bill $800/hour spending time ordering lunches. If there’s no administrative assistant, you send it to the paralegal who bills $150/hour. That’s basic economics (and also a good reason to hire an administrative assistant, perhaps, but I digress). And “overwork” has nothing to do with it; it’s the boss’ call, not the paralegal’s.

            1. Ann O.*

              We do not all work in the billable legal industry with a distinction between partners and paralegals. Nothing even indicates the OP does. These things do not generalize.

              What overwork has to do with it is that depending on the team, the junior employees may have important deadlines to meet whereas the boss does not. Getting those deliverables out on time is a higher priority than having the lowest salaried employee do the lunches. That is why in most places I’ve worked, the bosses do indeed order the lunches.

              And yes, it would be good for companies to bring back administrative assistants.

              1. PM Jesper Berg*

                “We do not all work in the billable legal industry with a distinction between partners and paralegals. Nothing even indicates the OP does. These things do not generalize.”

                Yes, they do. The law firm is an analogy. It readily maps onto other industries. In an enterprise software company, the SVP of sales is going to be bringing in more business than the newly-hired college grad. Consequently, her time is more valuable. The SVP shouldn’t be focused on ordering lunches.

                1. HA2*

                  In software, in a few companies I’ve been at, it hasn’t worked like that. The point of the manager/lead is point the employees at the problem they’re supposed to solve and get out of the way all the obstacles to them solving it. Having even a junior software developer spend their time doing administrative stuff like ordering lunches for the team is inefficient; would be the manager/scrum master/somebody higher-up’s job to make sure it gets done, probably by delegating to an admin or if not just doing it. Even when I started out as a fresh grad in a small company, I was never expected to do stuff like order lunches. Been doing more of that kind of stuff as I’ve gotten to more senior positions and have responsibility for a team’s output instead of just my own.

              2. PM Jesper Berg*

                I guess I should add a caveat to what I just wrote: here, as everywhere, context is for kings.

                If you’re the head of a company in the catering or event planning industry, for example — or someone like Alice Waters, Anna Wintour, Gordon Ramsey, or Martha Stewart — then yes, it makes sense to get involved with ordering lunches. The food you serve to potential business partners is part of your brand.

                Those are pretty niche examples, though.

                I also appreciate the individual companies have their own cultural quirks, and perhaps having the boss order lunch has worked at all of Ann O’s workplaces. Perhaps they are trying to foster and extremely egalitarian culture or something like that. Nonetheless, having very senior people ordering lunches is broadly poor advice, and I suspect that even at Ann O’s companies, an inefficient use of resources.

              3. mochazina*

                the key here isn’t that it is or isn’t the senior employee’s specific responsibility to order the lunches, but that if the senior employee is looking to have lunches appear that they at the very least ask a junior employee to arrange for the lunches instead of simply declaring a meeting shall be had and expecting the lunches to magically appear.

        2. LizM*

          Yes, but when boss doesn’t have an admin assistant, boss needs to assign that to someone, and understand that it takes time.

          I’m happy to help (assuming that this kind of work is distributed fairly, which, as these comments indicate it’s often not). But it takes several hours to pull together an all day meeting. I already have more work than I have time for, adding something with a hard deadline is going to have implications on my ability to get everything else done. Meetings like this don’t just happen, they take staff time, and a good manager understands employee workload before agreeing to take on additional tasks. My manager needs to understand she’s pulling me off something else to go make copies, order lunches, run to starbucks to get coffee, etc.

          I really think this is a bigger problem that admin work just gets done, and bosses don’t really think about it, and thus don’t prioritize filling admin positions, but also don’t recognize how much time their (often female) staff is spending making sure that the office continues to run.

    3. SpiderLadyCEO*

      Yes! Even if you were the admin, a massive leak is not something you don’t notice. Admins go on leave! What on earth were they thinking just letting the leak sit? That alone warrants managerial attention.

      1. Koko*

        Yes, it’s actually a Big Deal for the company. In most jurisdictions a landlord has to bear the cost of property repairs, but they can absolutely charge for damage caused by negligence. The initial leak is the landlord’s problem to fix, but if the leak persists for a week because nobody thought it was their problem, the company could be on the hook for all of the resulting damage to the ceiling, carpets, equipment, or anything else that was damaged and would not have been if the leak had been reported in a timely manner.

    4. Lontra Canadensis*

      Once upon a time I discovered a leak in the computer room. I walked into the office of the regional manager, told him what was up, and told him to get me the mop & bucket (lived in the men’s room, his office was nearest to it). He jumped up and hurried off, because a leak right in front of a rack of equipment is bad news! Pretty sure he’d have helped clean it up, too.

        1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

          Thank you for using the correct form of that idiom! Every time I see “baited breath” I imagine someone snacking on chum.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            You’re not the only one! My internal reaction to ‘baited breath’ is always “oh gross, brush your teeth!”

            1. Specialk9*

              Listen, I put the bait there for a reason. If I brush my teeth, how will I catch the breath fairies? Yeesh.

          2. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

            I did not know that “baited breath” was incorrect. Thank you for pointing that out.

          3. SpiderLadyCEO*

            I honest to God thought that’s what it meant. Like, you put the bait out to lure the reply in. I grew up around people who fish, haha.

            1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

              bated: in suspense, held back. “with bated breath” is a short form of “I am holding my breath in anticipation”. :)

              1. Freddled Gruntbuggly*

                Cruel Clever Cat

                Sally, having swallowed cheese,
                Directs down holes the scented breeze,
                Enticing thus with baited breath
                Nice mice to an untimely death.
                –Geoffrey Taylor

                1. AdAgencyChick*

                  This is SO GOOD.

                  (I also love the @StealthMountain Twitter feed, although it’s not active any more)

          4. ThursdaysGeek*

            I often type “I am waiting with a worm on my tongue,” and when they respond to me in confusion, I clarify by saying “with baited breath.” But that is because I expect them to know the phrase is “with bated breath” and I’m making a pun. I’m probably making the problem worse.

            1. Specialk9*

              That’s… Pretty obscure. But you do you! Someday someone will get it and laugh, and you will glory in the radiance of that day for years.

            2. Massmatt*

              This was actually a Robin Williams joke on Mork and Mindy. Which makes it all the more obscure and/or dated, I suppose.

  4. Mike C.*

    I see no problem with directly asking your coworkers why they’re completely unable to call IT or perform other basic tasks.

    I’m pretty sure anything short of, “are you afraid of shutting your manhood in the paper drawer?” would be fine.

      1. Mike C.*

        I giggle at my own jokes, I’m not going to lie here. :)

        But on a more serious note, that’s really the only difference between the OP and her coworkers, so either that comes into play, or this is one of the dumbest things ever. And since proof by contradiction is fun and easy…

    1. SarahKay*

      Anndd water, meet keyboard. “afraid of shutting your manhood in the paper drawer” is fantastic!

    2. Amber Rose*

      So, at my last job, we hired a summer student. He tried to replace the toner, and managed against all the odds to literally blow it up, and coat the entire reception area in black dust. Took ages to clean.

      My husband also managed to electrocute himself trying to clear a paper jam.

      I mean, I’m not making excuses, but maybe there’s a switch in some people’s brains that just shuts down all coordination while dealing with printers.

      1. SpiderLadyCEO*

        I’m dying. I can’t even imagine managing to accomplish either of these things! I desperately want to know if there are anymore details to “blowing up the toner cartridge”. That is quite the accomplishment!

        1. Amber Rose*

          I was upstairs so I didn’t see it happen, but my understanding is he tried to yank it out roughly and it popped like a balloon. The printer tech had to pull everything apart and clean it out completely.

          Come to think of it, just last year a coworker broke the printer by pulling the paper tray so hard it snapped off. What is it with some people and just whaling on technology.

          1. DecorativeCacti*

            We had repeated problems with catastrophic paper jams because people got into the habit of stopping an in progress job by opening the trays. While high volumes of paper were moving through. Every one claimed it wasn’t them (of course). I had to resort to putting a hot pink laminated sign on each drawer telling them to use the big red “stop” button.

        2. Not really a lurker anymore*

          A former worker managed to blow up the blue ink cartridge in his office. I’m not sure how he managed that. But he painted the walls the same bright blue shortly after that. Then every time someone new walked into the office, they’d stop and got “Woah! That’s bright!” and the story would be retold.

          Eventually, he was moved to a different office and the walls were repainted.

        3. JAM*

          At my last job, the office admin refused to change the toner. She wouldn’t even tell us how to get a new one. (Don’t get me started) A coworker in the office got IT to deliver a toner cartridge but they wouldn’t replace it. She’s worked for the agency for decades, but in a different office so she pretty much knew everything and how to get it done. She told us not to worry and she’d handle it.

          Toner blew up, completely covered the walls, the floor, the shared workspace. Admin threw a fit and told us we were never to touch the toner again. It was only later that I realized my coworker had changed clothes before the explosion and she knew exactly what she was doing. Now in my new office manager role I have to change the toner and I still can’t figure out how she knew how to make it explode like that.

      2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        Was the student reprimanded? We ask, “Were you shown how to do this properly? If not, then do not touch it.

        1. Naptime Enthusiast*

          So I appreciate that all employees should be shown how to do anything they’re required to do at least once…. but really, thousands of people manage to replace toner cartridges with little to no training that I don’t see that as being an excuse not to do something.

        2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          Every printer and printer cartridge I have seen have picture instructions and written instructions.

          1. SteadyFreddy*

            “Every printer and printer cartridge I have seen have picture instructions and written instructions.”

            It’s pretty much evident how to change a toner these days.

            And in today’s modern printers and toners, it is very difficult to get it on yourself. Back in 1990 it was a scary gamble every time I wore white and had to change the toner…

            1. Purple Jello*

              Toner on/in the copier, toner on our clothes, toner on the floor. I never did figure out how you were supposed to “carefully removed the used toner receptacle from the copier and pour the new toner into the hopper” without it poofing all over the place.

            2. Mel*

              Until last year, I haf only used modern printer cartridges, and had to replace an old-school toner for the first time last year. The instructions on the cartridge did not quite match the printer’s instructions (which I looked up after the fact). One minor toner explosion later, myself and part of my cube was covered. Fortunately we all were laughing and no harm was done (other than a ruined shirt), and I immediately printed out the specific printer’s toner replacement instructions and pinned it right above the printer. The next time I changed toner it was perfectly uneventful.

              1. JGray*

                I have done this as well. The one printer that still had old school cartridges and I ended up with it all over the floor. The instructions were not that clear and it was actually me & another person so we would sort of joke about how many people does it take to change toner.

        3. Amber Rose*

          Nah. He was shown once how to do it, and it’s really not hard anyway.

          And gosh, he whined about it for weeks. That kid was seriously the brattiest teen I’ve ever encountered. We never brought it up with him because then we’d be listening to him about it for hours.

      3. Archie Goodwin*

        This reminds me of a wonderful bit from Becker:

        Margaret: “I’ve never SEEN a computer do that before!”

        New office temp, monotone: “I have.”

      4. Laura (Needs to Change Her Name)*

        *raises hand sheepishly*

        I, a generally competent lady with a Ph.D., have done the toner blow-up thing. Worse, I then put the toner into the laser printer anyway, which resulted in it breaking forever. That was a sad day.

        (I am more than willing to take on office maintenance tasks and when it comes to changing toner will preface requests for help with “… I have a bad history with this specific task, would you mind helping me replace the toner?”)

        1. Turtle Candle*

          I work in an office where the rule was that if you finished the water in the water cooler, you were the one who was supposed to replace it. (Unless you had a reason that you were physically incapable of lifting the thing without harm to yourself.) I am physically capable of lifting the water bottle, but I am VERY clumsy, and one time I dropped it and there was water everywhere and it was really embarrassing, although maintenance was nice about it.

          So after that, I started doing basically what you say: “Hey, I’m kind of a butterfingers and I dropped the bottle one time when trying to replace it. Would you be willing to help me steady it?” My hope is that that successfully gets across that I don’t think it’s their job to do the thing, just that I do not want water all over the floor again.

      5. SignalLost*

        I had a job where it *was* my job to replace the toner, and I still managed to explode it the first time I tried. Copiers are tricky, and yet not usually hard to learn.

      6. Arya Snark*

        At a previous job, we had someone who managed to blow up a toner cartridge. She wasn’t the most patient person in the worlds and I’m sure she tried to force it in somehow. Of course, she happened to be wearing white pants that day!

        1. Chinook*

          Ooohhh…number one rule of copier repair is that, if you are wearing white, the toner will explode no matter what you do. It is like it has an all seeing eye that knows how to seek the best revenge on those that speak ill of printers. Which is why I only cop softly when operating one and make sure my hands are warm before freeing up a paper jam inside one.

      7. Specialk9*

        I tried my damndest to do both of those things, so I would never be asked again. Sadly it didn’t work.

      8. only acting normal*

        I used to have a (nice, big, much-missed) desk next to the printer. I’d regularly find it with a fine dusting of magenta or cyan where someone had changed the toner cartridge using my desk as a work space (NB not the DIY refill type, but returnable-for-refill ones). I wouldn’t have minded if they’d cleaned up after, but I’d usually put my things down and start working, then think “how did I get pink on- AARGH!”.

        I was fairly competent at changing the cartridges you just had to keep everything the right way up and treat them a little delicately. I did spill toner once, but it wasn’t an explosion, just a moderate sprinkling of black over hands and desk.

    3. Karen D*

      Yay Mike :) Equally beautiful is Alison’s line:
      [quote]They appear to think that your uterus is actually a name tag reading “admin support,” but it’s not. [/quote]

  5. nnn*

    Kind of baffled that they’re asking OP to call help desk rather than calling help desk themselves. Surely explaining the problem to OP and asking her to make the phone call takes just as long as making the phone call (if not longer, because OP isn’t a subject-matter expert so would need more explanation)

    1. Mike C.*

      Those lazy sh!ts are saving time by not having to be the contact person and not having to deal with any follow up or additional issues.

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        Yes. It is the follow up, additional issues, looking up the # if you are not 100% sure of it, walking back over to the copier to check the model number and the error code or what color(s) toner it’s out of, and most of all the mental energy spent figuring out that you need to do all of those small annoying steps to solve the problem, letting people know that you ordered new toner, etc. That is what people want to get out of doing and what is so time and energy consuming.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          This can also have real consequences in a job where your billable hours are your value to the company. Making someone else spend non-billable time on something you could be doing is a double win for you – because you added to your hours and made the contrast to your competition bigger :( I’m sure someone will chime in that small tasks are trivial but sometimes time is literally what you live and die by.

        2. Koko*

          Yep. I have a direct report who often brings IT problems to me (we do not work in the IT department), telling me that the company intranet isn’t loading for her, that the VPN is down, or asking if I think IT would be able to change a DNS or firewall setting that she’s having trouble with.

          My response is always, “Why don’t you submit a ticket to the help desk and see what they say.”

          It’s a small task, but I don’t need to be involved and therefore I am not going to be involved. Every minute I spend on work I don’t need to be doing is a minute I’m not spending on work that matters more for me. It’s a lot easier to draw a clear line between stuff that is Not My Job and stuff that Is My Job and not be splitting hairs over how much work a Not My Job task has to be before I decline to do it. Inevitably that will lead to someone who feels compelled to argue that I’ve split the hair in the wrong place.

          1. Used to be a lurker*

            Heh, I wish I could do that, but our parent company is mildly stupid about pretty much everything, and won’t give contractors access to the company intranet…. which includes the IT ticketing system. As their immediate manager, it then falls to me to get involved, because IT won’t do anything without a ticket (having done IT once upon a time, this last bit is actually pretty understandable).

            And so, I have to get involved every time something stops working for one of our contractors, which is obviously the highlight of my day (in case someone needs their sarcasm-o-meter calibrated, that oughtta ping a solid 7 out of 10).

          2. LizM*

            My dad tells a story of when he asked an employee to do a relatively small administrative task because their admin person was out. The employee said he didn’t really have time, could it wait until the admin person got back the next day. My dad replied that it would only take 5 min, to which the employee replied, “I have a list of things that will only take 5 or 10 min that will keep me busy until 5:30 tonight, and all day tomorrow.”

            (They had the type of working relationship where this kind of back and forth between an employee and a supervisor was totally appropriate, I know it’s not always possible to push back on a supervisor’s request that way).

        3. TootsNYC*

          walking back over to the copier to check the model number and the error code or what color(s) toner it’s out of,

          My change to brag about my latest project!

          I made a sheet of tear-off tags with all the out-of-toner / paper jam info you need. On each tag is the email address, and the printer number, room & floor number, cartridge model number, etc.

          I cut them into strips, and then I used the spoked marking wheel from my sewing kit to perforate between them for easy tearing.

          It’s like an “apartment for rent / guitar lessons” flyer in the laundromat.

          I used to be the person who would call those things in, just because I would always do it, and I had photocopied the sign by the printer and hung it by my own phone. In the new setup, I don’t use the photocopier as much, and I figured this would make it possible for people to contact the printer people more easily–the tear-off function would hopefully make it easier for someone to do it.

        4. Cafe au Lait*

          Oh, YES. Recently I dealt with a printing issue and it took me two hours to resolve. I was neck deep in a project, and then had to take time to solve why the printer wasn’t printing. So stressful as I was on a deadline.

    2. Temperance*

      They get to feel like they have a secretary, which makes them feel important, and after all, these tasks are beneath them.

      1. Allison*


        I had a woman in my last job constantly ask me to perform administrative tasks for her. The first time it was because she forgot who was actually in charge of the task (scheduling) and the other times it was because she was *just so busy* she needed someone to handle her grunt work so she focus on the important stuff. Not my job though, so I got the manager involved. It was almost definitely a mix of a power trip, and being way too accustomed to having a paralegal do that stuff for her back when she was a lawyer.

        I was so relieved to leave that job. Manager had my back but the requests didn’t stop and she drove me crazy.

      2. Jesca*

        I am dealing with this right now with a coworker. We report to the same boss, are on the same level, and were hired at the same time. My job is very different than his. I have from time to time assisted some of my other peers and their direct reports with some minor questions related to the system and programs. But this guy? I literally feel like once a week he stands up, grabs his balls, looks around, and says, “now there is a woman I can try to make do something for me! I am a man and all and deserve it!” The last time he came over to try to pawn his vastly different work load off on me, to try to mansplain to me about my job, or to ask me some basic stupid question he could google himself, I told him in no uncertain terms that he can find that information himself. He hasn’t had a stupid “request” since.

        I wish he understood the level of self control I have!

        1. Anon.*

          I have a mansplainer as a direct report. He goes above me to my boss, sulks when I remind him of his actual duties, and basically thinks I’m a big ugly meanie for requiring him to perform his assigned tasks before “fun and interesting” (i.e. manly) tasks like redesigning the website. Which is my job…

          1. Jesca*

            This is pretty par for the course in the current industry I am in. A lot of male egos. The other day I had to listen to one of this guy’s direct reports talking all about how he can’t understand why women these days can’t cook. And how he married a Latino woman with the hopes she would, but found out she is not that great. I mean … haha. Neither one of these guys are older guys either. This manager also only has direct male reports and invites only males in our department out for lunch. Our boss is a woman and only one of the few in a management role. It does not go unnoticed by her how men in general are here, but I think she may be missing it with this guy. Eventually, I am going to have to say something. It is so insulting!

            1. General Ginger*

              ” how he married a Latino woman with the hopes she would [cook]” — Flames. Flames on the side of my face.

              1. Jesca*

                I know!! I was like, “Did you not date before you married?” And he was telling this to me and another guy who is Mexican!

            2. RG*

              Not only sexist but stupid. How do you pour the time and money into a relationship and marriage without finding out if she can cook beforehand?

              1. Susana*

                And, you know – WHY DOES IT MATTER if she can cook. He was marrying her, not hiring her, right?

            1. Anon.*

              Nope. She is too non-confrontational, and, honestly, way out of her depth as an IT manager. In my previous job, we had 360 degree reviews…I wish we had that here. I love my boss but this job is just not the right fit for her.

              1. Decima Dewey*

                What does OP’s boss’s argument that no one else wants to do these tasks have to do with anything? I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been given a task and told something like “Fergus didn’t want to do it”. Oh, like I volunteered?

