my coworker asks me to google things for her and treats me like her assistant

A reader writes:

I work for a niche department within a very large company. This company has one specific focus but my department isn’t directly related to the main output of the company. Think IT at a pharmaceutical company or public relations at a large law firm.

I started with this company about a year ago after being in a similar role at two other companies for over 10 years. In many ways, I am very happy in this role. I generally like the culture and my close colleagues and find most of the work interesting. However, Jane — who is one of the “attorneys” or “scientists” (if we’re using the examples above) — has somehow singled me out as her personal assistant. (For what it’s worth, my job is not centered around administrative support, she and I both have roughly the same amount of education and professional experience, and she has an actual dedicated PA.)

At least once a day, but sometimes way more frequently, she’ll email me asking for things that are well outside my role. A few examples:

– Can you rename this PDF for me?
– This is my NYTimes password, can you save it in your files and remind me of it if I ever can’t log in?
– Several questions a week that are “can you find some simple fact or document” that is easily found on the first page of Google.

From what I’ve heard from my coworkers, apparently the person who was in my specific role before me was a bit of a doormat and Jane used them in the same way. For a long time, I just did it because most of the things were so quick it was easier to do it than not, but it’s getting to the point where it’s increasing in frequency and taking away from my regular job (both in time and frustration).

I’ve tried a few things: first, doing what was asked but adding a note at the end that it wasn’t really part of my responsibilities, as well as pointing out how it could be done easily and efficiently, which was ignored. I’ve tried waiting a full day to respond to “train” her that I’m not always at her beck and call for that kind of thing, which led to her adding in specific deadlines in each email. I also brought it up with my direct supervisor. He was sympathetic, but said that any change in Jane’s behavior would have to come from Jane’s supervisor, not from him (which I think is because he doesn’t have the authority to really address it within our structure.)

Do you have any advice to redirect this behavior or convince Jane that it takes less time to google something or save a password in Chrome than it does to constantly email me?

Does Jane … think you and her PA are the same person? Is this the opposite of a Joaquin/Wakeen situation, where instead of thinking one person is two people, she thinks two people are one person? Otherwise it makes no sense that she has a PA but is asking you to save her passwords and rename PDFs (!) for her.

Alternately, has Jane’s PA somehow convinced her that you are in fact the assistant, so that the PA can spend her days mini-golfing and such?

Part of the problem, of course, is that you did do these things for her for a long time! That undoubtedly reinforced it for her. Ideally, the first time she sent you an inappropriate task, you would have responded, “I don’t think this was meant for me — did you intend this for Kate?” (I’ve named the PA Kate.)

That said, having a random coworker ask you to google something for them is so weird that I can understand the impulse to just do it if the alternative is having to explain that they are fundamentally unfamiliar with how jobs work.

But step number one in making this stop is to stop doing it. One way would be to reply to the next request with, “Hi Jane, I’m happy to help you with anything marketing-related you need, but I don’t provide general admin assistance. You should direct this kind of thing to Kate or another admin.”

It’s going to be a little weird not to acknowledge you’ve been doing it all along, but every script I come up with to mention that (“I should have raised this earlier,” etc.) introduces a risk that she will argue with you … or worse, argue with someone above you that since you acknowledge you’ve been doing it all along, it should just become part of your formal responsibilities. Normally I would recommend addressing it with her more broadly — “this is has been happening for a while and I shouldn’t have been assisting you at all” — but I’m not convinced that’s the way to go in this specific case. Just start flatly sending her requests back to her with a note that you’re not doing it.

And it’s really important to stick to that. The stuff you’ve tried in the past — like waiting to respond but then doing the task, or doing the task but including a note that it’s not part of your job — just taught her that you’ll do this work, even if you protest.

To be clear, it’s incredibly weird that she has seen you say this stuff isn’t your job and continued to send it anyway. (Maybe she thinks you’re just really difficult and being obstreperous about not wanting to do your job?!) If she genuinely thinks this is your job, she should have responded to say that.

But for whatever reason, neither hints nor direct conversation have worked. You’ve got to just stop doing the stuff.

Now, your boss. Even if he’s decided he doesn’t have the standing or seniority to address this with Jane or her boss, it’s still reasonable to expect that he’ll have your back on this and support you once you set boundaries with Jane. I’m assuming that if Jane complains, he’s not going to give in and tell you to keep acting as her admin? He will, presumably, not agree to drastically redefine your role so you’re working as her assistant? (I am presuming these things because the only way it should be otherwise is if he is a wimp of astounding proportions.) If you have any doubt of that, though, it might be wise to (a) feel out his likely reaction ahead of time, and (b) loop in HR to see if they’ll have your back if your manager won’t. But even managers who won’t proactively address problems will usually be willing to push back on something as absurd as “I am coopting your marketing manager and she is now my personal secretary.”

But really, just stop doing this stuff. You don’t need to wait for her to be convinced this isn’t your job before you stop (especially since apparently that may never happen); you just need to stop complying.

Read an update to this letter here

{ 452 comments… read them below }

  1. Foreign Octopus*

    I’d forgotten the joy that was the Joaquin/Wakeen situation, thank you for the reminder, and for this having to explain that they are fundamentally unfamiliar with how jobs work. The level of polite sass is wonderful and why I keep coming back.

    That and cat pictures (obviously).

  2. Colette*

    The OP could also redirect these requests to the assistant (after sending Alison’s reply to Jane), with a note saying “I think this was sent to me by mistake, it looks like it was intended for you”, maybe copying Jane.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      This is what I have done in similar cases.
      It takes a while, but it eventually works.
      Useful phrase “…because I am scheduled for XYZ project, and will only able to pitch in to help Jane on Fridays.”

      1. Observer*

        Useful phrase “…because I am scheduled for XYZ project, and will only able to pitch in to help Jane on Fridays.”

        Nope. The OP is not available to pitch on ANY day.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          True. Autocorrect added an ‘s’. When I had my annoying senior person asking for inappropriate admin help, without my bosses support to say no, my trick was to always add five days. The request stop coming

          1. Great Company you should trust*

            This still doesn’t solve the problem. By doing this, OP is acknowledging that it is her job, it just may take longer. And she has been delaying her work already.

            Part of the problem is that she has been hoping that what she has been doing will work, and it’s clearly not.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      That would have been my response from the get-go.

      Outlook sometimes “helpfully” autofills email addresses, often incorrectly. If Jane can’t figure out how to rename a PDF, I bet she has just as hard a time with email.

      1. Beth*

        If Jane was doing this with one person, I would assume their email was somehow close enough to her PA’s email that it’s just getting mixed up sometimes. But she’s done it with OP’s predecessor too! What are the odds of her accidentally mixing up the emails of two different people who happen to be in the same exact role with her PA’s email? Especially since OP doesn’t mention her doing this with everyone?

        1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          I don’t think this is what’s happening, but I will volunteer that some people have generic role-based emails, either in place of or addition to their personal business email (e.g. publications at, marketing at to make turnover less of a pain with clients/contacts/the public.

        2. Joan Rivers*

          That’s why I like the idea of just asking her why she’s doing this.

          If she says it’s cause she thought they were “friends” then I’d start sending her requests for help and see if she does them.

      1. Venus*

        Disagreed – don’t make this more of a thing than it needs to be, as I would want to make this seem like a small accident. “Oops, you got the wrong email, I am forwarding this to you Assistant and cc’ing Jane for her info.”

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          Agreed. If Jane argues back or demands that you do it instead of her PA, then you loop in your boss.

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yep, my thought as well. Forward this stuff to Jane’s assistant and wash your hands of it.

      1. Sparrow*

        Exactly this. I used to get a lot of inquiries meant for my coworker (I had the reputation for being more reliable/easier to work with, so people usually came to me first even if they knew they should be talking to him), and I’d cheerfully reply to say this fell under Bob’s purview, cc Bob, and wash my hands of it.

      2. Anne Elliot*

        Hit reply, add Kate her personal admin. Type: “Forwarding to Kate for her assistance.” Hit send.

    4. EvilQueenRegina*

      That was how one coworker where I am used to handle that – let’s say one of my coworkers was called Regina Phalange, and there was a Regina George who was in the same role for a different team and had been for several years, and it wasn’t unusual for people to send Regina George emails with tasks by mistake that should have gone to Regina Phalange to do. Once Regina George realised the mistake (it happened quite a lot when Regina Phalange was first hired and initially Regina George thought the workers actually wanted her to do the jobs) she would just redirect.

      1. Oh the incorrectly addressed emails.*

        Oh man. When our firm had several [my first name] that happened all the time.

        I emailed every [my first name] when a new [my first name] started and said:

        Hi! You’re going to get a fair few emails incorrectly addressed to you. These are all the people + jobs that the sender could have intended to email. If necessary, just blanket email all seven of us and we’ll work it out.

        1. My dear Wormwood*

          Yeah, the Wormwood in marine ecology and the Wormwood in library services and the Wormwood in dermatology (me) are now all aware of each other and just forward email to the right place now. It’s easier than trying to convince someone that you know plenty about seagrass ecosystems but nothing at all about sunburn and you just have the wrong Wormwood.

          1. else*

            I have gotten love emails addressed to my brother (they’re married now; this was early on); repeated orders for ham radio parts for someone else; political, gambling and psychic fair canned emails for another, and then repeated attempts to set up tutoring appointments for yet another. I contacted the tutor for that last one so the poor kid wouldn’t be penalized – it was that sort of situation.

            1. Boadicea*

              This happened to my old boss… he has a very unusual surname, but despite that his first name+surname combo was shared with someone *very* senior. And my manager started first, so he had the usual email. Apparently he got some very inappropriate-for-him stuff!

    5. Gina*

      That is my suggestion. Forward the email to her actual assistant with her cc’d.

      I believe this was sent to me in error by Jane. It clearly should have been sent to you.


    6. JR*

      I wouldn’t want to do that, because then you can end up in a situation where you’re perpetually forwarding assistant-type things to Kate. Better to make it so that emailing you never results in the thing being done (and have your boss’s support on that).

      1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        This is my concern–if Jane still gets what she wants by emailing OP, she may keep doing it. Maybe that’s preferable to other options if OP isn’t allowed to just ignore Jane or if it’s unwise to do so, but someone this oblivious may just keep doing it.

        In that case (OP cannot just ignore the emails or send them back with “I think this is meant for Kate”), and if OP never gets any other type of email from Jane, would it be possible to auto sort emails from Jane to a folder and work with Kate to have them auto-forwarded to her?

      2. The New Wanderer*

        I would do it once, and then just ignore further assistant-level tasks. What is she going to do, get OP in trouble for not being her assistant?

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Oh, “not a team player” can easily be broken out in a case like this.

      3. hbc*

        Yes, I would only send to Kate if Jane had a ton of power and I feared saying no to her. If that’s not the case, reply directly back to Jane, “I think you meant this for Kate, I’m not supposed to handle these things.” Make it more steps for Jane to get what she wants.

        1. Texan In Exile*

          Exactly. Push the pain back to the person who caused it. Make Jane solve the problem. If LW sends the emails to Kate, then Jane is still getting what she wants by emailing LW.

      4. Esmeralda*

        Right. OP needs to train Jane to not send these requests to OP at all, ever. And it’s up to Jane to decide if she’s going to send it to Kate or do it herself. Or pick on someone else (betcha that happens…)

        1. Ripley Jones*

          This…it is so deeply weird that Jane isn’t just asking her PA for these things and it makes me wonder what’s going on there.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            I’m wondering whether Jane hates her PA for whatever reason… either doesn’t trust her at all to get anything done right, or simply can’t stand to go near her. So she dumps stuff on anybody else she can. It would be interesting to hear more about what’s going on from Kate’s perspective, and from asking Jane about Kate.

    7. Bagpuss*

      I would only include her PA the first time, if Jane keeps sending them to OP after that I’d just respond to her direct – something like “Hi Jane, Please can you stop sending me this kind of admin task, I am sure that as your PA, Kate will be able to do this kind of thing for you”

      Then if she doesn’t stop, escalate to say something like “I previously requested, Please can you stop sending me this kind of admin task – it’s not my role, and having to review the e-mail means I’m interrupted and not able to work so effectively on my own job. Moving forward, can you make sure that you only send my queries or requests which relate to my own role, as Head of Widget Marketing”

      Then stop responding. If she follows up then a boilerplate response such as “Oh, as that was an admin request I assumed it was sent to me in error . You’ll need to ask you PA or an admin in your own department to deal with that kind of admin task.”

      I would also, other than the first of these mails, delay responding. Leave it several hours before you even bounce it back to her . If she stops getting a fast solution, or any solution other than ‘ask the person whose job this is’ from you then it may help train her off doing this.

      I would probably start by speaking to her directly, though.

      Explain that you have helped in the past as you assumed that the mails were sent in error, and sometimes it was quicker to help that to try to get the request to the appropriate person, but that it’s happening so frequently that you assume she’s either mistakenly under the impression that it’s your role, or has glitch with her auto fill which is causing problems., and she’s sending messages meant for her PA or admin support to you.

    8. EABlep*

      My thoughts exactly….forward the emails to her PA and say “I think this was meant for you” and CC Jane. That’s it…no follow-ups or anything.

      1. The Rules are Made Up*

        Agreed. I’d say do it maybe twice (since it’s likely she won’t get it the first time). The second time upgrade to “Here’s another one that I assume was meant for you. Thanks!” and then stop responding all together. If Jane is no longer getting answers/help from OP she’ll stop asking her. If Jane says something about not answering her emails. I’d look confused and say “Oh I assumed those were sent by mistake since I don’t handle admin tasks.”
        I had a situation similar except it was senior team members asking me to do tasks they could clearly have done themselves but didn’t feel like it. Our department didn’t have an assistant or admin, I was just the most junior member of the team . So though quite a few of the tasks weren’t my job, they weren’t anyone’s job so I didn’t know what to do. When we had interns they’d ask the intern to do it but when we didn’t have one it would land to me. It was very annoying.

        1. Liz*

          That was me with my job, when I first started. My then boss especially, seemed to think I was our dept’s admin, when in fact, we didn’t actually have one. Because I was the lowest level. She was kind of sneaky though and would play helpless. At the time, I sat at a desk in a larger, common space, not a cube, due to space constraints. And the dept. printer and fax was on a credenza next to my desk, but it wasn’t my responsibility to “take care of them”
          If a fax came in, if i was going by whoever it was for, I’d put it on their desk, and if I went to print and noticed the printer was out of paper, or there was no more in the drawer, I’d replace it, but so did everyone else. Except her.

