Are there some admin tasks you consider truly beneath you? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Are there some admin tasks you consider truly beneath you?

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Question: "I don't mind doing a lot of the repetitive and humdrum things that need to be done as an admin, but once in a while things come along—like cleaning the windows of my boss's office or running out to buy ice cream for a meeting that went on longer than it should have—that make me feel like they're really just personal favors I'm obligated to do. Does anyone else get frustrated with the truly petty tasks?" - Barb, Customer Service and Fulfillment

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria September 18, 2014 at 8:48 pm

Even in the military, “personal servitude” was a no-no. I am with the admins here who say being forced to tasks that are not a recognized part of your job description as an administrative assistant is inappropriate. I don’t make getting or making coffee but cleaning toilets or something really immoral or illegal? That’s where I would draw the line!

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Melissa April 11, 2014 at 2:09 pm

These days you have to have at minimum a Bachelor degree to be an administrative assistant and most of the time the job pays between $10 -$15 an hour (at least in So Cal). I did not learn how to do dishes, scrub toilets or do windows in college – if I knew I was going to be doing that, I don’t know why I needed to get a college education. So yes, I consider getting the bosses personal errands done and cleaning the office to be someone else’s job! If you want me to do those things, you can double my pay and add weekly manicures and new clothes because the office professional dress code does not take into account the bleach from the cleaning products!

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Chris Male March 13, 2014 at 8:27 am

I think the most non-administrative task I ever did was laying fitted carpet in my office. It was a small company without maintenance staff and I got to choose the carpet and improve my own environment!

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LaTanya February 21, 2014 at 4:18 pm

I definitely take a different stance when it comes to this subject. I have read most of the comments on here and I say cuddos to those admins who don’t mind cleaning toilets, washing windows, and such. I on the other hand won’t be doing such things unless I apply for a job that clearly defines that I should be expected to do these types of tasks. I espect the majority of what I do in this field to be administrative in nature. I have learned throughout my career that people will treat you the way you allow them to treat you. There is nothing wrong with me occassionally making a coffee or lunch run for my boss; heck, I have even picked up medicine and dry cleaning before because of a meeting that went over and the pharmacy or cleaners closed early. But, the other stuff, it’s not about being beneath me, it’s about do I want to do that stuff and the answer is no! If I wanted to clean a window or a toilet, like some of the other admins said, I would be a janitor. The relationship I have with my boss determines just how much I will go above and beyond because I’ve also been in situations where I had bosses who asked me to do certain things because they were power tripping too. Some bosses barely said good morning, but you want me to schedule a trip to the dentist for your child, and book your personal travel for you and your family and I am not even a personal assistant? Why can’t your wife handle that. I don’t feel that being thankful for a job is an excuse to allow people to treat me as though I am not only their admin, but their personal assistant, janitor, chef, etc. I ask questions upfront to understand what the expectations are and that is how I determine what type of environment, or person I want to support. It’s not about thinking I am above those things moreso than it is about what the person who is asking thinks about me in this role. Yes I could save them 5 or 10 minutes by doing certain things for them, but the types of things I signed up to save them from doing are administrative in nature and should be related to the job, not janitorial, personal chef, etc. If you don’t draw the line, then yes, you will be cleaning toilets and all of that. It’s not about making another admin feel as though they are foolish for not taking that perspective about their job because we all know that there is a lot of stuff people ask us to do because they really don’t want to do it and feel that it is beneath them due to their title or position, and this is whether they have the time to do it themselves or not. Why is it that they can be above certain things but we cannot. I don’t want to clean a toilet any more than you. We have an entire facilities team here at my job to clean toilets, windows, etc. I’m just not that type of Admin. I’ve spent 16 years as an Executive Assistant and Office Manager, and I’ve never been asked to do those types of things and I think it would make me question how my boss views and respects me if I was asked to clean the toilets and windows as well. That is just my take on things, and I’ve never had a problem with maintaining employment being this way.

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Cathy February 24, 2014 at 8:11 am

What you wrote is the point I was trying to make, LaTanya. Thank you!

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Trisha February 21, 2014 at 8:48 am

While driving in this morning, the radio station I listen too asked listeners to call in to tell them one of the worst parts of their job and the djs had to guess what their job was. A woman called in to say that she removes condoms from pants pockets, feces from walls, and urine from clothing. Would you believe she said that her job is an administrative assistant (she didn’t say where, but I’m guessing a very small nursing home???).

After hearing that, I would be ecstatic to wash a window or wash a car anytime!

