my “hybrid” team is using me as their way to not go to the office at all

A reader writes:

When the pandemic began, I was the member of my team who volunteered to go to the office to check the mail and do tasks that could not be done at home since I live alone, live closest to the office, tend to have the most tasks that cannot be done remotely, and liked the change of scenery a day or two a week when everything was locked down.

My company fully reopened offices two years ago, but only required coming to the office if you had reason to do so. My boss loves working from home and only requires the team to meet in person maybe once a month.

The rest of my team, including my boss, has developed a habit of asking if I can do certain tasks for them when I’m next in the office; I have only unexpectedly seen a member of my team at the office five times since March of 2020. It has gotten to the point that I spend more time doing favors for everyone than I do my own work when going to the office.

So tonight I had the straw that broke the camel’s back incident. My team was supposed to meet at the office tomorrow, but the boss sent a text message around 8 p.m. to the team saying that because two teammates have been sick and another is on vacation, she was canceling the in-person meeting and that we only had to go to the office if we needed to. Within 10 minutes, I got texts from each of my teammates (directly, not on the group chat) and my boss, asking if I could do X, Y, and Z for them. I got on the group chat and responded: “Since everyone on this chain sent a message to me implying that they also have things to do there, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at the office tomorrow.”

I should emphasize that I have not just been letting this stew for the last couple of years. I have let my teammates and my boss know that this has been irritating me and I was able to set the boundary with my teammates to not expect me to make special trips to the office for them since it fully reopened; I only would go there if I have work to do, and they would have to take care of their own emergencies. However, I am pretty sure that is why everyone sent their requests to me, including the boss, off of the group chat. For my teammates, it was so the boss didn’t see it, and for the boss, it was so that the team didn’t see it.

It’s been an hour and I have not gotten a single reply from anyone on the group chat or directly. I have a feeling that there is another group chat going that I am not part of. I guess that I will find out tomorrow whether or not I’ll be seeing my team. Either way, I have no intention of doing their work when I go to the office tomorrow. I am wondering if I handled this right, or if there may have been a better way to go about this.

I can see why you’re fed up — especially if things have gotten to the point that you’re spending more time on other people’s work than your own. But the solution to that was exactly what you’ve already done: talk to your boss about it and ensure you’re empowered to decline to do everyone’s in-office work for them. Now you just need to start holding firm to that boundary.

In this case, why not reply to each person who asked you to handle their work and say, “I can’t do that — I’ll be busy with my own work tomorrow. As a reminder, I’m no longer available to cover other people’s in-office work; you will always need to come in to do that yourself.”

Your boss’s request to do work for her while you’re there requires slightly different handling, but that could just mean saying, “I had set aside tomorrow to work on X. We had talked about me no longer covering other people’s in-office work since it was starting to take up all my time and keep me from my own job. I can do this tomorrow if you want me to bump back X, but I’m concerned about backsliding into the pattern we were trying to avoid.”

I don’t love the message you sent to your team instead of those options. Writing “since everyone on this chain sent a message to me implying that they also have things to do there, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at the office tomorrow” is a bit scoldy/schoolmarmish, when you could have simply set your own boundary and held to it. I can understand why you said it — you’re frustrated and feeling taken advantage of, and what you wrote certainly isn’t an outrage or anything like that. But to me it indicates that you’re still choosing frustration rather than the much simpler option you’ve been given: the ability to say no.

You don’t need to get involved with whether people show up when they need to or as frequently as they need to. You just need to hold your own boundary, which is to decline to pick up their tasks. How they handle it from there is up to them; you’re not responsible for that.

(By the way, you also have the option of telling people you don’t plan to be at the office on the day they’re asking about, which will be even harder for them to argue with. If you wake up and decide you’ll go in that day after all, so be it.)

Read an update to this letter

{ 327 comments… read them below }

  1. Gottem*

    …And this is why I don’t have my own advice column, because I LOVED OP’s group text. Genuine LOL over here.

    1. NeedRain47*

      Right? I absolutely love it and think it’s perfect. The team members are now being quiet b/c they know they were taking advantage of OP and don’t have anything to say for themselves. Hopefully they’ll think twice next time they ask OP to do something.

      1. DFT*

        It’s not a great reply though. It sets OP up as being difficult and reluctant to help, as well as passive aggressive. Here’s what I would have done:

        The best option was for OP to immediately message their boss and explain their frustration. And ask them to communicate with the team that they need to go to the office for any in-person tasks, not delegate them to anyone else.

        And then, as Alison says, hold the boundary that they’re only doing their own tasks in the office.

        It feels like OP needs to explain what they’ve been feeling to their colleagues one on one.

        1. Van Wilder*

          I hated it. Too passive aggressive. I would have rather they said “Do you know everyone on this group just texted me separately to do something for them in the office tomorrow? I apologize but I need to protect my time as I’m starting to spend more time on others’ work than mine. I’m asking you all here to figure out other arrangements.” And maybe a separate text to the boss that’s a little more placating.

    2. Generic Name*

      I know, I didn’t think it was terrible, but I come from a culture of extreme passive/aggressiveness.

      1. Prospect Gone Bad*

        exactly. They are playing into the drama created by people dumping work on them. With time I realized the real way to handle it is let the requests linger or ignore them, then do them days later when you have time. But you need to do it with an energy of “I am actual doing my job on other things” and not thinking “I am doing this purely to annoy others.”

        Sooner or later the coworkers with realize that their requests are so small to you that you barely register them; then they will pick them up themselves

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          This. Slow the cycle of request and response. If prodded, “Sorry, I was busy. I’ll get to it when I have a chance.”

            1. DJ Abbott*

              Yep, that’s the story of my work life.
              Luckily, the assistant manager has set boundaries with the older man who tends to think support staff can help him with minor things. He is learning to do those things himself.
              And while she’s holding these boundaries, she piles on the pressure by telling me the low-priority project sitting on my desk is now high-priority, and I have to do it as well as all the other urgent daily things. Sigh.

        2. You Don't Have To Yell*

          The real way to handle all this is to avoid the convoluted games and learn Assertive communication techniques. OP doesn’t need to be Passive (a doormat), Aggressive (yelling and screaming), or Passive-Aggressive (doing the extra work but with an attitude or dragging it out till later). With Assertiveness OP could safely set boundaries with her boss and coworkers without the risk of being seen as insubordinate and with all parties involved maintaining their self respect. The techniques aren’t hard, don’t take long to learn and there are tons of self help guides to get them started.

        3. Lacey*

          Yes, or, for example. I have coworkers who tend to submit a request (that is my job to take care of) but then come back 1-5 times in the next few hours with things they forgot.

          I always wait to complete their requests. It’s practical time wise and it keeps me from being irate when the extra requirements come in because they’re not cropping up after I’ve finished. It keeps me from feeling spiteful to just note, “This is from Shelly, so more is probably coming and I’ll work on it then”

      2. New Mom*

        It actually made me cringe a bit BECAUSE I came from a very passive aggressive family, and could see my mom or sister writing this message. I luckily have found myself in a workplace that is not passive aggressive because a message like this would really stand out. But I definitely, definitely empathize the OP because the situation is super frustrating.

        I think the problem with the messages being a bit passive aggressive is it undermines the very real issue of people taking advantage of the OP, when they have already been told not to do so. Now the other teammates can focus on the tone of the message instead of the message itself.

        1. Random Dice*

          Based on that comment I’d assume she was pretty steamed, and if there were another couple similar comments I’d put her mentally in a “snappish and passive-aggressive” category. If this were a one-off thing it wouldn’t matter, though.

      3. Lenora Rose*

        I don’t think it’s *terrible* (and I don’t think Alison thought it was) but it’s not ideal.

        I also think that a bit of this kind of chastisement is in fact in order *IF* you have been clearly setting boundaries for a while and are still being bombarded, but while OP has been trying to set boundaries, it’s not clear just how firm they’ve been.

    3. Sloanicota*

      I dunno, to be honest the message was classic passive-aggressive; pretending to be happy (“looking forward to seeing you”) while in fact being extremely aggressive (outing everyone to their boss and each other without prior discussion). Unfortunately, I think it may have cost OP a bit of the high ground here, which is one of those annoying things because she is very much in the right.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        OP has lost the high ground, but what are the stakes? Coworkers won’t work with her? It sounds like they are all peers. OP does not say she has ever asked anyone to do anything (I’m assuming other than cover sick or vacation days.)
        Definitely the nuclear option, but I think the fall out: Coworkers thinking, “OP is a prig and jerk so I can’t ask her to help me with this ONE LITTLE THING because omg, she’s always the one” is better than than the “Yeah, OP is going in anyway. I just have to listen to her ask me fifty different ways if I am coming in, but I’m not so she will do it.”

        1. NerdyKris*

          The stakes are that LW has harmed their relationship with their coworkers. Pissing off the people you work with tends not to be a good idea in the long run.

            1. Gherkin*

              No, and nobody has said that it is. Two things can be true:
              1) Coworkers should not be offloading all their in-office work to LW
              2) LW should not be passive-aggressive in how they respond to requests

              1. Rainy*

                Tell me how long you manage to be shiny and happy when people continually push your boundaries and dump their work on you before you crack? Is it three years?

                1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  No, because month two I’ve been firm enough in not letting them push my boundaries that this isn’t an issue.

                  That’s not easy for everyone, but this is why it’s important. No one should be cracking.

                2. New Mom*

                  I think there is a third option besides being passive aggressive and pretending to be happy about it: being direct. The problem with passive aggressiveness is is really undermines what a person is saying, and tends to put the receiving person on the defensive and let’s them refocus the discussion to “tone” instead of the issue at hand.
                  I think Alison’s advice about being direct with each request is really spot on.

                3. Rainy*

                  For the record I think there are better ways to handle this, but I absolutely get it. Passive aggressive isn’t my deal, personally, but like I said…I get it.

                  I just don’t think that bashing the LW for how she phrased her extremely understandable reaction to yet another attempt for her coworkers to push their work off on her is tremendously helpful.

                4. Gherkin*

                  Nobody is bashing the LW. LW asked if they had handled this right, or if there may have been a better way to go about this. We are telling LW the problem with their tone, and giving better ways to handle requests, to wit, by calmly and directly saying no.

              2. Molly Coddler*

                They were not listening to her until she got passive aggressive. It was completely called for. She’s not there to make friends, she’s there to work. If they don’t like her for being snarky/passive aggressive after MULTIPLE requests to do their own stuff in the office, they’re jerks.

                1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

                  The middle ground would have been for LW to start saying “no” before it reached this point. “Sorry, X also asked me to do a favor and I need to make sure to get [own tasks] done while I’m onsite.” “I won’t have the bandwidth.” “I’ll be busy tomorrow.”

                  Saying “hey, I don’t love being asked to do these errands for everyone” but then doing the errands anyway isn’t holding a boundary. It’s not the end of the world that LW snapped at them, but it’s not like there weren’t other options for handling this.

                2. Cait*

                  Radical Candor is usually the way to go (i.e., “care personally and confront directly”). Basically, you want to name the Situation, Behavior, and Impact in order to give feedback that isn’t coddling but also not AH-ish.

                  “During the pandemic I was the one going into the office to take care of vital tasks, which worked for me at the time (Situation). But now the office is open and I’m still getting many requests from coworkers asking me to do favors for them so they don’t have to come into the office (Behavior). This means that I’m becoming overwhelmed and am now unable to get my own tasks done (Impact). Therefore, I can no longer assist with these tasks unless there is an absolute emergency.”

                  This approach is usually the most effective because it deals with facts and doesn’t attack anyone personally. OP’s chat, while not aggressive, was certainly passive aggressive. So I’d just suggest they take the higher ground next time and the more Radical Candor approach.

                3. Random Dice*

                  @Cait, I really like the Radical Candor approach. That’s exactly what would have worked!

                  The LW took a very similar tack with us here at AAM, laying out the situation behavior and impact. She can absolutely manage this with her peers, she already has the skills.

                  Since she burned her peers in front of their boss, she needs to repair bridges. (Which is annoying to have to do when one feels taken advantage of for years – but what she did was worse than them asking for favors, and repairing is on her.)

                  Fortunately she can repair bridges while also enforcing the boundary: “hi Fergus, I’m sorry for snapping at you and everyone on the team, in front of Wakeen. I should have texted you individually to say no, and that wasn’t cool of me.

                  Because everyone asks me for in-person tasks, I’m getting behind on my own work and honestly I’ve been feeling taken advantage of, and I’m not doing those favors any more. But I should have said that directly and privately in this moment, instead of an annoyed group text.”

                4. You Don't Have To Yell*

                  She may not be there to make friends but she’s not there to make enemies either especially since this involves her boss. Assertiveness (not passive aggressiveness) is the way to go.

            2. Lacey*

              Yeah, there always seems to be someone that it’s fine to be rude to and then they hit their breaking point and everyone gets mad that they would dare have a breaking point.

              I get that there are better ways to respond, but they’re more wrong than the OP.

          1. Allonge*

            Everyone else has OP already pretty good and mad at them about the in-office thing though. It’s not ideal but it’s not that big of a risk.

          2. Empress Ki*

            LW coworkers have harmed their relationship her. LW only reacted. If you try to dump your work on a coworker, don’t be surprised if they take it badly.