          One day she came in to get her print job, and it was out of paper. which she mentioned to me and then stood there, waiting for me to act. I said “there’s paper in the drawer”. Well, that was empty too, which she also pointed out. I then nicely said “I usually grab some from the copy room”, which was maybe 10 feet away. I was nice about it, but wasn’t going to give in and do it for her. She looked a bit surprised, but ended up getting it herself!

          1. Ummm*

            This seems completely different. I can’t imagine not helping my boss with something like this.

            1. EmAdmin*

              Being an admin is a whole job. Liz has **another** job. I can imagine this just fine?

    9. nobadcats*

      That’s just what I was going to say. Redirect to actual PA and forget about it!

    10. Law Office Anon*

      Having been the assistant in this weird power struggle situation, this is the way. It will make me go to the person I’m paid to assist and say something like, “Did you have trouble reaching me? I was sitting at my desk and that’s definitely my job to do that” with a concerned look on my face. A few repetitions of this will usually make that particular behavior stop. However, it doesn’t necessarily stop the weird power struggle situation, so OP should definitely watch for what comes next.

  3. Person from the Resume*

    I know being nice is often valued highly, but this is a case where “No; that is not my job,” should be an appropriate and complete answer.

    Repeat ad nauseam.

    It’s not mean to refuse to do something that is not your job especially when there is someone around for whom it is their job.

  4. 2cents*

    I would start forwarding all the requests directly to her assistant if you feel you can’t address it with Jane directly. Actually cc the assistant on all your emails with Jane no matter what you do. Since you’re doing part of her job! (And I guarantee the assistant has been getting asked all the stuff Jane told you to remember so she’ll probably be happy to actually have the answers!)

    1. Tired of Covid-and People*

      I wouldn’t take on this extra task. Forget Jane. She is being inappropriate, thinks everyone is her helper, and needs to be ignored. You cannot get in trouble for not doing something that is clearly not your job. What’s wrong with Jane anyway, is she power mad?

    2. Pennyworth*

      If Jane’s only emails OP are inappropriate tasks, I would be inclined to have all her emails go directly to a ”Jane” folder, which I would forward to her Assistant once a week.

      1. DonnaMartinGraduates!*

        I love this approach. As little energy as needed to solve this issue. It’s really not OP’s crap to manage, TBH. Deflect and ignore.

      2. 'Tis Me*

        I’d expand this a bit :) Next email, CC:ing Kate: “Hi Jane, I don’t know ig you’re aware of this but my role is ____. You have sent me many requests of this sort previously; I believe they’re actually intended for Kate (CC:ed). Please can you check if autocomplete is doing something odd? Thanks, Me”

        Next message, again CC:ing Kate, “Hi Jane, this has happened again. Please note that this is quite disruptive. Thanks, Me.”

        Then folder and rule. The following Monday, email Kate, CC:ing Jane, batch forwarding as attachments all of the emails since you last forwarded them on. “Hi Kate, I’m not quite sure why Jane seems to be struggling to send these to you instead of me. Because the volume is quite disruptive, I’ve set up mailing rules and I’m going to batch-forward on any more queries that come from her to me in error once a week. Please find 23 requests received since last Tuesday attached. Thanks, Me”

        Then each week after that, “X more Jane requests. Thanks”.

        Make sure you do send them Monday morning rather than e.g. at 4:30pm on a Friday so Kate can process them at a sensible hour, but:

        A) Seeing the volume of emails she’s sending to the wrong person may shame Jane into pulling her socks up.
        B) If Jane complains about the delay, being able to quickly find the weekly tallies and point out that this is very disruptive may make the point clearer to anybody higher up who’d be inclined to say “just forwarding on an email doesn’t take much time” – no, but breaking your concentration multiple times a day aggregates to considerably more of your time being wasted.
        C) Paper trail showing you tried to raise this with Jane beforehand and explain the issue.
        D) It’s faster than manually forwarding each of the original emails (alternatively you can create a mail rule to run once a week/on request to forward each individually, CC:ing Jane, if you think that suddenly getting spammed once a week with all her replies (undone) may drive the point home better for Jane, but given that some people hate having their inbox filled up that might be unkind to Kate…)

  5. Threeve*

    Why not loop Jane’s actual PA in? Forward requests to her–“I think this is probably your territory, thanks!” CC Jane.

    1. londonedit*

      I was going to suggest asking Jane’s actual PA for help. Something like ‘Hi Kate – Jane’s been sending me these requests for a while, and I’ve been helping out as best I can, but could I forward them on to you from now on? It makes far more sense for you to handle them!’

        1. Ripley Jones*

          I wouldn’t even do that because then Jane still gets what she wants by emailing OP. Emailing OP must be a dead end for Jane or she will continue to do it.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        Don’t ask permission, just do it. “I think Jane sent this to me by mistake. Thanks!”

        1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          I’d shorten it to “Jane sent me this by mistake. Thanks.” State it as a fact, not a supposition.

      2. No Name Today*

        adding my support here to the people who are stressing, do not ask the PA, even for the sake of politeness, if she could do/would mind. Just announce it as a fact.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          The politeness box is ticked by forwarding it cheerfully and not adding accurate epithets to describe Jane.

  6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    I would just transfer the mail to her assistant with a breezy “this must be for you, right?!”

  7. Joan Rivers*

    “Why are you asking me to do things for you when you have an assistant?”
    Every time.
    Because a question sometimes is the best way to get an answer and also to distract someone from their agenda.
    And she’s doing it in email, which makes it easier than face to face. You can be more direct in writing. If she says you always helped her before, point out she has an asst. Don’t address her points directly, don’t answer HER questions — set YOUR agenda here. In question form.

    1. Tired of Covid-and People*

      I totally agree. I would have definitely asked this because being asked to do these things would have genuinely confused me.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Or just “Why are you asking me? I’m not your assistant nor am I admin support. ” Which not only flags up that you are not her assistant but that you are not her assistant at all.

      Evil Bagpuss would start sending her requests to do stuff for you, and then be confused if she queried it “Well, you keep sending me requests as if I were your PA, so I assumed you’d be happy to do similar types of task for me – we are peers, after all!” But that probably wouldn’t be a good idea in real life!

    3. Koalafied*

      Another point to make if she says you always helped her before is that you were new and still learning your role, so you erred on the side of being helpful, but after coming up to speed you’ve realized 1) this is completely outside the scope of your job, 2) nobody else in your role is asked to do this kind of task, and 3) your manager has confirmed it’s not part of your job.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*


        This is the perfect time response if Jane raises the question.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      “Just press F2, Jane” is all I would say. Teach her the magical function keys.

        1. A Person*

          Yup. Highlight file name, press F2, file name is now highlighted and waiting to be changed. (If you didn’t mean to, click anywhere else or hit the Esc(ape) key.)

        2. Suzanne*

          I didn’t know this either. Also, it’s not hard to change the name of a file the “long” way anyhow.

          1. Self Employed*

            I didn’t know that trick but still, isn’t it more work to write an email asking someone to rename the file than to rename the file?

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              Only if you know how to rename a file. Most people in offices know how to send an email. Not all of them know how to rename a file.

      1. Jinni*

        Skip anything else I’ve read here – THIS is the best tip ever. Thanks!!!! *goes on a renaming spree without all the mouse clicks*

        1. FD*

          Not just that, but if you have to rename a whole series of files, pressing Tab when finished with the current file will save the new name of the current file and jump you into renaming the next file in the folder.

        2. Purple Princess*

          It also works for excel – rather than double-clicking into a cell, or using the formula bar at the top, you can just hit F2 to directly edit the contents of a cell.

          It’s probably my most-used shortcut/hotkey, it’s so useful!

    2. Another health care worker*

      Over 10 years ago, obviously an enduring memory, my then-boss sent me a Word document and asked me to return it to him “without red lines.”

      1. Dandy it is*

        We had an admin who worked for a different department ask me where she had filed something. When I explained that I wouldn’t know where she filed something because a) I’m not in her department, b) she is the one that filed it, so c) she is the only person who would know where she put it, she responded that she was going to go ask the company lawyer where she might have put it. I stopped that. Of course, she is the same person who thought an out of office would prevent you from receiving emails and fell over one time because she “forgot she was standing.”

          1. Dandy it is*

            We learned not to ask questions because whatever she said first made the most sense and anything beyond that would just confuse things more. It is believed that she did literally forget she was standing and it wasn’t a cover for some other medical issue or situation.

            1. Sleepless*

              The last year or so of my MIL’s life was like that. I did a lot of smiling and nodding because if you asked her to clarify anything, the answer was so confusing it wasn’t worth it. Just smile and nod.

        1. Nom*

          People regularly asked me where they saved files. Not because they think I am an admin, but because we’ve figured out I have a weird sixth sense and I can find anything that’s lost.

          1. Dandy it is*

            She was, unfortunately, talking about a physical copy. It could have literally been in any file. So if it was a car – make, model, year, color, it wouldn’t be filed under any of those but under the car make that she one time rode in during some random year, but not the actual model of the car because she forgot what that was but wait it wasn’t even that car model to begin with and oh yeah she forgot the year.

      2. Heidi*

        This happened to me too. I sent someone a tracked copy, and they emailed back asking me to send a clean copy also. I was wondering how they figured out how to do tracked changes without seeing the button that accepts the changes. Asking someone to rename a PDF is next level helplessness, though.

      3. disconnect*

        That’s when you print it in grayscale, scan it to pdf, open it in your PC, make a screenshot of the document, copy and paste it into the original word document over the original text, and email it back. “Here you go, boss, no more red lines.”

      4. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I write contracts for my company, so do a LOT of stuff using tracked changes. Usually the people I’m dealing with know how to work them as well. On more than one occasion though, I’ve received responses that have the revisions *formatted* like tracked changes but someone literally just did font > red, format > underline. It happens a few times a year and is maddening.

        1. DrSalty*

          I am a technical writer and used to work with some specific clients who did that constantly. They also just manually highlighted things they changed or used the strikethrough instead of tracked delete. Absolutely INFURIATING!!!!

        2. miss chevious*

          I’m a lawyer and I RAIL (privately, to myself) against lawyers who do the formatting thing instead of the Track Changes thing. Bonus vitriol if they also HIGHLIGHT the changes. Like … no, baby, what are you doooooing?

        3. Brent*

          Many older people in the office don’t know how to do track changes. Most of them are senior officials who are retiring in 5 years or so. For most of their working life, they didn’t work with computers. The LW here has a colleague who can’t rename a pdf.

          I appreciate how your client tried a solution on his own.

          1. Mongrel*

            I can’t speak to more specialised environments but for general office environs computers have been a staple since the ’90s.
            They’ve had the best part of 30 years to learn this stuff, it’s due to unwillingness not access.

            1. Brent*

              In the US, maybe. Typewriters were still common well within the 2000s in my country.

              And track changes is a newer MS office feature. Most of the older generation received computer training in an older version where they learned the basic functions: save, print, format, etc.

              1. Mongrel*

                I’m in the UK and seeing typewriters in the 2000s would still have been either a quaint affectation or an indication of extreme penny pinching. Even a the sight of a dedicated Word Processor would have been a rare thing.

        4. Texan In Exile*

          People send me copy in emails. I have to put it in word and track changes to send back to them.

          My boss, who is great in every other way, was sending out V1, V2, V3, etc. I showed him that OneDrive does have a versioning feature.

          I had a boss who would rename the Board of Directors quarterly presentation that I had filed in the shared drive as “Board of Directors/Quarterly reviews/2021/April/Board of Directors quarterly review April 2021.ppt” as “041521BoDQrtReview.ppt.” And then he would email it back to me. Or he would file it – somewhere. I don’t know. I tried to explain to him that the date he made the changes to the file was not a date that held any significance for anyone else on the team and hence was not useful for finding the file. Also, we had as much room as we wanted with file names, so no need for cryptic abbreviations.

          The people around me do not use technology well.

      5. Bees-in-my-head*

        I have had that happen so often in my current job that I created a slide explaining how Track Changes works.

        1. Another health care worker*

          Did it actually stop after that? I had definitely explained it to this guy. He wasn’t interested in learning about the red lines.

          1. Anonym*

            Password protect the document and restrict to allow tracked changes only. Then make sure tracked changes are on before you save. It has saved me a lot of frustration…

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              I literally gasped and pulled up a document to see if my company disabled this feature — they did not and THIS IS MY NEW FAVORITE THING.

            2. Pushybroad*

              PLEASE never do this. If the next person reviewing the document makes a change, then decides to undo their own change, the protection prohibits them from doing so. It is a HORRIBLE feature. It makes the document absolutely unreadable.

              Trust me, I totally get the urge to try and save people from themselves and save ourselves the hassle of dealing with the idiots of the world, but for those of us who are sophisticated reviewers, it is insulting and infuriating. I hate it so much that I have learned how to hack into the code and delete the password protection to stop that nonsense.

              1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                {shrug} then delete the password protection and go about your merry way actually following instructions. But it blows up my schedule every time someone doesn’t use track changes (as explicitly instructed to do) and then I have to either waste time waiting for them to do it correctly or waste time doing a compare between their submitted document and my original.

      6. Kammy6707*

        I’ve got two good ones! Same boss. Once, I walked into her office to see her using Excel to do some type of report. She had a calculator out – she was entering the numbers into the cells, but using the calculator to add them together! I didn’t even bother trying to explain the sum function.

        Another time, she needed help “moving files.” She literally put in an IT ticket and someone came to help her – I assume the ticket made no sense so they just decided to set up a meeting to figure out what she really wanted. All she wanted was to move files between different folders. The guy was like “ummm…?” and just dragged and dropped the documents while she watched.

        1. turquoisecow*

          Yeah I had a coworker who didn’t understand that you can use excel to do the math for you. And even after it was explained, she would take out a calculator to double check it was correct.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Oh hell, I used to use a calculator when I dealt with Excel. I didn’t know how to use it to do math and I wasn’t particularly supposed to know; I was 20 years old and hired as pure data entry. So when I needed to know what the sum of the last two cells were, I used the calculator on my desk and entered the result dutifully in the third cell. Not the most efficient way to handle things, I know; but it worked for someone whose only real relationship with Excel was being told “here are the spaces into which you are to type the data.”

