You don’t have to remember Becky’s “skinny almond milk latte with an extra shot and whipped cream” coffee order.
Employees who go above and beyond to perform duties outside their primary job description are always popular with managers. But at some point, your optional responsibilities might start to overtake your real ones and interfere interfering with you getting your job done. It’s important for you to recognize when your extra help around the office, basically unpaid emotional labor, has gone too far and be able to put your foot down.
When you find yourself picking up these tasks—whether out of pressure or out of habit—remember to ask yourself, is this really part of my job description? If the answer is no, think about why you’re volunteering for these tasks. If it’s not directly related to your job’s responsibilities, no one can rightfully penalize you for not doing it.
You want to be a team player, but within reason. Here are 10 examples of things you’re doing that aren’t your job:
1. Memorizing everyone’s coffee order
Knowing everyone’s coffee order from a simple iced latte to a skinny mocha with two shots and oat milk is definitely not your job. While it’s nice to surprise coworkers with their favorite coffee once in awhile, you shouldn’t feel pressured to have to order memorized and be the only one to pick it up all the time.
2. Standing in as the employee therapist
Don’t let coworkers take advantage of you if you’re a good listener. Just because you’re empathetic and inviting doesn’t mean you’re open to listening to all of their drama and problems all day long. And you’re definitely not expected to give enlightening advice in return—especially if it’s truly taking time away from your work.
3. Cleaning up after the office party
Say you offered to clean up once after a party, you were praised for it, and now you feel pressured to keep cleaning up after parties in fear of disappointment if you stop. It’s nice to help clean up, but make sure everyone in the office is taking turns helping out next time.
4. Planning birthday celebrations
Sure, you might be an excellent party planner, but don’t let coworkers dump the responsibility of planning someone else’s birthday party on you. Offer to help with the cake or balloons, but don’t be afraid to reiterate your current workload and suggest that a few of you can co-plan the celebration together. Then divvy up the tasks.
5. Scheduling meeting for coworkers
Maybe one time your coworker was under a lot of stress and you offered to schedule a meeting or call on their behalf. Don’t let that one favor turn into a regular thing—you have more important functions to take care of than be the office assistant.
6. Sharing your lunch or snacks
You’re the employee who always has the lunch everyone is jealous of. You’re a bomb chef and you don’t mind letting a few coworkers have a few tastes of your leftover masterpieces at work. But now, you feel obligated to bring in extra portions to share. Remember, it’s not your job to feed the office.
7. Running errands for others
Every now and then, it’s nice to help others when they’re incredibly busy, stressed, or under the weather. But don’t let your generosity turn you into the office errand-runner.
8. Keeping up with the office decor
Someone’s gotta water all those plants and dust off the wall art, but it doesn’t need to be you every day. Suggest that everyone can take turns keeping the decor tidy and in order on their way in or out of work.
9. Sending office mail
If you’re the one always mailing company letters or taking packages to FedEx and that’s not in your job description, that’s a problem. You shouldn’t have to go out of your way and spend more money on gas or the subway to send something for the company.
10. Bearing all the social responsibilities
Yes, you might be a social butterfly or a masterful networker, but when you’re the only one keeping the conversation going at company events or team outings, you can become exhausted. Cut yourself some social slack and let someone else take the reins. Is the group awkwardly silent? That’s decidedly not your problem.
What else can you do?
When it’s time to address these issues head on, there are different ways to let people know you need to focus on your primary responsibilities. You can say, hey, I know I volunteered to do [thing] once as a favor, but I don’t think it’s an appropriate task for me to do regularly or I really think [person/team] is better equipped to do that with their training and position.
Or, if you’re feeling pressured to complete more difficult tasks from senior coworkers, you can say you need to talk to your boss about it first. For example, you could say, let me ask [boss] if that’s okay first, I know they wanted me to focus more on [these] priorities. However you choose to tackle saying no, know that you have every right to turn down duties that aren’t in your job description. Don’t be so hard on yourself and take a break!