          1. DCompliance*

            This. It’s not like she reported her company to the Department of Labor. That’s nuclear.

        2. Prospect Gone Bad*

          last comment on this one – when you lose the high ground, it’s in general. Not just in a particular case on a particular day. Yes, they are 100% right in this case. However,

          let’s say in two years there is a promotion opportunity that involves dealing with difficult people or managing people. Then all of the past stuff comes ups, and upper management is thinking “they can’t even have a discussion about basic admin work without blowing up”

          Been there, done that earlier in my career, and had to explain I changed and see things differently now.

          1. DCompliance*

            I am sorry that happened to you. However, if someone got denied a promotion because he or she made one passive aggressive remark when people were dumping work on you from 2 years ago, leave. Unless you are going to ask the managers of all internal candidates if they ever made a passive aggressive remark and start writing people up when they do, that is a high standard.

        3. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

          Calling the OP’s message the nuclear option is a huge exaggeration. The nuclear option would be something like emailing the grandboss and the head or HR to complain. Or taking a screenshot of all the messages, pasting them in the group chat and then going on a profanity-ridden rant about how much the co-workers/boss all suck.

          1. Random Dice*

            Ha! That’s a good point. We see the nuclear option here so often.

            For example, LW didn’t poop in a potted plant or their team’s lunches, or make IEDs or, god forbid, bring in cheap-ass rolls.

      2. NeedRain47*

        IDK about your workplace, but I’m required to pretend I’m happy at all times, even when I’m trying to set boundaries with people who are treating me unreasonably. IMO it comes off as passive aggressive, but if I am calm and factual this comes off as too blunt and “mean”. A lot of it has to do with sexism, women just can’t stand up for themselves w/o being criticized.

        1. Colette*

          It doesn’t sound like the OP made any attempt to set a boundary. Instead of saying “sorry, I won’t have time to handle that for you”, she choose passive-aggressiveness.

          1. Rainy*

            I should emphasize that I have not just been letting this stew for the last couple of years. I have let my teammates and my boss know that this has been irritating me and I was able to set the boundary with my teammates

            Yes, she did. She says so explicitly.

            1. Colette*

              But in this circumstance, she didn’t say no – she just sent a passive-aggressive message on the group chat.

              You don’t set boundaries by saying no once; you have to maintain the boundary and the OP didn’t do that.

              1. Allonge*

                People consistently pushing boundaries should not be surprised to get a harder pushback at some point.

                1. Artemesia*

                  A bland. ‘I don’t have time to do this, my own work is stacking up’. or ‘I won’t be able to do that, you will need to come in.’ is clear, maintains the boundary and isn’t snotty.

                2. Allonge*

                  It’s not that I disagree but when you have to do it regularly, for your whole team, it gets to the point where snottiness looks like a reasonable alternative. OP has been doing (part of) everyone else’s jobs for them for years (taking a risk by the way). Not seeing any end to this is frustrating. Frustration brings out suboptimal reactions.

              2. Tio*

                This here – She was approved to set a boundary but it looks like she actually didn’t. Being allowed to say something and actually saying it are two different things. I don’t see where OP has actually mentioned at all that she has actually said no. It sounds like she’s been storing up annoyances until she exploded, and while her message could have been worse, it will definitely put people’s backs up. And the fact that she included her BOSS could have some consequences for her. You don’t tell your boss what to do in that way, calling them out in front of everyone, unless you’re prepared for consequences.

            2. goducks*

              The boundary she details is that she’s not going to make special trips to do other people’s tasks. It’s not clear that she set the boundary that she wouldn’t do other people’s tasks if she’s there for her own reasons.

              1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

                Correct – setting a boundary around special trips on other people’s behalf(!) isn’t a boundary around doing other people’s work for them on the days that LW goes in to do their own work, which LW doesn’t appear to have instated at all according to this letter, since these favors are usurping the in-office time.

            1. Colette*

              The OP says she was able to set a boundary that she wouldn’t make special trips to the office to do other people’s work. She does not say that she ever said she wouldn’t do their work at all, or tell them that she couldn’t do their work in this specific circumstance.

              What am I missing?

              1. Allonge*

                That OP should not have to write a detailed rulebook on how they will not do other people’s job for them.

                1. Zombeyonce*

                  Where did anyone claim she should do that? All she really needed to do was say “No, I can’t do that” and then not do it. It’s pretty straightforward.

                2. Allonge*

                  Colette is saying OP should have specified that it’s not just about special trips, it’s also about days in the office. ‘OP will not do other people’s jobs’ is also pretty straightforward and yet somehow the entire team misses it.

                  And yes, OP should ‘just say no’. How many times a day, cheerfully, until when?

                3. Gherkin*

                  And yes, OP should ‘just say no’. How many times a day, cheerfully, until when?

                  How many times? Every time someone asks.

                  Cheerfully? There are more options than cheerful or passive-aggressive. Calm and direct works well.

                  Until when? No is a complete sentence, but “No, and I will not be able to do your in-office tasks from now on” is more likely to get them to stop asking.

                4. Colette*

                  Agreed. But she does need to tell them, using her words, that she can’t do their work. If she’s never willing to do it, she should say that. (“A lot of people have been asking me to do this kind of thing, and it’s affecting my ability to do my job, so I’m not going to do it anymore. Everyone will have to make other arrangements.”) If she’s willing to do it sometimes, she should tell them that. (“I’m happy to help when I can, but sometimes my workload doesn’t allow it, so I’ll say no.”)

                  She doesn’t have to cover every contingency, but she does have to let people know she can’t do what she’s been doing.

              2. Tracy Flick*

                The fact that this specific circumstance is very close to “special trips to the office to do other people’s work.” This happened because the team was supposed to meet at the office but then the meeting got canceled.

                Then everyone *immediately* approached the LW on the assumption that LW would go into the office alone and do their work for them on short notice.

                Technically a “special trip?” Maybe not. Meaningfully different? Probably not.

                LW’s team members are not opposing counsel. They’re responsible for following the rules in good faith, and that includes critically thinking about their behavior and how it affects their coworkers and their company. That’s basic professionalism.

                It’s also unfair to expect LW to carefully manage communication to this degree while giving them a pass on insensitive and frankly selfish behavior, which is communication in its own right.

                1. Allonge*

                  Yes, thank you. Tto be honest I am not wild about the comments that say ‘OP did not state their boundary in the exact specific manner that I would expect / accept’.

                  This is a pretty dangerous line of thinking, especially considering it’s about someone doing someone else’s job.

          2. Prospect Gone Bad*

            Which is also confusing because in maybe half of offices, people volunteer to do this stuff for you. Like when two of my coworkers go the office, they send around emails to people who got mail. They volunteer to print stuff for you and bring stuff to UPS across the street. So if you work with people like that for years, you may fall into the habit of excepting people to do that stuff, because people had done that stuff for you before

        2. WillowSunstar*

          Right, and it seems women aren’t allowed to be direct without people calling us “mean” or certain swear words. So I guess we have no choice but to pretend to be happy, or at least to be super polite without passive-aggressiveness at all times, no matter what.

          1. Colette*

            No one is saying that.

            I am saying that you need to be clear and direct, and not expect other people to read your mind.

          2. AlsoADHD*

            Is LW even a woman? I do think (and I am a woman) that women face pressure to be accommodating and do non promotable undesirable activities in many offices. But I don’t really think we have the gender dynamics here and certainly I do think LW *was* actually passive aggressive (I get why, it was snarky because they are frustrated) instead of pointing out individually or to the group that this was them each asking LW to do their work at an inconvenience in a way they’d already established was problematic.

        3. Lacey*

          Do we work in the same place? Yeah, I work in an office where certain people can be absolute jerks, but everyone else needs to pretend they love it.

          It’s less gendered though.

    4. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I laughed and simultaneously had flashbacks to the war (the war in this case being childhood). Wondering if my mom sent this letter in.

      I mean, the team definitely deserves a bit of passive aggression but it’s not usually a healthy or helpful way to resolve these things. But so few people are ever taught how to set boundaries or given safe opportunities to practice, it’s hard to criticize people for reacting this way.

      Sending you good vibes OP. The advice is dead on and best of luck with boundary setting going forward! Stay focused on you because you’re the only person you really have power to change.

      1. knitcrazybooknut*

        “The War” is a GREAT term to apply to my childhood as well. I often refer to my childhood home as The Institution, so you get where I’m coming from. :-)

    5. High Score!*

      Yep, I also thought this was the perfect reply and would further no longer enable any of them.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      Same, I confess.

      I have let my teammates and my boss know that this has been irritating me

      If the boss had taken this in hand before, the LW wouldn’t have gone this far. The boss needs to tell people to come in and handle their own work.

      1. Artemesia*

        She just needs to blandly tell them she won’t be able to do their work. Then not do their work.

        1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

          Agreed. If you say “no” enough times people will stop asking. If you say “by the way I don’t love this” and keep doing it anyway, people will continue to ask because they figure it’s “just one favor.” They’re not right to do it, but, well, dealing with humanity in all of its wild and glorious imperfection is part of functioning in a workplace. Action trumps words in showing people how you’re willing to work with them.

          I’ve had people ask me consistently for tasks that my team could do but that are outside of my purview. The answer is “no” every time. Has it made me friends? No. Has it gotten this task off of my team’s plate? Yes.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            That’s right. You can even say it nicely! “I’m so sorry, I won’t have a chance to do that for you.” The upshot is still “no.”

            1. GrooveBat*

              I’d tweak that a bit and say, “Sorry; I’m not doing anyone’s in-office work for them anymore.” If you start rationalizing or explaining by saying you “don’t have time,” they’ll keep asking because you *might* have time next time.

    7. Molly Coddler*

      Same here. One of the few times I disagree with AAM. They already heard her say it nicely a bunch of times and ignored/”forgot”/etc. I bet they don’t forget the message now. Snark was needed and snark was used beautifully and appropriately IMHO.

    8. The Person from the Resume*

      It was VERY passive agressive and not professional.

      Alison’s suggestion to just say no to each individual is perfect. LW should just keep saying no all the time to all the requests.

      1. Molly Coddler*

        It was unprofessional of them to ignore her requests for them to do their own job. Not everyone is a saint that can say things nicely 100 times and still be nice asking for the 101th time. She is an employee like everyone else and if they don’t get the nice message after multiple times, they get snark. And like I said elsewhere, they deserve it, and I bet they don’t ask her to do stuff again. If this makes them shun her, they’re just common jerks.

        1. The Person from the Resume*

          You may be a bit biased, Molly, because you seem like an aggressive person.

          Just because you’re legitmately frustrated that does not excuse getting angry and unprofessional.

          1. nodramalama*

            And I think maybe you read aggression where it’s not, because 1) OP’s message might have been a bit pass agg and ill advised but was not “VERY” passive aggressive, and neither was Molly.

      2. Jade*

        It’s not passive aggressive it’s aggressive aggressive. She has already asked nicely.

    9. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      I’m surprised by how many people approve of that message. I get why the LW did it, but it really was not ideal. It was snarky, and also slightly counterproductive because the way to get them to stop asking is to always just say, no, sorry, no can do.

      1. DrSalty*

        People like it because it’s funny and because a huge number of people are socialized to be passive aggressive.

        1. Tio*

          It’s also way easier for someone who won’t have any consequences to applaud something like this. When the OP’s boss is cross with them and OP has to deal with the fallout, all the people who think this is “so cool” will not be around. this is why I have a huge issue with the “gotcha moments” that’re so popular on the internet nowadays; they’re a cool story, but not actually a good way for most people to handle things, at least not to their benefit.

          1. Tracy Flick*

            I hear you, but I think this cuts both ways. It’s true that many people have a higher risk of negative consequences when they are assertive – and the fact that LW’s team has been walking all over LW for years indicates that LW might be one of those people.

            However, there’s no approach that actually solves this problem. Their unequal status doesn’t disadvantage them in one situation, it disadvantages them totally:

            If LW is direct, they risk blowback for being “blunt.” If LW is passive-aggressive, they risk blowback for being “snarky.” If LW is super-nice (or passive), they risk being ignored, and maybe even blowback for being “unclear” or not “advocating for themselves.”

            Reasonable people can reasonably disagree about the best strategy given these disadvantages – staying nice (and maybe downplaying negativity or assertiveness) can mean less risk of retaliation. On the other hand, an assertive approach is harder to ignore.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              I think the middle ground is saying very nicely, “I’m sorry, but I won’t have time to do anyone else’s work. My deadlines are looming,” or whatever. And then not do the requested tasks. Consistently holding to this will get OP what she wants.

      2. Yorick*

        I like it as part of a story, and I’m assuming people aren’t separating that from real life. It’s definitely not an appropriate way to interact with coworkers, and certainly not with your own boss.

      3. Fluffy Fish*

        Agreed. I think most of us have dealt with a boss or coworker that invites a snarky response. Understanding why OP sent it and telling OP that was a great idea are two different things.

        Its never professional. Doesn’t matter how someone else acts, has acted, will act. And yeah it sucks when you have to take the high road.

        I think OP should take a step back on the “I haven’t been stewing about this” because it seems that they actually were. As others have mentioned, setting a boundary means nothing if you don’t stick to it.