        2. Violette*

          I worked in IT support back in the days when mice only had one button and were wired. Had a newly-hired executive put in a help desk ticket to have her mouse moved. We had set up her desk with the mouse and mouse pad to the right of the keyboard, but she wanted it on the left.

          So I had to book time on her calendar to go in her office and ask her to scoot back a couple of feet while I picked up the mouse and mouse mad and just. . . placed them down on the other side of the keyboard.

      7. Amaranth*

        To be fair, the tracking feature in Word can be a total nightmare. There are few things more awkward than explaining to a Boss that they only turned off their ‘view changes’ but sent all the comments and markup out to everyone in their ‘final’ document.

      8. Medusa*

        I assume that there were not just random red lines all over the document and these were, in fact, typos?

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Also, the file is now password protected, and OP IS NOT MY ADMIN is now the password.

    3. NeutralJanet*

      Right?!!!!! Beyond OP not being her assistant…..why wouldn’t Jane just do that herself? Is it really easier for anyone for Jane to send the PDF to her assistant, tell her what the new name should be, have the assistant change the name, send it back to Jane with the new name, and then have Jane download the newly named PDF?

      1. somanyquestions*

        How is google not easier, if somehow she doesn’t understand the basic ways one renames a file? It makes me feel like she’s doing this on purpose, somehow.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Because in her mind, the “rename a pdf” instructions contain the single step “email file to LW”. Works every time …

          … so far.

        2. JustaTech*

          I’m still teaching my boss to try googling questions he has with Word before asking me; he’s been surprised how much helpful stuff there is out there for common-ish questions.

          When I figured out the very strange problem a coworker and I were having with Word (it was eating every 100th space) everyone was amazed I figured it out even after I explained that I had just searched for it and found the answer on a Microsoft forum.

          The Internet is good for more than just cat photos!

          1. Violette*

            I recently Googled some Python stuff so I could combine several dozen .csv files. One of our managers is teaching us Python (or trying to; he’s really bad at it) and when I told him he got suuuuper excited and asked me to lead the next class. I was like, “Our class is an hour long and this took maybe 5 minutes.

            So he gave me 10 minutes and I had to literally walk everyone through what words I’d Googled, what link I clicked, what minor adjustment I made to the lines of code, and then recombine my files in front of everyone (on Teams). And, afterward, people asked if all of that was in the how-to training document that Manager had created. [To his credit, he said, “Yes. It’s at the beginning where I say that you can find anything you need to know about Python on the internet.”]

            1. Keyboard Jockey*

              Non-programmers think I must be pulling their legs when I say that 90% of my job is knowing how to google things. I am not.

              1. PeanutButter*

                Yuuuuup. I’m teaching a bench lab tech in my lab some basic Python/bash/R stuff for her professional development. It took me awhile to get it through to her that having to google how to do something programmatically is not an admission of failure.

              2. sb51*


                The hard part is teaching people how to search for things; it’s a skill, and I’m naturally good at it; I don’t know how to put what I’m doing into words very well.

        3. Renata Ricotta*

          Occasionally I send similarly tiny tasks to my (for real) assistant, because she is the master of a complicated file-naming system that is easy for me to screw up and I’m sure she’d rather just do the correct date/underscore/whatever in the first place. (I am not the brains behind my law firm’s unnecessarily rigid filing system.)

          But, she knows there’s a reason for it beyond me just being incredibly lazy, and SHE. IS. MY. ACTUAL. ADMIN. ASSISTANT.

          1. Suzanne*

            That’s different – actually in your case your admin is actually doing filing for you. And since you have a complicated filing system it’s better if she does. And as you say she’s your admin.

            1. PeanutButter*

              Yeah…back in the day the computer-inexperienced sales director of the company I worked for asked me (a sales admin assistant) to save different copies of the same Excel spreadsheet with the columns sorted different ways. I asked him if he wanted me make it so one spreadsheet could be sorted different ways on the fly instead of the many different spreadsheets? The answer was no, so I did what he asked cheerfully because he was my grandboss. It all paid the same, and if he didn’t want the other options I proposed there must have been a reason. Even if the reason was “I’d rather spend my time looking at golf videos than dealing with spreadsheets”…he was the department boss so OK I’ll do it.

              Someone in a different department asking me to do the same thing would have been a completely different story.

          2. Bethany*

            Yes, I send stuff to the grad on my team and ask him to rename and file in accordance with a convention that’s got about ten different elements.

            But he’s the grad and it’s his job!

      2. I'm just here for the cats*

        I could see, asking to covert a doc to PDF and save it to a shared drive or something. I do that a lot for docs at work (I’m an admin). But that’s my job I’m the admin. But just renaming or resaving? It probably took longer to write the email!

      3. Sparrow*

        Yeah, I find that kind of thing infuriating. If they typed out that new name in the right spot or that exact question into google instead of typing it in an email to me, they’d be done already.

      4. LPUK*

        Senior executive learned helplessness. I was once at the Marketing VP PA’s desk when she received a call from US (we were in Ireland) from her boss. He had forgotten to pack his laptop cable – could she please courier it overnight to him? She didn’t even bother to tell him that a. the hotel concierge would probably be able to find him a cable, b. he was in the centre of Chicago so would probably be able to find a shop that sold them within about 500 yards of the hotel ( or send the concierge out to buy a new one – still cheaper and quicker than international courier)- she just did exactly what he asked. I was later privileged to see the level of detail she provided to help him find his way through an airport to his personal limo service (he was apparently ‘too confused’ to use a taxi) – there were pictures!

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Years ago, in my first job out of college, I was the assistant to a man who was not at all tech savvy. One day he told me to ask IT to do something for him in Word. I said, “Oh, I can do that for you,” because I could (I forget what it was but it was VERY simple) and he argued with me that it was IT’s job to fix computer issues. I think I just did it and told him IT had done it, but it was very hard to convince him that Word has a lot of simple functions that didn’t need expert help.

      I mean, my mom had the IT guy activate the auto-save on her Word last week, and when I offered to show her how to do it she also argued with me. So… feh.

      These two arguments happened over 20 years apart. Some people are not just tech-challenged– some people believe everyone is in their boat.

      1. NotJane*

        I’ve had two different tech-challenged bosses. The first one would check his email, print them out, write his response on each piece of paper, and give them to me to type in and send the reply from his email.

        The other boss once asked me to Google something and print out the responses so he could fax them to someone.

        1. Fricketyfrack*

          Woooow. Though I guess those stories do make me feel a little better about my coworkers apparently deciding as a group that they have no idea how to use Adobe. Another staff member and I went back to the office last week and we had 3 different people ask us to print and scan PDFs in order to either split the first few pages or combine two files. We had training on how to do that within Adobe! It was required, I know because I didn’t need it and they still made me go!

          Apparently a bunch of people completely ignored the training and have been printing massive amounts of crap they didn’t need just to scan in a couple of of pages, and then throw the whole mess in the shredder. I just…cannot.

        2. Pennyworth*

          When individual office computers were first being rolled out, my grand boss, who couldn’t type at all and didn’t want to learn, told the IT guys installing his computer that they could take away the keyboard because he wouldn’t be using it.

        3. TechTock*

          My very first job involved writing emails that I was sent on dictating cassettes. I had to get special equipment from the library to do so. I quickly realized that all of his emails were done this way and that when I emailed him there was another student on the other end doing the same. The job was to edit his book and this was another element of it. It was very strange and I quit after a week or two. It should also be stated that this was around 2009-2010 and the man was probably in his 40s or 50s.

      2. Not Australian*

        Okay, two quick computer-idiot anecdotes!

        1. Ex brother-in-law* didn’t know you could give documents names, so he kept a handwritten list beside his PC: Document 1 – Letter to Bank; Document 2 – Jane’s Christmas list, etc.

        2. Ex-sister* created all her documents within spreadsheets because you could write a letter in a single cell and then print it out so why would you need a word-processing programme? This despite, of course, having had a full bundle of software pre-installed on her PC. “It’s easier this way.”

        Both of these people had responsible, well-paying jobs.

        *Yes, I have a lot of ex-relatives, and stupidity is just one of the reasons.

        1. Imprudence*

          My dad used the free software that came on floppy disks on the front of computer magazines ( remember those?). Different file format for every file. Goodness probate was hard!

          1. Arvolin*

            I’ve worked with computers for over 45 years. All my critical documents are text files. Some of the less important are PDFs. There’s no way I’m going to contribute posthumously to file format confusion.

        2. LPUK*

          Senior executive learned helplessness. I was once at the Marketing VP PA’s desk when she received a call from US (we were in Ireland) from her boss. He had forgotten to pack his laptop cable – could she please courier it overnight to him? She didn’t even bother to tell him that a. the hotel concierge would probably be able to find him a cable, b. he was in the centre of Chicago so would probably be able to find a shop that sold them within about 500 yards of the hotel ( or send the concierge out to buy a new one – still cheaper and quicker than international courier)- she just did exactly what he asked. I was later privileged to see the level of detail she provided to help him find his way through an airport to his personal limo service (he was apparently ‘too confused’ to use a taxi) – there were pictures!

        3. Artemesia*

          I had a grad student set up variable names in SPSS as Variable 1, Variable 2 etc after I asked him to set them up and make a codebook. He claimed experience. My bad for not naming them all but it is so simple to use a 3 letter name that captures what it is; most people do this automatically.

          We ended up with complex charts that were essentially unreadable and had to rename everything.

        4. Frieda*

          One of my colleagues saves everything in his downloads file, without any particular naming convention.

          I began cheerfully showing him how to do whatever it was he was asking for help with when he started asking me to order books for him from Amazon and I remembered he can order Amazon movies at home. He did eventually stop asking for bullshit things.

    5. Richard Hershberger*

      Time to violate Grice’s Maxim of Relation: Answer “yes” and do nothing else.

    6. aett*

      Even when I WAS an admin, that sort of request drove me crazy. One of the worst managers I ever had would call my desk to ask me to come over to his. I would, then he would ask me to bring him the papers he had just printed. Not only is “fetch me my printings” kind of a shitty thing to ask someone on a regular basis, but I HATED that he would call me and ask me to come over to his desk so he could ask me face-to-face. Why not skip that step and just ask me to bring him something???

      1. allathian*

        If you were a youngish woman and he’s a straight guy he probably loved watching your butt as you walked away from his desk to do his bidding.

  8. PivotPivot*

    I might even have a filter that all emails from Jane are forwarded to Kate. You never see it.

    If Jane complains, you can explain, I forwarded these requests to Kate which I thought would be helpful. If you don’t want me to do that, I can just delete these misdirected emails.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I thought of creating a filter, too. Though I also wonder if keeping a paper trail of Jane’s requests would be helpful. Have the filter both copy it to a separate folder and forward it to Kate.

      Really, OP, Jane has no recourse in this. There is no way she can complain to either of your managers that you failed to rename a .pdf for her in the timeframe she’d given you for that task, and be taken seriously. Unless she starts making things up, but that’s what the paper trail would be for.

    2. Kevin Sours*

      Leave Kate out of it. Her working relationship is between her and Jane. On the other hand, filtering Jane’s emails to their own folder and only reviewing it once a day (and just deleting anything not relevant to OP’s position) has merit.

  9. Lacey*

    This is so frustrating! I’ve had any number of situations where it was easier to just do the thing I shouldn’t have to do, because explaining that I shouldn’t have to felt pedantic. Some of those were truly one-offs, others ended up being a whole THING.

    But, while AAM expects your boss will not want to drastically redefine your roll – THAT HAS NEVER BEEN MY EXPERIENCE. In my experience, conflict avoidant managers are ALWAYS willing to drastically redefine your roll. They’ll do it again and again and again. And they’ll be sympathetic to you, but they will insist this is just how it has to be, their hands are tied! Your boss, my past bosses – they may be great in other areas, but they are and always will be wimps of astounding proportions.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I actually asked the OP, is he a wimp or is it about organizational authority and she thinks it’s the latter, based on their structure.

      1. Leah K.*

        I can understand why someone can say “I can’t tell Jane what to do because I am not her boss”. But I cannot envision a situation where as a manager someone wouldn’t have authority to say “Stop assigning work to my people. They don’t work for you. They work for me”. To me, that’s completely within the scope of a manager’s organizational authority.

        1. somanyquestions*

          Yeah, I think Jane is a general PITA and the manager is just foisting off her responsibility here because they don’t want to deal with it.

        2. Pickled Limes*

          That was my thought. I totally understand why OP’s boss would say he can’t tell Jane what to do because he’s not her boss, but for the life of me I can’t figure out why his next sentence wasn’t “I’ll set up some time this week to have a chat with Jane’s boss about this.” Even if Jane’s boss is a level higher on the organizational ladder than OP’s boss, he could still kick this up the chain to the most appropriate person for this conversation. It’s incredibly likely that a thing could be done. This boss just can’t figure out what the appropriate next step would be.

          1. Tired of Covid-and People*

            THIS. Boss is avoiding their responsibility to manage. I hate managers like this, who are too scared to do what they get paid the big bucks to do.

        3. Essess*

          That was exactly my thought. The boss might not have authority to control Jane, but the boss definitely has the authority to control OP’s workload. So stepping in and saying that OP will not do admin work for Jane is completely under the boss’s job.

        4. hbc*

          But if you accept the organizational authority, the other person can’t assign work. Jane can say, “Thou shalt do this for me,” but the work is not assigned.

          I mean, if it escalates in quantity or Jane comes stomping by for a confrontation, the manager should step in. But since OP has been given (what I see as) clarity from the boss that Jane assignments are not actual assignments, OP can treat them with the same gravity she would if Jane asked for help painting her living room.

        5. Grapey*

          I see the same in my own manager, unfortunately. The person that technically gives me important marching orders is a bit higher on the food chain than my boss-on-paper. My boss-on-paper doesn’t know or care to learn the nuts and bolts of my job so I wouldn’t trust them to KNOW what work to give me.

          Yes, I am job hunting!

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        What she said: “the different departments have separate org charts, so even if my boss brought it up to his boss, the global head of my department, I’m not sure she’d have much authority to make requests of another department (especially the “primary” one).”

          1. Amaranth*

            Why the heck is Kate then sending admin requests outside her own department? I’d think that would make saying ‘no, can’t help you out’ all the easier.