                1. Not a Morning Person*

                  That just burns me up on your behalf! “Neither do I. I’ve taken all my turns for the next lifetime. It’s his turn . “

                2. Julia*

                  This make me so. damn. furious. I always ended up with tasks no one else wanted to do, but that I couldn’t refuse, and it was one reason I left that job. Give me the same veto rights as everyone else and don’t just let the slackers slack off to my detriment. Argh!

    3. paul*

      I get this from work a lot because I’m “good with computers” (in reality, most of the rest are just truly inept). It’s so damn frustrating and I’ve finally started pushing back pretty bluntly. I don’t know if the OP has standing to be as blunt as I am, but I’ve been simply telling people that it’s their machine, and they’re the ones seeing the error occur so they need to be the one to talk to help desk.

      1. General Ginger*

        there is a perfect XKCD comic you can brandish at them! it’s strip number 627, but I’ll put the link in the next comment

    4. punktacular*

      My former husband used to call me up to ask me to make his doctor appointments for him. The answer to that was no. I didn’t know when he might have meetings scheduled, etc. Oh, and he was a grownup and could make his own effing appointments.

  6. Lynca*

    One of the most important things I have to tell myself: They survived before you were here- they’ll survive while/when you are gone.

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      This is exactly what I was about to say. However, it does beg the question that NO ONE figured out how to dial a phone while the roof was in danger of caving in. They forgot how to be adults then?

      1. Lynca*

        It’s not that they don’t know how (which isn’t her fault- she learned to do it) but they assume that someone else will do it for them. Which really the boss needs to set straight.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          I think there’s a term for that. Everybody assumes someone else has already called 911, so nobody does it.

          1. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

            Social loafing — the desire not to be the “sucker” who speaks up and, because they spoke up, got saddled with extra work.

            (See also: every group of university students doing a group project, ever.)

        2. Liane*

          “Which really the boss needs to set straight.”
          Surprised Alison didn’t say more about this. It sounds like it’s way past time for OP’s boss (Who is presumably the men’s boss, since they are in the same group) to tell the men explicitly HE doesn’t want her doing their little errands and HE does want them to DIY.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Eh, I figure he assumes that after he told the OP it’s not her job, she stopped doing it. I’d actually be a little annoyed in the boss’s shoes to find that she’s still going all this. Not annoyed like she’d be in trouble, but wondering why she didn’t assert herself more. (And yes, I totally get all the reasons she hasn’t asserted herself more, but it’s not unreasonable for him to assume it was taken care of since she asked him, he answered, and she presumably hasn’t brought it up again.)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              There’s also a certain level of seniority where you’re going to assume people will deal with stuff like this themselves, and where intervening is going to come across as really hand-holdy and inappropriate for their professional level.

    2. Allison*

      Maybe, but it’s likely they had someone else take care of it before the OP showed up, and some of the newer people might have come from places where someone in a position similar to OP’s did that kind of work, so they’re operating on some automatic mental default.

      1. Trillion*

        That’s the impression I was getting. Not for emergencies like the roof caving in but at my previous job certain ordering and contracts could only be done through one or two people. If they were out we had to add approvals for other people to deal with it and boy was it a process. So it would be easier to just wait the day or two for the approved person to return. It’s possible they are just used to OP’s predecessor handling rudimentary office tasks.

    3. Heather*

      Well, they might not if the roof caves in on them…but that still doesn’t make it OP’s problem!

  7. Snarkus Aurelius*

    On behalf of all women in non-administrative positions everywhere…don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it.

    Again. Don’t do it.

    Let the ceiling cave in. Let the pipes burst. Let the empty toner cartridges gather dust in the printers. Let the printers stand empty of paper.

    Just because no one else wants to do it (and let’s get real here, neither do you), doesn’t mean you’re the default. If it’s really that important, they’ll do it themselves or hire someone or add these duties to an admin’s job description. Why the latter isn’t happening, I don’t know, but it’s not your job to figure out.

    Even though we women have been socialized to worry about stuff like this, try to train yourself to get out of the habit. If something* doesn’t get done, the world won’t end and life will go on. I assure you.

    *Circulating greeting cards, ordering cake/flowers, taking notes, making coffee, getting the office collection together, cleaning the kitchen, cleaning the fridge, baking, etc.

    1. ZenJen*


      I’ve actually avoided printing at times when I know the printer is offline, just because I was the ONLY female around and wasn’t going to become the default fixer while I could hear the guys whining about the printer!

      1. Fabulous*

        I’ve unfortunately become the go-to printer fixer just because of my proximity and the frustration I get when I hear people constantly shouting, “Why isn’t my page coming out?!”

        It’s because some dolt keeps printing 11×17 pages when the printer doesn’t hold that paper. If you turned on the display, you would see that.

        1. Eli*

          I sit right next to the printer in our area (and a fax machine!), so I’ve gotten a lot of questions about both when problems arise… but from the very start, I’ve played dumb and refused to get involved. I didn’t want to become the default printer person just because of geography!

    2. Future Homesteader*

      And from women who *are* admins. I may be an EA, but fridge cleaning is still not my job. Calling facilities, sure. But I still have particular job to do, and due to the staffing structure of my school, there are a lot of things that are most definitely *not* a part of it.

      1. SteadyFreddy*

        I once got testy with a female engineer who told me she was not paid to empty the dishwasher, that everyone used with the communal dishes. I pointed out that even for me, the receptionist and operations go-to, I was not being paid for it either and if she couldn’t contribute help out from time to time, then she shouldn’t use the dishes.

        Clerical =/= Merry Maid. And lord knows I did a lot of tidying up anyway in the name of health and safety.

        Her boss overheard and that entitled attitude never reappeared…

        1. Important Moi*

          That’s different. Communal stuff that everyone uses, thus everyone cleans is different from “this is woman’s work.”

          Office environs differ.

      2. pope suburban*

        My old job was terrible about this. We had a communal kitchen, which I did not use. It would frequently become messy. Everyone expected that I would clean up after them because I guess as the bookkeeper and front-end person, I was considered to be the maid as well? The funny thing is, I’d been to some of my coworkers’ homes, and they were very neat and clean. These people knew damn well how to wash a dish and get crumbs off a counter- they just didn’t think they had to at work. It was mostly women I worked with too, and while they were all reasonably aware of sexism, the CEO managed to infect the entire company with his Mad Men attitude, and plus they all seemed to get some kind of thrill out of feeling like they had a personal assistant. It definitely ramped up over the years, and by the time I quit, they were all staunchly refusing to answer a phone (In a small company where there was no switchboard, when I had job duties that would frequently require me to be away from my desk for longish period), and thought it was acceptable to ask me to fetch files that were in their office, very very far from my desk at the front of the building. It was demeaning and awful, and I only hope they don’t treat my replacement that way.

        1. Not a Morning Person*

          I’d have been tempted to take the long route to fetch files and spend a way longer time doing it.

          1. pope suburban*

            The kicker was that the office was not that big. Most of our space was given over to the workshop (It was a construction company) or to our on-site climate-controlled storage business (Which I ran, and which was why I had to frequently get away from my desk to unlock units or help clients). Like, there were three offices in the back, plus a small meeting area near our product demo. They’d want something that was five feet away from them in the back office, but rather than grab it like sane adults, they’d page me and have me come from the front of the building to hand them the file.

            They were not good people. I am ridiculously glad not to have to deal with them anymore.

      3. Been There, Done That*

        Thank you. I’m a little shocked by some of the comments. There seems to be no realization by the non-admin people that office administration isn’t about washing coffee cups. It can be quite a power game, esp. among non-admin women.

    3. Lucky*

      This, and what GMN says below. When I used to mentor new lawyers, all young women, this was one of my number one pieces of advice to them – don’t take on administrative tasks and emotional labor because they do not help you advance in your career and can actually be detrimental if senior partners start seeing you as an admin rather than a peer.

      1. the gold digger*

        Yep. That’s what I told our intern at the beginning of the summer. My boss (a man) told Intern she would be doing some grunt work. I said yes, but not to volunteer for the “Women’s Work.”

        Boss denied such a thing existed. I rolled my eyes and cited the example that even though maybe only ten percent of our office is women, at the last potluck, 100% of the four people cleaning up after were women.

        I told Intern, “Unless you see the men doing it, don’t volunteer for it. You need to be seen as ‘Intern, The Fabulous Industrial Engineer,’ not ‘Intern, That Cute Girl Who Bakes Cookies and Cleans Up After Potlucks.'”

        1. Murphy*

          Yeah, I got volunteered to be on the holiday party committee once and it was ALL WOMEN. (My office is mostly women, but not all women.) I was all prepared to complain the next year, but I ended up not being on it. I can’t remember if it was all women or not.

        2. StudentPilot*

          After a work pot luck last year, 3 men stood around chatting while the women cleaned. I threw a wet towel at them and said “Cleaning is not women’s work.”

          They pitched in, but ooooooh it irked me that someone had to remind them.

          1. TheCupcakeCounter*

            I gave my monthly reminder to my husband and son last night about cleaning being everyone’s problem. The night before was the monthly reminder that I am not the only person in the household who knows how to make food appear on plates.

                1. Gadfly*

                  Which unfortunately doesn’t help women much–have you read any of the stuff on why it is always a female sounding voice/name?

            1. Artemesia*

              The only way this will happen with people who are not already seeing this as their role is to have an assigned schedule of when they are responsible for dinner. My husband of 45 years and I just automatically share cooking responsibilities now, but in the beginning we had firm assignments which changed as circumstances changed over the years e.g. we went from alternating weeks, to me cooking during the week and him more elaborately on weekends when we had family and I had the more flexible job etc etc. But the key was, it was all on you when it was your turn.

              Your husband and son are not going to just start making food unless it is ‘their night’ and this becomes clearly established.

              1. Lil Fidget*

                The wife making the schedule (and becoming the Schedule Enforcer) is part of the problem here! The dream would be for Someone Else to do that.

                1. Artemesia*

                  We always sat down and worked out this stuff together. However it gets organized it isn’t happening because a teenage boy wakes up one day and says ‘Oh wow, I eat, I guess it is my turn to cook.’ And a husband who has had maid service for long enough to have a teen son isn’t going to do it either. Either she organizes a session to get the schedule organized or she does it.

      2. Kj*

        Yep. At my last job, one woman was the office ‘mom’ who did cards for birthdays and stuff like that. I refused to do it, despite being a similar age and gender. I am nice and all, but my professional skills are not based on my ability to buy and get people to sign birthday cards. I was known as the person you went to when you had X, Y and Z professional concerns, because I was good at X, Y and Z. She was the one you went to with personal issues and office gossip. I felt bad for her getting that label. But being known as an expert in my career meant I was able to move on to better things. And she is still there and will likely not move up or even over.

        Don’t take on women’s work! It is NOT YOUR JOB. If people care, they will get it done. If not, oh well. NOT YOUR PROBLEM!

        1. Been There, Done That*

          Ah, the Office Mom. I’m dealing with one now. Unfortunately, everyone sees her as some kind of gold standard for the rest of the administrative staff. It doesn’t matter if somebody finishes their degree or proves their capability for higher level responsibilities. The Office Mom pulls everybody else’s chances down.

    4. LCL*

      I would make one exception, for safety issues. So I would do something about the leaky ceiling. But the rest of the chores, they are on their own!
      I was at an equipment test last week. It was outdoors, hot, sunny, noisy, and stressful. Midway through the test, one of the guys said to me ‘need a break? Starbucks is within walking distance.’ I said ‘yes it is’ and nothing more was said.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Midway through the test, one of the guys said to me ‘need a break? Starbucks is within walking distance.’

        I believe the correct response is “Oh, cool. Get me an iced chai latte while you’re there, thanks.”

        1. Aealias*

          I 100% would have done this without thinking. “Ooh, grande mocha frappe, please! Give me a second to find some cash. Are you going right away?”
          … sometimes I miss social cues, and sometimes that’s all to the good.

      2. TootsNYC*

        “So I would do something about the leaky ceiling.”

        The thing to do is to say, “Fergus, do you know who you call about that ceiling? I’m afraid it’s going to fall in on. Why don’t you call them?” and walk away.

    5. mooocow*


      I generally refuse to do these kinds of tasks and if anyone tries to argue I explain that I’m a woman and in order to counterbalance centuries of sexism, I really need to not do this thing.

      People are usually confused, but they tend to drop the subject, and never bring it up again. I think they earmark me as man-eating, torch-wielding feminist, and would rather steer clear of that mess…

      1. Artemesia*

        Apparently I radiate ‘don’t even try it’ when it comes to this stuff because the men I worked with always sort of went out of their way to NOT assign this stuff to me by default.

  8. nnn*

    Also, congrats on getting a promotion despite the additional obstacle of having to do all this stuff that doesn’t contribute to your objectives!

    1. starsaphire*

      Right! Absolutely, congrats.

      And isn’t it fortunate that this promotion has now given you a hard deadline that takes priority — so next time someone tries to shove this work off onto you, you can say, without even looking up from your screen, “No, I can’t. I’m on deadline.”

      1. fposte*

        I would leave off the second part. The reason she’s not doing it is because it’s not her job, whether she has a deadline or not.

        1. SignalLost*

          Yup. Reinforce that it’s not a woman’s job, rather than that it is not *this* woman’s job.

  9. GMN*

    As a female in a male dominated team; 100% everything that Alison said!
    And additionally: Don’t start doing these things in your new job!
    I even actively pull less than my weight in cleaning the office kitchen etc, just because I don’t want to slide into the office mom role.

    1. Kalamet*

      I’ve flat-out refused to be on the event-planning committee for my team, partly because I don’t care and partly because the men won’t help. We have 30 people on the team, 25 of which are men, and NO men on the committee. I pitched in for one event and then started saying no. You guys want cake and paintball activities, plan ’em yourself. :)

      1. Not in US*

        I agree, No. Just no. I’ve had too many experiences where because I was a woman I was expected to answer the phone (not my job) or plan the events, sit on the social committee, etc. I actively refuse pink work now, and I am blunt about why. I’ve had to fight too hard to be taken seriously – I won’t do it. And I’m not in a role that is devoid of women but I am in an industry where most women are support staff – I’m not and I actively avoid being seen that way. There is nothing wrong with admin work – when you’re an admin.

    2. MicroManagered*

      Don’t start doing these things in your new job!


      This happened to me in my last position because I fixed the printer once and became The One Who Fixes the Printer. Every printer issue became my problem. (And this was on one of those Xerox workcenters that shows you the little cartoon of what to do when there is an issue!)

      Then I showed someone how print to PDF instead of printing on paper and scanning/emailing to themselves (I know). And became the resident “how do I do X in word/excel/adobe/outlook?” person, whether I knew how or had to google it.

      I figured out my coworker’s monitor wasn’t coming on because the dock for her laptop had gone bad. Pretty soon I was the first-stop before calling IT.

      It got to be very frustrating. When I moved on to a new position, I had to realize that they were doing it because I was doing it. In my new position I’ve kept my back turned while someone struggled with the printer even though I know what’s wrong. I’ve said “Hmmm I don’t know. Maybe google it?” when I do know exactly how to fix their spreadsheet…. It’s not that I’m unhelpful, I’m actually very helpful by nature, but at the same time it can so easily lead to people taking advantage of you.

      1. SteadyFreddy*

        Yes. This can happen also when onboarding new staff. The new admin needed to be onboarded, of course, and of course you offer help with “if you have questions, email any time…” and the result was she would call or email for the stupidest things that could be easily Googled (because that’s what I was doing for her when I didn’t know the answer myself) and she was making a lot more than I was.

        She didn’t last.

      2. paul*

        God yes.

        I was so glad when we changed our office printer and I could truthfully say “nope, no clue, call the number on the machine for help.”

        I’d made the mistake of fiddling with our old one once or twice and it became “grab him he knows what he’s doing”. Ugh.

        It was one thing when we had a pay for hour IT contract-then there’s a business reason to see if I can troubleshoot something quickly– but it’s a flat fee now; *call them* and leave me alone.

      3. MerelyMe*

        Every job I’ve ever had, I’ve been the office technology expert by proximity. If I sit next to the copier/printer/fax machine, I obviously know how to fix it, right?

        I replaced each of the four cartridges in the color printer at different times last week, and two of them twice, because I share a cube with the printer. Granted that’s an abnormally huge amount of printing and it will stop after next week, but still, I have things to do that aren’t babysitting the printer.

      4. Elizabeth H.*

        I actually like fixing the printer. I feel like it’s tech-y enough that it’s not like an admin thing (I have an administrative, but NOT an assistant role) but maybe I’m alone in that? Things like ordering enough paper and toner and stuff, yes, but actually fixing its myriad weird problems I find satisfying. Also teaching people how to do stuff in Excel or with their computers or tech issues – that stuff doesn’t read ‘female admin assistant’ type tasks to me.

        1. paul*

          I’ve never considered it admin type work but it’s a time suck and I always got toner all over me. And it’s frustrating when you’re actually busy with stuff and someone is frantically grabbing you because the printer won’t work. Or because they can’t google a basic damn Excel function. Or error message.

        2. MicroManagered*

          I don’t mind these things either (like I said, I’m a helpful person by nature). The problem in my last position was that it became a frequent thing, and sometimes a way to shirk an issue onto me.

          Example: Oh the printer isn’t printing? Let’s check to see if I can print. Hmmmm I can’t print either. Can I make a copy? Yeah I can make a copy. Maybe it’s just offline. Let’s restart it. (5 minutes of booting up later…) Still not printing? Probably need to call IT. The number on the side….over here… Oh. You’re walking away now… Let you know when I hear back? But I… but you… ಠ_ಠ

          With Excel stuff especially, I love teaching people stuff or working together to get Excel to save us some time. The problem is when the person doesn’t really want to learn. Sometimes people ask you to show them something and what they really want is for you to do it in front of them so that now you’re just doing it for them. It’s just important to strike a balance between being helpful and being taken advantage of.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            Plus, it’s not just annoying! That person that walked away may have gone on to do work that would be valued and earn him a promotion, while you’re spending the next hour dealing with the printer and then explaining to your boss why you didn’t hit your metrics this quarter.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I used to mastermind the fixing of the printer and the ordering of toner, because as the department head, I thought of it as my role to be sure my people had all the tools they needed, and a working printer was one of their important tools.

            I didn’t feel like a peon–I tended to use “we need” and “my people need this machine to work” etc. And I spoke with some authority and confidence. So maybe that influenced how I came across. I probably helped that I thought of it as slightly higher level administration, actually.

            I’m sure it didn’t impact how people saw me, but I’m in a mostly female office.

          3. pope suburban*

            Oh lord. Being a helpful person is a curse at work. You’d think that people would, say, appreciate that you’re courteous and not too proud to pitch in with the little tasks. Instead, people seem to think of you as a serf, and just ask for more and more and more. Then you end up pigeonholed as the office gofer, and sometimes any attempt to push back on that is seen as insubordination or shirking your duties. This is a curse that runs all over my dad’s side of the family, as we are hands-on, practical people who’d prefer to fix something right away rather than waiting around.

      5. Mike C.*

        Why is it so hard for people to google something?

        “what is broken” “how it is broken”. That’s all you need to enter.

        That works for just about anything you can get your hands on without needing the authorization of the Department of Defense.

        1. pope suburban*

          You have just told the story of how I, a person who majored in English and readily lets my husband handle our home tech stuff (His parents were in media, so he grew up helping install sound systems and tablet drivers and whatnot), became the de facto IT department at my old job. It was just The Google. No comp sci, no IT experience, just, y’know, knowing how the dang internet works.

          That the CEO had been some kind of head of IT for a large and evil bank before being “encouraged to resign” makes it even worse. I mean, one immediately sees why they wanted him to go (and get replaced with a cheaper, more savvy person), but one wonders how he got there, and remained for so long.

      6. Your Weird Uncle*

        Yep – my former colleague called it ‘keeping your head below the parapet’ and I have to remind myself to do this and bite my tongue when my instinct is to go help out in those situations.

      7. TootsNYC*

        bonus points–it’s actually BETTER for them to figure out how to do these things. When you step in, you rob them of the problem-solving practice!

  10. J.B.*

    Sounds like you are more than ready for the internal move. Sometimes as a young female you have to start refusing to help in ways that might seem rude. Which can get complicated but here – your boss says it’s not your job and you will be moving on anyway. Go for it!

