how to tell coworkers “you need to do that yourself”

A reader writes:

I have been employed with my agency for five years. Six months ago, I transitioned out of, let’s say, llama grooming support into a junior llama groomer role. However, no one was hired to take over grooming support in my place, and my supervisor Lily (who was my supervisor for both roles) said that some of my duties would remain with me and others would be transferred to other people, primarily a great support person named Robin. Lily has communicated with the relevant people about tasks that have been transferred.

The issue I am running into is that people are asking me to do things that have either been transferred to Robin, or that they could really do themselves. For the former, a cheerful “That’s actually one of Robin’s duties now!” sometimes works, but other times people will really push back with things like “Oh, I thought since this related to alpaca grooming support and not llama grooming support, you could still do it.” My supervisor always backs me up on these, but is there a way to convey my point a bit more broadly?

For the people who are asking me things they could just as easily find out themselves, I get flustered. They are asking me things like the location of a hotel in Llamaville when there is only one hotel by that name in that town. My supervisor said “Tell them to Google it,” but that sounds a bit rough to me. She made the excellent point that doing things like that just reinforces that these are appropriate requests when they’re not, and I get it, but I’m not the best at drawing boundaries without going overboard. Any advice?

Your manager is right that when you give in and help people with tasks that are no longer your job, you’re undermining your attempts to get these requests to stop — by directly showing them that in fact these are still tasks you do. If you want them to understand this is no longer your role, you have to actually show them that with your actions.

But it sounds like you haven’t done that yet because you’re having trouble finding language that won’t feel rude to you. It should really help if you decide on some phrases that you’re willing to say and have them prepared and ready to go — so that in the moment you won’t get flustered and just give in. So let’s find you some phrases.

When you try to send people to Robin and they come back with “I thought you could do it since it’s X, not Y,” you can say, “Nope, that’s Robin! She’ll be able to help you.” Say this cheerfully and briskly, as if of course they’ll take it to Robin and that will be the end of that. If anyone still pushes, you can look slightly confused and say, “I really can’t — Lily wants me focused on Z but Robin can help you.” (If this happens a lot though, it’s worth figuring out if people are going to you instead of Robin because Robin isn’t doing a great job with those tasks. If that’s the case, the solution still isn’t for you to take it over — but you’d want to flag it for your manager so she can figure out if Robin needs more training or otherwise deal with the situation.)

When people ask you to do things that they should be doing themselves, there are a few ways to handle that:

* You can be busy with something else: “I’m on deadline right now so can’t help, sorry!” I don’t love this option, though, because it implies that you would do it if you weren’t busy, when what you really want to convey is that this isn’t your job.

* You can clearly explain the situation: “Now that I’m focusing on X, I’m not doing travel support anymore. Sorry I can’t help!”

* You can borrow authority from your manager: “Lily doesn’t want me helping with that kind of thing anymore, now that I’m focused on X.” Or, “Lily asked me to have people handle that kind of request themselves, because she wants me staying focused on X.” In theory you don’t need to cite Lily here — it’s enough to just explain that’s not part of your role anymore — but sometimes this can be a way of softening the message a bit, especially if you’re dealing with someone who you think will otherwise push back.

Speaking of your manager, it sounds like she really has your back here, which is great and makes this much easier. Sometimes in this kind of situation, you’ll get a manager who gives lip service to the idea that you don’t need to do your old tasks, but who won’t actually support you when you push back with people. Lily sounds like she’s going to solidly back you up here.

Read updates to this letter here and here

{ 200 comments… read them below }

  1. Jules the 3rd*

    For the things people should do themselves:
    When you don’t want to say, ‘Google it’, you can soften that language. For example, “That information is available on Google. Just type in ‘hotel Llamaville’ “. Say it cheerfully and as if of *course* they know how to Google something and hit the Big Button that says ‘Maps’ and ‘Directions.’ Spend a little time thinking about the most common requests, come up with two sentences that tell them how to do it themselves, deploy as needed.

    Do not do it for them. Says the woman who does it for them way too often.

    In time, this too will fade; faster if you leave them to do it themselves.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      For other softening terms, check out the “You may also like” link, “how to tell someone “this is your job, not mine” “. Several good scripts in there.

    2. LQ*

      I’ve done, “I really don’t know off the top of my head, I’d need to google it.” A decent number of people will get that and go from there. They are just using you as a cheaper (way more expensive) easier (not at all) google (also nope). So just a “I’m not sure, I’d just start with google.”

      1. JokeyJules*

        i’ve used both of these, if that doesn’t work, i just make up a ridiculous turn-around-time to look it for them. “ah! super busy, i wouldn’t be able to google that for you until like, tomorrow at noon.” and then suddenly they have the epiphany to do it themselves.

      2. Interplanet Janet*

        +1 for “I’m not sure, I’d start with Google” (Or even “I’m not sure, maybe start with Google?” as if they have asked you not for the information, but for advice on how to find the information.)

        1. LaurenB*

          I might just add: “I’m not sure — if I were you, I’d start with Google.” That indicates that the responsibility for finding it is on them, and if — IF! — you were in the position of having to find it yourself, this is what you would do, so of course they’d want to do it that way.

      3. Jadelyn*

        I use this a lot. I’ll get asked “Hey what’s our branch address in $LOCATION?” And I might know it, or I might not, but either way I’ll reply “I don’t know off the top of my head – you might check our Locations page on the website or maybe google it, you should be able to find it that way.”

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          “I don’t know off the top of my head” is a very good way to say “I could look that up, but so could you.”

        2. Mr. Shark*

          I like the “you should be able to find it that way.” It points the action away from you and to them.
          So, “I don’t know off the top of my head, you should be able to find it on Google.”

      4. C*

        My go-to is pretty close to this: “I’m not sure off the top of my head. In the past I’ve just googled it” That’s usually been enough of a spur for people to go “oh, ok” and google it themselves.

        1. Angwyshaunce*

          Ex-coworker at his computer turns to me at my computer and asks, “Do you know the definition of [technical term]?” Dude, you know how to use a search engine – you could have had the answer already.

          1. Retail4life*

            Another way to soften it would be to assume in your response that they already tried to google it. “What did it say when you googled it?”

      5. Beapish*

        Oh! Did you Google it?
        Bland smile.

        If necessary, in excruciating length that time your google skills failed you and your crazy sister and you both ended up enjoying a drag show/enjoyable (to you) anecdote.

        Then focus on your stuff. Wander off if possible.

        1. Beapish*

          Oops, sorry Auntie Social; what you said!
          You’re nicer than I am.

          Long timer but new poster here.


      6. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

        Or even something like, “I don’t know off the top of my head, sorry. Have you tried Googling it?” That puts the onus back on them.

    3. OP*

      Thanks for this advice! I like the idea of coming up with scripts for common tasks and I will work on that.

      1. Auntie Social*

        Or “did you Google it?” because that says (1) you can do this yourself and (2) this info is easy to find. Then whether the answer is yes or no, you say you can’t help with travel any more, everyone is going to make their own travel arrangements.

        1. GillysGotIt*

          That’s much better. In my experience giving a cheerful tone while telling someone how to do a basic task works against you. Most people aren’t oblivious and will resent you more if you they feel they’re being manipulated like this. Better to be direct and ask.

          1. Dragoning*

            Or ask, in a genuinely confused manner, “Did google not have that information?”

              1. mamma mia*

                I don’t know if you’re serious but I hope not because that would come across as incredibly condescending. Not even Meryl Streep could pull off saying “Did google not have that information” or “is google down?” in a genuinely confused way.

                This advice to just say patronizing things in a “cheerful” tone wouldn’t work on even the dumbest of coworkers. “Did you google it?” or “Try Google” in a neutral way are what’s going to work best for you. Neither of those responses are rude.