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Cathy February 21, 2014 at 8:23 am

I have posted here already but . . . I told my boss (the company’s owner) about this forum question and he said “Now that you mention it, my truck windows have a lot of salt on it, how about running out there and taking care of that for me?” and he started laughing. He couldn’t believe that a boss would ask his administrative assistant to do anything on a personal level or ask them to do something that he could hire someone to do, or do himself. If you feel comfortable and appreciated when asked to do something on a personal level for your boss or when you’re asked to clean the office or windows, that’s fine. I don’t consider it menial or beneath me, I just do not consider part of my job as an Administrative Assistant. And I bet Barb didn’t expect such a varied response to her question :)

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Katalin February 21, 2014 at 2:48 am

I work in a law firm. My mindset is, and always will be, that if I save five or ten minutes time for any of the lawyer with whatever has to be done they can make more money during thos five or ten minutes and this benefits the company and I get paid more in the end. Additionally, it is more likely they will continue to include admins in the company ski trips to the Alps if they make a healthy profit …

However, I agree with Renee that I want to feel appreciated. If I didn’t I would definitely be less likely to help out.

Katalin

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Sue February 17, 2014 at 3:24 pm

I have been an Administrative Assistant for almost 40 years. In my current position I have finally been asked to do the one “job” that I consider too menial for me – cleaning the office because my employer has decided that the cleaning company charges too much! This “job” I refuse to do. I wasn’t hired nor am I being paid to be the cleaning service.

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Lori February 17, 2014 at 9:51 am

While I can understand that those jobs seem menial, I’m inclined to say “suck it up”. I really don’t get the excuse “it’s not my job”. Truthfully, it probably isn’t part of your job but if you are fortunate enough to have a good job and a good boss, you likely didn’t get there by saying “it’s not my job”. You got there because people see you as someone who goes the extra mile. If you were being asked to do these things off the clock, then I would think differently, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case. I’m an Admin too and I see on of my duties as keeping my boss looking good. If that means washing smudges off his windows, I’d do it in a heartbeat because if my boss doesn’t look good, neither do it. Besides that, I don’t do all the little extras because they are in my job description; I do them because of good old-fashioned kindness. I think when we start to see jobs as menial or “beneath us” it’s time to step down off the pedestal.

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Trisha February 17, 2014 at 10:13 am

Bravo, Lori! Very well said.

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Terron February 20, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Agreed, Lori. Well put!

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Dot March 30, 2014 at 5:03 pm

It’s about mutual respect. When mutual respect exists between a boss and his admin, I don’t believe he or she will ask you to do ridiculous things. When there is no respect, some people will run all over you. Some will do it just to see how far you will go tripping over yourself just to keep your job. I have picked up airline lines, lunch, coffee and even typed a former bosses’ wife’s resume even though she had her own secretary. However, that boss and I had an understanding that what I did for him was a courtesy/favor and definitely not required. A personal assistant and admin assistant are not the same. Admins have to determine their bosses expectations upfront and then let their standards be known.

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Jackie February 17, 2014 at 9:48 am

Reading through some of the comments listed above, I think that most would have not liked to follow me in my career. I have worked for small businesses (5-15 people) for half of my admin career. Currently, I work for a small business from a branch office and currently work under 10 Partners, which have titles such as President, PIC’s, and Studio Directors. Out of six admin staff, I am the only one that has the actual Administrative title. The tasks that I do consist of unclogging toilets and scrubbing floors and windows to arranging travel itineraries and business conferences and expos. Do I sometimes wish I made more money – you bet, and it may not be in my job description, but it is all part of my job. In my current office, I am the only girl out of six employees and who do they come to when something needs fixed – me. I am the only one that carries a full blown tool kit in the back of my car. It has been used more times than I care to mention. I have even been called to a restaurant with my own jumper cables to jump start my bosses truck. I am very much a girlie girl – but my mother and father raised me to be very versatile and self efficient when needed. Happy to be of service whereever I am needed!

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Diane February 20, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Good to hear! I have a full blown tool kit in my truck, too. I also have a smaller version in my desk drawer. :)

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Kimberley Plachta February 17, 2014 at 9:39 am

I remember one of the questions I was asked at my interview for the job I have now..”What was the most menial task you have ever done at your last places of employment?”
I knew when that question came out that I could expect to perform menial tasks in the future and I embraced it.
We are not only administrators and customer service people for our external customers, but also for our internal customers, ..meaning our co workers and managers and supervisors. No one is above going that extra mile when asked. It shows your devotion and loyalty and puts your co workers at ease when they need something and cannot or will not do it themselves. Sure there are limits, but how often are you really asked to perform “menial” tasks? I say being employed in a slow economy is something to be happy about and an attitude of gratitude goes a long way. Try to practice this and move on.