      1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

        Hoo, you ain’t lying. I’m forty-mumble and a senior programmer, but when the admin is out, guess whose cube everyone drops by when they “need” something?

        1. J.B.*

          I meant mostly that I found it awkward when I was younger and now am totally willing to do what it takes. Including training the FedEx guy to find someone who actually knew what to do with the packages :)

      1. Greg M.*

        I just realized I probably sound alike a bit of jerk there but honestly I don’t try to be mean but if I need something answered to do my job and you give me a waffling answer I ask you again until I get an answer.

        Had a coworker keep calling me out in front of customers told him where he could shove it and report it to the manager.

        Had a supervisor call me a nickname I detest for 2 years. I asked him nicely to stop and it only encouraged him, it only finally got dropped when I stood up told him it was harassment and he can either drop it or I call HR. Finally dropped. (I probably should have but it wasn’t worth it)

        there’s a time for politeness but other times it just gets you walked on.

        1. Demon Llama*

          Just on this point – one of the issues that women often find is that men who skirt the “rude” line are described as “direct” or “assertive”. Women who try to be direct are called “bossy” and the other b word…

          I don’t mean to jump on your advice, but last month I got the same feedback from my well-meaning male boss and had to point this issue out to him in a polite and non-aggressive way… the irony.

          (Gratifyingly, he then went off and read “Lean In” and came back all wide-eyed that this was indeed a Thing that Happens to women in the workplace. Even more gratifyingly, he told me this in earshot of an awesome female VP who basically was like, “yes, this happens all the time. Be aware of it, dude-boss.”)

          1. Julia*

            This. Or when you assert yourself and get ‘oooooh, kitty has claws’ or some other infantilizing, sexist bullsh*t.

            Like the co-worker who told me that if I got on the elevator with him, I’d get pregnant.

            1. Ann O.*

              What is wrong with people? Like how does that even enter a person’s head to say much less actually come out of the mouth?

              1. Julia*

                That place was so dysfunctional, it wasn’t even worth complaining about. (I think I just told him he wouldn’t have that happen ever again if he tried anything with me, if you catch my drift.)

                He was actually one of the better people there, just… sexist, racist… Oh boy, it’s good I don’t work there anymore.

          2. Been There, Done That*

            But when those admin women “lean in,” it’s a whole nother story!

            Interesting that no one is bringing the male admins. There are plenty of them in the city where I live. Course, they’re more likely to get promoted out of it than “the gals.”

        2. J.B.*

          Yes, although there’s a constant balance between being nice most of the time, but playing the aggressive card on occasion. Ain’t gender politics fun?

          1. zora*

            Yeah, that’s true, it’s often more loaded as a woman to figure out where that line is.. But still, I mostly agree. Once I decided to fight my upbringing, and stop worrying about being “nice” all the time, my life got a lot easier!!

          2. Sylvan*

            So much fun!

            I’m reaching the same conclusion in my own life that Greg M. talked about in his earlier comment, though. Instead of worrying about whether my degree of insistence on some reasonable boundary (“don’t shout at me” or “pay me on time”) makes me a bitch, I just decide I’ll be a bitch who doesn’t get shouted at and gets paid on time. Okay. Fine by me.

            1. Chickpea*

              +1. Being called a “bitch” very often seems to have less to do with whether or not you are rude and more to do with the very act of setting and enforcing boundaries that other people don’t believe you should have in the first place. Once I realized that, things got a lot easier.

  11. Kheldarson*

    I’ll just note on the last note with age/seniority, it can be easy to tell if that’s the reason: if your predecessor (or previous new hire) was the one doing all of that and was male, then chances are that’s just the culture. That’s how it is in my office. When the next person gets hired, they’ll get those tasks.

    But, OP, in your case, just go on vacation. Give them the mental middle finger and enjoy yourself!

    1. Mabel*

      And even if it is falling to you because of age/seniority and not gender, it doesn’t matter because you’ve done more than your share, and your boss said it’s not your job.

  12. Amber Rose*

    You’re not out of line to do those things, but honestly, it’s not worth the effort. I understand you’re feeling bitter, and you have every right to be, but in order to orchestrate everything to fall apart the first day you’re gone, you need to indulge your anger and bitterness. Which means your stress levels will go up, and the beginning of your time off will be tainted by anger-stress, and thinking about the office.

    You will, in other words, only mess up yourself. Living well is the best revenge, LW. Have an awesome couple weeks and then every time one of the dudes is a jerk, just smile because you’re out of there soon.

    And don’t let your new team push you around. “Why are you asking me?” in a genuinely confused tone is an excellent weapon for this kind of bull.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      +1. The only thing that I think Alison missed in her otherwise excellent answer is that OP seemed to be asking whether she should purposefully leave things set up to fall apart when she’s not there. I don’t think there’s any harm in doing that, assuming that others can’t definitely point to any sort of sabotage, but there are psychic costs to being that petty, and I don’t think it’s worth it. You’ll put a lot of emotional energy into something that will be maybe a minor annoyance for the people who have been dishing out this sexist crap.

      Just stop thinking about it, and go with Alison’s scripts if they ask you to do this stuff in the future. You’ve only got a month left, and some of that is vacation time, so just get through it and start fresh with your new team.

      1. Jay*

        I don’t get that at all. She’s not going to use up the paper or deliberately fill up the waste cans; she’s simply not going to do all the extra crap she’s been doing instead of making sure everything was shipshape so they could get through her vacation without any hiccups. I think Alison was right on point. They think her uterus makes her a secretary.

        1. Been There, Done That*

          I understand the frustration with being expected to do administrative tasks when it’s not your job, as I go through it constantly at my current job (and it’s tough when you USED to be the admin). But I’m not too happy at hearing my former responsibilities be referred to as crap. no wonder administrative staff don’t get the respect they deserve–or the opportunities. I had to fight the stereotypes to move into creative.

      2. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

        Given the level of laziness and incompetence the LW describes, her co-workers aren’t going to need any “help” from her to screw everything up when she’s gone anyway!

        (Also: Guacamole Bob! Fantastic name.)

      3. Cherith Ponsonby*

        I want to push back on the “psychic cost” idea because I don’t think it’s that cut and dried, and it fits a pattern I’ve been noticing a lot lately.

        I like to vent when I’m annoyed or angry. For me, a quick time-limited vent lets me validate my feelings and relieve the psychic pressure of the annoyance; I give myself a minute or five minutes to write or say or yell all the negativity that I’m feeling, then it’s all gone and I can get back to doing whatever it was that I was doing in the first place.

        I have a dear friend who is entirely the opposite. If she’s annoyed, venting her feelings causes her to dwell on them, and so her strategy is to stop thinking about it and think about other things instead. And that works for her, but if I try doing that (which I’ve done, because she’s a dear friend and I value her opinion) it’s like saying that my feelings are invalid and I’m in the wrong for having them, and everything snowballs until I can have a decent vent and be done with it. Neither approach is objectively wrong, it’s just that my approach is wrong for her and hers is wrong for me.

        So I’d definitely advise my dear friend against any petty acts of sabotage because there would definitely be a psychic cost to her, but I might advise someone like me to (for example) take the last ream of paper because it’s exactly the right height to prop up their monitor and listen to the shrieks of anguish with a clear conscience.

        (For the record, I read OP as asking “I anticipate there will be a problem: do I have to deal with it proactively even though that isn’t my job, or is it OK to take no action and allow the problem to happen?” And I think everyone is in the “allow it to happen” camp.)

      1. rubyrose*

        I agree that there can be psychic costs, but it depends on how you look at it.
        “It’s all going to fall apart and it’s my responsibility/fault” – yeah, psychic cost.
        “It’s all going to fall apart and I’m going to let it because in the long run it is a kindness to these jerks (and any other woman who comes on the team) to help them learn a hard lesson” – no psychic cost.

    2. Just Another Techie*

      I didn’t get the impression that OP wanted to intentionally sabotage anything. Just that the current state of the world is that the printer is running low on toner and paper, and she doesn’t want to have to spend the time actively fixing everything up to be clean/working/full when she’s trying to wrap other work up before vacation.

  13. OwnedByTheCat*

    Oh goodness, OP, I’m sorry. That sounds so frustrating. I agree with Alison and other commenters: let these men fend for themselves.

    Last week I had a visiting faculty member walk into my office and, without introducing himself ask me “if I was the person who could help him make photocopies.” I was so proud of myself that I calmly responded “no, I’m not someone who can help you make copies. Our two administrators will be happy to help, though.”

    Inside I was raging. I’m one of five directors. I just happen to be the youngest, and a woman. I was seeing red!

    1. The Ginger Ginger*

      OMG I just saw red for you! Was he even remotely chagrined or did he just blow back out the door? That’s one of those times when I wish I had one of those magical, independently raising eyebrows and half moon spectacles so I could lift that brow, stare him down over those glasses, and say disdainfully “And you are?”

      1. OwnedByTheCat*

        Oh, he sort of floated back out the door confused as to why I was not helping him. I later learned he’s just like this in life and his wife does EVERYTHING for him. Which made me doubly glad I was actually able to muster some semblance of calm and not help him…

          1. mrs__peel*

            Ha, I was also thinking about that!

            (When that was going around on Twitter, I remember seeing one particularly egregious example where one guy’s wife was actually doing *all of the hardest research work* and only got a “thanks for typing” when the paper was like 90% her doing).

    2. Murphy*

      Ugh. My desk is in an open area outside some offices and near our receptionist/office manager’s desk. I’m the first person visitors see if the office manager isn’t at her desk, so I get asked random things all the time. This is annoying, but not usually sexist. But this one guy asked me if I knew where Dr. Jones was. I said no (I don’t work with Dr. Jones) and he was super insistent that I find Dr. Jones. He was like “You mean you can’t check his calendar?” Uh, no! I just told him no, and I might have reflexively apologized, but I kind of wish I’d said “Why are you assuming that I can?”

      1. Allison*

        I’m in a similar boat, I work in a cubicle in the HR area and people constantly assume I’m there to do general HR admin stuff, but that’s not at all part of my job. When I clarify that Linda does that stuff, they point out that Linda’s not here right now soooo . . . I still can’t give them their service award, or process their paperwork, or whatever, maybe come back later? It does not occur to them that I am not an admin, or an assistant, or in any way someone who can tend to people’s HR needs. I really need to sit somewhere else.

      2. MashaKasha*

        I had that exact kind of desk (right behind the receptionist’s) and it was the worst. Not sexist, though. People just seemed to think I was the backup front desk person when I wasn’t. The lowest point was when, one day after lunch, Front Desk Employee sent an office-wide email out that said “whoever left their car keys out in the open area, they were brought to me and I now have them, please pick them up by 4 PM” At 4PM she went home for the day, like she always did. At 6PM an irate woman showed up at the front desk demanding that I give her the car keys. I had no idea where they were. She was yelling at me, wanting to know how she’d get home. Not proud of myself, I went through every desk drawer in Front Desk Employee’s desk until I found her stupid keys and she left in a huff. I was a software developer and wasn’t supposed to have anything to do with the front desk.

        At the same company, I also got yelled by an executive once because the email server was down, the guy in charge of the servers was not in the office yet, but I was, and was sitting in the same area. “I don’t know what you do around here,” the exec told me. And he was correct, he did not know.

      3. Not really a lurker anymore*

        Man, I was hoping to hear you make an Indiana Jones reference, like “oh, did he sneak out of his office hours by climbing out the window?”

      4. many bells down*

        I used to work in an office where, when you walked in the door the reception desk would be directly in front of you. 90 degrees to your left would be me, in a cubicle, hidden behind a computer monitor. People would walk in, look directly at the MALE receptionist, and then turn to me and ask me for help.

        To his credit he got really good at heading them off but they’d still veer toward me if he wasn’t quick about it.

      5. Merci Dee*

        I have unfortunate desk placement, as well. My cube is right outside the COO’s office. The only executive here that has an assistant is the CEO, and her cube is placed right outside his office. So people tend to assume that I’m the COO’s assistant, even though there is a pretty noticeable “Accounting and Finance” sign that dangles, quite literally, over my head. Visitors, and even some managers from other departments, will frequently stop by the COO’s empty office, and then step over to my desk to ask me where he is. I smile politely as I tell them I have no idea where the COO has gone. I’ve even been chewed out once or twice (usually by the visitors who are the same nationality as most of our management) for not knowing where my “boss” is. I continue to smile politely — even as I grit my teeth behind it — and explain that I work in the accounting department, and that the CFO is my boss. This causes much confusion and blinking, but has never gotten me an apology for their rude behavior.

    3. blackcat*

      I am a graduate student. I have a desk in a cubical pod, by a window. This is important, because in order to get to my desk, anyone must walk by other (formerly all male, now all male save 1) grad students. We are in an office suite where professors have closed offices, and anyone entering the suite must pass grad students to get to professors.

      Up until this semester, if I was at my desk, I would be *constantly* interrupted by undergrads looking for professor X. None of the male grad students were ever asked.

      What changed this semester, you ask? Another female grad student moved onto my floor, with a desk *slightly* closer to the door to the office suite. Now she suffers the interruption. After reading this thread, I think I will make her up a sign to post on her cube that says,
      “I am a PhD student, the same as the men around me.
      I do not know where your professor is.
      If you wanted to ask me, seriously consider why you didn’t ask any of the 3 male students you needed to walk by to get to my desk.”

      These sexist attitudes are pretty firmly ingrained by the time these undergrads are 18. :(

      1. Trillion*

        Yes it probably is sexist but not because they’re demeaning or undervaluing your work. Genetically females are programmed to be the nurtures and protetors of the children while the men went to hunt and fight. Even today to children men are usually scarier and more intimidating they’re bigger and louder. I know I was told to find a police officer or a mother with kids if I was lost from my parents as they were seen as the safest options for help. Majority of teachers, nurses and caregivers are female So women are associated in most cases with help and nurturing. Its more likely by default these 18 year olds who haven’t come into themselves yet can be rather intimidated and they are drawn to the women present because its been ingrained into us both genetically and culturally that women=help and safety.

        Why don’t you just put up a sign with a layout of which professor is in which office and post either on their doors or on a reference sheet near the floor layout when professors have their office hours. This way everyone is bothered less.

        1. Stardust*

          My goodness, can we not with that evo psych stuff, please?
          It’s literally impossible for us to tell what anyone is “genetically programmed” to do because both the people who lived in the past and the scientists and historians who research it today were/are products of their cultural upbringings and as such brought/bring so much baggage to the equation that you can’t reliably de-tangle it.

          1. MashaKasha*

            Yes, please and thank you!

            Having lived in two different cultures, I’ve been skeptical of the evo psych stuff since the day I learned of it, because of how the details of it vary from one culture to another. Like, in the US where I live now, women are apparently supposed to be genetically bad at math. Whereas in my home country, word on the street is that women are genetically good at math, but that they are genetically incapable of driving a car. It’s like people come up with these random things different genders can or cannot do because of our genetics, the only common denominator being that these perceived differences help enforce gender inequality; and that you cannot argue against them, because science.

            1. Decima Dewey*

              The problem with assumptions that women are X and men are Y is that it leads to logic like: men are taller than women. Therefore, Peter Dinklage is taller than Maria Sharapova.

        2. Tuxedo Cat*

          I don’t know if it is genetic or social conditioning as the reason women are expected to be nurturers or protectors of children- I must be genetically messed up because I’m a woman and I don’t have that instinct at all.

          Teachers, nurses, and caregivers are undervalued in the US society. I believe there are data that suggest when women become the majority in a field, the field loses its prestige (e.g., salaries become lower).

          I’d also argue that blackcat’s work is being undervalued although subtly. Why is she and this other female grad student being the only ones interrupted when they don’t seem to possess any special knowledge of where faculty are? Why isn’t their concentration to their work as important as the male grad students? For big lecture classes, she might be interrupted many times in a given period. I’d also be very surprised if being helpful to students in this capacity is at all valued.

        3. Emi.*

          (A) I’m deeply skeptical of the idea that women are genetically programmed to be nurturing. I mean, it’s possible, but since we’re obviously socially trained to *do* nurturing, how the hell would you determine a genetic component?

          (B) Giving directions is not nurturing. It’s just babying. College students are perfectly capable of looking up their professors’ office numbers, which are usually posted online AND printed on the syllabus AND posted near the door.

          1. blackcat*

            “College students are perfectly capable of looking up their professors’ office numbers, which are usually posted online AND printed on the syllabus AND posted near the door.”

            Seriously. Also, there is one, very long, hallway with all of the professors’s offices on that floor (same layout as the floor below). If you walk along enough, you will find professor X’s office.

            But 99% of the time, the student has identified their professor’s office. The professor is not there. Student is confused, so asks a female grad student where the professor is/when will they be back. As though we know the schedules of faculty. Keeping track of professors is like herding cats, and this is NO ONE’S JOB. Not even the admins.

            If I am feeling particularly generous, I ask the student if they made an appointment or if it is regularly scheduled office hours. The vast majority of the time, they say no. I then point out they cannot expect faculty to be in their offices all the time, as faculty teach, have meetings, work in labs, and generally do not keep 9-5 hours in offices. If the student then asks me how to email their professor (really, this has happened), I blink, put on headphones, and proceed to ignore them. Because horse, water.

          2. Kalamet*

            I don’t understand this logic either, and it’s alarming to me how often I’m seeing it in recent months.

            I’m a woman. I don’t feel much empathy, I’m not warm and friendly, and I don’t particularly like kids. Therapy has uncovered that I tend to punish myself for my own personality traits, because I *should* behave in a more friendly manner. I’m one of the biggest feminists I know, and I still internalized all that junk. :/

            I guess my point is that the biology argument, while sometimes well intentioned, can be damaging.

            1. Just employed here*

              I’m a *mother*, and I don’t like particularly like kids (except for my own).

              MashaKasha is absolutely right about these expectations being culture specific, not innate. I live in Northern Europe, and most of the examples of gendered expectations in working life here sound pretty alien to me now. But they do bring back memories from when I worked further south in Europe…

        4. blackcat*

          At first I thought this comment was sarcastic… and then I realized you are serious.

          You realize that this “Why don’t you just put up a sign with a layout of which professor is in which office and post either on their doors or on a reference sheet near the floor layout when professors have their office hours.” is actually a crap ton of work, right? And that professor’s office hours change, right? AND THIS IS SO NOT MY JOB, right?!?!?! Seriously. WTF.

          I 100% buy that this is an unconscious thing that the students are doing. And all of my efforts to “do something about it” would be entirely for the sake of protecting the younger, female grad student, in part because she is timid and unwilling to say, “I don’t know, and I don’t know why you are asking me.” (This is what I have encouraged thus far, since it was my standard line)

          I do. not. care. about the feefees of the 18 year old babies who can’t be bothered to 1) set up an appointment with their professor or 2) check the syllabus for office hour times.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Yes, my immediate thought was, “Wow, that would be even more work that isn’t my job!” Looking up all the office locations and office hours, monitoring when professors move around, monitoring when they change their office hours, re-updating, dealing with the inevitable whining if the list gets even slightly out of date… yikes. And further, actively reinforcing the idea that this is the job of one of the ~ladies~.

            1. Sarah M*

              Yeah, and an excellent example of Stuff That Just Magically Gets Done (see above). I like blackcat’s original idea for the bugger off sign.
              PS: I found that just flatly stating “I don’t understand why you’re asking me” with a quizzical look on my face works really, really well in the Not My Job Department.

            2. So Very Anonymous*

              “Here, student, tap this piece of seemingly ordinary 8 x 11 copy paper with your wand and presto, your own departmental Marauder’s Map! It only works when you’re standing on the quad, though, so, off you go!”

        5. Greengirl*

          Except it’s not actually her job (or any of the grad students’ jobs) to know where professors are and when their office hours are. Office hours are written at the top of course syllabi and it is the responsibility of the student to read their syllabi and to learn to e-mail professors ahead of time if they need to talk to them. I work at a college and students ask our office all the time where Professor So-and-So is. We hardly ever know because a) it’s not our job and b) professors come in and out of their offices all the time, frequently not at set times outside of office hours.