        Re-reading, OP said told them they would not be making SPECIAL trips to the office to do colleagues tasks and they would not be handling colleagues emergencies. That’s a bit different than, “I will no longer do your work in any circumstances”.

        Maybe OP didn’t intend it to be different but if everyone is still asking, I can very much see them doing so because its 1)not an emergency task and 2)they perceive that OP was going in anyway.

        It seems like at the heart of it is a communication issue. One side thinks they were clearly meaning xyz and the other side heard abc.

        I would also step back and reconsider assigning malice a la everyone messages directly because they were trying to be sneaky. Maybe OP is spot on. Or maybe they’ve entered the BEC stage of the issue. Personally if I am asking someone something its not uncommon that I do outside of a larger group. Mostly because I’m not trying to derail something or its not something everyone in the group needs to know.

        If your colleagues/boss are otherwise normal human beings not prone to sneakiness or unreasonableness, its usually a good idea to give the benefit of the doubt.

        OP I hope you are able to get a resolution to this issue. When you feel like things are being done at you it does so chip away at you and how you perceive others and even feel about your work.

      4. Molly Coddler*

        Ideal is your colleagues listening to your requests and not making you have to keep asking.

      5. Totally Minnie*

        I think a lot of it is wish fulfillment. Most people can’t think of the perfect zinger in the moment, so we walk away frustrated thinking about all the witticisms we could have said. So we see a story where somebody else does that and think “Yes! The thing I always wish I could have done!” The problem is that the witty zinger isn’t usually conducive to a polite working environment.

        I totally understand what brought the LW to their breaking point here. But I think it’s important to weigh the satisfaction of making this kind of statement against what will actually cause the change that needs to happen. It feels good to say in the moment because this is a resentment that’s been brewing in LW for a long time. But once the relief wears off, are their coworkers actually going to realize that what they’ve been doing was wrong? Or are they going to think “geez, I only asked for one tiny favor, LW didn’t have to get so weird about it.”

        But I think LW can still fix this. First, go to the boss and apologize for the message. Tell her you’re under a lot of stress trying to complete your own work along with all the favors people continue to ask of you, and in the moment you snapped and made the wrong choice. You wish you had handled it more professionally, but you do need a long term resolution where your teammates do their work and you do yours.

      6. linger*

        What I like about the group message is that it makes the point that while ONE request might sound reasonable, EVERYBODY doing it simultaneously is not, so the coworkers actually do need to be made aware of the scale of the problem they’re creating for OP, more so than individual replies could achieve.

        1. Clumsy Ninja*

          It’s the old, everyone thinks they’re special and the only one asking for a favor. So you’re unreasonable for not doing it. But they don’t stop to think that they’re NOT special and they’re NOT the only one.

      7. Officeworker*

        Saying “no sorry” over and over again is a lot for the OP to have to do, if, like so many women, saying “no” is very uncomfortable. She’s said already to them, I can’t keep doing this, when someone says “I can’t keep making special trips to the office for your work” it’s not a stretch for them to also assume she won’t be able to do their work on demand just to save them a trip.
        I don’t know if it was the right approach, but I can 100% see why she snapped.
        Alison’s suggestion that she individually messages them all to say “I don’t have time for this because of X” to me seems worse because the coworkers could reasonably imply that when “X” is over she’s available again. Saying No with no explanation is also going to get her labeled as uncooperative, it’s a total lose lose situation.

      8. Happy meal with extra happy*

        I agree. People love to live vicariously when they get to read about a triumphant cod resignation but not if there’s a chance they become the weird fish person.

    10. Bookworm*

      Same. I understand why some might be like “eh,” but if the OP has been telling her colleagues (including the boss!) that this isn’t their job, this wasn’t an unreasonable message to send? Especially none of us on here know the dynamics of this team, either, etc.

      But yeah, I would also not be one to advise, LOL!

      1. Ellis Bell*

        This is where I land. If it had been the first time anyone had ever heard that OP was getting annoyed, then it’s not direct enough, and it’s too passive aggressive. But they already knew these requests were irritating OP, and just big fat did carried on dumping requests on OP anyway. They can’t exactly feign shock that OP is now clearly and overtly irritated. I do agree that consistent, cheerful “no I can’t do that, sorry” is the smartest and least dramatic way forward, but sometimes you do get pissed off with people being this lazy.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          I think it’s also important to note that the individuals keep making the requests in a way that others don’t see them. No one may know how bad the barrage is (except the boss). I can’t blame the LW for telling them as a group so they might actually understand how many requests are being fielded. The boss doesn’t seem to be speaking up for the LW like they should be, so telling each individual “No” in an isolated manner may feel exhausting. I can’t say I blame the LW, even if that’s not the most professional reaction.

          1. Gumby*

            Yeah, the only change I would suggest would be to the wording. Sending a group response draws attention to the fact that it isn’t “just a quick thing for me” but “quick” things from 5 – 6- 7 – howevermany people. Plus it’s just fewer responses to have to handle and reduces the chance one slips through the cracks. The part about seeing everyone tomorrow in the office was a touch snarky and not, ultimately, as clear that OP was saying she wouldn’t do the tasks. But something like “In the 15 minutes since Manager sent the preceding message, I have been asked to handle tasks for everyone on the team. While you might each individually think that your request is small and quick, it adds up.” and then Alison’s suggested wording about not being available to cover other people’s work.

            But also? I’m not thrilled with the message at 8 p.m. if this is a team that generally has a standard work day. It is better than the reverse (a meeting for the beginning of the next day appearing on my calendar well after working hours the previous day – which does happen to me way too often and drives me batty) but only barely.

    11. casey*

      Nah–people need to get into the mindset that they’re allowed to say reasonable things like, “I’m unfortunately unable to handle that for you,” and/or, “This is part of the pattern that we’d previously discussed,” etc. This response, as with all passive-aggressive responses, comes from a place of disempowerment and the perception, real or not, that they speaker isn’t “allowed” to say certain things. And that communication wall needs to be investigated one way or another, whether it’s because genuine discussion is implicitly or explicitly discouraged, or because the speaker needs to alter their attitude or understanding of what’s permissible communication within the team. This type of sneakiness is almost never a good sign (and I say this as someone who has to fight that urge and interrogate it more often than I’d like to admit)!

      1. popko*

        Yeah, it didn’t accomplish anything that just saying “no, I can’t do that,” wouldn’t have– or hell, calling out the pattern in the group chat explicitly instead of passive-aggressively with something like, “Hey, I’ve gotten an in-office request from everyone[/multiple people] on the team at this point, so just a head’s up that my workload doesn’t allow for me to cover the rest of the team’s in-office tasks so I won’t be able to help with those. Thanks for understanding!”

        1. Stripes*

          Yes — If you want to do it as a group message, and point out to everyone that EVERYONE sent you a request, this is how to do it. Just say the thing you want to say, without the sarcasm. It’ll accomplish the positive parts of the zinger (enforcing the boundary and emphasizing the scope of the problem) without the unproductive parts (expressing disgust at your teammates).

          Allison’s suggestion of individual denials is good, a group message phrased firmly-but-politely is good, a sarcastic zinger is good for an anonymous tweet but not for fixing a working relationship.

          1. Stripes*

            (Oops, “Alison”. As someone with a name that similarly has multiple common spellings, I hate to make that mistake.)

    12. Sandals and sneakers*

      Snarky? Yeah kinda. Bit passive aggressive? Sure. Effectively communicated to the entire team that it’s not one person it’s EVERYBODY so they should not feel singled out in her refusals to take on other tasks? Done! I think I would have done the same thing

      1. Gherkin*

        It’s debatable how effective it was, since the tone is likely to overwhelm the message. LW could have communicated to the entire team by directly stating that their workload doesn’t allow them to complete tasks for other people while they are in the office.

        1. Allonge*

          Sorry to latch onto this but your comment made it clear for me why I feel so much sympathy for OP – they should not have to explain at all, ever, why they are not able to do significant parts of their whole team’s job. It’s not a question of workload! It’s just how life works: everyone does their own job and while we sometimes trade off favours, it should balance out.

          But here OP was doing everyone a favour (taking quite a risk by the way) for years. And now they are the bad guy. And should still spend time and energy pushing back against doing other people’s jobs, one by one. But, politely. Arrrgh.

          1. Gherkin*

            There is what should happen, and there is what IS happening. As someone else already pointed out, LW’s coworkers didn’t write in for advice. If they had, we could advise them to stop asking LW for help. Since LW wrote in and asked whether they handled right or whether they should have done something else, the comments, and the answer from AAM, are responding to that.

            Since you did reply to me, I will point point out that I did not advocate replying one-by-one. I don’t think “my workload does not allow” is a particularly burdensome explanation, nor do I think being polite is an unreasonable ask.

            The world is not a just place, and we have to deal with the world we have, not the one imagined in the Just World Fallacy.

    13. Ally McBeal*

      Yeah, I disagree with Alison that it wasn’t a good idea – I don’t think it was the BEST AND MOST PROFESSIONAL idea, maybe, but since OP has made their frustration clear several times to the whole group and her boss individually, I would be very, very mad about getting a barrage of texts (including one from my boss) from every member of my team just 15 minutes after the in-person requirement was waived. This is backsliding and the fact that it’s happening via individual texts, vs Slack or Teams or even a group message, is gross. OP has been taken advantage of for more than 3 years.

    14. Artemesia*

      I loved it too but it is snarky and snotty and bound to make people feel slapped on the hands – or as Alison put it, sort of schoolmarmish. And that is probably not a tone you want to set with your teammates.

      But absolutely stop doing it and let people know you won’t be doing it — ‘Doing everyone else’s office tasks has meant I am not able to get to all my work; this just isn’t working. I won’t be able to do office tasks for others — you will need to plan to be in the office to do your own office work,’

    15. Molly Millions*

      I think the problem is, it’s treating the co-workers as an aggregate rather than individuals. If it was one person pushing a large volume of work onto OP, then the response she sent might be proportionate; it’s not a reasonable thing to send to one person who asked a single favour (which is what OP’s co-workers *think* they are).

      I wonder if a group message like this might be a better approach?
      “Since we moved to hybrid I’ve started getting so many requests to cover people’s in-office tasks that I can’t manage them all without things falling through the cracks. I was willing to help out during the extenuating circumstances of the pandemic, but I will no longer be able to take on these tasks going forward.”

    16. AnotherOne*

      It’s my passive aggressive self coming out, I loved it.

      …also why one of my colleagues has to proofread my emails to make sure I don’t sound like a b- in them.

    17. Lights*

      Same. I don’t think it’s passive aggressive. They’re probably not aware they’re all doing the same thing at the same time and dumping on this person. I say make it awkward and schoolmarm the heck out of this situation because, like most people, they clearly don’t care unless called out.

    18. Lacey*

      Haha, SAME. I understand Allison’s advice. It’s better. I’m sure it is.

      But I also love the OP’s response.

    19. Jade*

      Me too. It was Gold. Who cares if they are complaining on another text? I want an update.

    20. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Lying Around*

      To everyone counseling directness and “radical candor,” let me tell you: that does not make you popular either! Yes, LW’s coworkers are on a separate group chat full of “Can you believe!” Same as they would be if she’d followed any of the suggested scripts above. People hate to get called on their stuff, and people hate being told “no, I will not help you” no matter how you say it.

    21. MissLozzieM*

      Yeah as the person in my team who usually gets dumped with this sort of stuff I also loved the response. Wish I had the guts to be that forthright!

    22. allathian*

      It’s a very understandable reaction and I don’t blame the LW at all, but I agree with Alison, she could’ve handled it better. Being passive-aggressive is much, MUCH easier than setting your boundaries and holding them. It takes practice and if you’ve grown up in an environment where you haven’t been allowed to set any boundaries at all, taking that first step is very hard. But oh so satisfactory when you finally do it and realize it works.

  2. Someone Else's Boss*

    I 100% understand where LW is coming from. I have two members of my team who regularly go into the office and are bombarded with other people’s errands. They don’t mind, but I do. If you haven’t already, I would suggest talking to your boss about strategies for staying firm to this new policy. Boundaries are not like fences, they are like chalk lines on the ground. If you don’t want people to cross them, you have to enforce them.

    1. eye roll*

      Except the boss is also sending their own requests. Boss doesn’t want OP to stay firm if it means they have to go to the office too.

      1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        I kinda feel like the boss has a right to but it’s unfair for OP’s presumed equals to be able to offload so many of their tasks on OP. The boss can absolutely ask OP to do in-office tasks for them while simultaneously telling the rest of their team that they cannot do that.

        1. eye roll*

          OP had previously told the boss about how much of a problem all the “favors” were, but the boss then asked for in-office help on a day they had previously planned to go in. It may be different because it’s the boss, but it feels so tone-deaf that it makes me feel the boss doesn’t actually care.

      2. Tracy Flick*

        Yeah, exactly.

        I’d go to HR and explain that my manager has turned me into the team’s admin so that the rest of the team can continue to be remote. That’s really bad manager behavior – aside from basic fairness, and the fact that people do quit over stuff like this, it’s unofficially giving this person a job they weren’t hired for, one that (probably) involves more low-level general admin tasks and fewer higher-level role-specific tasks. People aren’t offloading work only they can do, right? They’re offloading work anyone can do.