              2. Jadelyn*

                That reads to me as passive-aggressive, tbh. No matter how genuinely confused you make it sound, it’ll come off as sarcastic confusion. I’d much rather someone directly suggest I go google something, than seem like they’re being sarcastic at me about it.

                1. General Ginger*

                  Yeah, “Were you banned from Google?” is probably my most passive-aggressive “do it yourself” response.

            1. JSPA*

              Face saving, and also leaving open the possibility that there’s something legit problematic going on:

              “Is Google being difficult?”

              “If you send me a list of the search terms you tried that didn’t work, I’ll see if can come up with some others.”

              “I’m booked until 3, if Google hasn’t provided an answer by then, send me an email with your best guess, and I’ll confirm.”

        2. BRR*

          This is what I’ve used a lot of the time. Make sure they’ve done the easy work and pretend they would only come to you when it need a subject matter expert.

        3. JediSquirrel*

          “Have you googled it?” is my go-to response for all these basic questions. For folks who lack google-fu, I’ll suggest search terms to help them along.

          1. AJ*

            I “might cheerfully” spend 30 minutes showing them how to Google “hotel llamaville”, including how to get to Google in the first place. Praising them every time they hit a key.

            And if they proclaim they know how to use Google, I “might feign” surprise and apologise: “I’m soooo sorry. I thought you asked me because you didn’t know how to do an internet search. But you can so you’re good to find any information you need. You don’t have to find me all the time.”


    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I also routinely ask people what they’ve done to explore the problem (in a warm, supportive voice). Then I’ll refer them to a resource, like Google or a reference item. If they’ve tried and are still stumped, I’ll refer them to the right person or work with them to show how they can figure it out themselves.

      But I’ve found that if you help them, they’ll be a bit lazy about it going forward and keep coming back. Which totally makes sense, because asking you is going to be less work for them than looking it up on their own. OP will need to train them into ensuring they try to troubleshoot before going to others.

      1. Name Required*

        Second the, “What have you done so far?” suggestion. You could also try, “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m not the right person to help with this question.”

      2. Ginger Baker*

        “I also routinely ask people what they’ve done to explore the problem (in a warm, supportive voice). Then I’ll refer them to a resource, like Google or a reference item. If they’ve tried and are still stumped, I’ll refer them to the right person or work with them to show how they can figure it out themselves.” Quoted for brilliance. For scripts, I would try “What have you tried so far?” – you’re setting the tone/expectation that OF COURSE they already took some steps to solve the problem, a la raktajino’s comment below (also fab). STORY TIME I once gave one of my besties a *serious lecture* about not having done any searching on her own when she wasn’t clear on the instructions from Manager Guy (she had come to me to whine about his barebones instructions). Months later, she told me “you know, sometimes when I am about to ask someone for something, I picture Judgmental Ginger [said with love] over my shoulder and I think more about whether i can find the info myself.” and honestly it is something I am the proudest of in my work-related life!

    5. sofar*

      Another softener I often use is, “If you Google ‘llama hotel in X city,’ it should come right up. It’s the only one.”

      1. TangoFoxtrot*

        This is my preference. I’ve worked with some people who genuinely have issues choosing effective search terms or are very intimidated at the prospect of sifting through a lot of results. This level of guidance is enough to help those people without sounding patronizing or petty, and without just taking over the task for them.

        1. only acting normal*

          I am frequently surprised by how many intelligent people are *awful* at picking effective search terms. It is a skill in itself apparently.
          That said, the vast majority of people can muddle through with sub-optimal google-fu.

      2. Esme*

        When I google “llama hotel in X city” i get directed to an askamanager post though?

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      When we had someone new hired to take over half of what I’d been doing, I kept getting requests to do “just this one”. My mantra became “I’m assigned to ABCD for submission in X weeks, and EFG materials are second priority after that. I can try to work Z in if EFG doesn’t show up. You might be better off talking to NewHire because she’s finishing up a project today.” Invariably they would go to NewHire… they were just trying to do an end-run around procedures because they though the oldtimer would be faster.

    7. raktajino*

      Yes! Some pre-teaching about how to best use Google has been such a help in my effort to not be the office search engine.

      In addition to LQ’s “I would just be googling this anyway,” I also like to ask “what did Google say?” or “what have you already found out from research?” My intent is to acknowledge that research isn’t always immediately conclusive. It’s worked so far! My teammates have overheard the needier coworkers say stuff like “Raktajino would say to google it, so I guess that’s our first step.” In fact, people now approach me with what they’ve already tried. It’s wonderful.

      1. ursula*

        +1, this has been my experience also. I always ask either what google said, or whether they checked to see if that info is in the staff manual, or if they asked [X] already. Things that assume they will OF COURSE have already taken some steps to find the answer themselves.

        But that doesn’t help for tasks/questions that used to be your job and aren’t just a google search away. I guess I want to validate that it’s not rude to divert work that is not your job! Maybe the “Have you checked with Robin?” approach will help, but maybe your manager needs to speak with other departments or whoever is bringing you work to clarify what kind of things you are or aren’t available to help with.

    8. lz*

      My old colleague employed the “earnest tutorial” trick for this kind of thing:

      Send them the answer, tell them it was the first result on Google when you searched the name of the place, and maybe even include a screenshot of your search results. Then end your email with a cheerful “Since this isn’t my job anymore, you’ll need to do your own Googling going forward. Hope this helps for next time!”. If they ask again, dig up the email and send it again saying “here is your how-to.” as if they really don’t know how and that’s the only reason they would possibly be bothering you with something you’ve told them isn’t your job.

      this tactic is good if you can’t resist being helpful but do want people to deal with their own stuff!

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        I wouldn’t even do all this – it isn’t OP’s job to help people in this capacity anymore. She should just stick to directing people to Google and going back to her own work.

      2. LaurenB*

        This is a lot of work to avoid a direct statement that “I don’t know, but I’m sure Google has the answer.”

      3. Gunney*

        Oh man this is so much work just to be rude to someone. If I’m going to tell someone “just google it” then at least that doesn’t take up my time.

      4. Silence Will Fall*

        You could use Let Me Google That for You (lmgtfy DOT com) for the same result much quicker.

        (Don’t really use LMGTFY. It’s rude. But super satisfying to imaging using with lazy coworkers.)

    9. female peter gibbons*

      I have definitely said to a coworker, if you can Google it, you don’t need to ask me. That was my rule for her. But we were really close.

  2. KR*

    I’m a fan of saying things like, “Robin is the best person to help you with that!” And “Robin is really more knowledgeable in that area now.” Like I don’t want to help them because I want them to go to the best person for the job. It comes across like you’re helping them.

    1. Kimmybear*

      “I’ve been away from that so long, I’m not sure my info is up to date. Robin will have the more accurate information.”

        1. Jadelyn*

          And, speaking from experience, it’s also going to be true after a little while. We hired someone about two years ago to start taking the admin stuff off my plate so I could focus on the analytics I was branching out into doing.

          She recently got injured and had to take 6 weeks off, and I’ve been trying to delicately, carefully balance being a team player with not letting people just assume that of course I’ll cheerfully demote myself back to admin whenever it’s necessary. And in the things I *have* been willing to step in and help with, I’ve learned that there’s a lot of stuff different than the way I used to do it, changes to processes, etc. and I’m really not the expert on these systems anymore since I don’t use them much.

      1. General Ginger*

        This is both useful and probably true, since Robin is eventually going to be more up to date than you on tasks that you no longer do!

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          I think one of the things I like about this variation is that I get to promote my Robin’s competence and knowledge.

    2. Auntie Social*

      Maybe it’s time for a memo from you about “the wonderful Robin will be handling A, B and C duties. If it’s Y and Z, please do those yourself because Robin doesn’t have time. I will continue to do Llama Grooming Reports.”

