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Miss Blankenship, Will You Please Pick up My Shirts?

July 20, 2011

Yesterday I was reading through a list called “The Manager’s Cheat Sheet: 101 Common-Sense Rules for Leaders which was posted over at Focus (note – if you’re not already participating you should check out Focus which is a social network for business and technology professionals.  Some good discussions and lots of opinions).

This list was a bit long and I admit I skimmed, but I did stop for a moment at this one:

Keep work about work. Don’t require employees to run your personal errands. Take care of your own personal business or hire an assistant.


Initially I thought of the old-timey cliche – the secretary who spends her time:

  • Running to the bank to make deposits to her boss’s personal accounts
  • Dropping off and picking up her manager’s dry cleaning
  • Skipping about town to buy stamps, lunch, coffee for the boss
  • Shopping for birthday or holiday gifts
  • Wrapping gifts for the boss’s kids or spouse or mistress

But over the years I‘ve heard of this happening to a variety of folks in a bunch of different jobs:

  • An IT dude who was regularly ‘summoned’ to the company owner’s house on nights and/or weekends when the kids’ PCs went down
  • A staff assistant who was required to head over to Mr. Big Shot’s house to help his wife (and the caterers) prepare for evening shindigs
  • A building maintenance worker who was asked to go to the home of Mr. Head Honcho to do  repairs, cleaning, snow shoveling and grass cutting
  • An Executive Secretary, reporting to the CEO, who was required to pick up the CEO-offspring from school on the days when his (non-working) wife had garden club, hair appointments, luncheon dates, massages….

There are some jobs or companies where, let’s face it, doing these type of tasks is considered part of the job.  Would one of these be the job for me?  Well…no.   But some people may enjoy this aspect of “being a personal assistant.” I imagine, were I in this situation, I would make the best of it by pretending I was the personal assistant to, oh, I don’t know –  Johnny Depp perhaps?

The problems arise, however, when these sorts of tasks just evolve over time and suddenly someone finds themself serving two masters – the organization and their ever-increasingly-needy boss.

Have you ever found yourself in this sort of situation?  Either as the boss or the employee?  Do share!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2011 10:09 am

    Wow. As someone who has worked/owned a small business (50 employees) i know that this is a common path, and one that takes a lot of work not to trod. My husband and I have pressed an employee to fix personal car and we have had employees come to the house to do handyman-type work. We always pay them separately (sometimes while they are still on the clock) and assure them that they don’t have to do it. Most of our employees are hourly and are happy for the extra cash. I think.

  2. July 20, 2011 11:52 am

    I once shared a secretary with another leader. The other leader would have her don the leader’s riding boots then trek down to the shoe shine guy to have them polished! ICK. Who want’s to wear their boss’ riding boots??

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