        Also, this probably isn’t a tack you want to take here (at least, not up front) but this unofficial office gofer role is clearly a post-pandemic phenomenon, and dollars to donuts it will recapitulate gendered inequalities. Men will disproportionately shove this unwanted, low-value work onto non-men; non-men will feel disproportionate pressure to take it on.

        Companies are already aware of the sexist phenomenon where the lady team member has to take the meeting notes because she’s the only one who can be trusted to make little hearts over all of the i’s or whatever. This is a much more significant burden that can lead to much greater disparities in work privileges and work responsibilities.

        I think HR departments will eventually develop policies around it, and I hope someone will eventually help them connect some of these dots.

        1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          I think this is a terrible idea. There is nothing that suggests that the manager has made her the team admin. She asked people to stop and the boss didn’t push back on that, and the other people on the staff each asked her privately so that the boss wouldn’t know unless he told her. I sympathize with her problem and having pushy co-workers, but if she just says no and keeps saying no, the problem will solve itself.

          1. MsM*

            I think it’s more than a little optimistic to hope that just saying no will do the trick when Boss isn’t actually enforcing the “no.” Sure, have a conversation with Boss about the attempted end-runs and make it clear that you really need them to put their foot down with everyone that this isn’t okay first, but if that doesn’t work and OP isn’t convinced Boss is doing all they can, alerting HR is an entirely reasonable next step.

          2. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

            I don’t think it’s just the manager. It’s the entire team taking advantage of someone who does go into the office regularly. This is one instance where I think HR/the company really needs to make people adhere to the hybrid part of their roll and actually come in.

          3. Tracy Flick*

            I would agree with this if the manager weren’t also doing the same thing. They have clearly gotten into the habit of giving the LW this role themselves, and are not willing to actually enforce equality between team members. They might be thoughtless, but they’re still behaving inappropriately.

            Maybe HR is too much of an escalation, but I think it would actually be a good idea for LW to start (politely) framing this as a Big Structural Problem rather than a small personal problem. I’d feel the same way if this were about the other team members expecting LW to take notes in meetings or tidy up the kitchen.

            I think it’s possible that the other team members are reaching out privately because they don’t want the boss to see. But in my experience this behavior can capture another dynamic, one that can also be gendered. It’s less “I know I’ll get in trouble if our manager sees me doing this” and more “Let’s keep this just between us ;)” Less “I’m scared to get caught breaking the rules” and more “You and I both know that the rules don’t apply to me, so let’s just pretend this is okay.” They’re not just quietly breaking a rule – they’re actually putting pressure on LW to *help* them break a rule that is supposed to protect the LW from being mistreated *by them.* That’s fishier.

            I get that it can be most effective to assume good intentions and de-escalate, but this can become serious. The LW has said that this has been going on for a couple years, which is longer than many people stay in a given role; that it has continued into the indefinite “post-pandemic” and is displacing a team perk onto them as an individual burden; that it has never been formally added to their role; and that it is so frequent and time-consuming that it is completely disrupting their ability to do their actual job. That equates to a significant career concern, one that their employer should not downplay.

            “I don’t want to always be the one who has to go into the office,” is one approach; “My team, including my manager, have established an informal rule that all in-office tasks are foisted onto me. I am forced to assist everyone else on the team with their lower-level work while neglecting my own higher-level work. I am denied recognition for the work I am actually doing for the team. I risk being penalized for failing to do the work I am officially responsible for,” is another.

            If I were an employer, I would want to know if Experienced Qualified Professional LW were being unofficially molded into Disgruntled Floating Admin LW, especially if they were actually Disgruntled Floating Admin LW Who Happens To Be A Member Of A Protected Class Who Is Experiencing Clearly Disparate Treatment From Their Manager That They Have Already Complained About Several Times.

        2. LaFramboise*

          absolutely agree with you. Too often, men feel that they can put the onus of the housekeeping/bookkeeping/emotional keeping on women. Whether or not the people in this scenario fit into those gender roles, the idea that one person becomes the go-fer is indeed lessening their role and their political capital in the team. OP, I think you should re-state your opposition and like Alison says, hold very firm to your boundaries.

        3. Artemesia*

          Do you understand that HR doesn’t run the company? HR is not going to tell her boss how to manage. HR is not there to deal with your petty problems. There is nothing positive that can come from trying to tattle to HR.

          1. MsM*

            It’s not “tattling” if Boss isn’t actually following through on their promises to handle the situation, and OP’s productivity and morale are being harmed as a result. Whether HR will actually do anything is a separate question, but this is something they should be aware of if they care about retaining some kind of on-site presence on this team. (And if they don’t, well, sounds like OP doesn’t need to check this stuff any more frequently than anyone else is willing to until they find something new.)

          2. Tracy Flick*

            HR doesn’t run the company, but they are empowered and sometimes obligated to step in if (hypothetically – not saying this is the exact situation here) Brobert, Cramuel, Rattrick, and Lignatius are kicking back at home under the office’s new perma-remote policy whilst pushing all of their unwanted in-office work onto their peer Matrina.

            Believe me, I know it doesn’t always pay to use this approach, but this is an equity issue. Making one team member do the crap work is clearly disparate, and disparate treatment can violate equal opportunity laws and corresponding employer policies.

            The in-person version of this is a recognized form of workplace inequality, one that HR departments can and do intervene in. “I have the same title and qualifications, but they’re getting better assignments” is a valid equal opportunity complaint.

          3. DCompliance*

            I completely disagree with you. I have seen HR investigate situations where work is being dumped on 1 person. It was not seen as petty at all and no one consider it tattling. HR can tell a manager how to manage certain situations.

      3. umami*

        Boss can certainly ask their staff member to do things for them, so I would frame it as, ‘I’d love to take care of that, and I’m also looking at how to fit in (coworkers’) requests as well without falling behind on your priorities, what do you suggest?’

    1. Artemesia*

      And having a firm policy works better than treating each new thing as a new thing. ‘I don’t have the time to do people’s administrative work, you will need to come in for that.’ becomes a policy.

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Yes, this is awesome! I’m going to pair this with, “My boundaries aren’t up for negotiation.”

    3. ferrina*

      Sometimes the second and third NOs can be pretty tough- I know people that may accept the first No as a “favor” to the boundary-setter, but by the second and third Nos are having a tantrum. Watch out for extinction bursts.

      But once people know- they know. Hold firm and they will eventually learn. There’s always the classic information diet. This is where you only tell people what they need to know- in this case, your team doesn’t know when you are planning to be in the office. So don’t tell them! Or be wishy-washy: “I haven’t decided. I’ll see how I feel when I wake up. So I really can’t commit to what you’re asking.” Or play hardball- when they ask, follow up with a long, long list of everything you may or may not do that day. It’s amazing how many people will stop asking you for favors when you have a habit of recounting every. single. thing. your cat did that day

  3. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    Prepare for an extinction burst when your team catches on that you’re serious about this boundary. Good luck. I’m rooting for you!

  4. Blue*

    I also think this really depends on what kinds of tasks people are asking you to do. If it’s “could you check my desk for mail or messages” that’s one thing, if it’s “could you copy and collate 40 reports and mail them out to stakeholders” that’s obviously unreasonable. I’m wondering if there’s some BEC vibes happening here where every request feels like a boundary violation and/or huge imposition, when actually it is perfectly acceptable for OP to say yes to tasks that feel reasonable and no to tasks that don’t (and set their own line for reasonableness based on their capacity any given day, whether those coworkers are also inclined to do other types of favors for them in return, etc).

    This sounds like a PITA situation. I hope OP is able to achieve a reset in the team’s expectations as well as their own mindset about this.

    1. CB212*

      OP says the favors were adding up to more than half a day at a time. It doesn’t matter if they’re all utterly trivial, that’s absolutely not okay!

      Even with your benign example, say it’s, eh, seven people and they each “only” want you to check their desks, go through their mail, forward it or pass on messages or call them to talk through what’s there…. If this person isn’t the department admin support, which it sounds like they are not, then that’s wayyyy out of scope as a way to spend an hour or two.

      1. Artemesia*

        Do administrative support for awhile and you become the admin. The response to a complaint is to reconfigure your job to include this work. Really important to not be available from the beginning. COVID of course messed this up so it is harder for the OP, but now she needs to be too busy to do any of it. (except for the boss, but then as Alison suggested, making clear something else will get pushed back)

      2. Still Nameless in MN*

        This. If employees decide to wirk mainky from home then they need to come up with their own plan for taking care of mail and other in person tasks. That may mean coming in once a week to collect incoming mail, letting people know you work from home and only go in once a month so they need to send mail to your home address, getting a post office box near your home etc. For print needs that may me purchasing a home printer or saving things to a flash drive and going to a place that offers print services etc.

        The point being that if you choose to work remotely then you need to work with your manager to manage in office tasks and not expect coworkers in the office to handle part of your job simply because they are in the office.

        If you are in office or in office more than coworkers you need to set firm boundaries regarding your work responsibilities come first.

        I think many people were caught off guard with the pandemic causing offices to be closed longer than anticipated. Then when companies decided to offer continuing to work from home, in office tasks were not considered as to who would/should handle them.

        If your office has more people who consistently work remote and they consistently expect a person in the office to handle in office tasks for the majority then consider hiring someone to specifically handle those tasks for the group on a full or part time basis. Otherwise rotate the responsibility among team members in a monthly basis. Unless you can afford to have Suzie resign because being the girl Friday on a permanent basis was not her intent or that you never even bothered to ask her if she wanted to take on those duties permanently.

    2. FD*

      Even if it’s small favors, the quantity can be problematic. If it takes her 10 minutes for three people that’s a whole 30 minutes out of her day.

    3. Earlk*

      Check for mail…and then scan the mail in and email it to the person it’s for. Even little tasks aren’t always that little.

      1. Coverage Associate*

        Yup. On Friday, I sent our admins looking for a package that was 500 pages long. If it didn’t arrive before noon, I wouldn’t have asked them to scan it the same day, and I certainly wouldn’t have asked them to stay late to scan it. And reviewing and scanning the mail is their job, just not their only job.

    4. BethRA*

      Except even those “quick” tasks start to add up, especially when they’re a regular occurrence, and like OP, you’re the only one (or one of the only ones) being asked to do them.

      Check your desk once because you’re on vacation, or too sick to come in? Sure. Do it regularly so you don’t have to come in to the office? Not so much.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      Oh, no–if you have enough tiny tasks they add up to a lot of work. If the coworkers need mail or messages they can come in once in awhile and get them in person.

      1. umami*

        Yes, each person asking thinks it’s just one little thing. But if *everyone* is asking for just one little thing, it adds up! OP just needs to get comfortable saying sorry, can’t do it, and not offering an explanation or justification that would lead to further discussion.

    6. goducks*

      “Could you check my desk for mail or messages” isn’t really the task, though. It’s “could you check my desk for mail or messages and let me know what’s there and scan and send me the things that I need to see”. What sounds simple actually adds up to several minutes of time. Multiply that by frequent requests and multiple coworkers and it adds up to a significant amount of time.

      1. Gherkin*

        So say yes to checking someone’s desk for messages and no to the rest. Here’s how:

        “Hi Jane,
        I checked your desk as you asked, there are two pieces of mail on it. One is from our vendor. My own workload doesn’t leave time for me to open them or disposition them for you, so you will need to come in to handle it.

        1. goducks*

          No. That’s already several minutes of time. Looking for mail, noting what it is, sending this email. It’s not small. It sounds small, but it plays out as more than it sounds like on a thread.
          Just say no to begin with.

          1. Gherkin*

            LW could say no to begin with, if that’s what they want. Or they could check the mail and report just the number of items, or just the presence of mail, or literally anything else. LW can put their boundaries wherever they want.

            My point is more that it is disingenuous to pretend that a simple request like, “check the mail” is actually an involved and complicated request that means “and open it all and scan it and email it to me.” It’s only involved and complicated if you say yes to the involved and complicated parts. Since LW can put their boundaries wherever they want, they can say yes to anything they feel like doing and say no to the rest. Just bc someone puts scope creep into their requests doesn’t mean LW has to comply with all of it just bc they complied with part of it.

            1. Allonge*

              Well, OP could do that but it would also be really passive-aggressive. Sure, I say yes to doing something except I don’t actually do it is a lot lesse reasonable than sending the message OP sent to all.

              1. Gherkin*

                Nobody advocated saying Yes to something and not doing it. I advocated saying Yes only to the parts that one *will* do and saying No to the rest. That’s direct, not passive aggressive.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        “Yes, there are messages there.”

        Oh, wait–you wanted me to do something with them for you? Sorry, you’re on your own there.

        1. goducks*

          LOL, that’s where a bit of malicious compliance literalism can work as a different passive aggressive technique.
          Coworker: Can you check my desk to see if there’s messages?
          LW: Sure… (looks sees messages, does nothing further)
          Coworker next time she’s in the office: LW, there were messages on my desk, why didn’t you tell me?
          LW: You just asked me to look and see if there were. I did that.

          (LW if you’re reading this, don’t actually do this!)

          1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            While I think an upfront “No” is the best course of action, a variation of your jokey response may work, i.e.,

            Coworker: Hi LW, can you check my desk for mail?

            LW: (Checks). Yes, there was mail.

            Coworker: What was it?

            LW: I’m not sure, I have my own work to do and don’t have time to go through your mail for you.