  3. JustMyImagination*

    For requests/questions people should handle themselves, sometimes feigned helplessness/ignorance is my choice.
    “What’s the address of the Llamaville hotel?” – “Oh, I’m not sure, you can find it on google”.

    1. Not Gary, Gareth*

      My favorite way to phrase it is something like:

      “Oh, I’m not sure off the top of my head. But you know who *does* know?”
      (dramatic pause)
      “Google. That dude knows everything.”

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      “I’ve got no idea — but we can go ask Uncle Google.”
      I had one co-worker who would never look things up on our SharePoint site before coming by asking me about it — so I took to making him sit at MY desk and do the search on my computer “just to make sure he knew what it should look like so he can tell IT if it’s not working on his PC.”

  4. cdanahata*

    Instead of answering “just google it” I’ll use “Oh, I don’t know, I’d have to google that.” They typically get the hint, but if not you can always follow it up with something that indicates you’re already moving on to the next thing (and therefore assuming they’ll google it themselves).

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      Or ask to see their cell phone, press the personal assistant button, and ask the exact question they just asked you in the same words they used. When the search results come back, show them the phone and walk away.

      Ok, don’t do that, but it’s fun to think about doing that, isn’t it?

      1. AccountingIsFun*

        Or send them the Let me Google that for you link – it records you googling something for them. It’s mean to actually do – but it is fun to think about doing it.

        1. Zephy*

          [pedantry]LMGTFY doesn’t record anything, it just shows a little animation of your search query being typed into the Google search bar before redirecting to the results page.[/pedantry]

        2. Jadelyn*

          Gods, I always have to stop myself from sending LMGTFY links to people when they ask dumb questions that they could’ve answered for themselves with a two-second google search. It would be rude, so I don’t, but maaaaan have I been tempted sometimes.

      2. cdanahata*

        Not gonna lie, I do this to my boyfriend.
        Him: “*insert question*?”
        Me: “hey siri, *insert question*?”

    2. Washi*

      This would be too subtle for my coworkers! I’ve learned from experience that they will unabashedly watch me google something for them. I usually just say “I’m not sure! It’s probably on the internet somewhere though” and let them figure it out.

      1. OP*

        I think this is my situation too. They’d hear that as “I’d have to Google that…which is a thing that I will do and get back with you.” But, maybe not responding to that and forcing them to write an email that says “Did you Google this yet?” will illustrate the silliness of that.

        1. Close Bracket*

          Tbh, that’s exactly what I would expect you to do … if I were under the impression that your job is to provide me with hotel addresses (or whatever googlable information). In fact, if I were under that impression and I asked you for an address and you responded with, “I don’t know, I’d have to google,” I would wonder why you are telling me your process as opposed to just doing your process and giving me the answer, and I would be pissed off at the passive-aggressive strategic incompetence on display.

          So my take is you would be better off correcting people’s impression that it’s your job to find that sort of information. Stick with Alison’s scripts of “Sorry, I’m not supporting that anymore. You can find that out with a quick Google search, though.”

        2. cdanahata*

          My initial post didn’t address the context of coming from a support background, so allow me to edit my suggestion:
          – “Oh, I don’t know, I’m sure you can find it on Google though.”
          – “Oh, that’s a google question. I’ve gotta get back to this llama grooming report now.”
          – “Hmm, I don’t know off the top of my head. You should be able to find it online pretty quickly.”
          Or some combination thereof.

        3. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

          I used to get that at a prior job. My reply, “I can’t remember either. Have you checked google/travel booking program/share point yet?” And, could you remind me of that answer too, I’ve got to get back to [project].”

        4. Blue*

          Yeah, the “you should google it” can’t be implied. I once had a coworker who preferred waiting for me to google something over googling it herself (ugh). Some of the language suggested in the comments really worked for me without feeling too rude – things like, “I can’t take care of that for you, but if you google the name of the hotel, it should be the first hit” or “What did you find on google?” I’d definitely give some of those a try!

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      I like the “Oh, I don’t know” line but I think instead of “I’d have to Google that” go to “Have you tried Google? That is where I always started”

    4. Budgie Buddy*

      Am now wondering if Star Trek’s Scotty and similar characters are just the only ones in the cast to use Google.

  5. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    OP, think of this as a tone issue. Telling someone “I am sure you can find it on Google” with a smile is not rude. Glaring at them and saying the same thing would be. Use your voice and body language to make it a friendly message and you’ll be fine.

    1. ChimericalOne*

      That can sound rude even if said in a neutral tone, because 1) it’s so obvious that it can feel condescending and 2) it’s basically saying, “Do it yourself,” which feels rude to most people even if said with a smile. The OP is smart to want to find softer phrases for this. (And Alison gave her some good ones!)

      1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

        Must be personal preference/style because the way Escapee phrased it said in a pleasant way would not cause me to raise an eyebrow, sound very reasonable to me.

      2. mamma mia*

        If people are asking an obvious question, it is not rude to respond with an obvious answer. OP, your supervisor is correct. It is about a hundred times more condescending to dance around it and “soften” your answer in an attempt to spare any possible hurt feelings than it is to be direct. And if on the off chance that someone is offended by you telling them to Google something, well then, they’re less likely to ask you such Googleable questions in the future. Which I would take as a win.

  6. JBPL*

    I get this type of stuff all the time. My favorite phrase is now “You’ll be able to Google that (or find that in the manual, etc) faster than I’ll get you an answer.” Note that I don’t say “faster than I *can* get you an answer.” Because if the person in question is REALLY sure I have to answer this one, I’m going to add it to my task list, not drop everything and make it happen in the moment. It typically works, and it’s reduced the burden on me doing other people’s simple research. Good luck!

    1. OP*

      Clever! A couple of people so far have mentioned just not doing the thing right away, which is brilliant and why didn’t I think of that?

      1. Close Bracket*

        A couple of people so far have mentioned just not doing the thing right away, which is brilliant and why didn’t I think of that?

        Bc it’s passive aggressive. Try the direct approach first, then resort to being passive aggressive when directness doesn’t work.

        I am sympathetic to how hard it is to set boundaries and say no to things that you used to say yes to. Passive aggressive strategies avoid all that scary saying no stuff, but seriously, don’t lead with that. Set boundaries first.

        1. Colette*

          I don’t see that as passive aggressive. I wouldn’t recommend it as an approach when it’s a face to face request – that’s a “sorry, I can’t help you with that” situation – but it’s a great approach when it’s an email request (because you are obviously prioritizing your actual work over random questions that are not your job.

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          But it’s not passive-aggressive to just decline to replace your priorities with theirs. Adding the task to the end of your to-do list, not the beginning, is entirely appropriate. If it’s urgent then coworker will do it themselves.

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            (Think if it as a corollary to the old adage, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”. Except instead of ‘lack of planning’, it’s ‘laziness’)

        3. General Ginger*

          It’s not passive-aggressive, it’s a reasonable prioritizing of your time.

        4. OP*

          I should have clarified: I didn’t mean just letting an email sit there. I answer all my emails that ask for a response within two business days unless I’m off. I just meant that there’s really no good reason that things that are not my job should get advanced ahead of things that are.

      2. Yvette*

        Except that can backfire in terms of making you appear inept. “I asked OP (insert basic simple thing that people come to you for) and she didn’t know” is not a reputation you want to nurture.
        It sounds like your boss has your back in terms of telling you it is appropriate for you to push back, so I would just use one of the scripts recommended here.

        1. TangoFoxtrot*

          I think with a reasonable manager (which Robin sounds to be) that depends on the question. “I asked OP the difference between an alpaca and a poodle and she didn’t know!” sounds inept, but, “I asked OP for the address of the llama hotel that I’m going to visit and she didn’t know!” would more likely prompt the response, “Well, that’s because that isn’t OP’s job.”

    2. Circe*

      In these cases, I usually use, “oh, is it not showing up on Google?” That way, you assume that *obviously* they already tried and the weird thing is not that you aren’t googling for them, but that something is wrong with google.