          Yes, there are reasons why the undergrads are approaching the female grad students over the male ones but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be corrected. It’s still sexist and the end result is that the female grad students are being penalized for their gender because they have their work interrupted by students. They will need to learn to ask questions of men as well as women.

        6. Kalamet*

          I think I understand where you are coming from, but I really hope this is not a serious suggestion (a thousand pardons if I misunderstood).

          We really need to stop using biology to explain sexism. It doesn’t matter *why* these students believe that the female grad students are more inclined to answer their questions – genetic, cultural, what have you. These women are not professor-tracking devices. They are also not a collective substitute for these students’ mothers. This behavior is sexism – it doesn’t matter if it’s unintentional and non-malicious.

          It sounds like you are suggesting that the grad students in question a) do the research to create signage and b) place that signage somewhere to minimize traffic . This is, yet again, putting the burden on women to spend their energy constantly helping others. That’s not fair, it doesn’t solve the problem, and it perpetuates the idea that an entire gender is just a back-up brain for the human species.

          blackcat’s suggestion is much better – put a sign up saying they don’t have the information.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            and it perpetuates the idea that an entire gender is just a back-up brain for the human species.

            Oh. That’s a really insightful way of putting it. I’m going to remember that.

            1. a1*

              This part I disagree with. Trying to explain or partially explain something, or trying to explain the origins of something is not the same as excusing it. If this particular evo psych description is true that still doesn’t mean that the person stating it then thinks it’s OK to be sexist or misogynist. We can all rise above our “programming”.

              1. MashaKasha*

                But evo psych isn’t a hard science at all. It appears to be a random collection of wild guesses at… I’m not even quite sure what, that are substantiated by… again not sure what. Its multiple claims have been debunked multiple times. It’s right up there with astrology and phrenology, from what I know about it.

                1. Emi.*

                  As a party trick, if you present me with a general claim about human groups, I can come up with a plausible-sounding evolutionary explanation for it on the spot. And one for the opposite claim.

                2. Turtle Candle*

                  My favorite was an article that said, in all seriousness, that of course men were good at math and navigation, because they had to chase after animals and throw spears at them, which requires spatial awareness and mathematics, whereas women were gatherers and so never developed those skills.

                  Even leaving aside that the “man hunt mammoth, woman pick berry” thing is a gross oversimplification at best, it made me laugh because what did the guy think gathering entailed? Gathering to feed a family or group of families means knowing that this type of yam is in season for three weeks, and during those three weeks we need to collect enough of them to feed this many people for two months until the other type of yam is ripe, and these berries are also ripe at the same time but won’t last as long, so we need to figure out how many people should pick the berries and how many should dig the yams, and how many yams we need to dig before moving on, and on and on. And also, mentally mapping where the yams were growing last season, how far we need to go and where to find the berries, etc.

                  So even accepting the Flintstones “man hunt mammoth” paradigm, even if you accept that at face value, you could still make the argument both that men are better at math and navigation and that women are better at math and navigation.

              2. Turtle Candle*

                I think that’s part of why it bothers me, actually–because it almost never even is an explanation, really. I mean, in the sense that it’s usually just boiled down to “because cavemen.” Men cheat on business trips because cavemen. Women refill printer toner because cavemen. Men bother women wearing headphones on subways because cavemen. Women put in the delivery order from Chipotle because cavemen. Etc. On the rare case that there’s any explanation or citation, it’s usually to a new article or a pop sci book that, it often turns out, is dramatically misrepresenting the actual studies it claims to cite.

                A friend of mine, who is a neuroscientist specializing in evolutionary adaptations of the human brain, calls them “Just So Stories.” In the sense that they have about as much validity scientifically as, e.g. the Rudyard Kipling story where the elephant’s trunk is very long because one time a crocodile grabbed it and stretched it out.

                So it’s an explanation most of the time without even any evidence, and to me, that’s indistinguishable from an excuse.

                1. DArcy*

                  I am quite certain that cavemen wouldn’t know what to do with printer toner. It would be amusing to see. . .

                2. Julia*

                  I will never understand why people are so keen on using cavemen as reasons for everything. Are you telling me you’re proud you never evolved from there?

                  Once a guy told me that being a vegetarian was unnatural because ancient humans weren’t vegetarians. I told him ancient humans didn’t have laws or smartphones, either, but if he wanted to go back to that time, he was welcome to do it and leave me out of it. He apologized.

              3. Kalamet*

                I’m not sure if you’re responding to me, but I didn’t say that explaining = excusing. So I agree with you! I was referring to Trillion’s suggestion that the grad students create signage to explain where professors are. Responding to a sexist demand with extra emotional labor will only make the problem worse.

          2. Tiny Soprano*

            Not to mention that this is all information that’s more accessible to the students than the grad students in the first place. It’d be grossly inefficient as well as sexist for the female grads to find and collate it.

        7. Jessie the First (or second)*

          “Its more likely by default these 18 year olds who haven’t come into themselves yet can be rather intimidated and they are drawn to the women present because its been ingrained into us both genetically and culturally that women=help and safety.”

          Asking a random clerical question to someone is not an issue of safety, no one is “drawn” – by a deep yearning for comfort and safety and home and chicken soup for the soul! – to women specifically, when all they are looking for is someone’s office number. These are not lost little children. These are legal adults going to an appointment, and they forgot the number, and so they walk right by several men at desks in order to ask the first woman they see. It’s sexist. Don’t try to validate it by talking “oh but we are nurturers and we are driven to help and protect” and “these little 18 year olds, they are scared and young and they need our comfort” as if this is science. It’s not. And don’t use all that to layer even more work – of the not her job variety, no less – on a woman because “men are scary looking!” and “women nurture!” and “these kids need help!”

        8. CMDRBNA*


          It’s awfully convenient how evo psych finds an “evolutionary” explanation to explain sexism/justify sexist behavior, isn’t it? Also you are asking her to do even more admin stuff that isn’t her job to “solve” the problem.

          1. Optimistic Prime*

            And if you take an even further step back and look at evolutionary psychology from a bird’s eye view, you’ll see how it all neatly describes the way that humans of the Western hemisphere behave and act in the twentieth/twenty-first centuries. From an evolutionary psychologist’s perspective, there’s never anything that doesn’t make sense, never anything that maybe diverged from that bath or emerged differently, nothing is ever irrational or simply has no explanation. Everything can be explained by how our ancestors lived.

            Which 100% not the way science works. Especially not the social sciences. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense!

        9. Observer*

          This is nothing more than excuses for stupid and sexist behavior. I happen to believe that there are significant differences between men and women. But NONE OF THEM excuse this kind of nonsense. Neither does the whole “programmed to be nurturer” vs “programmed to be a hunter” malarkey.

          In fact, if anything, it’s the reverse. What kind of hunter / protector / warrior can’t find the resources to do x,y and z?

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            Yes! This is what I don’t understand – it EvoPsych wasn’t just “because cavemen” BS, then one would always ask men to find things because men are trackers and have to know where the prey animals are at all times, are are more cooperative because hunting is a communal task etc etc

        10. peachie*

          @Trillion, I strongly disagree that this is a “genetic” thing. And putting up a sign like the one you suggest is exactly the kind of emotional labor that women are constantly expected to do, whether or not it’s their job.

        11. Thing1*

          I study evolutionary genetics, and this is not very accurate. A major part of genetics has historically been separating out the effects of environment from genetics, but it’s still very challenging, especially with things that are so deeply engrained as this kind of social conditioning. We see messages from very early childhood that women are “more nurting”, so of course most of us believe it at some level. That may have absolutely nothing to do with genetics–in fact, it’s likely that it doesn’t. How would such genetic programming arise, anyway? There is no genetic information present in women that isn’t also present in men. And there is no solid evidence of which I’m aware that says that women are inherently more nurturing, or that this kind of “genetic programming” happens. I can tell evolutionary stories with the best of them–making up absurd explanations of things is actually something I find really funny to do–but that doesn’t mean they’re accurate.

          The intent doesn’t have to be to demean her work. The students who interrupt her are still doing it. And if nobody ever calls them on it, they’re not going to learn. Let them feel awkward. Maybe they’ll be better next time.

        12. Student*

          This is a long paragraph to say, “I’m afraid of men.”

          Maybe instead of trying to justify with pseudo-science why it’s okay for you to be afraid of me, but not women, you should ask yourself instead: Why you are so afraid of men?

          Is it really deserved, or is it subconscious? If it is deserved, if you’ve had strange men erupt at you for no good reason: doesn’t that mean there’s something deeply wrong somewhere in society, that you are afraid to ask a random man a reasonable and neutral question, but expect better of women?

        13. Alienor*

          I don’t think it’s genetics, I think it’s social factors. My daughter is a college freshman and she would 100 percent ask a woman for help rather than a man, but that’s because she knows a woman will most likely just answer her question without trying to hit on her or making weird/mean remarks in the name of “teasing” or “flirting.” (Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a male teacher/salesperson/administrator/mechanic make some BS joke instead of just giving you a straightforward answer to your straightforward inquiry.) So it’s not that women are naturally nurturing, it’s that they’re not taught it’s funny and cute to be dickish when someone needs help.

          1. blackcat*

            …. and now that I think of it, I am very, very hard pressed to think of a time a female student asked me this type of question. I’m sure it happens a time or two, but it’s definitely far more male students than female (at a high enough ratio that it likely couldn’t be explained by enrollment–our courses are mostly male but by a 2:3 or 1:2 ratio, not more than that). Huh. I bet female students are less likely to interrupt someone who is sitting at a desk working, but I don’t know. Maybe they’re more likely to read a syllabus! I’d still be annoyed at a female student interrupting my work, though. And I don’t think it’s fair for women to have to answer the questions of other women because of supposed “helpfulness.”

            I’m really intentional about *not* asking other women to do female coded things that aren’t a part of their job, and people (both male and female) asking women for help just because they’ll be more helpful is still really problematic.

          2. CMDRBNA*

            Yup. I’ve had guys do that whose job it was to help me find something. I went to a department store once to replace a watch and asked a man working at the jewelry counter where the watches were, and he teasingly said “I’ll show you where they are for twenty dollars!” No, how about you show me where the watches are because it’s your goddamned job? I just walked away. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked male employees or salespeople a question and gotten some cutesy BS response instead of an answer. The last time I went to a car dealership, I literally had to stand in the middle of the showroom and yell I AM TRYING TO BUY A CAR before I could get one of the (all men!) who worked there to actually sell me a car.

        14. Cherith Ponsonby*

          I think everyone’s already said what I wanted to say about the first paragraph, but…

          Why don’t you just put up a sign with a layout of which professor is in which office and post either on their doors or on a reference sheet near the floor layout when professors have their office hours. This way everyone is bothered less.

          …even if it were blackcat’s job to create a sign like this, and even if she could transcend the boundaries of space and time to make it pop up directly in front of the face of every one of these 18 year olds who haven’t come into themselves yet, I can guarantee you that 99% of them would blink twice, shrug, and ask the nearest woman where Professor Whatsiface is.

      2. Tuxedo Cat*

        I feel sorry for both of you. That happened to me in grad school, too. What bothered me even more, however, was when people started using my desk to put their trash. I had to put up a sign that read something to the effect of “Please don’t put trash on my desk. I don’t put trash on yours.” I think the other grad students took it as hostile and rude, but I didn’t know what to do. The worst of it was that the garbage can was right outside of the door. The good news is that whoever kept leaving trash on my desk stopped.

        1. blackcat*

          Eeewwww. Fortunately, my almost entirely male peer group cleans well, and the few slobs are policed by the other male students.

      3. Thing1*

        Ugh, my sympathies. I also used to work in a shared grad student office, and although we didn’t have professors’ offices nearby, we had the same effect with deliveries, etc. I love your idea of a sign–if nobody ever tells these students that they’re being sexist, after all, they’re not going to learn.

      4. StellaMaris*

        I think that sign is a good idea – asking people to examine their own bias is great.

        (And, also, a map of the area with professors’ offices marked might also help.)

    4. Jay*

      Male deliveryperson arriving at the nurse’s station: Here. You need to sign for this package (thrusts it at me).
      Me, pleasantly: I’m sorry. You’ll need to find one of the nurses to sign for that.
      Deliverperson: And who do you think you are?

      I was wearing a white coat and a badge that said M.D. on it. Gee, maybe I think I’m Santa Claus.

      1. Dr. Doll*

        He seriously said “And who do you think you are?”. O.My.God.

        That would have been rude no matter who you are!

      1. DArcy*

        I dream about someday being in a position to answer male behavior such as this with, “No, I’m your boss’ boss.”

  14. Murphy*

    This isn’t anywhere near the same level, but there’s a guy whose been here a lot longer than me, but he cannot for the life of him remember the code to the copier. He asks me all of the time. I think now I’m just the de facto owner of this information, so he doesn’t have to learn it. I kind of want to write it on a post it note…

    1. ZenJen*

      I’d say “Hmm, I haven’t made copies in a while so I can’t remember it, you should ask someone else.” Train them to figure it out some other way.

    2. Em Too*

      I would write it on a stack of post it notes. And every time he asked, I would silently hand him one from the top of the pile, allowing him to see the next one already prepared for his next visit.

      1. Murphy*

        Actually, his office door faces my desk…I should just put up a sign with 4 numbers on it. No explanation…but he’ll know.

        1. OhNo*

          Do it!

          Seriously, as someone who has this problem, I had to go to one of my coworkers once every couple of weeks because I couldn’t remember the code for the copier, and she was the only one who knew it offhand. One day I mentioned that I should really write it down somewhere, but then I immediately forgot to do that too. The next time I asked, she showed up at my office five minutes later with it written on a post-it note and taped it to my computer. I haven’t had to ask her for it since.

          (I mean well, but I have ADD and need about twenty million reminders blaring in my face to remember anything that I don’t use or do every single day. My coworkers get irritated sometimes, but they’re generally very kind about pointing out that I need to get my sh*t together.)

          1. Amtelope*

            I think you could say “make your own sticky” without the swipe about “one of your many disabilities,” which seems uncool.

          2. peachie*

            Wow, this is rude as heck. This is why I’ve never told ~anyone!~ that I worked with about my ADHD.

          3. Competent Commenter*

            I also have ADHD and I never ever leave my desk without taking my work mobile. One way I use it is to email myself notes so I’m not trying and failing to remember things like this.

    3. Temperance*

      I worked with a dude who kept forgetting parts of our job and asking me. Once I realized that he was just too damn lazy to recall any information or make an effort to learn, I referred him to the manual and refused to answer his questions. (This pissed off our boss, who favored him greatly, but w/e).

      1. Emi.*

        I have a coworker who sometimes comes by my office to ask me programming questions, all of which would be closed on StackOverflow for “no prior research effort.” I say “Oh, have you tried reading the documentation?” in a helpful tone.

  15. NW Mossy*

    I’ve experienced the same thing around tech help, by virtue of being “the young one,” which is sort of ridiculous at 37 but I’ve got one of those baby faces. Even the first team I managed fell into the dynamic of asking me to troubleshoot until they realized that I wasn’t going to respond with anything other than “Time to call the help desk!” I just realized that my current team does not do this, and I sure do have more time in my day now.

  16. Katniss*

    It’s frustrating that this kind of “subtle”, insidious sexism keeps happening. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if women just went on strike completely for a couple of weeks.

  17. Tuxedo Cat*

    If the other workers can’t be arsed to call the appropriate channels when the roof caved in, they have huge issues that aren’t your problem.

    I wanted to add that the advice is good, just be prepared for push back. I mentioned on some post a few weeks ago that a junior collaborator has done this recently with me. He doesn’t want to do parts of the bureaucracy and has been feeding me a host of excuses. I think my favorite from him was “I don’t like doing paperwork and it frustrates me.” I angered him more by saying “It does for me too.” Every excuse he gave was not unique to him. The thing is I have to let it roll off my back, because it’s not my job to do those tasks (and it is part of his). It’s not your job to make sure the office doesn’t literally cave in on itself. Enjoy your vacation.

  18. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    This happens ALL THE TIME in my office. There was a meeting for a different department that had catered lunch. After it was over, they walked out of the room without picking it up. Their manager walked over to my desk and told me it needed to be cleared up (like OP, I’m one of the few women and younger than everyone). I just said “good to know” and stared at him blankly until he walked away and I continued working.

    *Yes, I’ve complained to my manager but they’ve done jack about it.

      1. the gold digger*

        Yeah, not even the janitor’s job where I work and have worked. It’s the responsibility of the person running the meeting. I left the cookies and napkins and coffee (that I had arranged for) in a meeting room once. My boss found me and told me it was my responsibility to clean up.

        1. Havarti*

          Yup. Our cleaning staff is notified to come in and remove the food but sometimes they’re late and the next meeting starts and the people get upset the food is still there. Anytime I order catering, I show up to make sure the order is correct and then I return to clean up and move leftovers into the kitchen area.

      2. Tiny Soprano*

        Yeah I literally just had a catered lunch meeting where 15 all-older-male high-ups in the company loaded the dishwasher themselves when they were done and left the boardroom spotless. If people want to not be sexist jerks, they totally can. *stares pointedly at the other team who always leaves the boardroom looking like a kindergarten class had a swordfight with baguettes*

    1. Tuxedo Cat*

      This happened to a friend of mine. It was frustrating because she’d be late to her meetings and such while others just stood around, expecting her to clean up.

    2. la bella vita*

      I like “oh, I wasn’t part of that meeting!” and the implication that oh, you must be saying that to me because you think it it was my meeting – they can either backtrack with an “oh, sorry!” or they’re forced to double down with something showing that either they assumed because I’m a woman that a) I must be an admin or b) generally responsible for the clean up for something I had nothing to do with simply because of my gender.

    3. Chinook*

      I work on a male dominated industry and have told my colleagues many times that I love that they clean up after themselves at meetings, fix the coffee machine and copier and even keep the kitchen clean without anyone asking. When I tell them this, they are shocked that I find this unusual, which makes me love them more.

      So, the good news is that it can happen.

  19. Lady Phoenix*

    Yeah… go on vacay and tell these blokes to do it themselves. Rope in your boss pn what has been happening too so he can discipline these apes

  20. IsobelDeBrujah*

    My trick for this type of situation is to ask what the male coworker thinks I should do and then say “Good thinking, do that!” And then, you know, go back to my actual job.

    1. iseeshiny*

      That’s beautiful. Because he gets to mansplain that he does, in fact, know exactly how to deal with whatever issue.

    2. Dr. Doll*

      That is bloody brilliant. And then if they say “well, I dunno…” you can say, Figure it out, because it is in fact NOT my job.

  21. SarahKay*

    Definitely, stop doing anything more for any of the printers, now – unless it’s to add paper you need for your own printing.
    Use Alison’s scripts any time anyone asks you to do anything with the printers.
    Have a wonderful vacation and do not think about the printers, etc, at all!
    Oh, and for anyone else trying to tell you that the men’s loos are blocked, I recommend “Eww, nasty. Better you than me!” If they have the nerve to ask you what you’re going to do about it, say “I’m going to use the Ladies loos” in the most surprised tone you can come up with.

  22. Callalily*

    I ran into a situation before where the older male staffers had me do all of the admin work… I thought they were being sexist but it really came down to seniority/pay rates. Not only was I most junior but I also had the lowest wage/charge-out rate – so it was a bigger waste of resources to have someone above me taking care of admin tasks. When the day came where a male had started under me, no one expected me to do a single task – it was all on him then.

    1. Macchiato*

      This was my thought, too. Since the OP is the most junior, it could be a case of where her time is considered less valuable than the higher-ups, who happen to be men. Of course it’s totally possible it’s a case of sexism, but I’m basing my answer off of some of Allison’s advice about more senior people’s time being more valuable.

      1. Liane*

        The letter says that OP’s boss (boss = higher up) says they aren’t her job, so I really doubt her time is considered less valuable.

        1. Macchiato*

          True, but the boss said it wasn’t her job, but he also never said whose job it is, so he seems to be fine with her doing it.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      It makes sense to me that a junior person should be doing it. Is it a good use of a highly paid worker’s time to restock the printer or clean the kitchen? No, it’s cheaper to have the lowest paid person do it.

      I have to say though, I miss the administrative assistants and other support positions. There used to be dedicated people who did this kind of work as part of their job description. Now it falls to the most junior, most helpful, most easily taken advantage of, or female coworkers (!) – depending on your workplace.