            This illustrates why a direct “No” is still beter, since the above scenario opens you to negotiations.

            1. Boof*

              I mean, there are ways that becomes reasonable. If coworker wants to know if there’s anything to do in person before they come in, ie, if there’s actually any mail for them to look at, that seems so tiny it’s reasonable if it’s the only ask. “Is there mail for me” *glance* “yep!” is less than a minute. I agree actually putting any effort into reviewing said mail is admin / needs to be in job description territory not coworker favor territory.

      3. Yoyoyo*

        Yup, reminds me of when I worked at a movie theater and our manager had to clarify that when he said to check the bathrooms, he really meant to clean them, not poke your head in and say “yup, still a bathroom!”

        1. Random Dice*

          Ha ha that’s awesome.

          My kid has autism, and I have had to learn to re-examine sayings that are indirect like that. I know that checking the bathrooms is only step 1, which ends in step 7 the bathrooms are now clean… but my kid would only think there was 1 step.

          1. Nina*

            I’m also autistic (but not a kid anymore) and I’ve had to rote-learn a surprising number of implied tasks like that.

            When mom says ‘can you hang out the laundry’ she means ‘hang out the laundry and then put another load in the machine but only if there’s enough laundry in the basket to run a whole load of Just One Thing (no putting towels in with anything else, no putting sister’s tie-dye socks with dad’s white shirts)’ or ‘doing the dishes includes collecting dirty dishes from around the house, washing them, drying them, putting them away, wiping down all the benchtops, and emptying the sink’.

            It gets easier as you get more practice at finding the implied tasks in the actually assigned task, but as far as I can tell you never entirely get away from the literalism.

    7. Office Lobster DJ*

      The difficulty with little tasks that add up and a line of reasonableness is that it may be reasonable for OP to say yes to the first 4 co-workers, but then come requests 5 to infinity. It’s easier to say no to one big imposition than a million small ones. I’d have a hard time turning down a co-worker for a ten minute task, honestly, but I can’t do a ten minute task for everyone everyday. And then, to make it worse, it can easily turn into “Oh, so you can check Jane’s mail but not Fergus’s?”

      1. AntsOnMyTable*

        It means B*tch Eating Crackers. It is when you are just so fed up with someone that, at that point, everything they do, no matter how benign, irritates you. Oh, look at her just sitting in the corner eating her crackers.

        1. Morticia(she/her)*

          I prefer JEC (Jerk Eating Crackers) because it eliminates the gender based slur.

  5. 3DogNight*

    OP–I’m laughing to myself, because I have done something much like this. However, the boss being on there does change it. It’s not too late (hopefully) for you to reply to your boss and say, I totally forgot you were one of the people on here, then add Alison’s language for response.

  6. Gherkin*

    “I don’t love the message you sent to your team instead of those options. ”

    That message was passive aggressive. More importantly, you didn’t say no. Being direct about your boundaries is a better choice than roundabout semi-hints.

    1. My Useless 2 Cents*

      I disagree in that the only thing passive about the message was OP didn’t outright reply “no”. There wasn’t anything aggressive about the response. “Sounds like everyone has crap that needs done in the office. I suggest everyone get there early for a good parking spot.” would be passive aggressive.

      OP mentioned they haven’t been shy about speaking up that requests have become a problem. Not only has everyone continued to make requests but everyone includes the manager. To me, it sounds like OP has said “no” multiple times but no one will listen. They are the aggressive ones in this situation.

      1. Gherkin*

        I disagree in that the only thing passive about the message was OP didn’t outright reply “no”.

        Absolutely true! The entire message was passive aggressive. Nothing about it was direct.

    2. Lulu*

      Yeah, I think they could’ve said something pretty similar but in a more direct and more professional way. Just like Alison said, they need to just focus on their own ability to do it rather than saying the team needs to come in. I would’ve sent the message, but worded it “Hey, I’ve gotten requests to help with office things from everyone, so I’m giving a blanket “no” because otherwise I can’t actually do my own job. If you’ll be coming in, I’ll look forward to seeing you!” Similar information, slightly different vibe. And it holds them a little bit accountable by making it clear that it’s not one person asking – it’s the group.

  7. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    I’m curious if OP had used Alison’s much more diplomatic approach before and responses were more along the lines of: “Oh, no worries, you can do the next day/as soon you’re free.”
    Has OP tried pushing back and been manipulated/overwhelmed/worn down into agreeing?

    1. Boof*

      Well the ideal reply to “oh you can do it later” is “Afraid my schedule is already full with my own work, I can’t cover yours any more!” repeat breezily and politely as often as needed. Again, ideally; getting snapish is understandable and probably not a big deal, but calm and assertive would be best!

  8. Marie*

    I feel like OP’s group text comment is one of those things where it’s more nuanced than just “that wasn’t the best thing to say.”
    Was it “professional”? No.
    Was it absolutely understandable? Yes.

    OP’s relationship to their team comes into play here. On my current team at work, if I’d been super clear about boundaries for the last two years then they’d know me and my personality enough to know exactly what I meant and why I said what I said if I clapped back in a group chat the way OP did.

    After years and years and years of “being professional” and having the calmest, most rational discussions with grown adults as I possibly can and using the most business-like language to convey my thoughts, feelings, and frustrations, I’m TIRED, y’all. So tired. Sounds like OP is tired too.

    Did it need to be said? Yes. Did it need to be said by OP? Also yes. Did it need to be said by OP at that exact time? Triple Yes. Could OP have done a “more professional” job of conveying the message? Yes but, OP didn’t, so…. time to move on.

    1. NerdyKris*

      “Yes but, OP didn’t, so…. time to move on.”

      Sure, but knowing not to do it in the future is important. Like the letter from the person who was told to look back at their previous interactions with coworkers but didn’t want to. The point isn’t “This is in the past”, it’s “how do you better handle it in the future”.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        In the future set up boundaries.
        Unfortunately, OP was the frog in the boiling water for two very specific reasons that may never be replicated:
        1) pandemic changed the working world. The company became WFH friendly with policies, protocols and unspoken rules being made up as they went along.
        2) OP’s boss did the very thing that is driving OP crazy. Coworkers see OP doing in office tasks for boss, hey, I’m going to ask if she can do mine too. Open the floodgates.
        The only way OP could unring that bell was to hit a giant gong at everyone.

    2. Allonge*

      In my experience, sometimes a stronger message of frustration brings better results. Everyone can pretend that ‘ohhh, I never knew it was too much for you, I just thought it would be so much easier if you quickly did X as long as you are in the office anyway etc.’ is the case until they get a bit of a harder pushback.

      Just to be clear, if OP wrote in before sending this message, I would have recommended a rewrite. But it’s not a major issue by any means.

      1. Marie*

        Oh yeah 1000%, I would not have recommended to send the message, but now that the message has been sent I agree with you- that the frustration that’s bleeding through has the potential to be much more impactful than Yet Another Carefully Worded Message. There’s a great chance here to go to the boss and say “Hey, I want to talk about what I said in the group chat and why I am at the end of my rope with these requests.”

        1. MsM*

          Yes, I like this plan. That way, OP can acknowledge that maybe this wasn’t the best way to handle the annoyance before anyone else (Boss included) has a chance to try and turn that into the main issue, while still keeping the emphasis on the fact that they’re not kidding about things needing to change.

          1. Gimme Chocolate*

            OP’s co-workers and boss are being selfish and unreasonable but I Absolutely agree with this approach to have a follow-up conversation with the boss!

          2. Boof*

            I think the only person OP should do any backtracking on is boss, because boss actually does get to assign those tasks. But more like “I realize that was a bit snappish; as you know it’s started taking up a lot of time doing in office tasks for others. Going forward, can you [hire an admin for this] [only you ask me and enforce everyone else needs to do their own office tasks] [take Y off my plate X is now to be part of my regular job]” (whatever solution LW would prefer)

        2. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

          I love this suggestion — especially because it gives you the opportunity to get out ahead of whether or not your boss is miffed by your wording. (Although to be clear, your group text got a round of applause from me even though I agree it was not the most professional way to handle things.) But yeah! Check in with your boss so you can get them on your side for heading off these requests in future.

      2. Qwerty*

        I suspect the “other group chat” that OP thinks is happening is actually a bunch of people going “oh sh!t” who are feeling guilty but also trying to avoid negative repercussions. Possibly the manager taking the team to task and telling them to knock it off without revealing that he was doing the same thing. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if they were coordinating some meaningless gesture of appreciation instead of actually fixing the problem.

        Agree strongly on not recommending it, but also can’t really condemn it. As far as exasperation messages go, it is pretty mild compared to what I’ve seen.

        1. Gherkin*

          And this is why zingers are so popular. People tell themselves stories about how the recipient will be chastised and immediately see the error of their ways. Really, what usually happens is that a snarky outburst elicits a defensive reaction, and the “other group chat” is probably dominated by “wow, that escalated quickly” responses.

  9. NerdyKris*

    This happened to me early on. I became the de facto in office person, because everyone else had to protect their families. I started to feel like the message was “It doesn’t matter if Kris gets sick because he lives alone”. I even used that phrasing when talking to my boss about it.
    Being a good boss, he immediately put his foot down and said that everyone has to go in if they needed something done.

    I can’t really offer much advice, other than directly stating “I can’t do this for you” and bringing it to your boss if there’s too much pushback. I got permission early on to say no to requests. One was never intending to come back, one moved out of state without notice, and one was making hyperbolic demands in 2022 about how they needed to expense mileage and how far away they lived (Their commute was the same as mine) until the director started handling their requests.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      This is what OP “should” have done. Kris has a good boss. OP’s boss may be good as well. OP didn’t find out, because boss made the same requests as coworkers. It muddied the waters and OP did not have a meeting about it. That sucks. Hindsight and all that.

      Well done you for speaking up, not letting it fester and to your boss as well for hearing you.

      1. Beany*

        “OP’s boss may be good as well. OP didn’t find out, […]”

        OP’s boss can’t be *that* good, because they’re abusing OP’s time as much as everyone else is. Sure they have more standing to do so, but it’s still a regular imposition they got way too comfortable with.

      2. Qwerty*

        Nope, OP does not have a good boss. OP did tell their boss about the situation and had to set a boundary to avoid being forced into special trips to the office.

        OP’s boss sucks. Immediately after canceling the in person meeting, he pushed his in-office work onto his direct report. He is setting a bad example for the team. A decent boss would be paying attention and checking in on OP to make sure they are ok with being the team admin. If a boss waits until a report is on fire before noticing there is a problem, then they have not done their job in setting up good lines of communication and understanding how their team is running.

  10. learnedthehardway*

    Being passive aggressive isn’t a good approach, but your message was funny and pretty pointed, in its own way.

    I think a direct response will be more effective, in the long term. Eg. “As previously stated, I will not be able to accommodate request for X/Y/Z while I am in the office, as the sheer volume of requests is detrimental to my ability to get my own work done.”

  11. Sloanicota*

    Unfortunately, this isn’t much difference from the long-term struggle of some employees (let’s be real, mostly female employees) from trying to avoid becoming the de facto admin if that isn’t their role. It takes boundaries and you have to have support from the top, and ideally there is a position whose job this *is* that you can point back to.

  12. HonorBox*

    I tend to side with Alison most of the time. Here is a situation where I disagree. While individual responses would have been more diplomatic and less outburst-y, by responding to everyone, you’re shining a bright light on the fact that multiple people crossed the boundary that you’d established. I bet that if one single person had asked a small favor, it wouldn’t have bothered you. But you had multiple people asking just so they didn’t have to come in. If you respond individually, there’s a chance that the situation is downplayed and no one sees the overall impact of the numerous requests. An individual request is not an imposition. The volume of requests is.

    1. Anne of Green Gables*

      Yeah, this is where I land. Had I been OP, I probably would have replied to the group chat, but would have done it differently. “Since the meeting was cancelled for tomorrow, x people have messaged me privately to ask me to do things in person for them. It feels small when it’s one thing you are asking me to do, but when everyone is asking for one small thing, it’s a lot, this is why I keep telling each of you that I cannot help with in person tasks any more. I thought it might help you all to see how prevalent it is, and why I keep pushing back.”

      Or similar. In other words, call it out, and do so to the group, but in a little bit more direct way.

      1. HonorBox*

        That’s really well worded!

        I just think the volume of requests has to be exposed.

        1. HonorBox*

          Hit enter too quickly apparently…

          Meant to add, “and your wording does that perfectly.”


      2. goducks*

        Yes, this is a better message.
        As good as the message that the LW sent might have felt for her, in the minds of the people on the receiving end she likely seems unreasonable and disproportionate. Her point is going to be lost in their feelings about the tone she’s using to present it.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I agree that this is better wording; also that calling it out to the group, once, when the secret side-chat pile-on has just happened, is a reasonable response.

      4. t4ci3*

        what the OP should definitely NOT do it put up a message on the group chat explaining that, since doing everyone elses work is taking time away form their own work, from now on they can only do a single favor each time they are going into the office and that the coworkers will have to decide among themselves each time who’s favor is more important. Do not do this, but just imagine…

      5. MissMeghan*

        Seconded. I completely agree a diplomatic group message shines a light on the issue and can be done without being passive aggressive (though I get the impulse, OP, no one’s perfect and you’re at the end of your rope). This is great language for when this scenario comes up again, which unfortunately I bet it will.