      If they follow up with a request for you to do it, that’s when you can use, “oh, actually, I’m not doing llama support anymore.”

      Then if they push a third time, you’re within your rights to push back. You’re not being rude for refusing—they’re being rude for not letting it go.

      But honestly, most people aren’t asking you because they can’t/don’t want to do it, but because they don’t know you’re not doing it anymore. And it’s not rude to give them the new information that the person in charge of X task is them.

  7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    It’s great news that your boss is on your side on this. So it’s all about retraining yourself to not feel “rude” at redirecting them, either to Robin or to The Google. They are the rude ones when they push at your or get frustrated that they have to jump on their computer and google “Best Western in Llamaville, VA”

    This is hard because you’re coming from a support role. It’s your instinct to help, you’ve done it for so long and it feels so funny being all “Actually, that’s not my job anymore. They’re not replacing the support function, so you’re going to have to do your admin work yourself from now on!” [It would also help if someone told them this as a group, stating “OP is now your llama groomer, we no longer have a person in the support role, so you’ll find that you’ll be filling out more of your own paperwork from here on out, see your boss if you need assistance with completing those tasks.” [They may be rusty having depended on you so long, that’s fair enough but in the end, they seriously need to figure it out.]

    1. OP*

      I think you’re right that coming from a support background is making this more difficult. I have my boss’ blessing to tell people to quit asking me to do this stuff and it is fully my own struggle. But I am seeing a lot of great advice from Alison and you all!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        The good news is that the more you put your foot down and the more you get comfortable sending them off on their way to figure it out themselves, it will feel less like you’re doing something wrong! It’s always the adjustment phase that is the roughest.

        The scripts will help you a lot! And really, if someone is extra stubborn or rude to you when you tell them to [kindly] GTFO, don’t be afraid to let your boss know that Karen won’t take “Google it” as an answer and that she’s wasting your GD time!

      2. Jadelyn*

        It really is a super hard transition. I did this a couple years ago and I still struggle sometimes with pushing back on people and saying “Actually I don’t handle that anymore – that’s a Lily thing, she’ll be able to help you with it.”

        When your whole role has been based around helping and supporting other people, it almost feels *wrong* to say “no, I’m not going to help you, even though I technically could” – but it is VITAL to your ability to fully proceed into your new role that you do so. When you make that jump at a single company (rather than getting hired into a non-support role at a new company) you’ve also got the baggage of people being used to you as their support person, and if you don’t change that perception you’ll never quite hit escape velocity and get out of it.

        1. OP*

          I’m so glad to hear this is something others have experienced! I feel better now about what kinds of things I can say in these situations.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Definitely not just you! There are two things I do to help keep myself standing firm on those boundaries:

            1. I remind myself that in the long run, this is better for the organization. If I’m bogged down in support work, I can’t do all the analysis work that the organization is actually paying me for. I help the organization more, long-term, by doing the work they need me to do, and that no longer includes the support work. Support work is critical, and I am grateful every day for the people who do that work – but I’m not supposed to be doing it anymore, I have specialized skills that I’m supposed to be putting to work advancing the organization’s best interests in other ways. Spending my time on support work instead of analysis work is short-changing the organization, which is paying me for the latter.

            2. I also treat it as an act of self-care. I’m responsible for managing my career, and quite frankly, I’m ambitious. Allowing myself to be seen by others at the specialist/analyst level as support staff, rather than their peer, will hold me back. Reputation matters. Would I rather have a reputation as a great support staff, or as a skilled analyst? So in that context, pushing back on support requests and learning how to say “no” to people who bring me admin work is how I honor and support my career goals. I won’t undermine myself by letting people keep me in the “support staff” box.

            Hope this helps – but yeah, you’re not alone in this. I think a lot of us have to make this jump at some point and it can be rough when you do it via promotion rather than a new job somewhere else. (Especially if you’re female/perceived as female…)

            1. OP*

              Thank you for this! And yes, I am female, but so are probably 80% of the other staff, at least.

              1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                Are you a younger female though, around older females by chance?

                I just say this because a lot of older women have been absolutely horrendous to me when it comes to thinking I’m the “help”, more so than any male that I’ve been told to shield myself against in the work place when it comes to coming across as subservient and falling into the “female” roles. So you still want to make sure that you stand your grand here because it’s really a thing, since you’re now coming from “Junior, support” role to an “junior associate” kind of role, if that makes sense?

                I don’t want anyone lulled into false comforts because they work with women because I’ve had the worst time in my life when it comes to that.

  8. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    Hi OP just a quick hang in there! because it sounds like your manager gave you the answer: “Tell them no” but you just can’t get your head around it. I feel you. I think I’d have a lot of trouble with that, too. Good luck and let us know how it works out.

      1. Auntie Social*

        There’s also “Kate told me to tell you I’m doing more important things, but if you don’t like it, come see her.” I promise you, no one goes to see Kate about how her department is run–they’re just lazy.

  9. ket*

    If people really push, you can also say something more pointed, like, “If you really would like me to do that instead of Robin, you could talk to Lily to see if it would be possible to rearrange my new job description to accommodate that.”

    This reminds me of the person in the “petty office things” thread that made a form for changes to the website. Make a process to allow them to have you do it instead of Robin, just make it annoying and formal. “You know, since Robin has taken that over, I only handle it on a case by case basis. If you could fill out this form to see if meets the criteria, I’ll be able to look at it in the afternoon and decide if I will be able to do it. Or Robin can do it now. Thanks!”

  10. Madame Secretary*

    I respond with “What did you discover when you did a Google search on Llamaville hotels?”

    1. Auntie Social*

      I do too, because that says (1) you can do this yourself and (2) this info is easy to find. Then whether the answer is yes or no, you say you can’t help with travel any more, everyone now makes their own travel arrangements, “and that way you get exactly the flight you want!”

  11. Susana*

    I would say, try really hard to pretend it’s a friend or acquaintance asking you. So if someone says, where is X hotel, you say, “I really don’t know.” With NO indication you will then go find out. That leaves them with having to ASK you to find out, and it sort of reminds them that it’s not your job anymore (or never was). Again – sort of the OF COURSE you know it’s not my job to find that out for you – but you were asking in case I knew offhand. Which, you know, I don’t.

    1. Narvo Flieboppen*

      This approach would be a big fail for me. If a friend asked me to Google something for them, when they’ve got access to the same resources, my response is typically along the lines of “Sorry, I didn’t realize those fingers on your hands were broken. Did you need a lift to the ER?”

      Fortunately, my friends have a similar sense of humor so this flies just fine in my personal life. At work, I expect it would not be so well received other than by a handful of parties.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah, my friends and I would just respond with a link to “let me google that for you” =X

      2. Jennifer Thneed*

        In my house, it’s all about “bloody stumps”. I can’t get my own drink from the kitchen because of how I only have bloody stumps. I can’t write this thing down because of my bloody (finger) stumps.

        Now, we’re only using it with each other, and only on ourselves, if that makes sense. We are pre-emptively acknowledging that we’re asking for a favor.

        With other people, well, I used to be a technical trainer, so I’ll just go into “let me help you learn to do that” mode. You know, where I make you sit at my desk and I point to the things on the screen but you have to type the letters or click the mouse yourself. It’s very satisfying, because if they’re just being lazy, I get to poke them, and if they genuinely need help, I get to help them.

  12. LQ*

    One of the other things to do when you become google is to take much, much longer than google. If the request is by email? Just wait, don’t leap on it and respond. (I’ve been known to respond after everyone’s left as a little passive aggressive, “Are you seriously expecting me to google this for you when I know you’re not that busy and I’m the one here until 8 pm (unheard of around here)?” Which totally worked for a couple people, though that’s very culture dependent I think.