      1. HA2*

        Those positions still exist in many places. They’re great.

        Honestly, if a company is having employees trained for specific tasks (legal, software, engineering, etc) do routine things like ordering lunches, being on the phone with tech support for office technology, and so on, it’s quite a waste of time and money. It really seems like once a company gets past, like, a dozen people, it’s worth hiring someone for that kind of work.

    3. Temperance*

      Or … because you’re a woman, you were paid the least, because your labor is less valuable, because you’re basically a glorified admin ….

      1. Stop That Goat*

        Except the part where the male started under her and then took over the tasks….

        Not saying that the OP’s situation isn’t sexist but this commentor’s situation pretty clearly isn’t.

        1. Temperance*

          Eh, I would slow your roll on that. Alliant did a far better job explaining this than I did.

    4. Alliant*

      “but it really came down to seniority/pay rates.”

      Yes, but in many firms, somehow the person with the least seniority and pay is ALWAYS a woman.

      Just like race and social class are intertwined, gender and seniority and pay are often intertwined.

      I’ve worked for 5 decades. Many, many places I worked would hire in 4-5 people at the same time and it was always miraculous how the white male somehow had just a smidge more experience and would be given a bit higher pay and seniority over the women and minorities.

    5. Observer*

      That doesn’t fly here. For one thing, her boss told her it’s not her job ie it’s not a good use of her pay rate either.

      For another, it’s a very poor use of staff time to delay work while they wait for someone else to take care of stuff they could easily and quickly manage on their own. And there is no way that the “rates and seniority” thing makes ANY sense whatsoever when it comes down to an emergency that had to have cost a significant amount of money to fix, and whose cost was almost certainly multiplied several times over because of waiting for the OP to come back from vacation.

      1. PM Jesper Berg*

        “For another, it’s a very poor use of staff time to delay work while they wait for someone else to take care of stuff they could easily and quickly manage on their own.”

        *Completely* disagreed. For example, in a law firm, you don’t want partners who could be billing $800/hr (or more) to be filling out timesheets for clients, even if theoretically they could do it faster on their own.

    6. Optimistic Prime*

      Alison address this in the original post:

      “To be thorough, it’s possible that this is about age/seniority rather than gender, but given that this exact type of sexism is so very well established in so many workplaces, and given that so many women encounter this kind of expectation while far fewer men do, it seems pretty likely that if it walks like a sexist duck and talks like a sexist duck, it’s probably a sexist duck.”

  23. Em Too*

    Will you be coming back to the same team after your two weeks? What’s the appropriate response if you return and things haven’t been done? I think I’d go for astonishment mixed with amusement (‘*none* of you managed to make a phone call!?’), but there may be better options.

  24. Bess*

    In my last job my male coworker, who was in charge of the student staff, overlooked a gap in the schedule and I somehow ended up covering reception, in spite of the 20,000 other things I had to do that day.

    That coworker then complained in my hearing, while I was answering phones due to his mistake, that his advanced degree wasn’t being properly utilized because he had to deliver some things across campus that afternoon. I nearly burst a blood vessel, as our entire staff was highly educated and I happened to have more advanced credentials than he did.

    1. Tuxedo Cat*

      The nerve of that guy. I’ve found that time of sentiment too. It’s disgusting. Some of the most infuriating comments have come from men who fancy themselves champions of women’s rights and equality. I suppose they are.. until they have to do something they think is beneath them.

      1. Bess*

        Yeah, and he was junior to most others in the office in experience and hierarchy (and salary) to boot, including me. I typically don’t get fixated on “levels” like that but he tended to assume we came to our roles with the same expertise, when I had 10 years on him in career experience. Which was frustrating when he would try to tell me how to do parts of my job based on an article he’d read in a graduate seminar.

      2. Emi.*

        “Sue, can you take notes for the Women’s Advisory Committee meeting? And order some cookies?”

      3. Julia*

        I had a co-worker like that. He said women should be paid more than men if they were expected to spend money on hair and make-up. Then once he asked me a favour (it wasn’t the first favour) that would have allowed him a longer break by shortening mine, and I just said ‘sure’ a little annoyed. I could have said no, but he was chronically late and I knew even refusing to cover part of his shift wouldn’t work in the end.
        He accused me of HAVING NO EMPATHY because I didn’t fall all over myself saying ‘of course, your stupid crap is so much more important than my break, take all the time you need’ – and later apologized saying he didn’t have a great filter.
        He also once snipped his fingers at me with ‘attention here’ because my BOSS had interrupted our conversation. He treated me like a stupid little secretary when he wanted to, even though we were supposed to be colleagues. Ugh.

  25. nosy nelly*

    Anyone read that “I’m not a nag, I’m fed up” article published last week about household chores and emotional labor/household management? Absolutely applies here!

        1. KR*

          YES. I’m working on this with my husband. We’re recently married so we still have tons of time to work on it, but I’m trying to get him to notice things that need to be cleaned up without me having to tell him to go clean things up. He’s being great about it so far.

      1. Jay*

        For me there’s a Venn diagram overload. I do a lot of emotional labor when I try to figure out if my marriage can tolerate a conversation about the mental load. I sent my husband that article and explained the overlap and he said “Well, I hope you usually decide that it can tolerate it.” I said “Actually, most often I decide that it can’t. I’m often faced with the choice of inciting an argument or putting up with clutter or undone household tasks, and I spend a lot of energy trying to assess your emotional state to figure out what it’s safe to ask for.” He’s a good guy, we communicate well, and he’s way more involved in household management than a lot of men – and this still happens.

        1. Emi.*

          Oof. I’m sorry! I think that’s common, which probably explains why the two get confused so often (and also because things like keeping track of birthdays fall into both categories).

        2. Wordy Nerd*

          Can I say that I’m jealous? I decided it wasn’t worth sending the article to my husband because I knew what the fallout would be (he’d get really defensive and upset and we’d have a fight and nothing would change). At least you were able to send it.

          I did post it on Facebook, but I’m 99% sure he never reads any of the articles I post so I doubt he read it.

      2. Kindling*

        Thank you! Any gendered labour =/= emotional labour. Both are still definite issues, but only one is at play with this particular type of garbage that the OP’s coworkers are trying to pull.

      3. Steve*

        I was really confused about this. I was thinking “What’s emotional about replacing printer paper?”

        1. nosy nelly*

          The “awareness of what needs to be done” dimension is similar here though. In the article, the author mentions coming across a dirty towel on the floor that her husband “didn’t notice” needed picking up. Sure, the picking up is not emotional or mental labor, just like changing a toner cartridge isn’t. But the noticing and the being aware that things might need to be taken care of are very similar in the two contexts.

    1. Becky*

      I identified with the writer so much, only in my case it is my female roommate. It should be obvious that you need to empty and reline the trashcan in the bathroom when it is literally overflowing, but she apparently doesn’t notice unless I ask her to empty it. And then I find there is still garbage on the floor around the previously overflowing trashcan.

      I can’t really afford a place on my own right now but sometimes I really really get frustrated.

      She’s older than me and has been living on her own longer than me but has no clue how to keep a house.

    2. mrs__peel*

      YESSSS, and it 100% reinforced my decision to maintain a separate residence and finances from my partner of 12 years.

      I love him, but I also love having my own place and not having to remind someone to pick socks up off the floor, etc.

  26. Lieutenant Uhorrible*

    Just go on vacation and revel in your promotion, OP, without another thought to these literal man-babies.
    Sexism in an office isn’t usually a guy slapping your seat and calling you, “Toots.” It is now far more insidious. It’s these unquestioned assumptions that communicate that your time is less valuable than theirs.
    I worked in marketing for a large IT company. My cube was near the entrance and the largest conference room. Weekly, a random sales manager would ask me to escort a vendor/client to them or order/deliver lunches. I got a reputation as a “feminazi” because my reply was always an evenly stated, “I’m busy with marketing tasks. Perhaps you should ask an admin.” If they persisted, I’d ask why they assumed these admin tasks were my job. My boss always backed me up, thankfully.

  27. Bagpuss*

    I agree with Alison’s script #3. If they respond by saying that it’s your job, you can set them right “Something like, Oh, No, Happy to clear up that little misunderstanding. I’m not an admin or secretary.[you can state what you role is, especially if it is the same, or very similar to, whoever you are speaking to]. I’ve spoken with [Boss] who confirmed that this is not part of my job. Happy to have cleared that up! ” and if you like add after that “But if you call IT / Facilities they will be able to deal with it / talk you thorugh what you need to do”

    If you get push-back, move to “It’s not part of my job, so you will need to sort it out. Excuse me, I’m on a deadline so need to get back to work”

    Good luck, and be prepared to say it all much more than once.

  28. Kate*

    All of this is *so* frustrating, but I have to admit, I pretty much lost it when I got to, “One of the guys told me that the men’s loos were blocked one day.” I’d be likely to respond with, “Why are you telling me this? I used the ladies’ room.”

    Go on your holiday, OP, and do not worry about these things that are NOT YOUR JOB. Also, congrats on the promotion!

    1. Purplesaurus*

      I’d be so tempted to say something like, “looks like neither of us are able to give a shit.”

  29. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    They appear to think that your uterus is actually a name tag reading “admin support,” but it’s not.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      I literally just came here to say this was the best line ever.

      I also loved “it seems pretty likely that if it walks like a sexist duck and talks like a sexist duck, it’s probably a sexist duck.”

      +100, Alison!

    1. Allison*

      Seriously. Your son needs to know, before he goes off into the world, that he cannot rely on women as caretakers, because we are no longer caretakers by default.

      1. mrs__peel*

        When I went to college (in the late ’90s), it boggled my mind just how many guys had never done A SINGLE LOAD of laundry before because their mom always did it for them.

        Some of them took the time to learn how, but many of them just took massive amounts of dirty laundry home on breaks for their mothers to wash…

        1. Allison*

          I have no idea if it’s still an issue today, but it’s definitely a stereotype. And I vaguely remember a guy asking me how to wash jeans . . .

          Honestly, growing up my mom and dad did the laundry, my sister and I just sorted our laundry into the piles and then picked our stuff out later. We still managed to do it ourselves when we left for college, it’s not hard! But I recently had a male roommate who would do most of his laundry at his parents’ house; whether he was just doing it to save money or whether his mommy did it for him I have no idea, but he did once groan that he haaaated laundry. How can you hate laundry? Your clothes get all clean and you can wear them again!

          But yeah, I have encountered dudes who managed to leave the nest not knowing how to take care of themselves, and not bothering to learn. I’m so done enabling that garbage.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            I am a woman who started doing my family’s laundry in 5th grade, and I haaaaaaate laundry.

            For what that’s worth.

            1. K.*

              I started doing my own laundry in 5th grade – my mother taught me how and was like, “You got it? Cool, you’re on your own.” Same went for my brother. I don’t mind it. But I have a friend who started doing his family’s (2 adults, 3 kids) laundry around that time and he started sending his laundry out as soon as he got his first job, because he loathes laundry. If things get tight financially he shuffles things around – he would rather skip a meal than do any more laundry. He doesn’t expect the women in his life to do it for him – he would be totally content to send out his laundry for the rest of his days.

        2. the gold digger*

          I discovered recently – because Primo has taken over all the household chores now that I am the one working – that my husband did not know how to make hospital corners.

          Because his parents had never taught him how to make a bed.

          Because his mother made his bed until he went to college.

          1. Mandy*

            I’ve made my own bed since I was a teenager but I still don’t know how to do hospital corners.

            1. Talvi*

              I never learned hospital corners (had to google that)! Of course, when I make my bed, I only tuck it under along the foot of my bed. I hate when my sheets are tucked in along the sides! It’s too constricting.

          2. mrs__peel*

            I only know how because I worked in hotels and made thousands of beds. We never made ours at home!

        3. K.*

          I taught a male friend how to do laundry in college. He was the only child – a son, at that! – of a very traditional Italian-American housewife. Her husband and her son were her life. He left home completely clueless about how households functioned. He was a very sweet, kind guy but he just wasn’t raised to take care of anything domestic, ever. He grew out of it in part because he got a girlfriend who was like “Do … your laundry? WTF? No.”

  30. JD*

    This brings back the memory of when I tried to change the copy machine ink and my boss walked in to me covered in black in as it did that poof thing and exploded on me. I was at this point sitting on the floor half laughing/half crying. The whole office was in hysterics when my boss opened the door and everyone saw me. I was never asked to change the toner again.

  31. Havarti*

    Even as an actual admin, I still try to teach/make people do things like contact Facilities, etc. themselves or any other tasks of which I am not the sole keeper. Because if everything had to be routed through me, I would get nothing done! My boss needs to me to do certain tasks and there’s no point playing middleman in a mundane request for a replacement keyboard.

    1. Malibu Stacey*

      Another admin and I agree. I have no problem changing the toner, etc, but if I am out sick for the day someone else has to do it.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      Which is why a good way to phrase this for people approaching an admin for assistance is to say “What is the process for X?” If it turns out the admin in question handles the thing, great! But if there’s a way I can do it myself and never feel guilty for bothering this person again, EVEN BETTER!

      1. Allison*

        Right, or “do you know who I speak to about X?”

        Or “[usually X do-er] isn’t here, is there someone else who can process this form? Or should I come back later?”

        In other words, don’t approach anyone under the assumption that they can and should help you, approach them understanding they may be helpful, but they also might be useless and that’s okay.

    3. crookedfinger*


      I’m an admin, yes, but apparently also the go-to for absolutely everything else that doesn’t fall under my particular admin duties. It got to the point where my boss noticed and pointed out how much time I was spending not actually doing what I was hired to do.

      Now I (gleefully) tell them to look through their email for the instructions that were provided/follow the instructions on the printer/call IT yourself/ask the boss/Google it/go look for Your Admin as she’s in the office somewhere and my personal favorite, silently pointing (without even looking away from my screen) to the sign I put on my cube wall that answers their question about deposit deadlines/pay days.

      Granted, I’m still being interrupted by these things daily, but the questions are slowly tapering off as they come to realize I won’t drop what I’m doing to help them.

  32. Friday*

    So when I was fresh out of college, I was hired back at the place I interned. When I was an intern there, I was usually in the warehouse but when I was staff, I was in the office. I didn’t drink coffee at the time but everyone else did, and they always ran the pot dry and let it burn. I was delightfully obtuse at this time and while nobody, especially not my boss, ever told me to make more coffee or at least shut the warmer off so it didn’t burn, I was the recipient of so many PA comments, even more were just made purposefully within my hearing, about how it sucked there was no coffee and the pot was burning. I was always like, yeah, sucks for you but I don’t drink coffee. Years later I was like, OH they wanted me to make more! Hahahaa.

    1. Havarti*

      Meh, they should’ve just asked you to handle the coffee. Being coy deserves no coffee and a burned pot.

      1. Friday*

        Still puzzles me why they didn’t. I was definitely the most junior employee on the team and it wouldn’t have been unreasonable for it to be my job. Maybe they were trying to NOT be so sexist about it (office was mostly men) but all those comments were so damn silly, and they were all essentially playing a big game of Not It with each other over it at the same time. The office always reeked of burnt coffee.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        Seriously! The rule in my old office was that whoever finishes the old pot makes a new pot, and whatever is still there at 3 PM gets tossed.

    2. Temperance*

      I just seriously don’t understand this at all. In my office, EVERYONE makes the damn coffee. I work at a law firm.

    3. Elle Kay*

      Hahah, this is exactly what I say. I don’t drink coffee so I have no idea of the state of the coffee pot. If you drink it, you probably know how to brew it.

      1. Mandy*

        I don’t drink coffee and wouldn’t have the first clue how to clean or make a pot of coffee.

        But, I know how to operate the Keurig in our breakroom! :P

        1. LadyKelvin*

          +1 I made coffee once for my MIL. I asked her how it was. She told me it was awful and then we both laughed. I have never made coffee again. I don’t even know how to use the coffee pot, and I have no intention to learn.

  33. Cathie*

    When I first started in the working world — by god, it was 45 years ago — most offices each had their own Secretary, the person, usually a woman, who did all the typing and filing. She also knew everyone and did all the organizational scut work and looked after everyone’s admin problems.
    Unfortunately, this was one of the first jobs that organizations discarded when everyone started using their own computers, thinking that secretaries didn’t really do anything really important anyway.
    Turns out, they did.

    1. OP*

      My workplace used to have admin assistants in every team. Over time, they were not replaced when people got promoted, retired or left.

      They are finally seeing the error of their ways and are thinking about running a recruitment campaign for “business support assistants” which is what they have rebranded administrators. Meanwhile, some teams have no assistants but “business managers” on £30-£50k doing the printers and stationery.

    2. Your Weird Uncle*

      Sad, isn’t it?

      I also find this sad: my stepson has a very analytical mind. He likes to figure out how things work, he can look at all of the moving parts (both literally and figuratively) to see how they work together, he likes to solve problems, he likes knowing how things are done, he likes to know and follow the rules. EVERYONE says to him what a good engineer he’ll be someday. Which is great! I hope he gets into engineering! But these are also qualities that make a great admin and I’ve never heard anyone say to a boy, ‘Oh what a great admin he’ll make someday!’

      1. Student*

        No one says that to women, anymore, either. Admins are low-payed, entry-level female grunt jobs, not sought-after positions. Nobody tells boys they would make janitors. Nobody tells people of either gender that they’d make great McDonald’s short-order cooks. Those jobs are all hard, and they all involve different levels of difficult and unpleasant work, and task management. They are not, however, high-paying, desirable long term jobs like engineer. Pretending an admin is on-par with an engineer is insulting to both. Better to give the admin real chances to move up a career progression than to pretend it is some noble profession solely because it is female-dominated.

        1. Salyan*

          On the other hand, some of us like being admins and wouldn’t want to be engineers. We’re perfectly happy taking care of the million things that no one else may know how to handle in order to keep the organization running smoothly, and enjoy the subtle authority that comes with being the gatekeeper to the directors. So glad to know you think our chosen career path is an undesirable, entry-level grunt job. A good admin is worth her weight in gold.

      2. Cherith Ponsonby*

        And I bet nobody ever says “What a great technical writer he’d make!” either. Yet another field that doesn’t get the respect it deserves because we all have Microsoft Word now.

        (Tech writer here, and all of those apply to me too, except I’m too bolshy to follow rules. (Right now I’m editing a document that seems to have been put together by someone randomly cutting and pasting bits of other documents (most of which I wrote) with no regard for how they fit together. Am I bitter? Only because it was given to me as an afterthought and I don’t have time to do a good job.) I’d be thrilled to mentor someone with your stepson’s skillset.)

    3. Jenna*

      I won’t name the company, but, my branch of it laid off all their operations people at once. Called us all in to a meeting at ten AM, gave us the news, locked us out of our computers, gave us a short while to say our goodbyes, and sent us home.
      I heard later that they eventually figured out that they’d let go everyone who knew the post machine code(let alone how to run the machine), except for the branch manager’s executive assistant who was on vacation.

  34. Malibu Stacey*

    I have the opposite problem. I’m an admin and my coworker used to be an admin at our company before she moved into a non-admin role, but she is constantly trying to take over office management tasks.

  35. Trillion*

    I’m not getting a “sexism” vibe from this letter; other than the OP questioning that may be the root cause. I am a female, the only female in my building, the only female with my title in my companie’s history, in a traditionally male dominated field who went to a school where male to female ratio was 6:1 campuswide and 13:1 in my degree program. I know how easy it is to get assigned traditionally female tasks and experienced both overt and subtle sexism and sexual harassment with my first “real” job. I’ve reread this letter 4 times and to me it seems more like 1. They’re incompetent 2. OP’s predecessor handled quite literally everything to the point where everyone else became incompetent 3. It’s lowest seniority/pay grade type thing and that’s how your department runs it but it’s not necessarily how it’s approached company wide. 4. OP says she has a bunch of middle managers and they are used to delegating. 5. OP is just awesome at juggling everything 6. All of the above.