      6. Sloanicota*

        Yep, it’s possible to deliver the exact same message but in more neutral professional language that isn’t going to come back on you. Being snarky and passive aggressive unfortunately just undercuts your own message and distracts from your point. It’s shooting yourself in the foot, even if it feels good in the moment. For example, if there’s a future position as a team leader, I wouldn’t want to promote someone who communicates like OP here, but Anne of Green Gable’s version doesn’t have that drawback.

      7. Some guy in Oz*

        I wonder whether pasting all the requests into the group chat would have been a better strategy.

        That very much opens up the necessary question about “ok, here’s half a days work. Who does it, and which budget does the time come out of?”

    2. Yorick*

      Even if you respond in the group chat so everyone knows the scope of the problem, you shouldn’t use such a passive aggressive reply. Something more direct like “Everyone has asked me to do a bunch of tasks for them when I’m in the office tomorrow, but I’ll be too busy with X. Sorry!” would be fine.

    3. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

      yes this. Also, this was 8pm when everyone was texting the OP to complete tasks. I understand the boss texting to tell people the meeting was canceled. But then for everyone to bother the OP after hours like this is a problem, in my opinion. It really interrupted the OP’s time. Even if they were OK with doing these tasks, they may have now started to think of how to juggle those tasks, thinking on what would be the best way to complete stuff, etc. It may have even caused restless night thinking about work stuff.

      1. Shan*

        Yes! Getting all those requests during my off-hours would make me SO MAD. I’m someone who’s been in office since June 2020 (by choice), and there’s a big difference to me between someone asking me to do something for them because they need the info pronto but they’re WFM that day, and someone who knows in advance they need something but just don’t feel like coming in all week. And if, in 2023, I got an email from someone doing the latter at 8pm… there might be a true crime podcast happening about me in the near future.

  13. There's a G&T with my name on it*

    “Within 10 minutes, I got texts from each of my teammates (directly, not on the group chat) and my boss, asking if I could do X, Y, and Z for them.”

    At this point, my inclination would have been to text the colleagues individually, and say “No, sorry!” and just leave it there. Boss is slightly trickier, but I like Alison’s script for that.

    1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      This. Her message doesn’t actually say “No”. Even a message to the whole group of “I cannot respond to each text message I have received on this, but I am unable to complete additional tasks for people tomorrow.”

  14. Samwise*

    Alison is right, but I completely understand why OP does not want to have to, YET AGAIN, respond to each person individually that, no, they will not be able to take care of X or Y or Z task.

    OP, in the future, postpone answering texts/requests from everyone except your boss. I’d wait at least an hour, and make it terse: Unfortunately, I can’t assist with that. (Unfortunately is for social niceties.) Don’t spend any more time responding to the texts/requests than this bare minimum. I’d say “no” even if the request is easy and/or doesn’t take much time. Your co-workers need to be trained.

    1. Yorick*

      You say YET AGAIN, but we don’t really know that OP has said no to these things even once. The letter said she explained she wouldn’t make special trips and now they still ask her to do things when she’s already in. If she presented this as about making special trips, they may not be unreasonable to not understand that this is about actually doing the favors at all. And I’m sure they don’t know that everybody else is also asking for stuff or how much of her time it’s taking.

      1. Samwise*

        My point wasn’t about the colleagues. My point was about the OP’s understandable frustration.

        And in this case, they are asking her for a special trip, since the meeting was cancelled and none of them are going in to the office.

        1. Yorick*

          I see what you mean, thanks for clarifying. But I think it’s important for LW to consider whether they’ve made their stance clear. I know they think they have, and maybe they actually have, but if they tried to soften it then the coworkers might not realize they’re doing anything wrong.

    2. Not my real name*

      I guess they could type “Unfortunately, I won’t be able to do that for you” and copy and paste it to each of the coworkers.

  15. Mitzii*

    Well, as much as people hate doing timesheets, I think they’d help in this situation! Document exactly how much of everyone else’s job you are doing.

  16. Usagi*

    “I have let my teammates and my boss know that this has been irritating me and I was able to set the boundary with my teammates to not expect me to make special trips to the office for them since it fully reopened; I only would go there if I have work to do, and they would have to take care of their own emergencies.”

    But did you let them know that you want them to stop asking you to do any of their tasks while you’re already in office at all? It doesn’t sound like you might have explained that, so they could be thinking that it’s still reasonable to ask and you’ll just say no if you’re not going to be in-person that day or if you don’t have time. It seems like you’ve set a boundary on the outer limit of what you were previously doing, but not on the rest of it, but kept being resentful for the rest of it. There’s a difference between saying that you’re not going to make special trips for them anymore versus saying that you’re always now going to be busy with your own things and don’t want to have to keep fielding requests like this. Your frustration is understandable from your end, but it seems like you may not have been as clear with them as you think..

  17. Sindy*

    Not sure what OP’s colleagues expect since the OP has brought this up before. Don’t treat people badly and you won’t get messages like this.

  18. Ann Onymous*

    There was a person (not on my team, but another team that we worked closely with) who lived in an apartment that backed up to our building’s parking lot, so he just had to walk across the parking lot to get to work. We all went remote in March 2020, but that team had some tasks that couldn’t be done remotely, one tasks occurred regularly once per week and the others were more sporadic. Any of the tasks could be done by anyone on the team, but rather than take turns they started to rely more and more heavily on the person who lived close by. He felt taken advantage of and ultimately left the company in late 2021.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yep, this happens. And if you’re the person being taken advantage of, it’s always an option, especially if the job isn’t all that great to begin with.

  19. Essess*

    I think OPs reply was necessary. Each person thinks they are the only one sliding ‘just one request’ to OP and assuming it won’t have much impact. It needs to be called out to all of them at the same time that they are snowballing the requests onto OP. They’ve ignored previous individual communications to stop the requests so they need to hear that they are all still being disrespectful of OP’s work load.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      This. People tend to think, even if you’ve told them before that it’s a problem, somehow their little request should be an exception.

      1. pally*

        Each task might take only 5 minutes, but when it’s one of a dozen similar requests easily wastes more than an hour of OP’s work time. That adds up! Seeing that everyone is posting such requests might get folks to find another way to get their in-office tasks completed. A way that does not involve the OP.

        Also, what are the OP’s co-workers offering to do in exchange for asking the OP to complete a task for them (Not suggesting that this is the remedy here!)? Just surprised that co-workers are thinking they can just hand a task to the OP without thinking to do a task in return. In-office or WFH, I’d be pretty sore if someone(s) kept handing off a portion of their work to me without taking on some work I needed completed.

    2. Gherkin*

      Even then, LW should be direct, say no, and avoid being passive aggressive. Here’s how I would approach the answer, being direct:

      “Five people on this chain sent a message to me asking me to perform a task in the office for them. As I’ve previously brought up, I’m not able to perform people’s in person work for them. Thanks for understanding.”

      1. Bluebell*

        I like this reply. I think OP should definitely not use the word sorry, as that leaves some wiggle room for future asks. The thanks adds a nice touch of civility.

      2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        This is excellent. LW’s response bothered me so much because they didn’t actually say “No” or “I cannot do that” to anyone. LW’s using a response that feels much more appropriate if her colleagues were complaining that they didn’t WANT to come in the office when they ONLY have the ONE THING to do and expected LW to volunteer to help them. LW was asked directly for something, they should respond as such.

  20. Bookworm*

    I *personally* think you were well within your bounds, OP, especially since it’s not like you have been silent and letting this stew, but YMMV.

    All the same, I do hope it is resolved and you don’t have to do this anymore. I’m personally all for WFH all the time but do agree that it is inappropriate to make someone do work that isn’t theirs. So, wishing you good luck! If you are able, hope you can update us with a positive development, because this taking advantage of you is not ok.

  21. EarlGrey*

    Is there a good reason for LW to be checking & responding to texts from co-workers outside of work hours? (I am assuming 8pm is outside work hours, but I get that i might be wrong there!)

    I can see that the boss had a good reason to contact the team late in the evening because it affected their plans for the next day, though it seems like the kind of decision that could have been made and communicated earlier in the day. But is the rest of the team expected / required to be on call at that time of day? If so, is it a reasonable expectation? What happens if your after-hours notifications from anyone but the boss are muted? Can you take some of the power away from these group chats by setting an hours boundary?

    I get that the requests will come in no matter what, but another way to push back on them is to just not see them until you’re back in the office and able to say, “Just seeing this now. My day is fully booked so I hope you can get this resolved another way.”

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I always worry about this kind of after-hours cancellation as well. I have really strict boundaries about not checking work-related communications after hours and we don’t tend to communicate by text, so I always wonder how annoyed I’d be if a mandatory in person day got cancelled but I showed up anyway because of my normally reasonable boundaries meant I don’t check email/Teams until I arrive at work.

      1. EarlGrey*

        Same, I have the apps on my personal phone for travel and such, but they’re all muted. When there’s a logistical thing that might pop up after hours, I can remember to check or unmute, but I’m resentful that it’s such an industrywide norm to always be available that it’s on me to remember to check and not on anyone else to make the decision by the end of the official workday.

        In LW’s shoes I’d be a little annoyed by the boss text at 8pm, but REALLY annoyed by the string of non-urgent requests following it.

  22. Falling Diphthong*

    On a team of reasonable people each thinking of their request as a rare one-off, I think it would be helpful if one time OP did exactly what she just did. “After deciding we didn’t need to be in the office tomorrow, every single person in this thread sent me a private message asking me to handle something for them tomorrow that can only be done in the office.”

    People aren’t going to realize they are straws piling on the camel if the camel allows each to remain in a little private camel-single-straw channel, unaware of what all the other straws are doing.

    Maybe it would be ideal to raise this with the boss and let them raise it with the team… but if used very rarely, the realization that Accommodating Annie is up to here with accommodating can make reasonable people sit and feel embarrassed for a bit (which everyone here got to do in private, at home) and then adapt their behavior to not do the thing they hadn’t realized was becoming super annoying.

    1. Yorick*

      But that’s not exactly what OP did! Instead of sending an appropriate message to the group like in your example, she sent a passive aggressive message to the group – including her boss.

      I kinda understand where you were coming from OP, but Falling Diphthong and other people have given examples of better messages you could have sent instead.

  23. Critical Rolls*

    I get why Alison didn’t love the response, and I get why this is a tone we typically want to avoid. But the LW did accomplish something really important here, which is make the requests from each visible to the others. People can be astonishingly, obliviously self-centered, always thinking “just a little favor for *me*” without doing the math on what happens when everyone is thinking the same thing.

    Everyone’s been stealing cookies, and LW turned on the kitchen lights.

    1. starsaphire*

      I agree totally on this.

      I re-read the letter several times to make sure I was understanding, because some of the commentariat keeps assuming that OP has never said anything to anyone about this before, when she clearly states that she has.

      I think continuing to pummel the OP for “not saying exactly what I would have said in that position” is not helpful, and I think it was a good thing overall that the OP is shining a light on this problem.

      If the co-workers weren’t totally aware of this, why would every single one of them be stealthily private-messaging her their requests? If the OP had never stated her boundaries, it would seem far more normal to message the group and say, “Hey, can you do X for me?”

      1. Ant*

        I also think concentrating on the fact that OP didn’t explicitly say, “No, I won’t do that” is splitting hairs – if I sent a message to a colleague saying, “Can you do [x] for me so I don’t have to go into the office tomorrow” and they responded with, “I look forward to seeing you in the office tomorrow”, it would be wilfully obtuse on my part to not read through the lines for the, “No, I won’t be doing that”.

      1. Emily*

        “I think continuing to pummel the OP for “not saying exactly what I would have said in that position” is not helpful, and I think it was a good thing overall that the OP is shining a light on this problem.” -Exactly!

  24. formerivygirl*

    Especially since the boss was also placing these requests on the LW, I would have made it their manager’s problem to address.

    Send them a detailed list of all of the requests, by requestor name and task, including time estimates, as well as your own work to be accomplished, with time estimates. And ask what needs to be prioritized. And copy everyone.

    Like, manager, MANAGE. If you don’t name the problem for everyone, then they don’t have the big picture.

    1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

      Maybe not send it to everyone, but I think the OP would be in their rights to sit down with their manager and show them all of the tasks the others have asked to complete in office and then all of their own tasks they needed. Maybe the boss is not realizing just how much the others are asking.

      OP is there a way you can track all of these tasks and how long it takes you?

    2. allathian*

      Yeah, but there’s a risk in that. The manager certainly hasn’t been shy of taking advantage of the LW being in the office more frequently than anyone else. The risk in asking them to prioritize is them deciding unilaterally to change the LW’s job description so that she becomes responsible for handling all the in-office admin stuff for the whole team, to the detriment of her career development and job satisfaction.

  25. Hi!*

    As an alternative I would have emailed boss with all the favors (including his an OPs) and asked him to prioritize them for the few hours op is able to be in the office

    1. Hmmm*

      I like this- it would put everyone on the spot and force your manager to address the situation

      Assuming that is the angle you’re going for, ie op is not volunteering to do work but passively pointing out that everyone asked for a favor

    2. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

      I get where you are coming from here. But I’m afraid that if the OP asks, what should I prioritize they will then be told to prioritize those other tasks and thus get pushed more into a role they don’t want to do. I can see a bad boss doing that.