    I had one very frequent offender who sees herself as very kind and a friend. I sat her down and said, “Hey, every time you ask me about llama basics stuff and you pull me into solving llama basics stuff you’re putting me back in the llama box. My role, and how I really want people to see me is more strategic mammal direction.”

    She is now one of my biggest advocates, “We don’t need LQ for that we can ask Sally, we should definitely talk with LQ about strategic mammals though.” At most she’ll ask me if she should go to Sally, help desk, or google.

    1. Jadelyn*

      This can be a great tactic if you have someone you know and can have that conversation with. I did this with our new recruiter – I used to handle recruiting and admin support for the HR team, until we hired an admin. But our admin was injured and needed to take 6 weeks of medical leave, and she was only here for a few weeks after our recruiter came onboard, and since during his initial training period I’d agreed to provide extra support and context info for both Lily and Rick (the new recruiter) as needed, he defaulted to me as his support person.

      But we also hit it off really well from day 1, so after about a week of Lily’s absence I told Rick “Hey, just to give you some context on this, I used to do Lily’s job, but I don’t anymore. I’m really trying to make sure that people stop seeing me as support staff and start seeing me as an analyst, since that’s my new role. So I really want to help you since I know it’s rough to come in and almost immediately have your support person disappear, but if I’m a little slow to volunteer for things, just understand it’s because I’m worried about being pushed back into a box I’m not supposed to be in anymore.”

      And like you, it worked really well. Rick totally understood, and has been great about only asking for my help when he really needs to, and definitely doesn’t point anyone else my way for questions. If he doesn’t know the answer yet, he’ll tell them “let me check into it and get back to you” and waits for them to go away before he asks me, so they don’t see my involvement and start coming to me with questions.

  13. Hiya*

    Gosh I feel you. I was a temp doing specialized work once. Because I was a temp I’d get ridiculous request like to call a restaurant and see if they had space at a certain time and then make reservations. By the time they walked to my office they could have done the reservation themselves and I was in NO way support for people in the office. I talked with my boss and said “hey you pay me by the hour (not an insubstantial amount) and if you want me calling restaurants that’s your decision.” They drafted a VERY clear email to everyone outlining what was my job and what wasn’t using specific examples and what resource to use instead and that I would be bringing it to her if someone came to me for something not in my job. Just being interrupted and asked took me out of my concentration and the job was very detailed so she didn’t even want me having to re-direct people. One or two times where I let the boss know and people were “spoken to” and it completely stopped.

    1. OP*

      I love this story! But it makes zero sense to have someone in a specialized role making dinner reservations. Glad they backed you up! I could see Lily doing something like that.

  14. Spool of Lies*

    In addition to everything Allison said, a little strategic incompetence can go a long way, too! I was in nearly the exact same situation and eventually I just started saying “I don’t know” to repeat offenders. They stopped coming to me for easily Google-able things soon after.

    1. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

      I generally used, “Its been a while and I can’t remember.” That felt a little less incompetent to me.

  15. Lynca*

    I think one of the things that helps me is knowing that I don’t have to provide someone a solution. “Sorry I can’t help you.” is a complete (and polite!) sentence.

    I don’t have to tell them how to find the answer, just inform them politely that I can’t help them with that.

  16. fhqwhgads*

    Something I did that might help with the “it feels rude to tell them to google” thing is, after they ask say “sure I can help!” and then pause for a beat and then say “you know, actually, I just realized I was going to google that to get you the answer, and you can probably take care of that yourself”. So the framing turned from “person assumes I am a font of all knowledge, and I like having that reputation” to “wait, I’m not helping either of us by perpetuating the myth that I know everything off the top of my head”. It might feel weird in the moment, like you’re manufacturing the realization. For me it genuinely happened that way.
    Point is: you can put the google impulse in their hands, as a helpful thing, not as a turning them away thing. It’s also possible sometimes the person got so used to you knowing everything instantly they forgot google was an option. So it’s good to put that back in their heads.

  17. animaniactoo*

    I’m tired and cranky, so my first response to “Oh, I thought you could still handle this” would be “Sure!”

    www lmgtfy com/their request.

    But I think the main thing is the making clear that you’re not keeping track of this information and you would have to Google it and you no longer do that.

    “Hmmm. I’m not sure, but I’m sure you can find it if you Google it. That’s how I usually grab that kind of info.”

    Any requests to do it for them are a simple “Sorry, not part of my job description anymore! It’s really easy, I’m sure you’ll be able to find it with no problem. Good luck!” and then this is key turn back to whatever you were working on. You don’t need their agreement that the conversation is over, it’s okay to end it yourself and go back to what you were doing. Which will make it really clear that, no, you’re not going to do it, and no, you’re not going to have a back and forth about doing it. Do let Lily know that’s how you’re planning to handle it so that she can back you up against any pushback “So you’re saying she informed you that it wasn’t her job anymore and you’re upset that she went back to doing the things that are her job?”

    For other stuff that might not be Google but might be where stuff is around the office/how to do X, train yourself to say “Oh! I’m not supposed to handle that anymore, but you can….” – and then allow yourself to fill in what they can do. And meet “Can you just take care of it for me” with “Sorry, I’m working hard on not doing it because if I do I’ll always be the person who does it even though I’m not supposed to. I’m sure you understand” cheerful and matter of fact as you can. Here the key is having an all-purpose phrase to start with as a response and keep yourself from ending up doing it by default, either because you agreed or because you didn’t reject it fast enough.

    “Give me a moment to figure out how to explain what to do. Hmmm. Okay, go to….” is another one you can keep in your pocket as “I’m being helpful and civil and professional… but I’m not doing the work for you.”

    1. OP*

      These are great, thank you! Honestly, our org structure is a little weird and Lily is an upper level manager. It’s not likely people would complain about me unless I did something heinous. That’s great on one hand, but also makes it difficult to know if I’m coming off badly.

      1. animaniactoo*

        If it helps: For some people, they’ll be jarred because it’s a change and they’ll be resistant. And then they’ll get used to it and the dynamic will change to something easier again. Anybody that it doesn’t work this way for is not a problem of the way *you* are coming off.

  18. Vimes*

    A lot of people have already suggested “I don’t know, you should google it” but if you want an extra soft option I often go “I don’t know, did you not find anything when you googled it?” Implying surely they already checked there. If they say they didn’t try google yet, I’ll finish the conversation with “Try googling it and if you still can’t find it we’ll figure out who might know.” They rarely follow up on that.

    1. Washi*

      Yes! I wrote up a whole manual on how to use a certain system and whenever people ask me basic questions about it, I say with great alarm and concern “oh no! Is it not in the manual?” And then when they admit they haven’t looked, I say “Oh ok, I’m pretty sure I put directions in the manual, but let me know if it doesn’t work when you try it!”

      1. Jadelyn*

        Sending the job aid/instructions/whatever with a cheerful “let me know if you run into any problems with it!” is one of my go-tos.

      2. Lurker*

        I have saved commonly used documents, procedures, etc. on our shared drive. Now, instead of being asked how to do something, I get asked “where is that document saved again?” Really? It’s in the [MY DEPT] folder, the same one that’s been saved in the same place for five years and you have worked here for four. Why do you not know where it is or how to find it by now?

  19. Princess prissypants*

    Speak from a place of assuming they don’t know/forgot Robin’s doing this.

    “Oh, I guess you didn’t hear that Robin handles that now. You’ll have to ask her.”
    “I don’t do that anymore; Robin does it now.”

    Some people just take a really really long time to get used to staff changes like this.

    It wouldn’t be out of line if these requests are coming by email is for you to reply to the email, include Robin and say something like, “Robin’s handling these requests now.”

    1. TurquoiseCow*

      In the past when work was changed from me to another person, I’d just forward any email requests to that person, copying the original requester, and sometimes saying something like “New Person, can you take care of this?” Usually the new person would reply back to the requester to tell them the task was done or to get any additional information they needed, and that would be all that was needed to establish that NP was the person who they should go to for this in the future.