    It’s completely possible there is some sexism at play but based on what’s shown in this letter I don’t see that. That being said push back on it as long as your manager isn’t assigning these tasks to you.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I think it’s usually impossible to ever KNOW, unless someone says something offensive – this may well be unconscious by the coworkers too, so they would say “NO, it’s not because she’s a woman! She just likes to do this stuff / is better at it than me / reminds me of my mother who did these things for me wait what what did I say oh god I’m a sexsist piece of crap.” (Well, they never say that because they don’t get that far). The point is, OP needs to have permission to avoid these tasks and not feel guilty, and she should absolutely do that with the knowledge that this is a common sexist trap that women fall into in the workplace. It doesn’t really matter for OP’s purposes if her colleagues are acting with sexism in their hearts or not, the advice is the same.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Right. This can be unconscious and still be very much a problem.

        I once had an enlightening conversation with a male friend; we were out together and he needed directions. So he walked past something like five men standing at a bus stop to ask the woman if she knew the way to [wherever]. (I didn’t stop him because I didn’t realize what he was doing until he’d started talking.)

        Afterwards I said, “So… why did you walk past five men before asking?” and he said “Well, I don’t know, I didn’t think about it. I guess she just looked more approachable?” And I kind of looked at him and he said, “I guess… I usually think that women look more approachable?” He thought about it a little more and then said, “And sometimes when talking to a guy you don’t know, you don’t know how they’re going to react, so…”

        “And what were you to that woman, then?” I asked, and he said “oh” in a very small voice. And then we had a conversation about how it’s a constant low level of work to ‘seem friendly’ and ‘be approachable’ all the freaking time.

        A good guy, my friend. But lurking around in the back of his head were all these thoughts about how men and women “should” be. And even though none of them were conscious, they were still a problem, because in a hundred tiny ways they perpetuated the idea that women should be “on” and friendly and approachable all the time, and that the burden of the potential awkwardness of dealing with men you don’t know should be shouldered by women.

        1. Student*

          We’re (women) seen as less threatening, so people who are confused, scared, lost seek us out like a homing beacon for general information. I’m a short, young women, and I swear anyone in a 1-mile radius who’s mildly upset or inconvenienced is magnetically pulled toward me. You wouldn’t believe some of the questions I’ve gotten.

          But suddenly they want a technical opinion, and then they’ll walk past 5 PhD women to ask the male janitor first.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Oh yeah, totally. I am also a youngish woman, and I have Resting Nice Face into the bargain, and it happens all. the. time. I have literally never done air travel alone without someone trying to strike up a random conversation, even when I have headphones on or am reading a book, even when they don’t actually even have a question, or the question is clearly manufactured as an excuse to talk rather than a genuine question. (I have had the “Is that an iPad? What model? Do you like it?” conversation at least ten times.)

            Because like you say, it’s like there’s a magnetic pull there: they’re at the airport, they have that peculiar combination of boredom, loneliness and mild anxiety that happens to many people at airports, and rather than self-soothe some part of them goes “there’s a woman! she will make me feel better.” Most of them, I am genuinely convinced, are not hitting on me. They just have this subconscious feeling that I will Make Them Feel Better. It’s not just men, in fairness, but it’s mostly men.

            I don’t think it’s conscious, but it’s still exhausting.

          2. Lil Fidget*

            +1 and I’ve realized that I, a fellow small woman, will gravitate towards sitting next to the other small woman on the bus, rather than the potentially angry looking guy who also has a seat free. I see it from everybody, including men, even if they don’t go on to hit on that girl. It kind of sucks for her that her “reward” for looking “nice” is that she always has to share her seat.

            1. mrs__peel*

              Well, there are *legitimate* safety reasons why a woman might gravitate towards a female stranger in certain settings instead of a male one. I think that’s kind of separate issue from expecting women to perform emotional labor.

              I understand why a woman might feel more comfortable (e.g.) asking me for directions or sitting next to me instead of a strange man, and I don’t mind that because I might feel the same way about MY safety if our positions were reversed. I feel something of a shared bond there, in a way I definitely don’t feel about a man who just doesn’t want to make his own photocopies.

              1. Lil Fidget*

                True, but the example was that a man picks a woman to ask for help too. Everybody is pestering / impinging on women all day, while men go about undisturbed getting what they needed to get done. I don’t think in my case it’s always a safety concern, I’m like – oh, who looks helpful – HER.

                1. Lil Fidget*

                  This came out oddly black and white. All I meant to say is that everyone, including me as a woman myself, is cued to think that women are nice and helpful (and by extension, that they’re available on demand to help me). We’re all swimming in the same soup here.

              2. blackcat*

                Yeah, I am not bothered by stranger women coming up and asking me for help vs being asked for help in the workplace. I also feel intimidated by strange men coming up to me on the street, even if they have a totally reasonable request.

                Oddly, my most common experience of being asked for help is by non-English speakers. This has happened both where I live now–Boston–and where I used to live–in a southern city. Apparently I give off a helpful, multilingual vibe. My husband was totally confused when a woman came up to us and started asking where to pick up the bus to take her to X destination in Spanish* 1) strangers never ask him–a 6’3″ man–for assistance and 2) I look as gringa as they come. He also apparently forgot at the time that, despite not speaking Spanish well, I speak it well enough to give directions (my “how to get around” and “how to order food” Spanish is excellent, because that is what I have used most). At any rate, he was just totally baffled that a stranger would walk up to me, speaking a foreign language and expect (and receive, without any pause) assistance from me. He had apparently been inclined to keep walking and ignore her, which also speaks to our conditioning growing up (I do default to helping strangers, he does not).

            2. Julia*

              Men will always sit next to women instead of other men, because a ) two men in a row can’t manspread well, and b) for some reason apparently even men who are friends with each other can’t sit next to each other (maybe they think it makes them look gay, which would be the worst thing in the world.)

          3. Tiny Soprano*

            I used to work at an info kiosk, and the number of times I had to check to make sure I hadn’t walked out with my INFO polo shirt on. Then I’d realise that those ten lost people had probably stopped me because I was a young woman, not because I still had my uniform on.

    2. Aurion*

      I’d almost buy the most junior person explanation…except they couldn’t be bothered to call someone when the ceiling was literally caving in.

      I mean, 1) when OP was out then automatically that means someone else is lowest on the totem pole for the day, and 2) the flipping ceiling was caving in. At this point even the freaking president can take one look at it and go “you may not know who to call off the top of your head, but by god, find out right now lest the ceiling falls on our heads”. It cannot possibly take two days to investigate who is the facilities person to call.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        Yes, if this were actually about assigning such tasks to the most junior person, then when that most junior person is out of the office, these tasks would fall to the next most junior person. And that person would know already how to do them because they used to be the most junior person and did them all the time before OP’s arrival.

  36. E**

    I thought “They appear to think that your uterus is actually a name tag reading ‘admin support'” won the internet today.

    And then I got to “sexist duck.”

    1. Liane*

      I nominate Mike C’s “are you afraid of shutting your manhood in the paper drawer?” for Second Runner Up.
      (It’s near the top of the comments.

  37. Bookworm*

    I had a manager who was in a somewhat similar position. I’m not entirely sure what the circumstances were (I was still fairly new, less than 6 months into the position) but he took off like 3 days being “sick” while another manager was already on vacation and one other was also out ill. It wasn’t administrative tasks like ordering toner but the upper management had refused to create certain protocols to account for missing managers for a situation like this and it basically meant our entire workflow was disturbed.

    So he was still out ill and more senior employees were named as the people to handle the flow with upper management as backup. Not ideal but from what I understand this had been a point of contention for a long time and did have a history. It might not be the “nice” thing to do but it is also not your responsibility, especially since you’re leaving. Sometimes people really, REALLY don’t get it until it whacks them in the face. Good luck to you.

  38. KC without the sunshine band*

    I joined a nonprofit board and was the only woman. I was immediately nominated for secretary to take notes of the meetings (wonder why…). I flat refused, partly because my handwriting is terrible, but largely because I already knew I was going to have to “earn” my way to equal footing with these guys anyway. No point in making it harder.
    Being aware of the things you do that give others permission to treat you as “less” is the best way to prevent it from happening in the first place. When it does happen, address immediately and head on. You can be nice and not be a doormat. Best of luck and enjoy your vacation.

    1. Not that Anne, the other Anne*

      My manager decided we should have someone take notes on our weekly team meetings and that the task of taking notes would rotate among the team. I was the newest hire and the only woman on the team. Somehow (insert eye-rolling emoji here) I ended up being tasked to take notes three weeks in a row rather than it rotating as it should.

      After that I marched into my manager’s office and informed him I was not a secretary and would not be taking notes in the future unless the note-taking actually started rotating.

      We stopped taking notes.

  39. Katie the Fed*

    OP, this is a REALLY good time to learn to set boundaries – before you start your new job! Absolutely use some of the language Alison suggested. I’m a big fan of feigning confusion as to why they’re asking you (you know why – they might not, but you know) and acting completely stumped about it. Occasionally you might have to call it out directly.

    When you start your job – do not EVER take on a single admin task that men don’t/won’t do. Do it once and they’ll be perfectly happy to have you keep doing it.

    This whole thing reminds me of a colleague who tried to get me to plan a going away party for someone who worked for him. This kind of thing happens CONSTANTLY

    Him: “So, um – we need to do a party for Cersei.”
    Me: “Yep.”
    Him: “So um…that seems like something you’re good at.”
    Me: “Well, really anyone can do a party.”
    Him: “Right, but you’re good at it.”
    Me: [ignores him and lets there be a long awkward silence]
    Him: “So maybe you could help…”
    Me: “Nope. I have total faith in your ability to do this.”
    Him: “But, like, how many pizzas would I need to order? I’m not good at this stuff.”
    Me: “You have three masters degrees. Believe in yourself. I have a meeting to get to.”

    1. Murphy*

      I wish I could say that in response to some of the questions I get from faculty members. “You have a PhD. I think you can handle this.”

      1. periwinkle*

        I’ve worked with research and faculty PhDs ever since my first high school internship. They can’t necessarily handle it. Some of the biochemists I’ve worked with, well, I’m surprised they can manage light switches and doorknobs, tbh…

        On the other hand, I am totally stealing that “Believe in yourself” line for such situations!

        1. Murphy*

          I think they can, if they put in a little effort.

          Don’t get me wrong, in situations where it’s my job to help, then I help! But I get really stupid questions, or questions where they could easily get the answer themselves without asking me.

        2. Else*

          I know many, many of those people from both my work and my family, and it’s a kind of learned self-indulgence. With very very few exceptions who actually do have some kind of developmental difference, they can take care of themselves but will not if someone else will do it or if something else is more interesting to them. They just have way different thresholds before they’ll actually bother with some of these things than is standard.

        3. mrs__peel*

          There are plenty of absent-minded female academics out there, too, but they generally can’t/don’t behave this way, in my experience. Probably because:

          (a) Women are socialized from birth to take care of everyone else’s needs, and not to “bother” other people with their own; and

          (b) They usually don’t have a stay-at-home partner who does everything practical for them and enables that behavior (as many male professors do).

          Strange how people can take care of things themselves when society expects them to!

    2. Tris Prior*

      Snort. Recently Grandboss gave each of her managers a budget to do a staff morale thing of their team’s choice – pizza party, coffee and bagels, whatever. Each manager – except one – took care of this themselves. The lone male manager responded, “Oh yeah, I’ll have to ask {other manager who is not an admin} to order something for our team too.”

      Upon hearing about this after the fact, I barely restrained myself from saying aloud “I didn’t realize that you’re incapable of ordering food if you’ve got a penis!”

      1. Cherith Ponsonby*

        I mean, it’s probably better on the whole that you did restrain yourself, but I kinda wish you hadn’t.

  40. Miss Brittany*

    To be honest, this all worries me, as a current student who’s leaving behind the world of retail and will be entering the office world soon. I’m in the middle of a business administration degree, and I’ll probably be looking at entry level positions at the age of 47. (I’m a woman, btw.)
    I love planning events, lunches, all those things. I have enjoyed support roles in the past, but I’m in school for HR or PM work. I don’t want to get pigeonholed into these tasks, but what happens when you enjoy them?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Do you like them enough to accept the professional trade-offs that will come with doing them? If so, that’s your prerogative. But if you don’t want it to impact you professionally, it’s like anything else you like doing but choose not to in order to succeed at work (intense socializing with coworkers when you should be working, streaming YouTube all day, reorganizing your office instead of working, etc.).

      1. Miss Brittany*

        I guess that’s the rub: I need to decide how *much* I enjoy these tasks, and how that will affect how I’m seen. I was hoping to get into the non-profit field anyway, perhaps this is the push I need!
        Thanks for your advice, everyone.

    2. CMDRBNA*

      Become an event planner!

      No, seriously – I’ve always been the One Who Plans in my friend group and in any volunteer group I was part of, I did it because I was good at it, it bothered me when other people tried to do it and screwed it up, and I am by nature a process person who always looks for ways to make stuff work more efficiently.

      Now I do program and event management for nonprofits.

    3. Temperance*

      Why not use those skills to help a community org or nonprofit, and keep them entirely out of the workplace?

    4. Turkletina*

      There’s nothing wrong with volunteering for these things sometimes! It’s best to be aware of (a) whether men are doing the same kinds of tasks and (b) whether you’re the only person people are relying on to do something that should be a shared responsibility. “I planned the last lunch, why don’t we get Fergus to do the next one?” will not exclude you from future lunch plannings, but it will also help you avoid being seen as the Planner of the Lunches when you have other work to do.

    5. Malibu Stacey*

      Planning events & lunches for friends and family can be different than doing it for work, and in ways that can suck the fun out of it.

    6. Yorick*

      Maybe plan more events for friends and family than usual, or for charities as someone else mentioned.

    7. Samata*

      Echoing what everyone else is saying; use your event skills at a nonprofit or volunteer basis, or perhaps you can find a job in HR that handles Employee Relations? I did a short stint (3 years) in a HR role that involved employee events (not birthday parties/office card/break room cleanup, but I was responsible for the annual holiday party, summer appreciation day, monthly luncheons with the company president and quarterly 1/2 day events. Jobs exist where this part of the job description and if it’s something you enjoy no one is going to think poorly of you if you enjoy these things and they are part of your job function.

      1. Not a Morning Person*

        Be careful about looking for a job that entails Employee Relations. It is not what it might sound like. IME employee relations is most often work with unions or with disciplinary rules and legal stuff, not fun stuff.

  41. Geneva*

    Funny, I was just dealing with a similar situation the other day. I’m a woman in my late 20s. My boss (a man in his mid 60s) frequently tries to dump admin tasks on me, but not on the men. I’ve been asked to order flowers, purchase baby gifts, schedule lunches, etc. Allison’s right – being blunt helps. I just dismiss him, like “IDK what that client’s favorite restaurant is. Why don’t you ask him?” or “I can’t pick out a bouquet, I have to finish this assignment.” And leave it at that.

    OP, I know you feel responsible, but the more you do, the more they’ll take advantage and the more resentful you feel. Let them feel the consequences of their own (in)actions.

  42. Katie the Fed*

    Oh and for those fellow women out there in leadership positions – PLEASE coach your younger women employees about this stuff. I’ve taken it upon myself to tell some of the younger women to stop volunteering to plan parties, take notes, clean the fridge, etc. Those things are nice, but they won’t get you ahead.

    1. Temperance*

      This is key! I have a lot of female interns, and always coach them not to pick up administrative tasks.

      1. CMDRBNA*

        I feel like women volunteer for these sort of things because they want to be seen as helpful and a team player, but it’s never reciprocated – like a male team lead has never said “hey, Jane always organizes the weekly lunch – let’s get her to lead this project!”

        If you’re doing it to be liked so you can build up some goodwill in the office when you need a favor, I guess that’s a reasonable consideration (I strategically help our support staff because I know they’ll be more likely to help me out in the future) but in my experience that sort of labor quickly becomes invisible and is always unappreciated, and then you’re dinged for NOT offering to help (kind of like the people who complain about the candy in my office candy dish…that they are taking…for free).

        1. Temperance*

          Early in my career, I totally fell into this trap. I do often think women are punished for not volunteering for crap work in a way that men are not. So it’s entirely possible that Jane might not be seen as a team player whereas Scott will not.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            I have been rewarded professionally for my “willingness to pitch in and do whatever needs to be done,” and I wonder sometimes how that would have played out if I’d declined to do the b*tch work that fell to me as the young woman on the time … that being said, I think there’s a glass ceiling on the promotions you’re going to get that way. I don’t think the CEO gets his bonus based on willingness to do whatever. So I’m working on ways to back out even though it’s paid off for me in the past.

        2. fposte*

          As people are saying, this is a tricky one, and it can be field-dependent as well. I do think it’s not uncommon for women to mistakenly believe their field rewards volunteering for this kind of stuff and to spend too much mental energy on that instead of what will advance them; on the other hand, some fields really will ding you if you never raise a finger in these areas.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            I think it depends on the task, too. I don’t think my bosses registered things like cleaning up literal trash after meetings, or passing around birthday cards, or bringing in cookies. These are all things that can be safely cut. But being the person who can fix the printer in a pinch, or who knows who to call to solve X problem or Y problem, or who knows which codes to use in which circumstances … maybe, in some fields. Not in any billable-hours type fields, but in a general office environment it can be advantageous to get Competent Person Who Generally Gets Things Done recognition. YMMV.

    2. Julia*

      My senior co-worker tried to do this (before she just resorted to dumping her work on me.) We were actual admins, though.

    3. Jillociraptor*

      Yes, and help them materially to deal with it. I’ve had lots of wonderful women bosses who I loved and appreciated, and who were great sounding boards when I was frustrated with things like this. But I have a new boss now who immediately noticed that I was taking on a bunch of admin work that Prickly EA, who is a man, was subtly training others to bring to me, and jumped into action. She did an office operations re-boot that clearly delineates what Prickly EA’s job expectations are, totally empowered me to direct people to him when they come to me because I’ll actually do the thing without laughing at/yelling at them, AND is coordinating moving me into a private office to better signal my position. Even in just a couple of months, I’ve already gotten much more significant projects and I attribute a lot of that to how she is positioning me and my role differently.

  43. Observer*

    I agree with most of your answer. But, I think it’s HIGHLY unlikely that this is about seniority. I mean, they asked her about the MEN’S bathroom, for crying out loud! And they left a BAD leak untended while she was out! Of it were seniority, then when she were out, someone would have taken care of it.

  44. stitchinthyme*

    Not saying it is or isn’t sexist, but it kind of reminds me of a running joke between me and my husband. For years, when we’d eat in a restaurant, if he was the one to pay, he’d hand me the receipt afterward, even though I’d just toss them once I got home. Finally one day I asked, “Why do you always hand me the receipt when you know I don’t keep them?” His answer: “Because you take it.” So now whichever one of us pays hands the receipt to the other, and the other rolls their eyes in mock exasperation.

    So maybe they’re just leaving those things for you to do because you do it. If you stop, they’ll have to suck it up and do it themselves, or else deal with not having it done.

  45. Robin Gottlieb*

    Reminds me of the time when I was the only woman in a meeting and the guest speaker (a propective vendor) went directly to me to have copies made. I told him my title and told him that if he assumed all women were admin support I would have to assume his company were all sexists and people I wouldn’t want to do business with. Still remember the crushed look on his face.

  46. eilatan*

    A guy on my team emailed me a bunch of files this morning and “asked” me to put them on our team SharePoint site. I asked him if he was having some sort of technical difficulty that was preventing me from doing it himself. When he started in this role a year ago, he told me he “wasn’t good with computers”. He’s also not very good at his job; he works remotely and there are several of us who can’t figure out what he does.

    Interestingly enough, I have never heard a woman openly claim she wasn’t good with computers. I’ll be moving into a different group at some point in the future with a different manager who’ll have my back when I refuse to help people do things that aren’t part of my job.

    1. Tableau Wizard*

      I, a woman, claim to be excellent with computers and run into women claiming to be terrible with computers nearly every day.

      I really think gender has nothing to do with it. Generation has somewhat to do with it, but also just the decision to push past discomfort so that you can accomplish what you need to accomplish .

      1. eilatan*

        I wasn’t as clear as I could have been. This has happened multiple times, and it has always turned out that the man can use computers just fine except when it comes to things they don’t feel like doing. Like uploading files to a SharePoint site. I’m a bit sensitive about all this stuff right now because this guy and another person on the team aren’t pulling their fair share and I’ve been having to pick up their slack lest the wheels come completely off the cart.