            1. Amaranth*

              Oops, Jane. I hope LW’s boss has their back so if there is pushback, they can just say ‘my boss says no to doing any more favors because it takes time from my own work.’

          2. Infrequent_Commenter*

            Yeah, I don’t get it either. Why can’t the managers just….talk? “Hey, Bob, fyi, Jane keeps assigning work to OP, who doesn’t work for her. She won’t stop, so OP is just going to ignore her. Thought you should know.” “Oh, that’s weird, thanks for the heads-up, Dave, I’ll talk to Jane.”
            Or is it;
            “Hey, Bo-“…”Dave, let me stop you there.. we’re not adjacent on the org chart so you may not speak to me.”


        1. Batty Twerp*

          I may have misunderstood, please correct me, but this sounds like OP has a boss (Head of PR) and Jane is an attorney, presumably also with a boss (Head of Legal).
          Or is Head of Legal the entire department boss equivalent to OPs Grandboss? In terms of a traditional hierarchy if OP and Jane are equivalent, wouldn’t Head of PR just be able to talk to Head of Legal to get Jane to cut it out, without having to go up another level (Head of Solutions)?

        2. SpaceySteph*

          Even if he has no authority, he can contact Jane’s boss like “hey your employee is doing this absolutely ridiculous thing and its affecting my employee’s ability to complete their own work” and maybe, just maybe, that boss would do something about it?

          1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

            ^^ This. The shoulder-shrugging “I have no authority” is a completely nonhelpful response from OP’s manager. You don’t always need authority to solve a problem–there are other tools, like diplomacy and just plain old communication. It doesn’t require “authority” to let Jane’s boss know that there is a problem with Jane seeking administrative help from someone who isn’t her admin. It would be one thing if he went to Jane’s manager who then didn’t do anything about it, but (from what we’re told) the manager didn’t even *try*.

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          If these departments are, indeed, in such strict silos, doesn’t that mean that if the OP decides to start refusing Jane’s “requests,” Jane won’t be able to get her in trouble?

        4. Leah K.*

          But why would OP’s boss need to talk to his boss? Why can’t she just send an email to Jane with a question “Why are you assigning work to my people? They don’t work for you.”

        5. Marna Nightingale*

          I try very hard indeed not to rules-lawyer in general but in OPs shoes I might ask her manager to officially instruct OP not to do Jane’s job anymore.

          I mean, he may not have standing to sort Jane out, but he can clearly define OP’s scope.

      3. Deborah*

        Her manager can’t tell Jane to stop, but she can tell the OP NOT to do what Jane asks and have her back about it.

        1. Nanani*

          This. OP can say “No Jane.” and manager can say “No Jane, I need OP focused on (actual job)” if/when Jane makes a fuss.

          1. Tuesday*

            Yes, no one really needs to tell Jane to stop, so the fact that they don’t have that kind of authority doesn’t seem important. They just need to back-up OP when she stops doing what Jane asks. Maybe Jane won’t make a fuss (because it seems like it would be hard to explain why she thinks someone who doesn’t work for her should be doing this stuff), but if she does, they just need to be able to say, “OP has her hands full with [stuff she actually needs to do].”

        2. Tired of Covid-and People*

          If manager can’t tell Jane to stop, how can Jane assign tasks to OP? Logic break. OP should ignore it all. And be wary of the boss because they don’t appear to have your back.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Because Jane is an attorney and the attorneys are the primary focus of the business (thus their needs and preferences are the most important) and all other business groups exist to support the attorneys, who also have the most political pull at the organization. Annoying, but not unheard of.

            1. Anononon*

              This is 100% true. Even if the actual company isn’t a law firm, it sounds like Jane brings in revenue while OP, as some type of support staff (in the general sense) costs revenue. Jane’s going to be seen as more valuable to the company because, in terms of profit, she is.

              1. English, not American*

                I work on the “support staff” side in a company with this kind of structure. The org chart has the board of directors at the top to stop it looking like two small companies on the same page. When I was hired part of my induction with the head of the department was explicitly “your job is to support the Company, not the Doctors/Lawyers/Sales people. Never think of your job as less important than theirs.” And he was right, if the job wasn’t important they wouldn’t hire someone to do it.

                If an IT manager is spending all their time renaming files for people, software licences/contracts may lapse and leave everyone without the infrastructure to work.
                If a communications person is always helping people use Word, they may screw up a media release and open the company up to being sued.
                If an office manager is always helping people photocopy, it might escape their notice that after Bob left there aren’t enough trained first aiders/fire marshalls in the building and, well, that could have dire consequences (I don’t know if these are universal examples, this is based on my coworkers’ responsibilities).

      4. Kevin Sours*

        Isn’t “I don’t have standing to address random people tasking my direct reports against my wishes” a MASSIVE organizational red flag?

        1. DKMA*

          You might have standing to say something, but no ability to enforce change. Or you might, but it’s not worth the political capital when an acceptable solution is to just tell Kate, say no to all future requests like this, I’ll have your back if it insanely blows up.

          1. Kevin Sours*

            Those are still *all kinds* of organizational red flags. How can you manage when you can’t say “my report isn’t your personal assistant” and make it stick? Telling OP to say no and boss will deal with it when it blows up is legit… but boss didn’t do that. This isn’t a situation where the management equivalent of a shrug emoji is appropriate.

            If it’s a matter of can’t rather than won’t that’s really even worse.

      5. tamarack and fireweed*

        Yabbut, even with low organizational authority (the OP’s whole department being considered as serving the “main” function) Jane’s boss should be absolutely prepared to act if, say, the head of IT, marketing, design services, accounting or, for that matter, facility operations told them “listen, Jane keeps sending Pat requests for tasks that fall squarely outside Pat’s job description, and Pat quite rightly and very politely has been trying to rebuff Jane but with no success. this must stop – it’s a constant irritant for Pat, who is great at her job and doesn’t deserve that. it’s not as if Jane didn’t have anyone to do these for her.”

        Is the organization so dysfunctional that “I have my boss talk to your boss to sort this out” doesn’t work, or is OP’s boss a real wimp, seems like the options.

    2. A Library Person*

      This comment is why I would suggest that OP try to nail down a copy of their current job description. Then, in the case that the requests continue and no one with actual authority intends to do anything about it, OP can fall back on documentation that confirms that, no, they are not and were never expected to be Jane’s PA. Of course, they could always try to shift OP’s responsibilities to include this stuff, but having something in writing should highlight the fundamental absurdity of this situation. “Do you really think that x, y, z tasks fit in with the rest of my responsibilities, when Jane already has a person assigned to this work?”

      1. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

        I agree. And based on Alison’s note above, I think a more holistic examination of job descriptions could show what’s falling through the cracks (or a gaping pothole). I’ve experienced similar issue as OP, not in the sense that I was treated as a PA, but was asked to do something that wasn’t my job even a little bit. Part of it was a lack of understanding as to what was my job, but also part of it was because there was nobody examining organizational need and determining where to plug those holes. And if the PA is already overworked with Jane’s other needs, then there’s an issue as well (because honestly, renaming a PDF?! Jane sounds very needy). For a while, I tried to help because I work with very kind people who were confused, but soon became overwhelmed with their Outlook questions. Eventually, I did a few things: redirected to the appropriate person- provided it was covered by someone else; said “no, sorry, I was helping out where I could, but this isn’t part of my role and I don’t have room in my schedule do to so anymore” if the task had no coverage; went to my supervisor and say “I’m being asked to do tasks that aren’t my job AND that detract from my actual workload- can you please help find the most appropriate person to handle it?”

        It exposed some pretty big holes in our org. They weren’t ever patched, but that’s a different story…

        1. A Library Person*

          Definitely! This has been on my mind especially because we have an ongoing situation that could easily lead to me de facto taking on a bunch of extra, higher-level responsibilities for a while (negotiable) or permanently (nope). So right now I am laser-focused on my job description, even the “extra stuff we didn’t enumerate” parts in case this happens to me. We have too much work, too flimsy leadership, and too little hope of a hiring boom for me to assume/realistically hope the cracks are going to be patched up. It’s a little different from OP’s scenario but I think the broader principle is applicable here.

    3. IvyV*

      But when the boss is that wimpy, you just tell them “no, I’m not doing that it’s not my role” and they won’t fight with you either.

  10. Elenna*

    I’m just so weirded out by the fact that Jane is doing this even though SHE HAS AN ASSISTANT. Like, if she didn’t have one, I’d just chalk it up to Jane being lazy and wanting an assistant so she’s co-opted OP into the role. But if that was the case she could just use her actual assistant

    Also, seriously? Renaming her PDF? Is that a normal thing to ask an admin assistant to do? Wouldn’t it be much faster to just, y’know, do it herself, instead of emailing a whole other person to ask them to do it???
    Actually, now I’m kinda wondering if this is all a plot from Jane’s actual assistant, who got sick of being asked to do tiny tasks like that and somehow tricked Jane into asking OP’s predecessor instead. :P

    1. London Lass*

      I wonder if Jane a) thinks her own assistant is totally incompetent and doesn’t trust her with these tasks or b) has got her doing other work so she doesn’t have time for the job she was recruited for.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        If that is the case, Jane should replace the assistant (assuming she has the power to do so). I have worked with people who had little to no technical skills beyond what they did every day for their job and could not rename files, for example. So that is a possibility.

        1. Amethystmoon*

          Sorry of course I mean the incompetent part. But there are varying degrees of competency. Someone could have great skill in cooking a 5-star restaurant quality meal, but limited computer skills.

        2. Fashionable Pumpkin*

          I would be tempted to play dumb. “I can try. How do I convert it to pdf?” “Oh, no! I can’t find the file. Where is it saved? How do I open it?”
          Type Jane’s question into Google without hitting search, print screen of her question typed into the Google field. “Here you go!”

          Or even willfully misunderstand our relationship. “Sure buddy, I’ll do you this favor in exchange for a coffee!”

          1. The New Wanderer*

            That made me think that OP should respond to one of these inane requests with just: “Jane, can you bring me a vanilla latte? Thanks!”

            Fight inane with inane!

              1. Fashionable Pumpkin*

                I love it! Better still to ask her about the weather *right now*.
                “Jane, could you check outside and let me know if I will need to take my coat when I leave for lunch? Please let me know within 15 minutes, I’m famished!”

      2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        That was my first thought. I suspect that Jane has decided the assistant is maybe not the best at assisting and instead of managing Kate, for whatever reason, Jane has decided to find someone else to do the tasks.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          That’s what I thought as well: Jane doesn’t like her assistant, either personally or in terms of her abilities as an assistant. She doesn’t wanna have to ask Kate, either because she thinks Kate won’t do it well or because she doesn’t wanna have to deal with Kate at all… and rather than deal with that situation, she just dumps the whole thing on somebody in the other department who’s a doormat (I don’t mean LW, who clearly isn’t; I mean the person who had that role before LW, and who would just do the things and helped Jane get used to expecting it from the person in that position).

    2. Paulina*

      It sounds like the sort of request that comes from interpreting “IT Support” as “support for anything and everything to do with IT.” Or similar, depending on what OP’s actual job is. I hate to think what requests she has for her actual assistant — maybe paperwork or personal things?

      Anyway, any of these “Can you…?” requests should be met with “No.”, as long as OP’s manager can be trusted to back them up.

      1. lemon*

        Yes, this was my take, too. I experience this all the time. Let’s say I’m a web designer. I’ll get weird requests just because they involve websites, like how to turn a Word doc into a PDF and share it on LinkedIn or how to upload a video to YouTube. It’s truly bizarre what some people think certain jobs should entail.

      2. Kiki*

        Yeah, that was my thought as well when I was trying to interpret Jane’s motives in the best possible light. Jane was told LW’s predecessor could troubleshoot any issues with their computer, help with access to software, password resets, etc. and Jane doesn’t seem to realize her “issues,” while loosely related to those category of things, are things anyone should know how to do (and if she doesn’t know how, her assistant definitely does).

    3. GermanCoffeeGirl*

      You wouldn’t believe the admin tasks I’ve had to do for people because they were either technically not up to speed or just plain lazy. Back when I was an EA in a large law firm and dictation was still recorded on physical tapes, an attorney gave me a tape that included the following dictation: “The next dictation is a reply to Mr. Smith’s email from XX.XX.2010, 3:40 pm: ‘Dear George, Thank you for your lunch invite. My EA will call your assistant tomorrow to schedule. Best, Dan.’ End of dictation”
      How is that faster than typing the email yourself?!

      1. Artemesia*

        There was a time when most high level execs did not type — would not type — had a ‘girl’ for that. It was one of the reasons early in my career I was warned to never let people know I could type as women who did often found themselves doing assistant work for bosses who ‘didn’t type’. But even in the last 20 years I only had one senior colleague who didn’t and had a secretary who typed all of his stuff; he was a prolific writer and kept one person busy. When he left, she refused to shift to other tasks in the department and was finally let go (I coached her on how she could secure her position by taking over a couple of important tasks that a hiring freeze had impeded us hiring for but she felt that was too burdensome and so lost her job)

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I am male, and have had jobs where I carefully hid my ability to type. I am sure that it was much worse for women, but it was not limited to them.

        2. Working Hypothesis*

          My mother carefully never learned how to type. She was a lawyer who didn’t want to get stuck in legal secretary roles, in the 1970s. It worked, but it still sucked that she had to.

        1. Slipping The Leash*

          I’ve found it incredibly useful to not let it be known that I have significant PPT skills. Hell no.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Ten to fifteen years ago, trainee lawyers in my field (IP) were still being taught by the old hands to dictate *everything*, even this kind of reply. But their natural work style was to type quick things themselves, like they type quick social emails or IMs or social media posts. They dictate when they’re in full flow, maybe with three or four documents open that they’re comparing, and when they want effectively a subedit before they get it back (specialist legal secretaries are not just typists).

        I’m a paralegal. For better or worse, I’ve never had to dictate anything.

        1. FoolishFox*

          I can’t imagine having to draft a patent (or anything) by dictation. That’s not the way I think at all.

      3. Saberise*

        Well I once got an email from someone I support asking me to set up a 9 appointment with John and Jim for Monday in his office. He cc’ed both of them and it was already on his calendar. It was before we really did calendar invites so there was literally nothing for me to do. I ended up asking them in person when I ran to them if they had seen the email because he’s the type that it would have been my fault had they not and not been there.