      When I’ve been the New Person in that situation, the requester would often write something like “should I send you these requests in the future?” or would just do that, even if neither the old person nor I explicitly addressed it.

      1. OP*

        We commonly do this within a certain workgroup where who does what is easily confused. Maybe I could use that strategy here. Thanks!

  20. pleaset*

    This is what I do:

    “That’s X’s job now – please check with her.”

    Plus optionally “If it’s an emergency and you she’s not available, come back to me, but in general please go to X directly for that.”

    1. Monika*

      I’d advise against that last sentence. If they can’t get Robin and feel it is important enough they will for sure come back to you. You don’t need to state it and explicitly open up that possibility.

      I have to stop myself from adding this sort of helpful softening all the time! I think it makes the message too soft.

      My work situation is one where it is my job but we have long turn around times. So I send emails giving people review dates. And I resist stating “If this is urgent I can prioritise your review” because if it is urgent they will let me know!

  21. gecko*

    Maybe adding information about what you *can* help with so you’re not just saying no might help you feel more polite: “Actually, that’s in Robin’s area no / Actually, that’s something I don’t handle anymore. I can help with area X, but area Y is no longer something I support!”

  22. Phillip*

    “What happened when you tried (thing)” can be a decent response for things folks should have figured out on their own.

    1. stefanielaine*

      This is an awesome response – instead of directing someone to do a very obvious thing which can feel condescending, it assumes that the person has already tried the obvious path and ran into some sort of obstacle.

  23. Catsaber*

    I also like to point people to a website that I know has good information on it, if possible. However with this approach, you run the risk of them wanting you to walk them through the website (ugh) so use with discretion.

  24. MuseumChick*

    I’m a fan of what I call Obvious Question.


    Them: “Hey, can you tell me the location of a hotel in Llamaville?”
    You: “Did you try googling it?” (in a professional tone)
    Them: “No, could you tell me the location?”
    You: “No, sorry. You’ll have to google that.”

  25. Ella*

    For the tasks they should be doing themselves, a polite “I don’t know/I’m not sure/I don’t know that off the top of my head” will often do the trick. The important thing is to stop talking after you say you don’t know, and force them to directly ask you to do the task rather than offering to do it yourself. I would bet this approach work most of the time, and if not you can give a polite “I don’t have time at the moment, but you should be able to find the answer on Google/in the manual/by asking someone else” to anyone who doesn’t let it drop.

  26. Vimes*

    For a related scenario to what OP is describing, what do you do when the people who are supposed to be doing tasks, you tell them “I actually can’t do that anymore/right now but you can do it by doing x,y,z” but they do it wrong and consistently wrong? And, the errors end up coming back around to you for fixing in some way anyways so it’d have saved you more time to just do it right in the first place? And the boss is aware that happens but doesn’t really have a solution? Is this just one of things you shrug and let go or are there some possible avenues.

    1. Auntie Social*

      “I can look at your draft, when you get it done.” I’d keep giving it back to them to fix. Sometimes it’s learned helplessness—if I really make a hash of this she’ll take it off my plate, I don’t want to get up to speed on that software, etc.

      1. Jadelyn*

        This. Make them clean up their own messes. Eventually they’ll get better at it.

    2. Washi*

      Do people always make the same set of mistakes? Or is there a way to check one’s work that would catch the most common errors? It might be worth it to write up an FAQ or a troubleshooting guide, which is definitely more effort upfront, but then you can just keep referring people back to your document and only get involved when it’s a truly difficult or complicated case.

  27. AnonEMoose*

    It’s hard…but can be incredibly freeing…to realize that you not only can, but should, say no to people. That your boss is explicitly supportive of you in this is a huge gift.

    If it helps, think of it this way. They’re used to asking you being the easy option. And it used to be the best option, but it’s no longer your job, so they are the ones acting inappropriately for asking, you are not the one acting inappropriately for saying no. So you are, in essence, eliminating asking you as the easy option.

    I did this (with my boss’s support) at one point. The problem was that I had a LOT…like, a LOT…of detailed work to do and a hard deadline. And…call them clients…would call in repeatedly with the same questions, either because they didn’t like the answer, didn’t like that they needed to wait, or both. They’d get a different person with each call…and the majority of those people, instead of checking the notes in the system, would some and ask me.

    So I would be getting interrupted repeatedly to give the same answer to the same question…and each interruption could cost me 20-30 minutes that I didn’t have. So I got my boss’s support for two things: 1) asking people to email me questions rather than stopping by my desk during my busy time, and 2) his permission for me to ask people if they had checked the notes before coming to talk to me. If the answer was (as it usually was)”no,” I would tell them to check the notes and email me if they still had questions.

    The whole idea was to get people to see checking the notes as the easier option than interrupting me. It took time, but it worked.

    This will take time, too, but it will help you to have scripts and stick to them. If someone is a particular repeat offender, bring that up to your boss. Not in a “I’m telling on you” way, but in a “Hey, Boss, I need your support on this” way. You’re not being rude to them, you’re reasonably protecting your time and boundaries, and they are the ones who are being, frankly, lazy. You don’t need or want to enable that.

    1. OP*

      This comment and one that Jadelyn made earlier have hit home especially. I’m so used to being as helpful as possible that it’s hard to reframe that tendency as being counterproductive to the job I’m now doing. But I think that’s important work to do. And other people like PCBH and Kes have pointed out that the more helpful thing to do would be to enable people to figure their own things out.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        I’m glad it was helpful – best of luck, OP! It will take time, patience, and persistence, but you have your boss’s support, and that makes a huge difference!

  28. LilyP*

    So to be clear, was this stuff (googling hotels, etc) officially part of your old role? Is there someone else besides you and Robin who’s responsible for it now, or is the support team not handling this stuff at all now? If it’s the latter it might help to spell that out for people — “since I’ve moved on to X and Robin is focused on Y, the support team is asking people to be more self-sufficient and handle their own ABC individually for now.” If people have an issue with that in general you can direct them to Lily or the head of the support team.

    1. OP*

      Googling hotels was never really my job, and isn’t Robin’s job either. Robin has been in her role for a while and generally has no trouble with boundary setting in my experience. Which…is probably why they’re still coming to me. Dang it.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Oh, so there are three sorts of inquiries, yes? Stuff for your current role, stuff that’s Robin’s job, and stuff they really should be doing themselves (hotel Googling)?

        How well do folks respond when you send them to Robin? How well do they respond when you try sending them off to do their own Google?

        I’d love an update, maybe after 3-4 weeks of trying some of these scripts!

        1. OP*

          That’s a fair statement. I will send in an update after I’ve had some time to try these!

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Ah this sheds some light on it as well!

        They are taking advantage of you. Try to look at it from that POV when you’re dealing with them. You are not rude by telling them that you’re not their personal assistant. I had the idea that your job previously did include this kind of assistance but they never had an assistant in that way to begin with. They just decided to peg you for their go-to gal because they are clever like that. Ick!

        Be more like Robin! Listen to how she sets boundaries and maybe if you’re friendly with her, she can give you some pointers ;)

      3. LilyP*

        Oh that makes sense too! Well on the bright side you can use your transition into the new role as an excuse for the new boundary if you want to — just say you don’t really have time to help with that sort of thing anymore now you’re focused on X full-time

    2. Red*

      this is important! as someone that’s been on the other side of this when our office manager stopped being our travel support, it was frustrating for me that no one ever seemed to explain to us what the new processes were or when they changed. To add to that my company has been growing from ~50 employees when I started to now being close to 500 3.5 years later, so the process seems to change every time I need to travel (remote employee so 3-4 times a year!) so it’s a whole learning process each time. It took multiple emails with her for different travel arrangements for me to realize that I shouldn’t be emailing her anymore at all and that it was actually moving towards it being on us to handle all arrangements ourselves with some support from a completely different team.