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Jenny February 14, 2014 at 4:38 pm

There is a difference between a task “being beneath” you and that task being menial. When something is beneath you, you’ve decided that you are better than the position you are in and the people around you. We all, as Admins, do menial tasks everyday. We make copies, do the filing, make the coffee, order supplies, etc. Those are basic, menial admin tasks. As we move on and up in our Admin positions we forget that those things still need to get done everyday despite how busy we get doing the important things for our bosses. My bosses now are famous for telling me “we don’t pay you to get us coffee!” I repspond to them, ” the company doesn’t pay you to waste that 10 minutes at the coffee machine making coffee when you could be working on a project, that’s what I’m here for. I help you be more efficient”.

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Julie February 14, 2014 at 4:04 pm

You mean like getting them water and heating up and serving their lunch? Or how about planning their personal vacations and returning movies? Beneath me no…part of my job description, I think NOT!

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Cathy February 14, 2014 at 2:54 pm

I must have been very blessed with my bosses over the years. Not once was I asked to do anything like wash windows, etc. And I do go above and beyond in my business-related tasks each and every day (so I’ve been told by my boss). I think that being asked and/or expected to perform that type of non-business related chore, and thinking it’s just fine and should be done with a smile (and some resentment), devalues our position as Admin Assistants. In my mind, it turns us into maids and janitors, and that’s definitely not anywhere in my job title.

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Paula February 17, 2014 at 9:47 am

I agree with you Cathy. I believe that we need to do certain tasks to make our leaders more efficient but I don’t think something like personal tasks (unless you are a Personal Assistant) is part of an Admin Assistant’s job. We need to maintain that our role is one that is professional and should be respected as such. If we don’t, they won’t either!

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Trisha February 14, 2014 at 1:42 pm

The overall nature of being in any admin role is going above and beyond… always. Whether it be preparing that exemplary financial report for the board, picking up dry cleaning, or, yes, even washing those windows (and I’d bet that was probably done because so-and-so in maintenance was not available at that very second when the boss wanted it done)… it’s all part of what we are here to do.

Don’t get me wrong… there are plenty of tasks I find menial and yes, I resent the hell out of doing them at times. I’m not a drone. But try to keep in mind that the one thing we do best, and only WE can do it, is save our executives’ TIME. Not to mention, we also make them look their best regardless of the situation.

Hang tough, everyone. We’ve all been there… done that. Even if some don’t want to freely admit it.

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Diane February 14, 2014 at 11:59 am

I don’t mind running and shopping for food and/or supplies for a long meeting. That seems appropriate, as it is all business-related. As long as I am able to charge the company for the food/supplies and get reimbursed for using my vehicle, I’m good.

Fixing clothing? One of my hobbies is sewing, and I don’t mind mending clothing as long as I’m given time to do it and paid as a tailor to do it. The people I work with do exactly that: They ask me if I have time, and they pay me (out of their own pocket, not the company’s) when the job is done.

Washing windows? Well, we have a vendor that cleans and maintains our building and furniture. I have been chastised for fixing/cleaning things that are beyond maintaining my own workspace or even what they consider appropriate (yes, I’ve unclogged toilets, but I didn’t want others to have to wait a day or so to use it), so I’ve stopped doing that. The next time someone would like their windows cleaned or need something fixed, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “I’ll be happy to get ‘***‘ to do that for you.” Then contact the vendor to do just that.

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Lori in PA February 20, 2014 at 5:22 pm

I use Diane’s approach. In a pinch, I’ll do just about anything. However, if it is not URGENT and I can get XYZ to handle it, that’s what I do. I consider it my job to do MY job and be available to handle matters that are pressing to the business. Professionalism and delegation skills are just as valuable as a good window washer!

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Stephanie February 14, 2014 at 10:44 am

I look at it this way: I’m paid by the hour at a wage that I consider appropriate for my skills and abilities. There is no job that is beneath me or anyone else, in my opinion. If I’m asked to spend time sweeping the floor at this wage, I’ll do it cheerfully. It’s up to us to ensure we are being paid a wage consistent with our capabilities, and up to management to ensure they are spending our time (their money) wisely. Now, if you are a salaried employee that is working over 40 hours to get a lot of stuff done that is more appropriately done by janitorial or other staff, I would expect that to be a problem for you. As the other comments indicate, it depends on the circumstances.