    4. Lizzo*

      I once had a boss who would ask me to do these very menial things that she could have done herself in half the time it took to email me. Was it part of my job to help her? Yes, but that admin crap was the ONLY work she gave me, despite the fact that the role I was in was supposed to be a stepping stone to management. It was a complete power trip. I recall asking her when I was supposed to work on the development-focused projects, and she said I needed to do that on my own time. (Um, what?) She was awful–another example of women who don’t support other women in the workplace, which ultimately screws us all over.

      OP, other than the history with your predecessor, is there some sort of other power dynamic at play here?

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I used to have a boss who put a sticky note with the world “file” on it on individual file folders and left them on my desk. The filing cabinet for the files was right next to her desk, and my desk was on the other side of the office. I once watched her pull a file out, check something in it, and then close the filing cabinet and walk across the office to write a sticky note and put it on my desk instead of just putting it back where she had pulled it from. It took her about 3x as long to do all that as to just file the thing.

        1. hot priest*

          This is maddening to just read about. Like I am on edge for having learned about the existence of this person doing this absurd thing. What a terrible garbage person.

        2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          For decades, that was not at all unusual, and it’s just a carry-over. Most offices had file clerks, and all they did, all day long, was – ta da! – file things. It was to ensure that misfilings done by random people were minimal. File clerks were at the bottom of the totem pole, but it was a great foot-in-the-door position and most file clerks who stuck it out got promoted pretty quickly. Some jobs are done by the minimum wage workers and some are done by people who make $100 an hour. It’s a waste of company money for the expensive person to use time doing work the min wage person is supposed to. I don’t like it, but that’s the way businesses run.

          1. Lizzo*

            It’s a waste of company money to have high turnover because management treats people below them like servants.

    5. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

      Some people are staggeringly incompetent at tech stuff, even the smallest possible units thereof. And nothing against them–it is definitely more akin to a language than a straight skill. But sometimes it’s funny.

      I once saw a tweet, and I hope I got it right because I can’t find it, from someone who had replied back to and associate who sent her a Word document asking that they send it as a PDF, and they sent it back to her with the filename pdf.doc.

      1. Tired of Covid-and People*

        This is often learned helplessness. I’m 65 and very tech savvy because I embraced it and see how it makes life easier. I would hate depending on others for routine IT related tasks. And Google is my friend in solving so many tech dilemmas, especially those related to software.

        1. lemon*

          Yes. A lot of people seem to think Tech Skills are magical powers gifted from on-high. But a lot of basic tech skills really are just the ability to problem solve, be patient, look stuff up online, and follow help guides. Learning new stuff is frustrating and hard, but it’s worth it if means you can be self-reliant.

          1. nona*

            Or the willingness to just click something and see what happens (that probably falls under problem-solving), and where the undo button is.

            My mom (in her mid-60s) used to ask me to Google stuff for her, mostly because I think she didn’t know what search terms to use. So, I’d show some of my work (explain what words I searched with), to give her a sense of what to use. And the women was the Excel programming/formulas expert in the house. My comp engineering brothers would ask her for help/advice on setting up Excel formulas.

            1. Violette*

              Good gravy, yes! Just click a bunch of stuff and see what happens. That, plus Google / knowing how to look stuff up, is not only how I’ve learned all of the software and IT stuff I know, it’s also why I tell hiring managers that I’ve never met a software app I couldn’t master.

              I was showing some SAP stuff to coworkers who have been here (and working in SAP) longer than I have and they wanted to know how I knew to use those particular t-codes and parameters. I showed them the binocular icon in the toolbar and said, “I just searched for [different key words] and clicked on everything that came up.”

              They had no idea what the binocular icon was for so they had never clicked on it. I’m like, “That’s the perfect reason *to* click on it! I had no idea what it was, either.”

              1. HardlyLovelace*

                When it comes to IT, the prospect of clicking a bunch of stuff and seeing what happens makes me ill. The amount of stuff I have to keep in short-term memory while reading the docs, the fact that most technical doc is essentially unaccessible for someone with a brain like mine that can’t handle a loaf of dense text, the visual clutter in most tech doc.

                I’m afraid don’t have a solution, just insight into how a staggering number of tech resources are impossible to look at for some folks. Looking at you, Microsoft.

                But I can rename a file.

            2. Allonge*

              My aunt once told me that she could not Google [whatever]. Me: ??? Her: well, see I start typing and then there are options you can choose but [whatever] is not one of them, so you cannot Google that. She also had Excel files with some pretty nifty formulas.

            3. English, not American*

              My mother (early 60s) was an actual programmer at the start of her career in the 80s. When she retired last year she was a BI analyst who worked with SAP data universes and fired off reports like it was nothing. And yet she refuses to work out how to install an app on her phone. Her car’s clock is wrong 7 months of the year because about four years ago I set it when the clocks changed and she refuses to learn how to change it herself. She refuses to sign up to online banking or do any online shopping, so my dad has to do it for her. Once she phoned me to ask how to re-size an image in Paint.

              I love her, but she is ridiculous.

              1. HardlyLovelace*

                I think we tap out on tolerance to learning new tech stuff. I mean, it’s not… interesting? At all? Not to me anyway. Especially when you know things will change anyway soon, so why bother?

                I for one have accepted my limited cognitive resources wrt/ tech.

        2. BookishMiss*

          There’s learned helplessness, and then there’s coercive helplessness. I think the LW’s situation is more the latter, sadly.

          1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

            I do agree generally but I had in mind several cases of people who did not get on the train at the time because they did not see the need, and honestly could mostly do their job without it.

            I do think people should at least learn things that they do frequently. And if it’s a large part of their job, they should absolutely learn if they can, because they do have a need.

    6. introverted af*

      You would be surprised what people will ask their admins to do. I had to train my current boss that like, if you’re sending this agenda to the external attendees of this meeting, once I’ve sent it to you it would be faster for you to just type in any extra stuff you want in the document. If I’ve missed something that should have been included with the reports I attach to the agenda of our team’s productivity, then yeah let me know so that doesn’t happen again and we haven’t missed anything else, but if you’re just adding another agenda item….type it in. Save document. Send. I can’t read your mind if you didn’t tell me, and I’m just going to add what you told me to put on the list the last time we talked about it.

  11. Lawyer But Not That Kind of Lawyer*

    Is it possible the first time she does this again, to CC her admin support person, and say, just looping in Jane, maybe she can help you with this. The second time this happens, just looping in Jane again, and keeping my manager in the loop in regards to staying in my work lanes (speak to your manager ahead of times to get his support). Third time, in your email looping in your assistant again, my manager, and HR who may be able to assist with who is best able to assist with this, as I previously mentioned it is not part of my job. She should get the picture, as you refuse the work that is not yours to do, and as more people are brought in on her ridiculous asks. Just keep growing the CC list every single email. CCing your coworkers who may have tips on how to remember your passwords……

  12. Joan Rivers*

    I don’t understand the reluctance to just ask her why she’s doing this. Sending her requests to her assistant seems unfair somehow.

    1. Cat*

      Personally I wouldn’t want to be the one to have to forward everything even with a filter.

      Maybe OP could spend a week/a day emailing Jane back telling her “this isn’t mine, it’s Kate’s” with Kate CCed and from there on just not forward it to Kate at all.

      Unless this is incredibly ongoing, which would result in a forwarding filter, I’d not want to deal with it if something didn’t get done and Jane blamed me

  13. Julia*

    LW, you say you’ve heard the person before you in your role was a bit of a doormat… but you’re acting the same way. Understandably, of course – but I’m just saying that to give you a sense of how you may be perceived and underscore that it’s really important to start putting your foot down.

    Many companies have higher status and lower status employees because of what the company does – e.g. lawyers are prized at law firms, software developers at tech firms, and there’s kind of an unspoken assumption that other employees cater to those special employees even if there’s no reporting relationship. So I get why it can be hard to go against the grain.

    1. A Library Person*

      Your second paragraph is such an excellent and clear articulation of this phenomenon! Thank you for this!

    2. ShysterB*

      There often is a power-play component in this, but BigLaw doesn’t always have it rolling downhill — sometimes it rolls across the field. I’m an equity partner at an AmLaw 100 firm. I _still_ get requests from fellow equity partners to handle things like inputting edits into documents simply because I did the initial draft “and you’re just really good at typing.” Twice within the past year, it was pitched to me as “just help out, I can’t ask L [our mutual assistant] because it’s the weekend and it annoys her when I ask her to work on the weekend, and I just don’t know how to contact the overflow word processing people and I don’t trust them to read my handwriting and and and…” Those two times, I ended up doing it even though I briefly considered simply cc’ing the overflow word-processing department — I decided I much preferred the passive-aggressive approach of recording my $850+ hourly rate in time entries reading “WRITE-OFF AND NOT CHARGEABLE TO CLIENT: ACTING AS TYPIST AT REQUEST OF [partner] BECAUSE HE DID NOT WANT TO ASK ASSISTANT AND DID NOT TRUST WORD-PROCESSING DEPARTMENT TO READ HIS HAND-WRITING.” He got to explain to the billing partner and the Billing & Realization people why we were taking a $3000+ hit on collections that month. He hasn’t asked me since.

      And last month, when another partner (also male — I am cishet female) tried the same thing during a concall with other partners, I told him the above story and lo and behold he figured out how to input his own edits.

      1. Observer*

        I decided I much preferred the passive-aggressive approach of recording my $850+ hourly rate in time entries reading “WRITE-OFF AND NOT CHARGEABLE TO CLIENT: ACTING AS TYPIST AT REQUEST OF [partner] BECAUSE HE DID NOT WANT TO ASK ASSISTANT AND DID NOT TRUST WORD-PROCESSING DEPARTMENT TO READ HIS HAND-WRITING.” He got to explain to the billing partner and the Billing & Realization people why we were taking a $3000+ hit on collections that month.

        I LOVE this! Absolutely brilliant.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Yet another example of how the passive aggressive response can sometimes be the best response.

      3. pleaset cheap rolls*

        You know that gif of Anna Kendrick gesturing “BOOM”?

        Insert that here.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I suspect it gets conflated with Shylock. The two are unrelated. Shyster probably comes from German Scheisser, literally “shitter.” Shylock, of course, is the deeply unfortunate character from A Merchant of Venice.

        1. nonegiven*

          Was there a time when it wasn’t?

          I remember a lawyer who was a city councilman said to my husband, “I know you think I’m a shyster.”

          Husband says, “[Name,] I never said that.”

      4. Blorp*

        As a fellow female equity partner at an AmLaw 100 firm, your time entry is the best thing I have ever seen. You are amazing.

      5. Nom*

        great story and also striking how these men assumed the woman must be the typist! even if she’s an equity partner!

      6. NRG*

        This is close to how I’ve seen this handled where I work. Everything we do has to be charged to a project. So when a project lead kept badgering a senior engineer to help him book travel, said engineer finally said “ok, give me the project charge code” and then charged the project hours of Senior Engineer Chargeout Rate, while being spectacularly unskilled at booking travel. Never happened again.

      7. Zzzzzzz*

        YOU ARE MY HERO. Signed, (female) Senior Associate who gets asked to do ridiculous admin tasks but can’t push back (yet) and then self-writes off (boo, I know! I know!)

        1. ShysterB*

          RECOOOORD IT!!!! Actually, I’m torn about the advice I give to associates or paralegals about things like this. If I’m responsible for reviewing the pro forma and can catch such entries before they get charged to the client (or at the very least, zero out the amount due — my typical approach for non-productive travel time that a lot of clients won’t pay for), I tell them to record everything the partners ask them to do. But if I’m not the pro forma reviewer, I’m reluctant to advise them to take a chance of it back-firing on them.

    3. Tired of Covid-and People*

      Yep, stop being a doormat, because they do get walked on. Boundaries are essential in work and personal life.

  14. My password is password*

    The password thing really gets me. If you email someone your password, it is literally recorded in your sent email. You have just done the work of creating a record for your reference. I feel like there is a certain type of coworker that thinks delegating EVERYTHING is always more efficient, when it is in fact…not.

    1. SunnyGirl*

      Ah, but “I send so many emails!” I have a coworker that regularly “loses” emails.

      I save my passwords in…other places that are easy to look up and find.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Also, I want to know in what industry doing NY Times crosswords is part of the job, because I’d like that job, thank you.

      1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        Haha I also read it as crosswords at first, but sadly it was just the proximity of “NYTimes” to the word “passwords” that made me think so. I think she’s just reading articles.

    3. MCMonkeybean*

      I hadn’t even thought about that cause I was so stuck on what a TERRIBLE idea it is to ask someone else to keep track of your passwords! But that is an excellent point. I somewhat regularly send my husband messages that are like “I’m just messaging you this so that I have it here later for reference.”

      1. BubbleTea*

        Yes, I often message my friend saying “hold this” and putting in my gas meter reading or whatever, but not PASSWORDS. And I come back and retrieve that info myself, I don’t ask her to look it up for me. She does the same with me, we act as accountability buddies on annoying tasks. But passwords? I have an app for that.

        1. Jayne*

          I had a friend send me texts for things that he wanted to remember. Then, one day, he saw that I was sending my self a text as a reminder. Once he realized the he could send himself texts, he hasn’t sent me another reminder text. Magic!

      2. Nanani*

        Sounds like a lot of people here might benefit from a good note app.
        I like evernote but there are plenty of others for various operating systems.

    4. Pickled Limes*

      Delegating everything probably FEELS more efficient to the delegator, because once they’ve assigned the work to somebody else they can cross it off their list and act like it’s done. For them, it’s not about when the work actually gets done, it’s about when they have to stop thinking about it.

      1. My password is password*

        Oh this is a great point. As someone who does NOT naturally think this way, that helps me understand where this behavior comes from…even if I still bristle at it. ;-)

    5. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “Hi Jane, you need to come up with a system to store your passwords. I can offer some advice if you need that, but suggest you start by talking with IT.”

  15. TootsNYC*

    You don’t need to wait for her to be convinced this isn’t your job before you stop (especially since apparently that may never happen); you just need to stop complying.

    I often say: Lie your boundaries–stop talking about them, and just live them.