      1. Hmmm*

        I’d get snarky then and make the email along the lines of – everyone thinks I’m going to the office to their work so they can stay home. Is there something here I need to prioritize over my work and my time. Something to indicate OP is annoyed doing work other than her own and forcing the manager to respond

    3. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      This comes with the tacit acceptance that these favors are part of LW’s workload. Expecting the boss to read between the lines and realize LW is implying “I have too many favors on my desk and it’s impacting my own workload” isn’t reasonable when LW could just say as much directly and not expect the boss to be taking her words at more than face value.

  26. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    This may have been fine in 2020, but you have got to put an end to it with everyone but your manager (perhaps – but that’s harder because it’s your manager and normal to do things for them).

    It probably would have been better for you to contact your manager after getting all of those private texts and asking how you should handle these requests given you would be unable to do them. Of course, your boss could also tell you to keep doing them for people. Hopefully not though!

  27. ecnaseener*

    I think LW might not have full approval to say no to every request, based on the letter: they wrote “I was able to set the boundary with my teammates to not expect me to make special trips to the office for them since it fully reopened; I only would go there if I have work to do, and they would have to take care of their own emergencies.”

    So they have boss’s approval to say “no I won’t make a special trip for you; if it’s an emergency you’ll have to go yourself.” But I don’t think they necessarily have boss’s approval to say no to the more routine “on your next office day” requests.

    Anyway, I probably would’ve gone with a middle-ground approach, still in the group chat but without the passive-aggressiveness: “A lot of you have just messaged me asking if I can do some in-office tasks for you tomorrow — I won’t have time for them all since I have a full day of my own work to do, so please plan on coming in to take care of your own tasks.”

    1. Fiona*

      “A lot of you have just messaged me asking if I can do some in-office tasks for you tomorrow — I won’t have time for them all since I have a full day of my own work to do, so please plan on coming in to take care of your own tasks.”

      This is exactly the correct message to send.

      1. Still Nameless in MN*

        A lot of you have just messaged me asking if I can do some in-office tasks for you tomorrow — I won’t have time for them all …

        I’d ditch the “for them all” part. It only invites each coworker to jockey for why their request should be done over xxx request.

        A lot of you have just messaged me asking if I can do some in-office tasks for you tomorrow — I won’t have time TO HANDLE YOUR REQUEST.

      2. umami*

        This is actually what I would have said in that situation. And I would have done it as a group text just to make it clear that there were multiple requests and the message is to ensure everyone got the same information. It wasn’t just one person asking for one thing so they could avoid going in but still have in-person work done on their behalf. I get that it’s nice to have an in-person meeting with the boss cancelled, but to then decide not to go in at all because “Jane will do the other stuff I was planning to do after the meeting’ is taking it too far. Boss said no meeting, not stay home and let your colleague handle your in-office stuff.

      3. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

        I would put a vote for amending “a lot of you” to “everyone on thread” to make it very clear to everyone what the volume of asks is.

    2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      Full agree. I think that it’s good to say this “in public” (not just to the boss) so that everyone has the same information. I also think this is a better way to actually say it.

  28. Mim*

    3+ years into this, I can absolutely understand your frustration! Honestly, while it might not have been the most productive way to address the issue, I can’t blame you. And if your co-workers feel upset by your text, I would hope that their feelings of embarrassment after realizing that they have been relying on you specifically for this continuous help for 3 years would outweigh any annoyance they feel at how you worded things.

    It feels like your boss has dropped the ball on finding a more equitable way to deal with on-site work. Each person’s time in the office could be kept low by having a rotating schedule of who goes in each week to take care of boring but time consuming stuff for the rest of the team. I mean, that could come with its own complications, but it sounds like there’s a desire to WFH as much as possible and a need for someone to occasionally do onsite-only stuff, so I’d hope that any group of reasonable people would be willing to make a good faith effort at trying some sort of rotation system.

  29. Anne Elliot*

    I’m not sure the OP has been as clear about the problem as they think they have been.

    They say: “I was able to set the boundary with my teammates to not expect me to make special trips to the office for them since it fully reopened; I only would go there if I have work to do, and they would have to take care of their own emergencies.” But there’s a difference between “I’m not going to make a special trip for you [leaving open that I might still do stuff for you if I happen to be in the office anyway]” and “I’m not going to do your work tasks for you, regardless of whether I’m in the office myself or not.” So if they think the OP is going to be in the office anyway, they may also think the OP is available to do their little tasks, because they haven’t asked the OP to make a “special trip.”

    I agree the text message is passive-aggressive. I would suggest telling coworkers who ask for help with “little tasks”: “No, I can’t do that, and I’m not going to be available for that sort of thing going forward. I know it seems like a small request from your perspective, but I’m getting small requests from a lot of coworkers and have been for almost two years now. The cumulative burden on me really adds up, I’m spending quite a bit of time doing things that are not actually my job to do, and it’s negatively impacting my own work. I’m going to be asking everyone to make arrangements to meet their own responsibilities without asking for my assistance, unless my manager specifically asks me to assist.”

    1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

      I understood it that since the meeting was canceled no one was expected to come into the office, and that maybe the others didnt know if OP was going in or not and just expected them to go in.

      1. umami*

        I thought boss said for them to not go in unless they have work needing to be done there, not that they didn’t have to go in if someone else could do the work for them. Presumably, if you were planning to go in for a meeting, then you were planning to take care of other work in-person , and since they were all responding to OP with work tasks they wanted her help with, then they still have a need to go into the office.

  30. Hills to Die on*

    What I would send, that does sound friendly but direct:
    ‘Hi (Jane),
    I have been happy to help during emergency COVID times. However, with everyone’s requests, I have been unable to get my own job done and am literally spending more time on doing favors for the team. I just I can’t keep picking it all up and have arranged re-prioritizing my work with (Boss). I hope you understand and I am looking forward to seeing you in the office soon!’

  31. Me*

    I’m going with an unpopular opinion. I think the text message was a bad idea. It is unprofessional. I’d personally apologize to the boss for it, reiterate again you are not going to do tasks for others who refuse to come in, and say no each time you’re asked.

    1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

      yYs it was unprofessional, and I think we all can agree on that. But at some point things just get overwhelming. I think the OP should talk to the boss, as they may be required to do things for them.

      1. HonorBox*

        My mom used to tell me and my brother that two wrongs don’t make a right. Maybe the wording of the text could have been better, but every request that came to the OP following the boss’s cancellation of the meeting is more unprofessional. First, they’re expecting OP to do something for them. Second, they’re insinuating that their work is more important than the OP’s. Third, they’re assuming the OP is even going into the office. Fourth, they’re making these requests past 8pm. So while the wording of the reply to everyone leaves a little to be desired, I think calling everyone out is OK. The volume of the messages shows that each of those coworkers is using OP as an assistant.

  32. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    There are a couple things I dislike about Alison’s proposed solution (replying to each person). First, it’s 8 PM and replying to each person individually will take more than a moment of personal time, which has its own issues. The second is that it doesn’t make it clear that everyone is still doing this.

    I think it would be totally reasonable to “not see” that message (or the ones after it) until after you are in the office tomorrow. Or, to decide that you wanted to work from home that day. It doesn’t sound like OP is going in every single day, and not only did people just try to dump their tasks on them, but they also assume OP would still go in and not want to stay home. That’s highly irritating.

    I think options like saying “hey, pretty much everyone is asking me to do stuff for them in the office tomorrow. I’ve talked to everyone about this. I have to get my own work done, so please respect that I’m not doing anyone’s in-office tasks any more” would get the point across as well.

    1. Emily*

      I like you’re proposed response. I agree that having to reply to each person individually would take up too much of LW’s time, plus I think it is important for LW’s team to understand that every single person on the team is asking something of LW.

  33. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    I did something like this many years ago via email. It felt good at the time, but your coworkers will not see it the same. You probably need to start looking for a job. When I did this, about 9 months later a M&A was announced. I was in the first group let go.

    Would I still have sent that email that day, even knowing that M&A was coming? Maybe. But that email I sent had consequences is something I am sure of.

      1. Looper*

        I think she should look for another job because the one she has sounds like her boss sucks and doesn’t support her and her coworkers take her for granted. But fire her? No way! She’s the one who goes to the office regularly and gets the mail, they’ll keep her stuck there for as long as possible.

    1. HonorBox*

      Yeah, I don’t think this is over the top. They didn’t F-bomb everyone or call anyone names. It didn’t come out of nowhere. They have receipts. Everyone within 10 minutes asking them to cover stuff for them. Telling them to look for a new job is blaming the victim.

      1. Capt. Liam Shaw*

        She did go off on them, including her manager.

        Maybe the manager will have the self awareness to realize that the outburst was some what deserved and maybe not. She will probably find out in the near future. Same goes for the employees.

        My experience and sharing it isn’t victim blaming. The LW can decide if what I said is relevant to her or not. She knows everyone involved better then either you or I.

    2. Curious*

      Honestly, unless someone specifically told you “your email 9 months ago is why you were the first in the group let go” this seems like a stretch.

  34. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    I’m not sure I’ve got the right words for this, but it is really bothering me that everyone else assumed OP would be going in. It sounds like they are required to go in a couple times a week or as-needed (and OP mentioned originally going in 1-2 times a week), so why is everyone assuming that OP isn’t going to want to work from home the next day?

    1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

      That was my thought too. Like unless they go in on the same day every week, why did they think OP was going to come in? Like did they expect them to go in to the office specifically for them?

    2. Gherkin*

      I picked up on that, as well, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s not that LW can’t do the tasks bc they are not going in. LW can’t do the tasks bc they have their own work, regardless of whether they are coming in or not.

      1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

        Yes, but it makes it extra icky because it’s really dismissive. it’s not just that they keep asking, ignore boundaries, and pile on. they are, well, treating OP a bit like a servant.

  35. summertime*

    This sounds like an ask vs. guess culture issue. I grew up in guess culture so I understand it a bit, but I’ve come to realize just how stressful it is when you can’t trust people not to reluctantly say yes to things that they actually don’t want to do, and then built up resentment unbeknown to you. I wonder if the OP has asked their coworkers to never ask them to do these tasks?

    The guess culture view is that asking is imposing a burden because it costs something to say no, but ask culture says it’s impossible for someone else to keep track of what’s a reasonable amount to ask without being able to trust that someone won’t say yes if the answer is really no. I can see both sides of that, but in the end I’ve personally decided to practice saying no to things because the alternative feels much worse to me.

    I read something about boundaries that personally helped me a lot: boundaries are not for other people, they are for you. So it’s not about trying to get other people not to cross your boundaries, but about what you will do for yourself if they do. Ideally you only have to tell people once and they will change their behavior, but the important part is if they don’t, you have something you can do next. Eg. you’ve asked someone not to bring up a subject around you, and if they do you will remove yourself from the situation. Or in this case, if they ask you to do things at the office you will simply say no. I feel like the language of “setting and enforcing boundaries” makes it seem like it’s about changing other people’s behavior rather than empowering yourself.

    1. Emily*

      LW says in her letter that she has spoken to her c0-workers and her boss about her frustrations, so they are aware. LW is not making them guess anything.

      1. summertime*

        That’s why I was wondering if the OP had actually said “do not ask me to do favors for you when I’m in the office.” If so, why not just say no when asked? The letter says they conveyed that they are irritated (unclear if by too many requests, or by being asked at all?) and “I was able to set the boundary with my teammates to not expect me to make special trips to the office for them” but doesn’t say if they also said they would never do favors if they were in the office. I’m just saying the overall vibe of this discussion is an “ask culture vs. guess culture” dilemma (I’m not sure if I can post a link here, but there are a lot of articles on it!) where some of the commenters are saying “their coworkers should have known to not ask!” and some commenters are saying “why didn’t they say no if the answer was no?”

        1. MsM*

          I admit I’m more of a guesser than an asker, but I feel like if someone’s said they’re irritated with a particular behavior, they really shouldn’t need to proactively rule out every possible exception someone who doesn’t want to stop doing the thing might come up with.

          1. Shan*

            I agree with this – I’ve seen quite a few comments saying “but you didn’t explicitly say…” and I mean, yes, that may be true, but if someone expresses frustration around situation 1(a)(i), it’s probably safe to assume they’re also pretty frustrated with situation 1(a)(ii). Especially when it’s around something like this.

            1. Anne Elliot*

              In my experience it’s actually not safe to assume this at all, so mileage varies.

        2. summertime*

          Person to neighbor: Please don’t walk in my front yard, I am trying to grow some plants there.
          If the neighbor then walks in the front yard, it’s pretty clear they are being a jerk, but…

          Person to neighbor: If too many people walk in my front yard my plants will have trouble growing.
          If the neighbor then walks on the front yard occasionally, say when visiting them, that’s where opinions might differ! Some might say they are a jerk because it was clear that the person was asking them not to walk in the front yard at all, others might say the point of the message was to ask them to do it less, or more carefully, and that’s what they are doing.

          I think there are many cases where people trample on “soft asks” intentionally, but I think also very often they make things genuinely unclear, which is why I really really believe in unlearning them for myself even though they come more naturally than being really direct.