      (some of that was probably on me misunderstanding, but there was also a bit of growing pains involved with all the different processes that kept being implemented and new teams being created without any communication with those affected)

  29. Interplanet Janet*

    So I have the opposite problem — I’ve had a role created for me and been given a collection of tasks that people used to do themselves, and I keep coming up on them having done them themself (usually not in the exact way I would have done them, which is *cough* why I’m supposed to be doing them all) and I feel extremely silly complaining that someone else did work that’s supposed to be on my plate. Like these aren’t prestigious tasks, they are just things that fall into part of the new role and I’m meant to be deciding how they should be done and doing them that way.

    1. OP*

      That sounds frustrating too, though! I imagine it creates more work for you in the end when the task is done all different ways.

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      Maybe you can point out to them that (a) they’ll have more time for other stuff if they don’t do these tasks; and (b) if they don’t let you do these tasks, you won’t have a job to do and you really need that paycheck! Humor can be useful. And we all like those paychecks.

  30. Evil Division Admin*

    Them: “Oh, I thought since this related to alpaca grooming support and not llama grooming support, you could still do it.”
    Me (with a wide smile and sympathetic sugary tone in voice): “No, sorry. It’s all llama grooming support now.” (Still smiling, turns back to desk.)

  31. Kes*

    I think your best bet is to redirect your impulse to help them by doing things for them towards helping them by enabling them to do these things themselves (or to know the right person to go to). Teaching a man to fish and all, since you need to be focused on your new work the most helpful thing for them in the longer term really is helping them to realize what the new best way to achieve their goal is (which doesn’t involve you actually doing things for them)
    “I don’t know off the top of my head, but you should be able to find it by googling”
    “Oh I don’t do that anymore, but Robin can help you”

  32. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    I’m sure when the job switch occurred you or your boss sent out a memo/email announcing the change, but was there any specific instruction on the new organization of tasks? Could you send out an announcement or reminder:
    “Job tasks have changed recently and so to keep the team operating smoothly here is an updated Table of Organization: OP will be handling X, Y and Z and Robin is the go-to for A, B and C. For any questions about the new structure or how to complete any tasks that are now self-service, such as travel arrangements, reimbursement forms, or conference room booking, please refer to the Help Guide located at…, or ask Lily.” I think that most people will get that anything not mentioned as either OP’s or Robin’s is now their responsibility.

    1. OP*

      Thank you! I think I might need to keep track of whether it’s a few repeat offenders or a more universal thing. If the latter, that message could be helpful.

  33. Name of Requirement*

    Forget things. “I don’t know off the top of my head, should come up with a quick google search… ”
    Lean on your manager. “Sorry, I’m supposed to focus on [tasks]. Robin should be able to help. “

  34. mf*

    For the tasks people should be doing themselves: if it’s not too much trouble, could you put together a how-to guide or an FAQ? Then you could say, “Sorry, I don’t handle llama hotel bookings anymore, but here’s a list of great llama hotels in the area.”

    1. Temperance*

      That just reinforces the idea that it’s LW’s job. Maybe Robin should/can do that, but I don’t think LW should be any more helpful than she already has been.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The “FAQ” would just say “Where is Hotel?” “Google it.” “How do I unjam a copier?” “Read instructions on screen.”

      If this was actually stuff that required a manual or FAQ sheet, I would say it should have been done during transitioning and therefore it’s on the manager’s plate now!

  35. Allison*

    I remember bringing this up with my boss in my last job. I wanted to proactively tell her this was becoming an issue, so that if someone came to her whining about me being “rude” or “unhelpful,” she’d already know my side of the issue. She sent out an email reminding people that I was not the team admin, and that my tasks were A, B, and C, and my coworkers were responsible for their own X, Y, and Z.

  36. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    Your manager is backing you up to not help these people, which is a dream situation. I think the most important thing you need to do is get out of the mindset that saying no is rude. You’re enabling them to continue to rely on you as their go to person when your job duties have changed. Once you say “no” enough times, they will get into the habit of going to Robin or helping themselves.

    Can you…?
    Robin can help you with that.
    But I thought…
    Nope, Robin can help you with that now.

    How do I…?
    I would recommend using Google. Simple, to the point, and not snarky as “Google it”.

    1. OP*

      Lilyis a fantastic manager. If there was a Best Boss contest here the way there is a Worst Boss, I’d fully nominate her.

    2. Bulbasaur*

      Since you do have such a great manager, you might consider using it to your advantage and making ‘set better boundaries’ an explicit goal. A good manager will then support you in achieving it, give you credit if you succeed, work with you on improvement strategies if you fail, and so on.

      Then every time you say to someone “no really, all that stuff goes through Robin now, but I’m sure she will let me know if she needs my help” you can put another check mark in the ‘progress toward goal’ column and feel happy that it’s helping you grow professionally and advance in your career.

  37. Duckles*

    What do you say if it’s not something so easy as “google it”? For example, I’m a Teapot Painting Expert and am often involved in teapot sales meetings in case the clients have questions about specific teapot designs. It’s the sales person’s job to typically prepare the presentation, which is just “this is a teapot. Here is how teapots work. This is how much teapots cost.” I’ve been getting asked to prepare the presentations, and when I say the salesperson typically does that, they always say “oh I don’t understand teapots I really need you to do it.” Teapot experts have, on occasion, done this just to get it done, and I’m new in this role so I don’t want to look difficult, but I’m struggling how to push back any more.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      “I’m sorry, I don’t put the reports together, try asking one of the sales people about that, that’s their thing.”

      Or is this being asked to you to do by the sales person? They’re trying to get out of doing their job? Then you say “I’m sorry, I cannot help you with that, ask another sales person or your manager since that’s a task that is done by sales not painting.”

    2. Close Bracket*

      So the sales person is asking how to prepare a presentation? I was sort of in this position, except that I wanted to make the presentations myself and was asking for instructions. The expert would just do it for me until one day they said, this is your job, I can’t keep doing it. Well, it was, but I still needed to know how. So in this situation, if I were the expert, I would give them examples of other presentations that they could crib from. Or, if you don’t have examples, I would tell them where to get examples. Then I would make myself available to give direction and help on technical details. So I might agree to review their presentation and say things like, “the slide on the Teapot Mark 1 has outdated spout information. You need to put the specs for Spout 089B, not 089A. Specs can be found here. Also, presentations usually include a slide on how to display your teapot. Check out this resource for how Teapot Painters Inc recommends displaying the different models.”

    3. animaniactoo*

      You say “I’ll be happy to provide you with some bullet points and an overview and if you have any questions or need me to review what you put together just to double-check any factual errors, I’m available for that”.

      If they don’t understand teapots, you give them teapots information in a non-pulled-together-presentation form. What they do with it from there is up to them. Among other things — if the end result is not that they understand teapots well enough to create an effective presentation for them — they will suck at selling teapots. So it is to their benefit to learn the product well enough to create the presentation themselves.

      1. Duckles*

        Thanks all. Yes it was the sales person trying to get out of doing their job (she says she doesn’t understand teapots because she’s too new, but I don’t reallt buy that, and I’ve only been here one month longer than she has and have never put together a presentation either since it’s not really my job). I’ll use the language next time if it comes up again (and wish I had thought to say that at the time!).

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Feh. She might not understand the product, but that’s SO not the same as creating the presentation. Lots of people create presentations on topics they know nothing about, because their skillset is in layout and using the program. Someone else tells them what information to include, and then they double-check the content for accuracy.

          And if she doesn’t know how to put together the presentation, well, like animaniactoo says, the presentation is a major part of her job in sales.