    You are the person in charge of enforcing your own boundaries.
    Other people aren’t actually in charge of that; you are. I’m not saying they’re not rude to disregard them, etc., etc. But you can’t make them respect the boundaries if they won’t.

    It’s far more important for YOU to respect your own boundaries, and to enforce them.

      1. Pointy Stix, Sower of Chaos*

        “Live your boundaries”

        This needs to be embroidered on a pillow right now.

      2. knitcrazybooknut*

        I honestly rolled with “Lie your boundaries.” Lie about them being a mile away from where they actually are, so when you push back, they’re still at least three-quarters of a mile from your actual boundaries.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          This is genuinely how I interpreted it, too! I’m totally adopting that approach.

        2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          Honestly this is still applicable in many situations. Like in the case that OP knows their job description might just be expanded to include these duties, just lie and say you can’t. Head it off–I don’t have time. I don’t check my email often enough to see these by your deadlines, I’m working.

          I’m currently doing like 50% of a coworker’s job because he is unfairly understaffed and I was light this year on duties, and I am currently lying my boundaries by saying I will be far too busy to do his job next year. I probably still could, but then I would be very busy while he would not be.

    1. Paulina*

      Yes. I have dealt with many people who you can talk extensively with about how something isn’t appropriate, next time you need to do X instead, etc., and their only takeaway is what happened, namely that they got you to do that thing for them. If you make an exception with such people, all they remember is that this is how they get exceptions, not anything else you say. Some never stop pushing, but others learn relatively quickly once the answer is “No” instead of “just this time,” and their memories of what they did last time stop including you.

      1. Jayne*

        My memory is that there is a part of the _Gift of Fear_ book where he is talking about how if a stalker contacts over and over and over again, and you respond after the 100th, what you have trained the stalker is that they “only” have to contact you 100 times to get a reaction. Gray (or grey) rock is the art of absolutely no response so that their interactions with go you eventually go into an extinction spiral. If the LW decides to ignore or forwards the request, they need to know that there is a possibility of successive waves of trying to inveigle her into doing “just this one thing”. Which would reset the extinction spiral.

        Gray rock applies to all different types of toxic relationships.

  16. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

    The manager’s stance here is even more baffling to me than Jane’s. After all, Jane is getting what she wants from OP, so she has no incentive to change. However, OP’s manager is not doing *his* job. When one of my reports came to me because she was having trouble getting reviews and input she needed from someone in another department, did I shrug my shoulders and say “well gosh I wish I could help but I don’t have any authority over someone in that reporting structure.” NO – I WENT TO HIS MANAGER and talked about how to smooth out the process. That is my job. That is literally what I am there for. What does OP’s manager think *his* job is?

    1. Guacamole Bob*


      I frequently have conversations with my direct report about the boundaries of her responsibilities, when and how to push back on requests, when to loop me in, etc. It’s basic management!

    2. hbc*

      I think there’s a huge difference here. Your employee couldn’t do her job if she couldn’t get the information from the other department. OP just needs to carry on with the work she’s actually supposed to be doing.

      I think it’s actually more empowering for OP to be able to say, “Sorry, Jane, I have other things to do” rather than her manager stepping in and implying OP is forced to do whatever task is put on her from anywhere in the organization.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        OP’s manager shouldn’t be stepping in directly at first, but the manager’s job here is to confirm that OP shouldn’t be doing these things, letting OP know that he’ll have her back if she pushes back and it goes badly, suggesting other things to try if the behavior continues, and offering to follow up if OP doesn’t have success handling it directly on her own.

        The manager just shrugging and saying he can’t do anything to stop it is definitely a problem.

      2. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

        “I think it’s actually more empowering for OP to be able to say, “Sorry, Jane, I have other things to do” rather than her manager stepping in and implying OP is forced to do whatever task is put on her from anywhere in the organization.”

        Wow, “Sorry, I have other things to do” is a TERRIBLE response. It doesn’t empower anyone to do anything! It just throws the problem back on the employee without the manager’s making even a minimal effort to help — which is, again, the manager’s job.

        Coaching OP through a pushback conversation with Jane *would* be empowering, if that’s what the manager chose to do. I will grant that doing that is a reasonable alternative (or prerequisite, even) to going to Jane’s manager. But there’s no indication here that the manager even did that much. (Fortunately there’s no indication that he said “Sorry, I have other things to do” either!)

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          “Sorry, Jane, I have other things to do” IS a pushback by LW against Jane’s demands. The idea is that if LW’s boss can, it would be better for boss to tell LW, “Say that to Jane and if Jane makes trouble about it, I’ll deal with her,” instead of going themself to Jane’s manager and complaining to them about Jane’s treatment of their employee.

          Which is true as far as it goes; the problem right now is that LW’s boss is doing neither.

          1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

            You’re right; I misread that part and thought the commenter was saying that the *manager* said “I have other things to do.” Derp.

    3. Kella*

      Also, this is such a weird and basic problem that I feel like it doesn’t even need to be categorized as a performance problem that needs enforcement. Why can’t OP’s manager just TALK to Jane and say, “Hey, you’re using my report as your admin but they aren’t one. Could you please stop doing that? Thank you.”

      1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

        Yes! My situation wasn’t a performance problem on the other guy’s part either — it was just a bottleneck. I didn’t go to the guy’s manager to get him in trouble — I went to collaborate on a solution to a process problem.

    4. Happy Lurker*

      I think I see why the past employee was a doormat…the manager didn’t have their back.

  17. Robert in SF*

    I have seen some suggestions that the LW forward or cc: the requests to the actual PA, but I think that might not discourage the coworker from making the requests in the future, since the LW is still a one-stop shop for getting ‘tasks’ done. There’s no ‘punishment’ or responsibility put back on the coworker.
    I think that one week of emails back to the coworker, with a terse reminder that:
    “You should send this to your PA so they can handle this; that’s their job. After this week [email? today?], I will just be deleting requests like this with no reply.”
    Then do that.

    1. WellRed*

      Presumably the PA would step up and handle this at that point. If my boss was sending my work elsewhere I’d defend my territory. So to speak.

      1. Kella*

        Unless the PA is part of the problem somehow. Is allowing Jane to send admin work to the OP enabling Kate to do work she likes more? Or to slack off? Or is Kate somehow already overwhelmed with all these tiny tasks and OP is just getting the overflow?

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Best serious answer so far: Create a filter to automatically forward Jane’s emails to her PA, with a copy to a CYA folder just in case. Then never give this another thought. But this only works if Jane never sends you emails actually relevant to your job, since the idea is to never have to look at these. The fallback is to simply ignore them, except for the ones that actually are your job.

      Not-good responses that I would enjoy imagining: Do the tasks, but badly. There are endless creative ways to do stupid tasks badly. Whenever possible, go into an endless loop of requests for clarification. Give incorrect answers, or better yet, present correct answers in the most unhelpful format possible. Asked to Google something? There is nothing in that request that implies you use good judgment about which of the innumerable responses Google turns up is correct. Better include the first five or ten pages. And so on.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        “Not-good responses that I would enjoy imagining: Do the tasks, but badly. There are endless creative ways to do stupid tasks badly.”

        This one has me giggling as I think up endless ways to have fun doing this.

        No, of course no one should ever, ever do this. It’s just so much fun to imagine!

      2. Self Employed*

        Yay, malicious compliance!

        Someone who is trying to break into the social justice networks that I’ve been navigating for a while started complaining that “nobody invites me to these events.” She’s clarified that she doesn’t feel comfortable responding to event announcements on social media (why??? that is literally why they bother to post on social media) and of course my friends and I have no idea which mailing lists she is or is not on. Most of the time I had no idea she’d even be interested because it’s not related to anything she’s mentioned to me.

        My response has been to forward anything even resembling a public event invitation. Social justice, small business assistance, NASA Mars press conferences, etc. I’m hoping she’ll get tired of it and have the sense to opt in for future event notifications if she responds, because she is an adult and I am not her assistant.

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I have seen some suggestions that the LW forward or cc: the requests to the actual PA, but I think that might not discourage the coworker from making the requests in the future, since the LW is still a one-stop shop for getting ‘tasks’ done. There’s no ‘punishment’ or responsibility put back on the coworker.

      Bingo. I’d just flag Jane’s emails as Spam until the mail server blocks them for me.

      1. Self Employed*

        Be careful. It’s more likely it will mark the domain as spam, not the sender.

  18. Jennifer*

    “Hi Jane,

    This is actually handled by Bob.

    @Bob Can you please assist Jane?

    Thank you!”

    Rinse and repeat.

    Once you do something that isn’t your job for the first time, that person is going to keep coming to you. Sometimes people genuinely don’t know who to go to for certain requests, so it’s a kindness to copy the correct person in your response. But after the first few times they should get the hint. This happens to me a lot because I have a common first name and a lot of people confuse me with employees who have totally different roles.

    1. Ama*

      Yup, this has been my experience. Even if all you do is forward the request to the person it is supposed to go to, the requestor only remembers “Ama got me an answer last time” not “Ama forwarded my email to Kate so I should ask Kate this time.”

      The only thing I’ve found works with people like this is to put all the onus for redirecting the email back on them — “Jane this seems like something Kate should do for you, I won’t be able to do these kinds of tasks any longer.” Don’t cc Kate, make Jane send Kate a new email so it becomes more inconvenient and time consuming for Jane than doing it herself or asking Kate to do it first. Do this every time for as long as it takes for her to get the idea — if you like you can even delay longer and longer to send this reply so she gets the hint that you have other work and her emails aren’t your priority.

    2. MCMonkeybean*

      I think that’s generally a good method but I’m not sure it makes as much sense here when most of the examples are things it’s kind of weird to ask *anyone* to do. You should never tell anyone else your passwords obviously, and I can’t imagine it ever doesn’t take more time to send someone an email asking them to rename your file versus just renaming it yourself.

      1. Jennifer*

        I do get your point but I don’t think it’s that unusual for a PA to do these kinds of things for their boss. You’d be surprised by the things people ask their assistants to do.

        1. Who is the asshole*

          Also in this case I’d argue that it doesn’t matter. OP is not managing weird colleague and has no authority to retrain her on this (and yeah, maybe that is normal in weird colleague’s position).

          OP’s only role in this is to get the weird requests to her to stop (or at least not act on them). what happens next is not her issue.

  19. Smithy*

    As stated, truly just stop. That being said, if it helps at all to put it in context – I do wonder if there was ever any larger bureaucratic “tit for tat” aspects between your predecessor and Jane where she found it easier to get necessary work from Jane if she did those things.

    I had a job where ultimately it became professionally beneficial for me to go to the shop near the office nearly every day to buy my boss snacks. She gave me the money, I got out of the office to get some sunshine and it helped reduce a little tension in our overall relationship. It wasn’t part of my job and even writing this out – I see how pathetic it is. But, it was a decision I made at the time that did help my overall professional life.

    Based on your predecessor’s assessment on how best to survive this job, that may have seemed reasonable. It may no longer be the case where appeasing Jane has that benefit, or the OP may not think it needs to be done. But it may help put into context why this was a set precedent.

  20. Jillian*

    Be absolutely sure that this is not, in fact, your job – perhaps clarify this with HR? I was once told that “Clarice” would assist me with any small tasks I was too busy with, but no one bothered to actually tell Clarice. We went several months with me thinking she was unnecessarily difficult and she thinking I was way out of line. It was very embarrassing for both of us when it was finally straightened out.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I just heard “Rename this pdf for me, Clarice” in Anthony Hopkins’ voice. Thank you!!!

    2. Ashley*

      I was thinking something similar. Maybe have a conversation with Jane about the impact it is having on your work, or a less direct route talk to Kate. I would do this face to face if COVID/work locations allow or over the phone/video call as a secondary choice.

  21. Mental Lentil*

    This is the kind of stuff that Let Me Google That For You is made for.

    lmgtfy dot app

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Way more polite than the acronym we have on some call closure notes: JFGI

    2. Bertha*

      I send that site to friends who ask me to look up goofy stuff, but I would never EVER send this to anyone I work with. It’s too passive aggressive for work!

      1. JR*

        Agreed, but I do dearly miss my former job that was an exception to this. Great working environment in which everyone liked each other, AND informal enough that you could send someone this and it would be taken as a joke (but still a hint).

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yes, unfortunately. The number of times I have been tempted to send it to a coworker though….

      3. Lime green Pacer*

        It’s too passive aggressive for most situations. I was a regular on a help form and due to a forum technical issue, I would sometimes be forced to use LMGTFY links. I always apologized in advance.

        I preferred to just tell people what keywords would be most helpful (after testing them myself), because websearching is a skill and I know that I am better at it than most of my peers.

      4. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I’ve had good luck with “on a call, can’t help right now, but try googling ‘how to rename a pdf.'”

  22. A Poster Has No Name*

    I wonder if Kate has already told Jane she won’t do stupid stuff like renaming a PDF or google stuff that Jane should darn well be able to do on her own, FFS, and that’s why Jane is sending them to the LW? It seems weird that Jane has a PA but is treating LW (and her predecessor) like one, which makes me think either Kate has already set that boundary (go Kate!) or she’s in the “off mini-golfing” category.

    Assuming she’s not the latter, if you have a relationship with Kate, I’d ask her about it–note that Jane is sending you these kind of tasks and ask if they should be sent over to Kate or whatever and see what she says. If you get an eyeroll and a “Yeah, sorry, I support too many people to help with the tasks Jane can do perfectly well on her own” you might be able to get some tips on the best way to deflect Jane on this stuff. If Kate has no idea she’s sending them over to you that’s a different convo, but could be enlightening or you can figure out what stuff is Kate’s and what stuff you should be straight up sending back to Jane as “sorry, you have to do this yourself. It literally took you longer to email me than it would have taken you to do the task.”

    If you don’t have a relationship with Kate, you could try ccing her on your refusals to do Jane’s minor admin work and see what happens.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        from Alison’s reply:
        Alternately, has Jane’s PA somehow convinced her that you are in fact the assistant, so that the PA can spend her days mini-golfing and such?

  23. GiantPanda*

    If Jane’s supervisor is the only one who could influence her behaviour then someone should loop that supervisor in. Probably OP’s supervisor, possibly OP herself (depending on the organization).
    At least a short email “FYI: Jane has repeatedly given work to OP that is not part of her job. OP is / I am going to stop doing these assignments and would appreciate it if you could ask her to stop doing this and give them to PA Kate instead.”