          1. summertime*

            (note I was trying to figure out how to explain the category of disagreement here, not saying that this analogy matches up to what was happening with the LW and their coworkers. Probably fits better if the neighbor is walking in the yard when it’s convenient for them, but the point I was trying to make is that some people would see that second statement as a super clear boundary and others would not).

            1. summertime*

              Hmm, I wish I could explain this. For a long time I thought that people were being inconsiderate jerks when they asked me to do things that I thought it was obvious were big favors. I didn’t like the logic of “it doesn’t hurt to ask!” because it costs me something to say no. And it does look like the LW’s coworkers are valuing their own convenience over the chance that this might be one request too many, perhaps with the excuse or legitimate belief that they will say no if it’s too big an ask. But then I ended up in a situation where someone resented having done a bunch of things for me without having indicated that they didn’t want to do those things, and other situations in which I realized that there was no way people could have known what I was hoping they would do, and it made me decide that the failure modes of “guess” culture (and also of being passive aggressive) are much worse than the alternative. So I wasn’t trying to make excuses for LW’s coworkers here, but more trying to point out that people see “soft asks” very differently, and it can explain a lot of conflicts.

              1. MsM*

                I think you’re doing a fine job of explaining, and I don’t disagree that OP may just need to get comfortable with saying “no” regardless of whether it should have to come to that or not. This just strikes me as less of an “if people (not necessarily you) keep walking across my lawn, it will be difficult (but not impossible) for me to deal with” situation, and more like the person who’s relying on your reluctance to explicitly say “I am not interested and will never be interested in the kind of relationship you want; please go away” to keep pushing interactions they are at the very least aware you’re not as enthusiastic about as they are. They can spin themselves whatever justification they want about their one isolated request not being that big a deal, but I don’t see any real room for plausible deniability that OP does not want to do this stuff if given the choice – especially when if they weren’t choosing not to do it, there would be no problem here.

  36. Purple Jello*

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable for colleagues to ask you to check mail or do other minor tasks when you go into the office. The problem here is that it’s only one person who regularly goes in.

    I totally understand the passive aggressive response. A delay in responding then a totally an unemotional group response, outlining the problem and your explanation that you couldn’t help would be the best response

  37. Emily*

    I understand Alison’s response, but I also totally get why LW sent the response they did, probably because I see myself in LW. You try and help out a few times to be nice, but then people keep taking advantage of you, and it can get really exhausting to have to keep constantly pushing back. I do think it’s good for the group to understand that of them were asking LW for something because I think individually each person is probably thinking “Oh I’m just asking LW for one little thing”, but that really adds up when every single person on the team is asking LW for something. I also think the problem here is the boss. I don’t think LW should have to keep pushing back on her own. I think the boss should be reminding people that LW can’t do their tasks for them on their own, but instead the boss is asking LW to do tasks.

  38. tomorrow's here*

    “It has gotten to the point that I spend more time doing favors for everyone than I do my own work when going to the office.”

    This is the real problem. You should prioritize your own work, *and* if there is time left over *and* you feel like it, do favours. If people ask you to do something, but you don’t have the time, you’re putting the problem back on them to solve, which you should.

    1. umami*

      Great point! You can always tell people making the ask that you’ll try if you get a chance, if that’s more comfortable than saying no outright and you genuinely don’t mind helping if time permits, but don’t their stuff first! Do your work, and when they follow up, just let them know that you didn’t have a chance.

      1. HonorBox*

        The only downfall here, though, is that OP may get caught in a rough spot when a coworker assumes that something is going to get done and find out “too late” that it didn’t. If they have something they need done and it happens to be in the office, it should be assumed that no one is there to help them.

        If OP wants to be helpful, the best bet is to send out a group message when they have a few free minutes to see if anyone needs anything. It would be great at the end of the day as a way to spend the last 30-45 minutes. It might be really helpful to coworkers so they could cross off something they thought they’d need to come in for the next day. But it should be OP inviting tasks if/when she has time.

        1. umami*

          I am assuming that these are non-urgent tasks since OP calls them favors, because it seems beyond the pale to ask a colleague to do something that is urgent and ‘must’ be done that day. But yes, checking with the team before leaving for a simple task would be a nice gesture. Of course, any gesture can be abused by some people!

      2. Samwise*

        I wouldn’t even offer to try, because a non-zero number of coworkers will hear that as “I will get to it for you”. Just say no.

  39. spiriferida*

    This is probably one of those moments where everyone comes out of it feeling a light bruise, emotionally speaking. LW for getting piled on and reacting poorly, everyone else because… well, maybe LW shouldn’t have said it like she did, but yeah, it’s true that everyone has been trying to slide her their work. Definitely agree with Alison’s scripts going forward – the issue has been brought up one way or another. Being direct about requests in the future, if this doesn’t get people to come in to the office and take care of their own work, will hopefully prevent the situation from becoming bad enough that LW hits the point of frustration a second time.

  40. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

    Just putting in my two cents that I would love an update on this one come update season! I always want to know how it turns out when someone says something (mildly) scathing and to the point exactly when they want to say it.

  41. Heidi*

    We also have a hybrid work system, but everyone takes turns being the one in the office each day. On the day you’re in, you are expected to help with tasks that can’t be done by the people who are working from home. That way, no single person gets stuck doing all the office chores. Maybe offering a solution like that would be helpful; even if it won’t directly fit your office work flow, it could get people thinking about alternatives that are workable. Good luck, OP!

  42. Bunny Lake Is Found*

    I recognize LW wrote in an hour after sending the message, so they were aware quickly that they potentially made a tactical error.

    But I think there is lots of room to rehab this, especially with the boss. Pointing out it was later in the day, the volume of the requests and prior attempt to set boundaries…and then just saying “I was trying to come of lighthearted rather be like “I won’t do that”, and instead it came off passive aggressive”. Then ask boss about how best to respond when so many people are doing this on a regular basis.

    LW didn’t do anything totally horrible, but I think their next steps will impact whether this is seen as “Woah, we are really overwhelming LW with asks!” or “LW is so rude and unprofessional!” message.

  43. Some Internet Rando*

    I have seen this happen where I worked. Over time everyone took it for granted that the person who was onsite the most just did this as part of their job. It started as a favor to everyone but then just became assumed. You need to stop going in for a while and let people start planning for other coverage.

    Once everyone else cancelled coming in person for the meeting, you could do the same… “I thought we weren’t meeting in person anymore so I am also planning on working from home.” Make them say out loud “Well, we thought you would still be onsite to do…” Then play dumb. “Why would you assume I was still coming in when none of you are?”

    The organization needs an onsite coverage plan… but this isnt your personal responsibility. Start going in on days when other people don’t know you are there. Dont tell people when you plan to be onsite. Be vague. Let some of these tasks that are not directly related to you fall through the cracks so the whole team can start thinking about a coverage plan. Maybe everyone on the team needs to come in periodically and share the onsite responsibilities.

    Also, if you are not an admin person, don’t start doing other people’s admin work or you will become the admin person.

    1. HonorBox*

      The idea of an onsite coverage plan is fantastic as is your suggestion that it isn’t the OP’s responsibility to come up with that.

      It might be worth OP documenting how often they’re getting requests from others and how much time each of those things is taking. It might actually make the case for an actual admin. But at the very least perhaps it shows that each person really needs to be in the office once a week themselves.

  44. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    It occurs to me that a benefit of making the reply public is that it will eliminate the potential for having many message chains going back and forth as people try to convince you otherwise, or respond in such a way as to expect a response.

    OP: Sorry, I can’t. I have to do my own work/Boss told me to focus on my own work/I’m not supposed to do these tasks for people any more (pick any of those).
    Coworker: But it’ll only take a minute.
    (repeat for every single one)

    Yes, it could have been more professional, but I fall on saying something to the group being better than individually in this case. OP doesn’t want to be up all night messaging coworkers to enforce boundaries.

  45. Shandra*

    The title of this post nails the issue on the head.

    Pandemic WFH showed not only how many jobs can be done 100% remote, but also how many other jobs can be done hybrid. The issue I see is that the hybrid job workers won’t come into the office when necessary, to do their own in-person tasks.

    OP’s teammates likely didn’t know before, or care, how they were imposing on OP. Each of them only thought, “I’M not going into the office for any reason whatsoever.”

    I don’t fault OP’s reaction, especially since the boss doesn’t seem to have had their back on this one. Agree that the boss should have stopped this long ago, when it started getting out of hand.

    Some tasks may seem simple, but really aren’t. Suppose OP’s colleague Jamie emails OP several PDFs, and asks them to print and snail mail a hard copy set to Whoever. Later it turns out Jamie gave OP the wrong documents, and Whoever now possesses information they shouldn’t have. This fail is on Jamie, for not taking steps to ensure the snail mail was correct before it went out.

    1. cncx*

      Without veering into fanfic or the problematic part about how admin gets shifted to women and femme presenting folk, I was in a similar situation earlier in the pandemic, but what wound up happening at that job was that my responsibilities shifted to where I did do the in office work and it was seen as my duties and I got respect and recognition for these tasks. I then moved to a second job where I did the in office admin for people who stayed home *but* I got no respect or recognition that these tasks took away from my real job. The result was i wasn’t fed up at job one (I left because they changed my boss) but i was throwing things mad at the home office peeps at job two. I wonder if op had had a shift in responsibilities or pressure if that would have changed things. For example, a friend of mine has a sweet deal where they go in once a week to do the in office stuff, but that is their only deliverable that day, gas is comped, lunch is comped, and the commute counts as time on the clock. That helped a lot with their resentment about going in “for” people too.

  46. Looper*

    OP, stop doing their tasks and start updating your resume and looking for a new role. Your boss has become dependent on you being the office gopher and does not respect or support your boundaries. This will not get better.

  47. merida*

    Ah yes, I sympathize with OP!! I am currently at my second company where I (the most junior employee who accidently let it slip that I live the closest to the office) have become the go-to in-office person when other people don’t feel like driving in. It’s tiring to have the same conversations every week. It’s hard because in a lot of ways, it does make sense for me to do a quick, 2-minute task for one coworker rather than have them use two hours of their day commuting that they could use working. It doesn’t become a problem until the coworker, and all of my other coworkers, ask me for 15 small tasks each day… It’s a slippery slope and I don’t always know where that line is. But at the same time, my sympathy towards my colleagues with long commutes is waning. Having a long commute sucks (been there!), but at the end of the day I need to do my job, not everyone else’s.

  48. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    This would be fun: you said you spent more time doing their work than yours. Send out an email that says, I’ve spent 85 hours doing tasks for all of you just in the last month and I’ve gotten behind in my own work. The X project/task takes about 85 hours and is due in four weeks. You can decide between the five of you how you’re going to do this.
    Make it one of your most hated tasks. If they complain, they don’t have time to do this, look them hard in the eye.

  49. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    Sometimes when I have trouble figuring out what I want to say, I find it helpful to say exactly what I really mean, instead of dancing around it. Still said politely, of course, but very directly. So in this case it would be something like, “All of you have asked me to take care of one or more tasks at the office tomorrow. I do not have time to do all these tasks, so I’m afraid I won’t be able to do any of them. Please plan on doing them yourself or make arrangements that do not involve my help.” Which is pretty much the same thing OP meant by her message, but actually said straight out.

  50. Raida*

    I totally would have done the group chat message.
    I probably would have gone with something like

    “I’m going to be in the office tomorrow, of course!
    I’m not available to do the xx number of tasks that’ve just been requested in the last ten minutes. I know that having the meeting cancelled this is an opportunity to stay home, but I don’t think you all realised how “just one or two things” add up.
    In future, use the group chat so that there’s no confusion over just how many favours are being added to my plate on an office day. I reckon that’ll make it easier to decide if you’re going to come into the office or not, too.”

    or, if I just wrote one and sent it without my customary “wait ten minutes and read this with fresh eyes maybe you sound like a crazy person” process…
    “I’m going to be in the office tomorrow, but everyone can just stop sending me their work to do right now. Already got xx ‘little things’ requested – this is me saying “No” to all of them, mkay?
    Just use the group chat to ask me in the future and then we’ll all be able to see if it’s an unreasonable amount accumulatively.

  51. I can't remember what name I use here*

    The only problem I had with the message sent to the group chat was that it makes it look like OP just wants everyone to come into the office. Who comes into the office isn’t OP’s concern, as long as people stop asking OP for favors (which could mean that everyone comes into the office and does their own stuff, but it could also mean that one of OP’s coworkers volunteers, or some of them set up a rotation, etc.).

  52. Eagle*

    I think I would have copied all the requests, with their names attached and stated it was half a days work and I am unable to complete all of that and my own work. I suspect that OP’s coworkers have never seen the aggregate of all their daily requests to understand why OP is pushing back on this. Knowing that the boss is also on the chain, I would then ask boss, in typical Allison advice, I can do all of these requests and either X, Y, or Z. What would you prefer I work on? Great, what are the new deadlines for the postponed work? I really understand OO’s frustration and I suspect my way of handling this is not great either.

  53. Agent Diane*

    It’s too late for this trip, probably, but if the pattern repeats next month? Then OP isn’t going in any more either. “As the meeting has been cancelled, I’m not going in so you’ll need to make other arrangements to do [task].”

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