That is Not My Job: How to Deal with Weird Work Requests

By Robert Half July 21, 2017 at 10:06pm

Anyone who’s worked in the administrative field for a while knows that a typical workday is anything but predictable. But have you ever been asked to mail a box of dirt? Or remove a snake from the restroom?

Being an administrative professional means being a master juggler. You work to keep the office organized, ensuring that processes run smoothly and efficiently. For administrative assistants, executive assistants and others, typical administrative tasks include fielding and screening phone calls, entering data and creating reports. But their roles don't stop there: They're often called upon to go above and beyond the tasks in their job description, handling one (weird) work request after another.

The role of administrative professionals is constantly evolving. As part of the Office of the Future research project, OfficeTeam and the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) conducted a survey of more than 2,000 administrative workers to learn what types of projects they’re helping with in the office. You might be surprised by the responses.

Read on for strange administrative tasks your peers have had to do in the course of their work — and what you can do if you find yourself wanting to say, “That is not my job!”

Changing Responsibilities

According to our survey, 87 percent of administrative professionals said they perform duties that are outside of their job description at least somewhat often. Fifty-five percent said this happens very often. These results make it clear that their responsibilities are growing beyond the typical tasks associated with these positions. The expanding role of the administrative professional reflects the continued growth and stability of this field, and these employees are regularly asked to take on more than just administrative tasks.

Wacky Work Requests

Just how strange are the unorthodox requests admin workers tackle from time to time? Below are a few of the responses received when we asked participants to share the strangest requests that have ever been asked of them:

• “Organize a hula-hoop competition for executive staff.”
• “Help land a helicopter on top of the building.”
• “Rent a nun costume for an event.”
• “Take care of the office’s pet snails.”
• “Call airport security to locate a lost shoe.”
• “Write a skit about hand washing.”
• “Give driving directions to a cab driver in a different state.”
• “Take samples of toilet paper from all the office bathrooms and compare them.”

 

 

View additional responses in the slideshow above.

Where to Draw the Line

It's the administrative professional's job to keep the office afloat, and as these responses seem to indicate, expecting the unexpected is also part of the job. But what should you do when weird work requests become too overwhelming? It may be time to speak up. Start by asking your boss to revisit your job description and mention that you’re receiving more and more requests that fall outside of that scope. Sometimes a little education can go a long way. If your boss misses your point and the strange requests persist, you may have to come right out and say, “That is not my job.”

Hopefully, your boss understands that extraneous work requests draw time away from your core responsibilities. They may, however, regard you as uncooperative or not a team player, so weigh the consequences before you speak up. Addressing the issue in person may help you convey your sincere concern.

If all else fails and weird work requests are too much to deal with — or worse, are making you uncomfortable — it may be time to review your company’s HR policy, report the issue to someone higher up or move on.

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