  24. Keymaster of Gozer*

    If I had tuppence for every time someone had figured the IT department was their personal assistant (‘what’s my Google password?’, ‘look up this info on the net for me’, ‘rename this file and send back ASAP’…) I’d….still have to work but I could buy my staff a load of coffee for dealing with that kinda stuff.

    Sounds trite, but the absolute best way to get it to stop is to first send instructions on how to do it themselves (I love writing FAQs) and then for all other subsequent demands you just say ‘no, I really cannot help any further with requests of this nature’

    (Side note: seriously had one person log repeated calls asking us to retrieve the password for their bank account. We are not a bank)

    1. Ama*

      The rename the file I find mind-boggling. The only time I’ve ever asked someone to rename a file is if I’m training someone and trying to teach them to follow our set file naming conventions.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Oh, that’s a really common one. First one I wrote in the FAQs on our intranet as it happens. There’s still a gratuitous amount of ‘.joe.sally.jpg.doc’ clutter on our servers though.

    2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

      I was once helping an employee (I work in a school library, this was not our job but we try to be helpful) try to log in to a gross predatory church website of which she was a member. She could not understand however many times I told her that this was her personal account, she had made the account (if in fact she ever had), and she would need to know what email she used if she wanted to retrieve her password. She could not comprehend that all technology did not flow through her school-issued email, iPad, and other accounts, and eventually called our school tech helpline to try to get signed into it.

      Luckily I think she eventually gave up and didn’t give them any money. I promise I really did try to help her despite my not wanting anyone to give them money, but she could not even hold instructions like “go home and, on your own computer with your own email signed in, try to retrieve your password.”

      1. Pickled Limes*

        I’m in public libraries, and we get variations of that all the time. The web browsers on our public use computers use the library website as the home page. Sometimes people will be confused because they opened Internet Explorer, but it doesn’t default to the same home page they see when they open it at home or at work, so they insist that our internet is broken. Other people try to search for websites in the library catalog search bar instead of the browser’s address/search bar. We regularly have people who want to learn to download library eBooks but have no idea what their password is for downloading apps to their phone. One time a guy tried to check his email by googling his email address. The level at which people don’t understand technology is not ever going to surprise me.

        1. TiffIf*

          I once worked a customer service job for a product that helped people create e-commerce sites. I would often need to know what browser people were using to help them better, but some people had no idea what browser they were using, or even what a browser *was*. Most of the time then you could assume it was Internet Explorer–but not always so I would still have to ask–because some more tech savvy family member may have installed something else or it might be a shared computer that defaults a different browser, etc. So I ended up asking “What do you click on to go to the internet” and the most common answer was “The big blue E” but sometimes it was something else.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Mad respect for library staff. I’ve got enough troubles overseeing a pretty locked down corporate environment (no Facebook, no Twitter etc) and could NOT deal with the kind of stuff library technicians must handle.

  25. Daisy-dog*

    I very much agree with forwarding it to Kate with Jane on CC. After the first time, I would ignore her requests for at least 5 days. Then send it to Kate with Jane on CC and say, “I’ve been busy with Project ABC and didn’t see this. I think this was meant for you, Kate.”

  26. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Regarding simple Internet lookups: I don’t recommend Let Me Google That For You given the OP’s situation because everyone here is right. Just stop doing what this person demands, OP!

    But I would be sorely tempted, just to be a brat.

  27. PeanutButter*

    I dealt with a similar situation (where someone got the idea that because I do work on computers, [ie, computational analysis] I could provide tech support for anything that was on a computer, or had to do with computers, or was connected to computers.) They were above me in the organizational hierarchy, but not in my chain of command.

    I started c&p-ing their requests (which were on the level of renaming pdfs) to the organization computing hub Yammer group and asking “do we need to be worried about [computer app] suddenly not allowing us to do [very simple task]? Is this a security risk?”

    It stopped immediately.

  28. Girasol*

    “Do you need me to show you how again, Jane? Or did you want me to pass that on to Bob-the-admin?” spoken a slightly pitying but also condescending tone, as if to say you’re sorry she’s incompetent but you know she can’t help it. If you can make her feel like she’s said something stupid and embarrassing she may stop.

    1. Frank Doyle*

      This is not an appropriate way to speak to people ever, but especially in a professional setting. It’s always better to speak plainly and directly than condescendingly.

  29. HailRobonia*

    A sort of opposite Joaquin/Wakeen situation, in my old job I used to work with two women with extremely similar names… both first and last. And they worked in neighboring labs. For the longest time I only interacted with them via email and used to joke to myself that maybe they were actually one person who was somehow doing both jobs at the same time.

    1. A Person*

      I had a colleague once where we had the same first name and same last initial. We used to joke about how to use this power we’d been given…

  30. SunnyGirl*

    I had a coworker that would regularly ask another coworker for random administrative things. 2nd coworker was not in any way administrative support and first coworker was denied repeatedly.

    It didn’t matter: 1st coworker was so wrapped up in her own little world, it never sank in who she should ask.

    I once repeatedly stressed that I could not work on a project of hers, as support, past a certain time as that one particular day, I had to leave early. She came with her very much needed changes around the time I was leaving. It was baffling.

    Some people really don’t see past their own noses. (And she was so very nice, too, when not wrapped up in her work world.)

    1. Observer*

      It’s weird. But from the OP’s point of view, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they not be burdened with this work. And for that, they just Need. To. Stop. Doing it.

  31. Cant remember my old name*

    I agree with all the recommendations from Alison and the other commenters. I would also add that just because she sets a deadline doesn’t mean you need to meet them. I would ignore it or respond back that you are busy with X so you are not going to be able to fulfill these types of tasks and CC her actual assistant. Depending on management, it may blow up in your face, but if your job actually expects you to do things outside your job description, they need to outright say that. Good luck.

    1. Cant remember my old name*

      I will also add to CC your manager. They don’t appear to have a backbone of their own, but they can at least appear to be backing you up by being CC’d on your refusal. Obviously run it by them first!

    2. The New Wanderer*

      “Rename this file for me”
      “No thanks”

      “Rename this file for me by COB tomorrow”
      “No thanks”

      Works just as well!

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        I think “No, thanks” and “That’s not my job” would both be kind of odd responses in a professional environment.

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      The problem with this “I’m busy” is that that isn’t the problem. The problem is that that is not OP’s job. Just say, “that’s not my job.” If you’re feeling nice, say “that’s not my job, that’s Kate’s job” and don’t forward the request to Kate — otherwise Jane will still email OP and expect OP to act as traffic cop. Just say no.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          That can work in personal relationships, but not always in work situations. Jane is higher up the org chart, and just ignoring her emails or saying ‘No’ without any cushioning is not going to go well for OP at her job.

        2. MCMonkeybean*

          People really overuse that here. That is for toxic relationships. Just saying “no” as a complete sentence without any explanation would generally be a bad idea at work.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Yep. The work version might be “I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that, but it sounds like something Kate can do for you.”

            1. Lizzo*

              Point taken, though in my experience as a cishet woman, we have been *so* conditioned to be accommodating, that having the mindset of a simple “no” being sufficient (i.e. the other end of the boundary-setting spectrum) is what it takes to change deeply ingrained behavior patterns.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                This is true. And I think the important part of “no is a complete sentence” is not that you need only speak one word, but that you do not have to give an excuse. You don’t have to say “no, because…” or “no, unless…” or otherwise provide something for the other person to argue with. You can just say “no, sorry, I cannot do that” without having to give a reason why, and that is also often true at work.

                1. Amethystmoon*

                  This will depend on the workplace. I got yelled at for daring to tell people I did not have the time to do x because I was swamped with y. Yes, because how dare we be honest about how busy we actually are, especially when overtime is not granted?

    4. Sylvan*

      I think OP needs to actually, straightforwardly say “no.” This person is probably too dense to realize that ignoring the message is supposed to communicate something, or that “I’m busy” means “no and don’t ask me again, please.”

  32. Not your admin*

    I had a friend who was a admin assistant for two different women who had VASTLY different expectations of what an admin should do. One, would walk right past the copy machine with a single page document and ask the admin to make a single copy of it. Meanwhile, the admin would be thinking, “Why didn’t she just print two copies?” The other would send her things like, “We are going to do a full day event focusing on X Topic for our clients. Please, have an itinerary for the event along with suggested volunteer guest speakers by next week.” It was like she thought her only job was to have ideas, and the admin’s job was to make them happen from start to finish, while the other boss only though the admin was capable of drafting emails and making copies. Both extremes were equally frustrating.

  33. Blisskrieg*

    I don’t have a PA, but honestly the items she are asking are so laughably easy–I can’t imagine asking a PA to do them. In the time it takes to email someone to ask to save a file as PDF or to rename it, it could have been done a few times over. I sometimes ask our department’s admin for help with formatting, but renaming a file (?) Do people really do this (other than with this OP)?

    1. BlueWolf*

      I work at a law firm and yes, I can definitely see certain attorneys asking for these things from their admin.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        My coworker does this to me all the time. We have a formula for how to name files so you can search for them easily. He just can’t be remember the formula. In his defense, our boss is super anal about it and I think it makes him nervous that he can never remember how to do it…even though he could just look at the other files. *eye roll*

          1. Frank Doyle*

            Write out the formula on a sitcky-note and attach it to his monitor. Which is what HE should have done ages ago.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          “Hey, RuralJuror, what’s the file name formula again?”
          “Um, sorry, I forgot. When you find it, can you write it down for me?”

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I used to have a supervisor who was like this. It was technically less of a problem since most of it was also my job, but she often just wouldn’t learn to do things. So if our shared boss asked for a scan of something she would avoid doing it until I was available to do it for her, because she just would not learn to scan things. Or attach stuff to emails.

    3. JillianNicola*

      My SO’s uncle is a big time attorney in our area, and he doesn’t know how to use email. When he gets emails he has his assistant print them out on paper so he can read them. I wish I was kidding lol. He’s so smart otherwise! But … yeah.

  34. No Name Today*

    Let’s see what I’ve learned from this.
    OP’s predecessor did everything that Jane asked without pushing back.
    OP told her boss that Jane is assigning her work. Her boss said it is not his problem. He will not change it.
    And the general thought is: predecessor was a doormat; she let Jane get away with this.
    No, predecessor worked for a jackass who doesn’t have his staff’s back. She was being mistreated and overworked and her manager’s response was “sucks to be you.”
    Predecessor noped out of there and good luck and god night to her. Fly free and far, woman.

    1. Artemesia*

      yeah — my thought too. Maybe the last person in this role got tired of being a PA and the boss didn’t back her up either. At least open up the mind to thinking about moving on.

  35. Tired of Covid-and People*

    Alison’s last sentence says it all, OP. Just stop doing this nonsense.

  36. irene adler*

    Depending upon the type of organization this is, OP might want to calendar every one of these tasks- in 15 or 30 minute increments as needed. Then see to it Jane’s department is charged for the time.

  37. I'm just here for the cats*

    I would also CC her actual PA when you email back. Say something like this would be better job for your PA, Kate, or another admin.

    Have you talked with Kate at all and asked what’s up?

  38. Sylvan*

    I think you need to directly tell her that you’re not a PA, what your job title is, and that her PA is there to handle the things she’s asking of you.

    I don’t know how she got it into her head in the first place, but she believes you’re her PA when you aren’t and she doesn’t seem like the brightest bulb, so you’re going to have to be really damn clear to get through to her.

    1. No Name Today*

      playing speculation game here, PA found better things to do, roped in the previous person, found out it worked and hey, why mess with success?

    2. *daha**

      This. “Hi Jane. We got off on the wrong foot somehow. My name is Writer and I’m not in the Teapot section at all. I analyze llama droppings and it takes up my full time. I am simply not available. Perhaps someone in Teapots can help you.”
      Repeat every time.
      And it does sound like Writer’s supervisor gave Writer permission to go to Jane’s supervisor. Go for it!

  39. Orange You Glad*

    I would just stop responding. If Jane asks then “sorry I was so busy with x, y, and z that I didn’t see your email”. What does Jane do when LW is out of the office?

  40. Great Company you should trust*

    New word I learned today: obstreperous. I cant wait to use it.

  41. Putting the Fun in Dysfunctional*

    Wouldn’t it be Machiavellian to forward her email to the whole company group, Jane needs help converting this to PDF, can someone help her out. Jane needs help doing X, can someone give her a hand. Every. Single. Time…..It would be passive aggressive and overkill but when spiteful daydreaming this it what I came up with….

  42. Bluestreak*

    The most galling part of this is that when the OP doesn’t respond quickly, Jane *sets a deadline* and sends the request again. You only do this with someone who is your direct report. She must be confused about the role of the OP or have a pathological level of DGAF.

    1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      Yeah – that detail stuck out to me to. It seems pretty clear that Jane has decided that she’s the OP’s acting boss. For some reason.

      What reason though? Petty power play? Genuine confusion about roles? Mixed the OP up with someone else? Force of habit? General disorganized spamming of minor tasks to anyone in her blast radius? Pure Machiavellian convenience?

      Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. “No” is the correct reply in all of those cases.

  43. animaniactoo*

    Yes. The main reason that nothing has worked to get Jane to stop is because Jane is still getting what she wants.

    You have to stop giving Jane what she wants. And if these tasks are not your job, remember that part of your job IS protecting your time so that you are not “helpfully” doing these tasks because they are quick or it is something that needs to be done. No. What needs to be done by you are 1) The tasks that are your job and 2) Protection of your time* so that you are available to do the tasks that are your job as quickly as possible. That is what your company is paying you to do.

    Which is also important to raise when you bring this up to your boss… you will not have time to do your higher-paying higher-level work that most other people in the company cannot do if your time is being taken up with these low-level admin tasks that are being mis-directed at you. And if he gives any sign that he is going to crumble and fold, be prepared to push back – If I had known these things would be part of my role, I would not have accepted this job. These tasks are not something I like doing and would prefer to focus on X Y Z which are part of what I was hired for. etc.

    *This does not mean that you never pitch in and help when others are snowed under. Just that you don’t take it on as easily as you have been doing. There are boundaries around it… a time limit, a level of assistance you are providing, etc.