    2. Mookie*

      I’m terrible with some aspects of computers (programming, particularly) and I would never make that somebody else’s problem when the task at hand is mine and something I’m paid to do. He can get somebody to teach him — ONCE — and that somebody needn’t be you.

  47. Elle Kay*

    1) Don’t do it, any of it, anymore.
    2) It’s worth considering if this is just habit. I didn’t see a note about how long you’ve been in your position but it makes me wonder how long and what your predecessor’s response to these things was. I’ve been in an HR/admin role for a small non-profit for about a year and I get to deal with all of this stuff too. No, it wasn’t in the job description. (Argh!) But my predecessor was in this role for 34 years (!) and, I recently learned, was originally hired as a Secretary. 34 years of annual pay increases lead to changing her job title to more closely match her salary; the job descriptions go with the job titles but no part of the old job of being the “secretary” was ever dropped.
    No one explained this to me so I’m stuck with it.

    Anyway, the point I’m making is that your predecessor may have done all of this and gotten them used to it. You should definitely work to break them of the habit but at least you might know why they do.

  48. Yorick*

    I think you should go on your vacation and not worry about it. But my fear is that if everything falls apart in your absence and they are helpless to do this work themselves/have to figure it out for themselves, it will reinforce to them that you are the one who does this work. “The printer is out of paper! How will we get by without Jane??

    So this may be the way to explain to them that it’s not your job (they’ll mention it when you come back and you’ll use Allison’s “I’m confused” line)

  49. HisGirlFriday*

    We’re dealing with an interesting similar situation here.

    Our office manager, who is female, and whose job duties do include refilling the paper trays in the copier and ordering and replacing and toner, is currently refusing to do it on the grounds that she’s recently taken to getting her artificial nails made longer, so she can’t do it.

    She then co-opts our front-desk receptionist (a man) to do it for her, but stands over him and watches him, making sure he does it properly. (Our copier is idiot-proof; paper and toner only go in one way.)

    Meanwhile, they are the two primary phone answerers, and their busyness with the copier means that the directors are all left to answer the phones instead, even those 90% of the phone calls we get go to one of those two people.

    1. LCL*

      Interesting indeed. My mind went right to Duck Club, because that’s the kind of person I am, sometimes.

    2. Beancounter Eric*

      I’d issue an ultimatum – either do the assigned duties, fancy fingernails or not, or kindly pack up and leave.

      Had a temp back in the 1990’s who showed up day one with two-inch nails….could barely use a keyboard as a result – we cancelled the assignment very quickly.

      1. Serin*

        One of my mom’s favorite workplace stories from the fifties was of a member of the typing pool who was told to keep her nails shorter because she made too many mistakes. She said, “I consider my nails to be part of the total package that will get me a husband, and that’s more important to me than this job.”

      2. Brisvegan*

        Please don’t assume that people with super long nails can’t type.

        I used to have a colleague with 2 inch nails. She used to type up a storm. I could never have done it, but she had extra long nails for many years and, like everyone in our faculty, just had to type her own stuff. She was a quick typist and never broke one of her impressive nails. I think it might have been a superpower!

    3. Temperance*

      Wow, she’s refusing to do her job because her fake nails make it hard?! I just … wow.

      1. Else*

        She needs to go! And that poor receptionist, having the talons standing over him waiting to strike if he does her job wrong…

    4. JeanB in NC*

      Yeah, you don’t get to use your nails as an excuse to get out of doing something that’s specifically your job. She needs to either give up on the long nails or figure out a work-around.

    5. Tuxedo Cat*

      The directors need to tell the office manager that she does her job or does the receptionist’s job while he’s filling the copier. Or even better, getting her nails done isn’t a reason to not do her job. They’re a fashion choice, not a physical disability.

    6. Been There, Done That*

      Thank you. Many admins have degrees, intelligence, problem-solving ability, and a wealth of other abilities. The job isn’t all about making coffee and Xeroxes. But once somebody gets branded with that pink collar, they’re stuck. Doesn’t stop employers from wanting the advantages of those non-admin abilities though!

      1. Been There, Done That*

        Sorry, comment above landed in the wrong place. I meant it to be upthread at “Student
        October 2, 2017 at 7:47 pm.”

        As for the situation with the office manager and receptionist, fingernails notwithstanding, it’s within the purview of an office manager to delegate to a receptionist (even a male receptionist). She shouldn’t be hovering though.

  50. GlamNonprofitSquirrel*

    Can we all just take a minute to savor the best line ever written on this blog?

    They appear to think that your uterus is actually a name tag reading “admin support,”


    1. Cherith Ponsonby*

      I have mixed reactions to that line (and I don’t think anyone has covered them yet, sorry if I missed it).

      On one hand, I bet feminine-presenting people without uteruses probably get this crap too (including but not limited to trans women and people who’ve had hysterectomies), and I’m at work with my editor hat on, so I want to make it say “perceived uterus”.

      On the other hand, it really is a brilliant line as written and I don’t want to mess with it.

      (On the gripping hand, if someone tried any of this on either [my friend whom I know best of the various trans women I know, that set including for these purposes only the ones I know to be trans] or [my good friend whom I know has had a hysterectomy] they would have learnt very quickly not to try it again, uterus or no uterus. I think this both proves and disproves my point. Also, I want to appreciate the word “uterus”, and I feel like technically not having a uterus shouldn’t disqualify anyone from identifying as having a uterus for the purposes of appreciating this line.)

      1. Brisvegan*

        I had the same reservations about this line.

        I also love that you referenced the gripping hand.

  51. BePositive*

    ‘They appear to think that your uterus is actually a name tag reading “admin support,” but it’s not. ‘

    This part if the response is EPIC – made me took notice.

    Yes – just let the consequent outcome happen. You done more then your share

  52. Steve*

    If OP is moving to another department in 4 weeks anyways, how is she going to schedule a vacation in that time period? Honestly if it were me (admittedly, a guy) I would just keep doing the chores until I leave. After that the department would have to sink or swim without me.

    1. KR*

      Well, it’s an internal transfer so I’m assuming her vacation time transfers over. Why not take a vacation, honestly? Jt seems like a good time to do it. Spend two weeks wrapping up her projects with the old department, spend two weeks relaxing and recharging to start with her new department. She’s presumably going to be busy wrapping up her old projects and probably doesn’t have time to do all of the admin work that her male colleges are perfectly capable of doing. It matters because giving into the expectation that she do this work because she’s a woman sucks and it makes you feel frustrated, demoralized, and taken advantage of every time you do it. It matters because her coworkers are being lazy and pawning off all this work on her and her boss isn’t sticking up for her and that’s a pretty sh!tty thing for them to do.

    2. SarahKay*

      I was actually wondering if the OP was in the UK or somewhere else not America, since she talks about 2 weeks’ holidays. I get the feeling that US people usually only use the word holiday for a specific day – Labor Day, etc – while in the UK we regularly use it instead of vacation.
      Plus, minimum legal vacation allowance in the UK is 20 days plus the 8 days’ public holidays, so it doesn’t strike me as off for her to take two weeks’ holiday just four weeks before a department move, since a two week holiday is very common and was probably booked some weeks or months earlier.

      1. Steve*

        For some reason when I first read it I thought she was talking about taking a week or two off just to show them all the stuff she’s been taking care of, or whatever. But rereading I see that it seems to be a vacation that’s already scheduled. My mistake.

        On the one hand that means only two more weeks of these chores. On the other hand, I guess if she wants to be a model employee, she should spend the two weeks preparing to hand off these duties just as much as her real job duties (which someone else will also have to take care of for the next few months). Either way, this situation is going to take care of itself in 4 calendar weeks, 2 business weeks.

        The department will have to sink or swim (almost literally, if they fail to report a leak again) without OP.

          1. SarahKay*

            I vote for the third option myself. It’s not her job, her boss has agreed it’s not her job, so just stop now.

            1. Steve*

              And what are they going to do, fire her? It’s not in her job description and she’s moving to another department in a few weeks.

              1. SarahKay*

                Wouldn’t you love to hear that discussion if they tried it?!? *evil grin*. Especially as OP has just confirmed she’s in the UK, where firing people is oh-so-much harder than in the US.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          I think that trying to hand off these tasks would be painful at best, impossible at worst. How is she going to find someone else to take over “be the designated toner and paper minion” when clearly a) her boss doesn’t think this is part of her job, and b) no one else in the department wants to do it? I just can’t imagine how that conversation would even go. Indeed, it might even damage her rep, if her boss said “you don’t have to do these things” and then it gets around that she’s still trying to handle the things even as she leaves.

          So yeah, I agree, just apply Alison’s advice starting today, and stop.

      2. OP*

        Hi, I’m the OP! I’m in the UK yep,

        And I found out about my new job (internal promotion) just before I went on leave.

        1. SarahKay*

          Ah-ha, I thought the letter sounded UK-ish rather than US-ish.
          And congratulations on the promotion!

    3. Else*

      I bet you if it’s an internal transfer that they’ll still come after her to do some of it after she leaves that department, if she’s still in the same location. Maybe even if she’s not, depending on what they are.

  53. Student*

    Stop giving them the phone numbers for the correct people to contact, too. Normally, it’s the nice thing to do – but when you are training colleagues out of a learned helplessness, then you have to pull back on things like this. Instead, ask, “What have you tried?” or “Who have you contacted about it?” or “Have you checked the intranet?”

    1. Temperance*

      I actually advise against asking a question. I think it would be better if she said “Todd handles that” and then dropped it.

      1. Student*

        But if she does that, she is still acting as the department’s directory for all problems. She wants them to stop bothering her with these problems, not come to her to figure it out. Giving them this kind of information that solves part of their problem means they get a reward for talking to her. They don’t learn how to find the correct contact person themselves, they learn to come to her. Meeting a question with another question, while providing no direct information, forces them to go do all the work themselves.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Exactly. I wouldn’t tell them anything about Todd. I’d say “Oooh, that sucks. What are you doing about it?”

          1. Observer*

            I still wouldn’t ask what they have done. It’s more work than mentioning who does it. Also “Tod takes care of that” isn’t really as useful as it sounds. I’d be willing to be that the response is “How do I get hold of Tod?” to which the answer it “check the directory”.

            After a while that becomes old, but it will be hard to fault the (non-admin) person who is doing this.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              “What are you doing about it?” isn’t really asking what they’ve done, as much as it is a way of saying “I’m not taking care of this for you.”

  54. AdAgencyChick*

    Coming in late but I haven’t seen this said yet (granted, I’ve looked at only about half the comments):

    OP, not only should you go on your vacation with the clearest of consciences, you should ALSO steel yourself to deflect any requests for help once you move into your new job. Heaven knows we’ve had enough OPs write in to Alison with stories of being harassed for help long after they’ve moved on to new jobs.

  55. LadyKelvin*

    On the question of whether this is a “lowest person on the totem pole does it” or “sexist it’s a woman’s job” occurance, it would be pretty easy to tell. If when she is out of the office and something needs done, the next lowest person accomplishes it its just the lowest person on the totem pole does it. If they wait for you to get back, its likely a sexist thing.

  56. Clever Name*

    I’m glad you’ve asked your boss and he’s told you it’s not your job. I once got mildly reprimanded because the mail didn’t get checked for a week when I was out, and I guess something important was mailed that he missed. Mind you, checking the mail (before then) was never officially part of my job, but I started doing it because I was wildly underutilized and walking downstairs to get the mail filled 5 minutes of the day with actual work. Luckily I quit that job shortly thereafter.

  57. Beth*

    Love the response except for the fact that being a woman does not mean the letter writer has a uterus, Alison. Gender is not defined by body parts.

    1. Student*

      I’d rather that good authors like AAM make a vivid point with effective language like this than soften the point by making sure everything they say is unoffensive to everyone. The point of the statement is not to talk about what organs the OP does or does not have, and you know it; it’s to label and call out sexism very clearly. Ease up on the language policing.

      And I think it should be considered here that: the odds are extremely in AAM’s favor in guessing the OP has a uterus, and the statement would not be less effective in any way if it turns out the OP doesn’t have a uterus. It’s not like AAM is making the badness of this problem contingent on the actual possession of a specific internal gooey bit.

      1. DArcy*

        Or you could, I don’t know, find a way to “make a vivid point with effective language” that doesn’t take a dump on minorities in the workplace. Arguing that “vividness” gives you a free pass to use erasing language when you’re talking about calling out sexism rather dramatically undermines your point, after all.

    2. FiveByFive*

      Yes. That was very disappointing to read.

      @Student, telling people who take offense at something, that they are incorrect to take offense, is very much not okay.

      Is this not 2017?

      1. vesket*

        Just because you’re offended doesn’t mean your offense is warranted, though.

        /trans person, since it seems to matter to you

  58. DJ*

    I’m surprised that the manager didn’t have a strict talk with them over why no one either came to the manager or calls the appropriate helpline. You’re doing the right thing not doing the admin. They either need to get an admin or deal with unwillingness to do these tasks. Also good on you for your promotion and let them deal with it when you’ve changed sections.
    At my work we have no admin in my section but being in the most junior staff would expect that off me. The section has grown and I’ve raised this but as our manager doesn’t value what an admin can do nothing is happening. Doing work well whilst suggesting where I could add value admin wise and repeatedly requesting to be included in project planning rather than being given snippets of work out of content didn’t work. So I had to keep reminding them of my job description and say no to admin requests not answer phones as no one else did. They claimed they wouldn’t know how to deal with the call and I said I don’t know either but will take detours and a message and tell them the person will call back or suggest they email the person as that person can pick up the email remotely. When the. A Agee complains about their workload I say nothing as yes they need someone to do PA duties. Up to then to see the value and make it happen

  59. Noah*

    Even if this WERE about age/seniority (which it clearly isn’t), this would still be outrageous when Boss is saying it’s not her job.

  60. Jennifer Thneed*

    Who on earth was doing this stuff before the OP came onboard?

    Also, OP: be prepared for them to STILL ask you to do those tasks (as well as ask you how to do your old job). Maybe even give your current boss a heads-up of how you’re going to handle that (which should be some variety of “That sounds difficult” and hanging up the phone).

    1. OP*

      It’s a relatively new team set up. But they obviously muddled along before I started and will have to when I leave!

      1. Quickstepping Matilda*

        One of our family jokes is “I’m not your personal {function} monkey.” It’s particularly effective for ridiculous functions, like “I’m not your personal yogurt monkey” when a perfectly able-bodied child asks you to serve them their yogurt instead of getting it out of the refrigerator themselves.

  61. Not a Morning Person*

    Maybe this has already been mentioned, but how did all those things get handled before you? Surely someone in that office was able to find and load paper in the printer. Surely someone knew what number to call for a leak. Yes, what other commenters and Alison are saying, just stop doing it. I prefer the version, “I’ve done my share, it’s someone else’s turn to take on that task.” But seriously, they got it done without you before you joined the team, they’ll survive while you’re gone or learn to live with the consequences. Good luck!

  62. LSP*

    A little off topic, but still relevant here:

    Over the weekend, I was talking to my husband about how almost none of the higher-up women at my firm (and we are a company that has a lot of female employees) have kids. Like, there is one female member of the leadership that has kids, out of eight women and three men. Two of the three men have kids. I was bemoaning how women still often feel like the have to chose one or the other (though I recognize that many men and women simply don’t want kids), and that men are never asked to make that choice.

    My husband looked at me dumbfounded, like this is something that has never crossed even close enough to his mind to be a passing thought. He said, “But why should me having kids have anything to do with my ability to do well and get promoted at my job?”

    Privilege blindness is real. Sounds like OP might be surrounded by a bunch of men who if pressed, might be able to see the issue here, but it is so outside of their consciousness that there doesn’t seem to be a problem whatsoever.

    1. Artemesia*

      30 years ago sitting in an academic meeting that was very very boring I looked around the table; there were 5 women and 8 men. Every man at the table had at least 3 children; most had 4 or 5. I was the only woman (we were all middle aged) who had children. I had two. One of those women later married and had one child at age 45. Women who had families rarely got tenure; in addition to the sexism, the demands of childrearing made doing the work necessary nearly impossible. Recent studies have shown that now that both men and women can take a year off the tenure track to have a child, that men busily publish like crazy during that year of being a new father while women take care of a baby and thus with the new more considerate rules, women fall further behind and men get an extra year to publish.

  63. Susana*

    I so, so don’t want to sound like I’m blaming the victim… but unless you just stop doing these tasks, no amount of talking/reminding will change things. Many of my married friends (OK, 90 percent of my married female friends) complain that while both they and their husbands work outside the home, they STILL do the vast majority of housework/childcare/cooking. And they complain, they have family meetings, they talk about it. And maybe things change for about a day, with husband/kids acting like they should get a big award for cleaning the bathroom or doing a load of laundry. And my friends just KEEP DOING IT. When I ask why, they say – I’m not going to go without clean underpants while I’m waiting for others to do laundry. So you know what? Just do your own clothes, no one else’s. Make your own meals, no one else’s. They’ll figure it out. Same goes for toner/copy paper.

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        Yeah – both people have to be on the same page. Say with cleaning: how clean they want or expect the house to be, how un-clean they’re willing to put up with for how long, and how important it is to them, how much energy it’s reasonable to expend (or money hiring someone else to do it), how much energy to expend because you care about your partner who it’s important to even if it’s not important to you personally. How much, as the partner who wants it cleaner, it’s important to you for your partner to do bc he/she cares about you even if he/she has a lower standard. Those are the emotionally complicated parts.

      2. crookedfinger*

        Yep. I’ve tried doing this, but it only works for a little while because eventually the mess & filth start to affect MY mental state, not his, and everything piles up because he won’t do anything on his own until it directly affects him (ex: the dish he wants to use is dirty so he’ll clean that one dish)

        1. Not Dr Laura*

          So then accept this isn’t about sexism, but who is the bigger neat-freak in the relationship. The bigger neat-freak is always going to do more cleaning (and frankly, I’ve got zero problem with that). It’s not that your husband refuses to “do his share” of the cleaning, it’s that his view of the optimal *total* share of cleanliness, yours and his combined, differs from yours.

          I can’t say whether the following applies to crookedfinger, but speaking broadly, nagging a partner excessively about neatness issues is a great way to damage a relationship to the point of divorce. This is exactly the kind of thing you should discuss before combining your households. My advice to neater partners who can’t get over this “he won’t do his/her share” complaint is to spend the money to hire a weekly maid service.

          1. nosy nelly*

            if you genuinely believe that modern society rewards/punishes males and females exactly the same for having a clean/messy house, then sure. call it “not about sexism”.

          2. Student*

            In a healthy relationship, sometimes you do things you don’t want to because they are important to your partner.

            That should extend to housework. Cleanliness should not be determined by the most slovenly member of the household. It should be some reasonable average of the overall cleanliness score. One member of the couple, Yang, puts in a little more work than they normally would because it is important to the other member of the couple, Yin, that the kitchen counters be cleaned regularly. In turn, Yin accepts a slightly lower standard than they normally would when living on their own, because Yang just doesn’t care about dusting kick-knacks regularly.

            It doesn’t mean the “neat freak” does more cleaning, necessarily. It means that person compromises with the other person in the relationship, and hopefully they both divide up the workload in a way that doesn’t slowly (or quickly) build up resentment on either end. Otherwise, they’re going to get divorced, sooner or later.

            This goes for other parts of married life – you attend social events that your partner enjoys, but you don’t, and vise versa. You listen to your partner talk about things you don’t care about, because your partner does care about them.

      3. Turtle Candle*

        Yeah, it’s… complicated. The time that I had a teeth-gritted conversation with my husband was when he was like “hey, I’m okay with how cluttery the house is, we’re fine, it’s got Stuff in it but it’s not dirty or anything, what’s the big deal?” And I had to point out that I–and only me, never in his presence, because god help that he should feel responsible–got pointed remarks from both of his parents every holiday about the state of the house. Even if I just step back and let him absorb the physical blowback of not cleaning (dirty house), I can’t really step back and let him absorb the social blowback. That one still lands squarely on me. Same things often happen with cooking, greeting cards/letters/phone calls, etc., in my experience.

        (And I love my in-laws! But.)

    1. LSP*

      I get this in theory, but in practice, this leads to more stress (for me anyway).