          1. Close Bracket*

            That’s a really literal interpretation of knowing how to create a presentation! In my case, I know how to use the program, but that doesn’t help me know where the templates are, what sections to include, or what the typical language is. I was assuming the problem was not a skills issue but a process knowledge gap.

  38. Shades of Blue*

    What if you all do the same job and you coworker tries to push it off on you?

    E.g. Five of us create TPS reports, but Anne tries to pass off their TPS reports of me. Why?? We all do the same thing? Do your own damn TPS report.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Tell them you don’t have time!

      If she insists, you may want to talk to your manager that she’s refusing to do part of her frigging job [don’t say it that way, say that she’s bringing others her TPS reports and doesn’t seem to be able to keep up and to ask if you should take them and re-prioritize other things or what the manager wants to do…] I would never accept an employee pushing their part of the TPS reports onto others. They’re divided up between 5 of you for a reason.

    2. Close Bracket*

      Learn different ways of saying no. No hedging, no redirecting, just, “Sorry, I can’t help you with that.” Come up with several stock phrases and practice saying them out loud.

      You do probably need to let your manager know what’s happening just bc Anne is probably going to go to her and complain about how you won’t help out.

    3. Workerbee*

      We had one of those! Our Anne regularly fell asleep at her desk and when she wasn’t sleeping, was on an online forum. (We were stuffed into one of those lovely quad-cubes since we all did the same thing.) So she couldn’t keep up with her share of the work and tried to pass it off on us. We balked, but she went to the boss with that exact Nobody Was Helping Her lament that Close Bracket referenced.

      The boss believed her and divided up all her work among us, with Anne beaming in the background.

      I was happy to grab an opportunity to get the hell out of that job.

  39. MoopySwarpet*

    I love LMGTFY (dot) com . . . “just sent the answer to your inbox” . . . it usually only takes once. lol

  40. Jfish*

    When I asked my boss about this same situation he said to pretend I don’t know when it’s something people can look up themselves and obviously don’t want to put the effort in to figure it out. “Good question! I’m not sure, though, why dont you go ahead and look it up and let me know what you find because I’d love to know the answer, too!”

    1. Close Bracket*

      That’s great when it’s something you also don’t know. It would be better to develop the skills to say no, though.

  41. VM*

    This happens with me from time to time. I do engineering work but I have a background in admin work, so I’m pretty self sufficient in an office setting. Many of my coworkers are not, especially field staff, who ask me questions they can answer themselves with a little bit of basic research. When they ask me things that I think they can answer themselves, I frame it like, “Have you already checked our tracking software? What did you find there?”. That way, the conversation can go one of three ways (teach them to check the tracking software, remind them to use the tracking software in a gentle way or find out they have checked the tracking software and need some background info that I might have). I try to help them help themselves.

  42. nnn*

    A script that I sometimes use when borrowing authority from my manager is “I’m under orders to pass llama support tasks on to Robin so I can focus on llama grooming.”

    Am I actually under orders? Not really, because “orders” aren’t a thing. But that’s a way of conveying “my manager doesn’t want me to do this” that will suggest I’ll get in trouble if I don’t, not just that I’m “above” that sort of thing.

  43. Tim C.*

    This issue is so current to mine. I am frequently requested to complete work that others are supposed to be doing. It is all under the guise that they do not know how/can’t get the computer/software to work. I have decided to simply refer them to our IT Helpdesk. My company has hired a whole department dedicated to educating, training, and assisting all users. They have 24/7 help available as well as application specialists in the fields I work in. Yet they are put off when I refuse to help.

  44. Workerbee*

    Having _not_ had bosses have my back in the past has made me really appreciate the ones who do. Sounds like you’ve got solid advice all through here, OP.

    I was just telling my own direct report a couple weeks ago that if somebody balks at her turning down an “opportunity” to take on their work, to blame it on me if she needs to. And to tell me about it, of course. If it’s something she wants to do, that’s different, but she finds it difficult to say No. “Throw me under the bus!” said I. Amazingly, no one has ever come up to me to complain that I wasn’t lending her out. I figure those types go off grumbling to find another unfortunate soul.

  45. Amethystmoon*

    Eh, good luck with that. I had a coworker in a previous job who acted like he had well, issues, I’m not sure exactly what they were. He would ask questions all the time that had been included in our training documents, that he should have known because we were both trained on it, or that were easily Googleable. The few times I tried to get him to look it up himself, I was chastised for the boss for not helping him and just giving him the answer. He would interrupt me constantly all day, even past the 2-year mark in the job. Example of question:

    “What’s a (proprietary term here) code?” Asked 2 and 1/2 years in the job, when it was literally the name of the shared e-mail account we had to use, and was told to us in day 1 training. He was there in day 1. Also was covered in the reference documentation at that point.

    He was a large part of the reason I decided to look for another job, because I got so tired of staying late to fix his preventable errors, and the manager would never make him fix them.

  46. Rin*

    What can you do in these situations when it is your own boss that asks you to do things that he or she should be doing themselves? Like “What’s the weather tomorrow?” or “Look up the address for Brand Name Hotel–what is it?” or “Put this into a calculator for me…”

    My boss literally barks orders like this at me. I have tried to steer him into doing these simple things for himself, like, “Oh, if you go to Google it’s easy to find.” or “Don’t you have that app on your phone to use?” Most of time he barks back that he doesn’t have time for that stuff. (But he does, he’s just very lazy and likes to make me, the only female in the office and only admin, do menial crap.)

    Another issue I have is that when coworkers also do this to me and I do either show or tell them how to get the simple info themselves the then complain to my boss that I’m not helpful and then my boss orders me to do this task of googing something for them or orders me to fill out XYZ paperwork that this coworker should do for them instead.

    I’m at a loss. Nothing helps and nothing works. I’m looking for other employment, but haven’t found much yet since I have so much admin experience.

  47. Boston Anon*

    FWIW from a long term view, being part of a department that is very technically knowledgable about our product and asked to do things for others all the time when we shouldn’t be, if you were ever interested this could be a GREAT opportunity to shine and show some real proactive leadership qualities through setting up new processes.

    I’ve made some huge career jumps in the past by realizing that the problem wasn’t necessarily individual people not having the right skills to begin with/being lazy/etc, but that there are no cohesive, department/organization-wide processes in place to help people understand how to solve their problems and find information themselves. I’m not sure what this would look like for you guys specifically, maybe implementing Wiki/internal knowledge bases, implementing more internal enablement like an LMS system or more informal Lunch & Learns, or just having more collateral like issue-solving Triage charts and well defined escalation processes. This way, people are well aware and EMPOWERED to take XYZ steps before they ever come to you to begin with. Being at the helm of these kinds of initiatives can be a great opportunity to work cross functionally, establish yourself as a leader, and ultimately fix a problem because of how deeply you’re familiar with it.

  48. Don't get salty*

    All the comments have been extremely helpful. I’ve never been an admin, but I come from a very helpful place when it comes to my coworkers. I’ve learned over the years to not be so helpful and to control how often and how long I help someone. One thing to realize is that people can be very self-centered and forget, or actively ignore, that others are just as busy as they are. It’s sort of like the people who storm into the elevator before everyone else has gotten off, or those people who cut others off in traffic because they’re late to work.

    I learned the hard way when, early in my career, I would spend lots of time and energy helping people with basic and/or tough questions and requests, and proofreading/editing their reports before they submitted them to their management. Meanwhile, when I needed help with something, I would Google it and try my best to figure it out on my own before I approach my management. After a while, I found out that people were submitting their work and taking all the credit for what I had done. On the other hand, because I was approaching my management with tough questions, and my colleagues weren’t because they had already approached me about it, I appeared unprepared and unresourceful while they got accolades.

    This is a hard lesson to learn early in your career, or when you have a significant job change, but it will definitely save you from potentially losing respect from your management, especially since these colleagues are coming to you because the only other person available has firm boundaries and knows her limits.

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