  44. Unkempt Flatware*

    I once worked as program administration (highest level of management) for a public transit authority and the male drivers would constantly come to my desk to ask me to do admin stuff for them. I couldn’t ever figure out how to say no and also that’s not appropriate to ask me to do. One day a male driver walked up to the male police captain in charge of transit patrols to do admin stuff for him. The police officer became confused and a bit incredulous and said, “what? Why would you ask me that?” and swiveled in his chair never to be bothered again. It was gold and I used it just a couple more time before I was never asked to do shit like that again.

  45. Liz T*

    “apparently the person who was in my specific role before me was a bit of a doormat”

    I regret to inform you that you are also a bit of a doormat!

    Even the saltiest of us are at times. Something about a truly outlandish demand brings out the doormat in a lot of us, methinks. But yes, if you think your predecessor was at all to blame, then you are as much to blame. So cut it out!

    1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      I can see myself doing the same thing. When you are brand new at a job, still figuring out who everyone is, still trying to set a reputation as a team player, sitting around with not quite enough to do in your first weeks? If someone approaches you with a request that you can easily do, you will probably do it and not push back.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I can definitely see that early on.

        Jane sends a request. LW says she doesn’t think that’s her job, but gets the response “your predecessor used to do it” and capitulates.

        It takes a while to work out that Crystal did it because she was best friends with Kate, or loved the photocopier, or had been Jane’s assistant before transferring departments, or any other such circumstance that does not apply to LW.

  46. irene adler*

    Maybe make it really painful for Jane to continue handing off these tasks to the OP. Ask lots of ‘clarifying’ questions to be sure you understand that task at hand.

    “Rename this pdf? Jane, I’m not sure I understand exactly what you want me to do here. Details please.”
    Wait for her response. Then, “Not sure what renaming is. Please explain.”
    Then, “Well, this doesn’t sound like something one should be doing to pdf files.”

    And just keep rolling with the stalling questions and requests for clarifications.

  47. Galahad*

    Here is an alternative that actually worked well for me.
    Setup – 20 yrs ago, engineering office, I am a very junior engineer. Sr. Expert Engineer just hired into department has little familiarity with computers, other than single programs specific for engineering, was used to a secretary pool. The company had just transitioned away in prior 2 years from things like typists / PAs (except for very top) and paper filing clerks.
    I was asked constantly to do all the little admin things, file electronically, rename files, edit word, print an email, especially things involving PCs.

    My response was to go to that new engineer’s desk and have him do it while I gave 3min. “training” on renaming that PDF, etc. standing at his cubicle. And again. and again. It ended after 1 week. I wore him out. I think I did this maybe 5 times, he found another sucker or two who after about a week told him he needed to do this stuff himself, bluntly. He took it from a guy more easily than he would have from me. I think he then went to get an official admin assigned to him, failed because even more senior people did not have admins anymore, and left the company after 6 months.

    1. karma*

      I love this.

      I once had someone who insisted on a report done to his specifications. I was sending it out to a broad audience, and he wanted his own version. The person who was doing it left, and tbe requestor tried to rope me in to doing it.

      I pushed back, with the support of my boss, because we didn’t do customizations. Got on the phone to show this dude how to do it himself.

      First thing out of his mouth, ” I didn’t come here to learn how to tweak the report!”

      Well fine. I do not support you, and I will not be doing it for you. Some other sucker agreed to take it on, just to shut him up.

      Well, a few months go by, that person can no longer do the report. I guess no one else agreed to pick it up. Guess who emails me asking me to teach him how to do the report tweaks? it was a sweet sweet moment.

  48. Biglaw is weird*

    Any chance you *are* at a large law firm or similar? I can only speak to my experience (10+ years in a marketing for two BigLaw firms) but IME if a senior partner or rainmaker asks you to do whatever it is, your job is at serious risk if you make their life complicated by pushing back or refusing. It’s frustrating and often stupid and can lead to all sorts of abuse… but it is what it is.

    What you can do is talk to Jane’s PA and ask how she wants you to respond and handle it. Often the easiest approach is to just forward it without CCing Jane if the PA is good. Alternatively, you may just have to do it until you’re senior enough to have a PA you can delegate it to.

    1. Not All*

      I had the same reaction. I have a couple very close friends who work at a big law firm and either of them could have written this letter. Except they wouldn’t because they’ve worked in law firms for decades and know full well that you just do whatever the attorneys ask for with absolutely no pushback. At most you forward it to the correct person or give your supervisor a heads up that it’s going to impact some other work timing. If the attorney asks the head of IT to rename a pdf, he does it.

      Weird culture to me and I never cease to find their stories of “normal” days fascinating & alien. They feel the same way about my federal govt job…the norms are just so different!

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      I suspect that if the OP were in this type of environment, she’d know it, as would her boss, and she would have already been explicitly told “sorry, but we’re gonna need you to keep on doing whatever makes Jane’s life easier.”

      1. Not All*

        Maybe…but not necessarily if she came from a more “normal” organization where all the specialties were given relatively even weight. And I’ve noticed that people who have worked most of their careers in a particular weirdness don’t even realize the weirdness is something that should be explained. I had that when I went to work for another agency which is known for being super insular. The number of things that I ran into even after a couple years where they did things in an utterly alien manner from any other agency, had nothing documented, and just expected people to “know” was insane. Even if I specifically asked about what was the norm for XYZ, people wouldn’t actually say it. Possibly because they didn’t really even know how as weirdness was fundamental there, possibly because in trying to think about it they realized how insane it was. I could totally see a comparable situation happening there. I left as fast as a I could!

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Okay, but if she’s in an environment where the culture is that whatever the Jane-level people want, you do it for them, and her boss says “eh, I can’t stop her” instead of saying “yes, you need to give Jane whatever help she requests,” then her boss is even worse than we thought.

  49. Mononoke Hime*

    OP, since you compared your department to IT or PR, do you have a formal ticketing system or request intake procedure? If you do, keep referring Jane to the system/procedure. If not, talk to your boss and look into setting one up.

  50. mf*

    Some people suggested forwarding the requests to Jane’s admin–that’s not direct enough and you’re still doing Jane’s job for her by relaying requests to her PA. You need to clearly address this with Jane.

    Besides, as a former admin who kept getting admin requests looooong after I moved into a non-support role, let me assure you: these requests won’t stop until you say no. It’s OK to be matter-of-fact about it. Straightforward is not the same thing as rude. Some scripts…

    “Jane, this seems like an appropriate request for your admin. I’m not an admin, so I don’t manage other people’s passwords for them.”

    “Hi Jane–I’d appreciate it if you’d stop sending admin requests to me. I’m not an assistant and my role doesn’t generally involve support for your function.”

    “If you need assistance searching for XYZ document, I recommend reaching out to your PA. That’s more an admin task than a [insert your job title] thing.”

  51. BrickHouse*

    For people like that I just ignore them. Their email gets deleted with no reply. I assume people like that usually leave the organization because they’re not only annoying me but spreading it around. I haven’t been wrong yet.

  52. Four lights*

    Think about it this way, does your company really want to be paying you the amount they pay you to rename pdfs? It sounds like this really is above your pay grade and is costing the company money if it’s taking you away from your actual work.

  53. restingbutchface*

    This says a lot about me but my first thought was that the colleague has confused you for someone else and my second thought was that I would totally do that. Then I had a really clear mental image of receiving an email explaining that X person wasn’t who I thought they were and had been too polite to correct me. And now I am having a full on body cringe because I would just die of embarrassment.

  54. Tuna Casserole*

    I’ve had this issue, mainly with new co-workers. I always answer with “No, but I’m sure (appropriate coworker name) can help you with that.” Be polite. Be firm. Be sure of your job responsibilities.

  55. Lizy*

    I’d just do a simple reply, cc Jane, and say “I thought this stuff was Jane’s responsibility. Am I missing something?” and let them explain. Mainly because I’d be DYING to know what the explanation is/was.

  56. Empress Matilda*

    Oh my gosh, Jane sounds exhausting. I would do this:

    1. “Hi Jane, just to let you know that I won’t be able to handle this type of request for you any more – please direct them to Kate from now on. Let me know if you have any questions about llama grooming, though!”

    2. Create a filter to direct all emails from Jane into a separate folder.

    3. In a week or so, check the folder and respond to the oldest message: “Oh, sorry – I’m just seeing this now! Hopefully Kate was able to help you out.” (note, do not forward the request to Kate, or do anything else with it. The point of this email is really just to remind her that you’re not responsible for this kind of thing any more.)

    4. Do not respond to any further emails of this nature. Just let them sit in the special Jane-folder forever, and let her figure it out with Kate. If she phones you, or catches you in person to ask about her renamed PDF, jut keep repeating “Sorry, I can’t help you with that any more! I’m sure Kate can handle it.”

    Good luck!

  57. ambivalent*

    Is it possible that OP is in the IT department, and Jane is so incredibly bad with computers that she doesn’t know how to google, store her password or rename a file, and thinks this is an IT job? That might explain why she wouldn’t ask her own assistant (she’s not an IT expert!) ???? If so, maybe send her a quick list of “how to do these things yourself”? It might be funny to do that even if Jane isn’t computer-clueless, it would make a point.

    1. Weekend Please*

      If saying no isn’t an option then I defiantly would misinterpret her question as asking how to do it instead of asking me to do it. If the request to rename a file is met with a step by step instruction on how to do it, maybe she will get the message. Emailing someone to ask them to do it for you is actually more work!

  58. LMM*

    This letter gave me the shivers. Several years ago I was in a job where I wrote and edited digital content. That was my job. And I was co-opted by someone else in the department to PRINT HIS EMAILS. Of which there were hundreds daily and it would take me four hours and forests of poor trees to get through. It cut my work day in half. My manager and his boss did nothing. I still to this day have no idea how I got stuck doing this and why no one would back me up that it wasn’t my job. I would have quit except this was during the 2008 recession in an industry crushed by said recession and there was literally nowhere else to go, and I was making a decent salary with excellent benefits. I think it ruined my career.

    Find someone to help you (in my case it was my union) and get out of this task by any means necessary.

  59. wordswords*

    Potential script is Jane pulls the “but you always used to do it!” complaint: “Yes, I did things like this for you a few times as a favor to a colleague, even though it’s not part of my job. But I really can’t take time out of my own work on an ongoing basis, so I’m not going to be able to continue doing so in the future. Thanks for understanding!”

    And then hold firm (easy to say, I know, but cheery of-course-you-understand implacability can go far) if she keeps pushing: yes, it was a personal favor! No, it’s never been part of your job, thanks for understanding! Sorry, not this other favor either, that too needs to go to Kate! If Kate is swamped then you’re sorry, that sounds rough, but you still won’t be able to do this, good luck finding another solution!

  60. Cat Lover*

    I’m an office manager at a doctor’s office.

    I had an issue where I was getting emails intended for the OM in another office location (my company has multiple locations), and I realized after a while that the person sending them thought me and the other office manager were the same person. We have very similar names (think Lexie/Alexis, or Anna/Annie). I just started cc’ing the other OM so the other person knew.

  61. Manchmal*

    Someone may have made this suggestion, but I would suggest the OP be proactive and contact Jane with a note saying that she checked with her boss and confirmed that her role / job description does not provide administrative help for “the scientists” or even name Jane specifically. So unfortunately, going forward, she will not be able to assist with administrative/personal tasks. Hopefully KatePA will be able to handle them.

  62. DKMA*

    I think I would handle this with a progressive ghosting.

    Step 1: “Hi Jane, I know I’ve helped you with some of these things in the past, but it’s not my role and I don’t have time to keep doing this anymore. Thanks!”
    Step 2: “Hi Jane, as I mentioned I can’t help on these any more, looping in PA for you.”
    Step 3: Fwd to PA with no comments (do this a few times)
    Step 4: Ignore completely

    Depending on the power differential you may have to CYA with a warning email like “I don’t know why you keep sending these to me, I’m forwarding this one final time to PA, but won’t be replying to these emails anymore.” Disrupts the fadeaway though.

  63. aspiring chicken lady*

    I was in my job maybe a month when a new teammate came on board. We are both credentialed and in a slightly higher level position than many in our office, and he wasted no time in bragging about how many degrees he had. He sat in a desk directly behind me (no cubicles for us!), and needed assistance each morning to get logged in etc. I didn’t even last his first week before I simply said to him, “You’re going to have to figure out a way to remember how to do that.” I didn’t even turn around.
    This remains one of my proudest moments in retrospect because this guy turned out to be truly epic in his level of disruption of our entire office, and especially of my team. That boundary moment was a talisman and strategy I used to deflect his high handed, racist, sexist, and egotistical BS for 6 years until he finally took a job elsewhere.

  64. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    This is silly nonsense. It’s not even that Jane is treating you like her PA. Some of this stuff is so baby level that it would be a smack to ask her PA to do it. Jane likes to be served (not assisted administratively), and it sounds to me as if she’s trying to establish herself in a dominant position over someone who is not her subordinate, even though she might outrank you.

    One suggestion I’d make is a sweet reply,” Hi, Jane. I believe this is meant for Pogo, your PA, so I’m cc’ing Pogo on this email. Thanks!”

  65. Klio*

    Her assistant probably balked at being a password reminder and wasting time on renaming PDFs.

  66. Fabulous*

    I’m wondering if OP has talked to the assistant yet about why she thinks Jane keeps going to OP instead of her. The assistant seems like they’re possibly not doing their job…

  67. Workfromhome*

    IF OP has talked to her own boss and confirmed that this is not her jo to take care of these requests then the solution seems quite simple.

    Next request simply reply “Hi Jane. I spoke to my boss Fergus and he confirmed that this task (and list some of the other things she sent you) should not be done by me in the past or goi9ng forward. Please direct them to XXX in the future” (Depending on your relationship with your boss you could also CC him)

    Then just start deleting her future similar requests( You of course have to answer requests related to your role)

    The fact that you did these before doesn’t matter . Your boss said you dont need to do them so you aren’t doing them. Now Jane’s only option is to either ask you to go against your bosses instructions (which its very easy to say no to) or to find someone else to try to dump this stuff on.

  68. Right*

    Why wouldn’t *you* just forward them to her PA? Whether this includes cc’ing Jane or not depends on the org but I’d just be forwarding them to the PA (who is the correct person for this!) and then responding with “Yes, I forwarded that to Kate to take care of.” if she follows up.

    (My other guess is that Kate might be slow? So you’re doing these things faster? But it should all get redirected to Kate-the-PA anyway)

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