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Kathy February 14, 2014 at 10:04 am

I’m the executive assitant to the CEO. For me it’s not whether the tasks are menial or not; it’s whether they’re appropriate or not. There are plenty of menial tasks that are appropriate. A meeting runs late and they want ice cream or lunch? Absolutely. Or the conference room has to refreshed after that same meeting because someone else will be in there in five minutes? You bet. But cleaning the office windows? I’ll call the maintenance contractor and have it put on the list. Personal errands (shopping or laundry pick-up)? Nope.

That being said, I work for a large non-profit organization and my boss (a woman) is not free to use me in any which way. If this were her business and I were her executive assistant, those personal tasks might very well be part of the expectation.

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Cathy February 14, 2014 at 10:03 am

As a clarification, I don’t think those chores are beneath me, I just don’t consider them part of the job.

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Cathy February 14, 2014 at 8:18 am

I cannot believe how many Admins think it’s okay to wash windows, pickup laundry, sew trousers, etc. I’m an Administrative Assistant/Assistant to the Vice President. Nobody has ever asked me to do personal favors for them . . . not the managers, not the technical staff, and not my boss. If a meeting runs long and I’m asked to run out for lunch, I consider that part of the job. If anyone would ask me to wash their windows, sew their trousers, or go pick up their laundry, I’d refuse. I’m not a personal assistant, I’m an Admin Assistant. Doing personal chores for somebody, no matter what their position on the Org Chart, is not in my job description. And, Barb, it shouldn’t be in yours.

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Deb February 17, 2014 at 11:07 am

Cathy, I totally agree — and thanks for posting your response. While reading some of the other responses, I was starting to think I was a terrible person because I don’t do a lot of these personal and/or janitorial things mentioned. And it has not hurt my career. I have a very responsible, good-paying job. Thanks again, Cathy!

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Joyce February 13, 2014 at 7:08 pm

I’ve sewn rips in suits, washed dishes, picked up laundry, written procedures and worked on complicated reports that even managers couldn’t figure out. My pay isn’t based on task. As long as I get paid, AND my boss actually appreciates what I do and not take it for granted I think I’m okay. If you think it’s petty it probably is; but if you think you’re helping your boss out so they can focus on bigger things and making them look good having such a dedicated assistant, you’re probably right. The key though is sincere appreciation; without it everything that is “other duties as assigned” seems petty.

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Robin February 13, 2014 at 6:14 pm

I think the successful admin will go above and beyond the scope of her/his job description for little things that come up in the office. I do not mind running errands or doing menial tasks because I am appreciated at my job and am told that frequently. I believe doing these tasks with a cheerful manner makes one stand out and shine. Let go of the anger and frustration and see where your willingness to assist will take you.

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DeeCee February 13, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Our firm administrator always set a great example for doing whatever needed to be done. I never minded doing menial tasks because I knew she would have done them. She never acted like anything was beneath her. Sometimes those menial tasks are necessary. But I agree that you need to be appreciated for whatever work you do.

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Susan February 13, 2014 at 5:00 pm

I have a great paying job working for a CEO. What got me here was my willingness to always do whatever was needed over the years. Some days I’m working on our strategic plan and some days I’m fetching coffee. It all pays the same, but appreciation goes a long way!

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Renee February 13, 2014 at 4:49 pm

I always tell my bosses that I will do whatever is asked as long as I am appreciated. I don’t mind doing menial tasks as long as they are not expected. There’s a big difference (at least to me) in “oh just leave your dishes for Renee to clean up” and “Wow, we ran over on that meeting and I don’t have time, Renee, would you mind cleaning up the conference room?” . The second is usually accompanied later by “Thanks for cleaning that up. I appreciate it.”

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Sandra June 5, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Wow, Renee, you are lucky that you get that kind of verbal acknowledgement. I am not thanked *at all* and sometimes I allow it to get to me. Like so many of the other people here, I strive to do what’s asked of me and a little bit more every single day. It’s my job. I always picture a line of 10 people outside the front door, waiting to take my job if I don’t want it anymore. That’s usually enough of a motivator. But it would just be nice to get a “thank you” every now and then. I don’t need a dozen roses every time I go above and beyond, but a simple sentence of sincere appreciation goes so far in making an admin feel as if she’s respected and valued. *sigh* :-(

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CS February 13, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Barb, honey, are you kidding me? Washing windows in your bosses office? Do you not have cleaning people for that? That is WAY beyond other duties as assigned! I hope he pays you very well..

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