      My husband always tells me to tell him when something needs to be done, which in essence makes me the “house manager”. Fine. Except now I’m managing him, still doing the majority of tasks and working a full-time job (just like him).

      If I leave it undone, and I don’t make him food, he literally won’t eat. If I don’t clean his clothes, he will wear dirty ones. Part of my particular situation is my husband’s ADHD, which makes motivation for anything not fun like moving mountains. It’s a real part of the disorder, which we are trying to find a workable solution to.

      1. Not Dr Laura*

        >If I don’t clean his clothes, he will wear dirty ones.

        Will the world really stop revolving around its axis if he wears a pair of dirty clothes? No. To channel the Beatles, the solution is to leave it be, and stop finding a “workable solution” to non-existent problems.

        If the situation works for him and you can’t leave it be, then do the laundry yourself, and stop pretending it’s about equal division of chores.

        Incidentally, you may not like to hear this, but when you talk about about “motivating a partner to do something not fun” you come across as being schoolmarmish. That’s not a recipe for a long-term successful relationship. People people with ADD aren’t likely to be meticulous cleaners, didn’t you realize this when you got married?

        1. Cherith Ponsonby*

          I was hesitating to post this, but given that you’ve commented on another poster’s word choices, I’d like to point out that you’re coming across as very dismissive and bordering on patronising. “Hire a weekly maid service” is not a helpful response to “my partner is so [hyperfocused | uncaring] that he will only wash the dish that he is paying attention to”; “if the situation works for him, do it yourself and stop lying about your motivations” completely misses the point of “we are trying to find a solution”. And “didn’t you realise that people with ADD aren’t likely to be meticulous cleaners when you got married?” is so intensely flippant that it quite literally makes me want to throw things.

          And also it’s not even accurate. People with ADHD may well be more likely to live in squalor (I myself embody this, unfortunately), but when you get us hyperfocused on a cleaning task we can be the most meticulous cleaners you have ever seen in your life.

    2. Artemesia*

      This seems so obvious doesn’t it. If everyone does their own laundry it is not your problem. And someone who doesn’t want to live in a pig stye can pick her chores. e.g. tackle the living room and the bathroom she uses personally and let the others go, while insisting on Saturday mornings being all hands on deck house cleaning time.

    3. Cherith Ponsonby*

      In a work context – so, the context of this letter – I totally agree with you. The printer has to be stocked; if OP doesn’t do it then someone else will have to, or nobody will get paid (I’m simplifying this a bit).

      In a domestic context it’s not that easy. It’s perfectly possible to live a productive life without sweeping the floor or cleaning the bathroom for six months, for instance (ask me how I know!) My parents used to tie chores to pocket money – so we got $x every week and $y for doing our assigned chores – and that worked, but in my case both of them did their share of the housework too. It would have been impossible if my dad hadn’t pulled his weight.

      (Also both of my parents are scary when they’re angry. That helps.)

  64. Jules the Third*

    This post is really reaffirming my next ‘homework’ assignment for my son:
    Over the course of a week, write down all the chores that happen in our house. Record who does them, and how they know it needs doing.

    We’ve done a little of this with cleaning his bathroom, where I’ve pointed out the dirt that tells me it’s time, but I think he needs a deeper look.

    1. LSP*

      That is GOOD!

      My son is only 4, but we give him little chores to do that he can handle (clearing his place at the table, picking up his room, feeding the cat, etc.) I’m going to keep your little “homework” assignment in mind for when he gets older. I’ll be damned if I raise a son who doesn’t know how to clean up after himself!

      1. Artemesia*

        Get him involved in cooking; he is old enough. By 10 my kids could get a meal on more or less (tacos, but it was a start) My son is a fine cook as an adult and my daughter a good cook and they certainly knew how to get a meal on, do laundry etc when they were on their own. But cooking is fun and a fun thing to do together and when you work having that time together with a child in the kitchen is gold. I cook now with my granddaughter and it is great fun and slowly she is developing real skills that in a few years will mean she ‘knows how to cook.’ It is also a great way to teach nutrition gently as part of planning the meal.

        1. Cherith Ponsonby*

          Seconded this. My parents were determined that my brother and I would both be able to look after ourselves when we moved out, and food was a big part of it – I think I started taking my turn at cooking for the family around age 9 because of some family medical issues around that time (bro wasn’t old enough to cook on his own, but he was old enough to set and clear the table and help with the washing up).

          I’m 40+ now and I still haven’t mastered picking up my room, though :)

  65. Bossy Magoo*

    Echh, this just pisses me off.
    About 20 years ago when I was fresh out of college I worked at a male-dominated manufacturing company. There were 7 of us who were right out of college: 6 women and 1 man. Our positions were Marketing Coordinator, Executive Assistant, HR Administrator, 2 Customer Service Reps, Payroll Clerk and Scheduler. All 6 women were told we had to rotate as lunch-hour relief for the front desk receptionist. I approached our COO who had given the directive (and to whom I reported) and asked him why it was only women who had to do reception duty. He said it had nothing to do with being women, it was because we were all entry level. I pointed out the Scheduler (the man) was also entry level. Instead of having the Scheduler rotate into reception relief all he ended up doing was taking me out of the rotation so that it was the remaining 5 women who had to do it and just not me or the man.

  66. Anon for this*

    We were without an admin for awhile, and this happened to me a lot. And, I’m an attorney (and had a lot more years of practice than a male in the office). It’s crap.

  67. Administrative Professional Day*

    Hi everyone – as an admin, who is also a woman, who was once told not to come back to the company’s ‘women in business’ group because I was only an admin – please show more consideration than some of these comments do to those of us who do this for a living. Our work is necessary and visible only when it goes wrong, and it’s not beneath you to have to pick it up occasionally (which is not aimed at the OP; it’s aimed at the commenters still complaining about the one time someone sexistly expected you to do some admin work). I’d like to think that sharing our load would make you more sensitive to the microaggressions we face instead of upset that you had to face them. It’s annoying to see that I am wrong.

    OP – If the ceiling literally falls onto your colleagues’ heads, someone with the seniority to effect change in your business will sort it out. That person is not you, so let it be. If that means you are putting paper in the printer only to print your things and then taking it out again, so be it. If that means you report to health & safety all the uncollected garbage on your floor, so be it. If you become the most petty, territorial colleague these men have ever met while you remain in their space, so be it.

    Good luck in your new role!

    1. Mookie*

      I don’t see many people devaluing administrative work here. I see people separating out the complicated nuts-and-bolts of benign, low-key (or not) sexism in professional settings as that sexism butts up against and intersects with issues of class and perceptions of what constitutes “low” skills. Wanting colleagues to acknowledge your job title and the tasks you were hired to do does not insinuate that any other tasks have no value. I see people correctly ascertaining that administrative work is regularly undervalued, overlooked, and, at times, incorrectly made synonymous with completely separate work, and often those tasks are a grabbag of things that universally need doing but when done are invisible to the people being served and rarely acknowledged except in their absence. That’s a real problem. Admins and office and support staff are not, in many organizations, tasked with all manner of housekeeping, plumbing, and maintenance work; that’s a statement of fact, not an indictment of housekeepers, cleaners, plumbers, custodians, landscapers, electricians, and porters, among others. Likewise, it’s not an insult to an admin that a woman wants her male colleagues to acknowledge what she was hired to do and not try to farm out tasks, gendered or otherwise, to her that either (a) are their responsibility as an adult human in the first place or (b) a task someone else is explicitly receiving wages to tackle. Sometimes this will be administrative functions, sometimes not. The fault, though, lies with the people who feel too important to bothering telling the difference in the first place, not the people shouldering that burden — sorting out by default other people’s poor social skills, bad work ethics, lack of decorum, and prejudice — and wanting to commiserate with others similarly burdened.

        1. Lars the Real Girl*

          Yes, being served – as in someone on the receiving end of a service, which is what most admins (and accountants, and IT help desk workers, and and restaurant “servers” and and) do: provide a service.

          There are plenty of things to get offended about, let’s not go attacking grammatically correct verbiage.

          1. Been There, Done That*

            It’s not absurd. Word choice, even if grammatically correct, can reveal a lot about attitudes and viewpoints.

    2. mrs__peel*

      It’s not devaluing admin work to point out that doing it when it’s not your job can have negative impacts on your career. That’s just reality. Someone in a non-admin role who is associated with admin work (in the minds of the higher-ups) may be taken less seriously in their actual role, passed over for promotion, have lower lifetime earnings and retirement benefits, etc.

      And it’s just one facet of the insidious sexism that exists in many fields and workplaces. Regardless of your specific role within the organization, those sexist attitudes and practices can hold women back across the board. A manager who feels comfortable asking a non-admin to (say) make coffee simply because she’s a woman is likely to act in other sexist ways that negatively affect others in the workplace.

      1. mrs__peel*

        Also, re: “it’s not beneath you to have to pick it up occasionally”–

        This is not the issue at all. No, it shouldn’t be beneath anyone (of any gender) to do an occasional task like this outside of their job description, if it is truly only once in a while. But it IS a massive problem if ONLY the women in the office are expected to do this. And doing that routinely can have a wildly different impact on men’s vs. women’s careers.

        In my younger days, I had a number of jobs in hotels where I made beds, cleaned toilets, etc. I don’t consider any particular task “beneath me”. But I have taken a great deal of time and trouble to obtain a professional degree and to advance in my career since then, and I absolutely object to being expected to do those kind of tasks in my present job *merely because I’m female* if none of my male colleagues are expected to do the same.

  68. LizM*

    I have been the youngest woman in several offices.

    One technique that tends to work for me is to give them instructions but never actually volunteer to do anything about it.

    Fergus: Liz, the toner is out.
    Me: Oh, I think they keep it in the cabinet by the printer, there should be instructions on the box.

    Fergus: Liz, there is a leak in the men’s bathroom.
    Me: Huh, that’s gross. Has anyone called a plumber?
    Fergus: Can you?
    Me: I’ll bet the security guard downstairs has a number you can call if you no one can find our building manager’s number.

    I find it’s usually too awkward for them to keep pressing that they want me to do it when I keep deflecting it to them.

  69. Imaginary Number*

    My personal preference for situations like this. Rather than say “here’s the facilities phone number” I would even take it a step farther and say “let me show you the website where you can look up the facilities number.” If someone mentions to you that the printer is out of toner, don’t offer to show them how to order it. Offer to show them where the instructions are located. Make it so that there’s no possible way for the wiggle out and have you do it. (Disclaimer: I don’t advocate this sort of attitude with more senior people for actual work-related things, just for crap like this where someone is being taken advantage of.)

  70. O'Bunny*

    A good friend of ours is a retired meteorologist. She’s been retired officially for, I think, about 25 years; she’s in her 90s. She made a point of *not* learning to type, so that she wouldn’t become the admin / secretary / typing pool in the group that she was in. Wonderful person, she was researching climate change in the late 1950s.

  71. Lindsey*

    I’ve had this problem to a lesser extent, and it’s always been hard to tell if it’s age or gender.

    For me, it had a lot to do with being the one to take notes on the board during meetings, which is a little different and genuinely does tend to go to the lowest person on the totem pole. But the young guys were never being asked. Also, a senior woman on my team was always asking me to do tasks such as organizing data requests among the larger team, making PowerPoints, and stuff like that. This is all fine, but my job was more technical/analytical in nature than project managing/organizing. The senior person seemed to think that these were great opportunities for me to get exposed to more senior people – while that was true to some extent, it made it seem like I was more of an assistant to her than a qualified technical professional.

    The latter was harder to resolve. Honestly that wasn’t really fixed until I switched jobs. But taking notes during meetings/writing on the board- I just started sitting inconveniently far away from the board in conference rooms, jokingly noting my messy handwriting, etc., in a friendly and confident way. I didn’t set the expectation that I was available to help with those tasks – I pretended I was a little bit more senior in my head, which helps give off the impression that you are.

  72. Tealeaves*

    I’m a fan of the third script because it’s straightforward and direct.

    Is it possible to say, “I’m not actually in charge of facilities/admin/the printer. I think you want to look for the facilities desk instead. You can find the phone number on the Intranet.”

    1. Tealeaves*

      I’m not positive about the idea of just disappearing and hoping they figure it out on their own. People will just wait for you to come back and present you with a backlog of random stuff to fix like it’s your problem. You will need to stand firm with the “why are you asking me” message when that happens.

  73. Oh no she didn't*

    I refer to this phenomenon as “youngest vagina in the room” syndrome. It’s why at one place I worked for 4 years asked me to be on the party planning committee 3 times (even after I gave a hard no) but the CEO called me entitled for wanting mbigger projects, a raise and advancement opportunities. Men of all ages at this company were promoted at least once during each of their tenures.

  74. AAM Reader*

    Ugh, I experience this all the time. My office isn’t as male-dominated, but as the youngest female employee I’m regularly just seen as the default secretary. I have a coworker who refuses to learn how to use the coffee machine and gets me to “show him” almost every day. It’s driving me crazy but as a new hire… I don’t want to become branded as “the office bitch” even though it’s not in any way my job to make coffee, sort the mail, etc etc…

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      Former technical trainer here. Don’t SHOW him. Instead, direct him while he does it himself. You can even point at things, but make him do the actual touching. (This works with computer tasks too, btw.)

      When someone legitimately needs to learn something, doing it themselves is the best way for most people. (Watching it done by someone else is the worst way for most people.)

      With this jackass, if you can witness them do it successfully, the next time they ask you can say with absolute certainty “I saw you do it yesterday,” and then turn back to your own work. If you want to be demonstrably non-bitchy, offer to watch again while he does it, so you can make sure he gets all the steps right.

      (Also, if you are not drinking that coffee at all, you have no reason to make any. Might be worth the expense of bringing your own in.)

  75. boop the first*

    The guys in my department absolutely refuse to refill the paper towel dispenser. Anytime I come back from a few days off, it’s empty. I am the only person who fills it. The other day I finally witnessed someone use the last towel, and he spent the next hour walking back and forth from the handwashing sink, to a different towel dispenser instead of just… replacing the empty roll. I asked, “You used the last towel, why don’t you just… refill it?” and his reply was “Nah, I’d rather just walk back and forth.”

    I guess I should have just emptied the second dispenser to see what he would do then, but I suspect the new method would be to dry his hands on his pants. I can’t get out of being the unofficial soap and towel replacer either, because I also have to sign off on a sheet every morning that says everything is filled and chemicals are tested. So my options there are pretty limited :/

    BUT when the guys turn to me, the Nearest Vagina, to ask me whyyyyy I “let them” horseplay until they finally broke a light fixture, or embedded a good knife into a piece of furniture, or sprayed soda pop all over the walls and floor, etc etc… that’s where I have to draw the line.

    1. MommaTRex*

      I’ve actually had a male coworker offer to refill the paper towel dispenser for me – because he knew the paper towels were stored in a cupboard above my reach, and he recognized that I was about to use the last one. He was only there for copies, not even needed anything with the sink or paper towels. He just noticed. So it does happen. (And tall gal keeps putting the paper towels in an even higher location)

  76. Ghost Town*

    I was the guest at a committee meeting yesterday. There was one other woman, older than me and a professor/administrator. Though person who called the meeting works in a assistant context took the notes and kept the meeting on schedule, he hightailed it out of there at the end and left notes up on the whiteboard.

    Only the other woman was left with me (we were chatting about previous committee projects), I gritted my teeth and thought “I shouldn’t be doing this” as I erased the whiteboard.

    1. Zahra*

      I would soooo leave everything there. Unless he needed to refer to the notes later. Then I’d have erased the heck out of it. Yes, I’m petty like that.

  77. Chris S*

    There are a zillion posts on this topic and I admit I scrolled past most. But, I want to offer a perspective of a male manager.

    I try to build gender balanced teams on my projects. I work for a non-profit where most people work on four to eight projects each year.

    First, I would say to anyone, if you have vacation tine, take it. A poor manager doesn’t realize that people need to take their vacation time.

    But, budgeting time on a project often means trading off “admin” work with bringing more “higher rated” people on the team. I expect the junior people to pick up some of the “admin” work, such as coordinating meetings, taking notes, and maintaining the team calendar, regardless of gender. When I invite them to the team, I say “besides doing research on x, y, z, I also want you to coordinate meetings and take notes.”

    For whatever reason, beyond my control, the majority of “administrative assistants” in my company are women. But, if I ask a junior research team member to perform these tasks I can get a “twofer.”

    After reading this post, I looked through my records and found the junior team member was roughly 60-40 women versus men. The advantage of being a “dual-hatted” team member is that researchers get publication credit while “purely admin” people do not because they do not write anything that goes into the final publication.

    Have I been wrong?

    1. Jillociraptor*

      I think you are ultimately responsible for the work product on your team. It is, to some extent, beyond your control if the majority of administrative and junior employees in your company are women (though you might do an audit of how you are recommending staff for promotions, higher level work, etc. to see if you are contributing to a problem where strong work is overlooked in women employees). And it may be the most financially efficient thing to make it so that the most junior employee does the admin work. The passive outcome of that is that women disproportionately do the administrative work and don’t get the publication credit. And the passive outcome of THAT is probably that women face a slightly steeper climb to higher level positions.

      This is not an inevitable outcome though and you need to decide if you’re willing to trade a little operational inefficiency for a little greater equity. If you’re committed to prioritizing operational efficiency even though the result is that it disproportionately awards opportunities to men, you might think about why you feel okay with that. Although oppression like sexism is often structural and not merely interpersonal, we all have regular opportunities to disrupt that structure (and conversely, opportunities to do nothing and let the structural oppression continue).

    2. Zahra*

      Something that one of my jobs in the way, way past did was to have a rotation on taking notes and managing the meetings (2 different persons, one can’t take note and facilitate a meeting). No matter how senior or junior the person was. Assuming the projects are going to last for a while and that the same group of people is involved in the vast majority of meetings, is that feasible?

      Also, wouldn’t it make the most sense for the person responsible for a project to set up the meetings? They are the one who knows who should be there and who isn’t needed. Same for the team calendar, it makes more sense to me that each person adds their stuff on it rather than relying on someone else to do it. Or, if the updates are only about what gets decided in the meetings, then it should be the note taker (see “rotation”, above) or the person in charge of the project. In any case, the people in charge of the tasks and of the project should review the schedule, so it’s ultimately everyone’s job to keep the team meeting updated, including changing the due date if necessary.

      One of the things I told my own boss when I had worked here for 6 months was:
      “You know, the team meetings often get changed, and the usual room is already in use by another team. I know I’ve been proactively checking which rooms are available, because I hate it when we have to change rooms at the very last minute. I’ve also noticed that I’m being asked to book a room for team meetings or other people’s meetings. I don’t want to be pigeon-holed as being the admin. I don’t mind helping out, but I need to focus on my own stuff.”

      He totally understood what I meant, and I stopped checking the room availabilities outside of the meetings I book. We’ve had a few meetings that we had to move at the last minute, but my boss never asked me again to check room availability.

    3. Been There, Done That*

      I’d first of all ask if you know whether any of the “purely admin” people are capable of contributing as writers/”other-hat wearers,” and therefore might do well with the opportunity.

      I’d also note that in my organization, my one male manager took my ambitions seriously when I was an admin; appreciated the education/qualifications I’d gained; gave me opportunities to demonstrate them, work with creative teams, and make some decisions; present at meetings and join in representing our office at events; and put me in line for promotion. He wanted EVERYBODY to succeed. My two women managers (including one who began as receptionist and was boosted up the ladder by her male manager) treated me like not even a skilled admin but a flunky who was only good for Xeroxing. Sad but true.

  78. MiaOh*

    OP, the answer to “why are you asking me” is often “because you are so good at this!”. Often people think that asking you to do menial tasks is some kind of badge of honor that they are bestowing on you.

    With my manger, what had worked was retaliating with “this is not part of my goals, and you are punishing competence by making me responsible for this. I’m happy to do this if you want to add to my goals that I will do this for the team”. And he is a good manager so he heard the message and is great at not treating me as team admin, when I was working as his second in command in an otherwise all male team.

    Another answer for “you are so good at this” is either “not anymore, no.” or “Good. I will teach you how to.” If they say ” but I’m so busy!” parry with “so am I” or “Ah well, then do this when you’re not.”

Comments are closed.