How to Tell Your Boss You’re Not Her Personal Assistant / Chauffeur

boss-treats-me-like-a-personal-assistantHow do you tell your boss you’re not her personal assistant / chauffeur / secretary — when you are instead a junior associate? Is there a way to have that conversation without burning your bridges? Reader S has a great question:

How do you professionally handle being treated like your supervisor’s secretary or admin–when you are not? I am a junior associate, and the partner that I typically work for frequently asks me to do things like get lunch, make copies, drive her to far away meetings, etc. (Note: the male associate I work with is NEVER asked to do these things). I know that as a junior associate I need to be willing to go the extra mile, but when is enough enough? And how do I let her know without sounding lazy?

Oooof, I’m sorry to hear that, Reader S. (Pictured.) I think you’re probably right that she’s treating you unfairly as a woman — still, as a general caveat, I will note at the outset that there’s a chance that some of this stuff may actually be part of your job, or may be a miscommunication. For example, maybe you heard “make copies,” suggesting to you that you stand over the copier for hours — when really she meant “have copies made,” as in, take the binder to the Duplicating department, fill out the order sheet, and check the 12 binders that come back to you for accuracy and completeness (or supervise the paralegal who does that).  As any lawyer will tell you, legal work is not glamorous and sometimes feels like it has as much to do with formatting as it does actual law. STILL, with that caveat out of the way, it does sound like you’re getting the raw end of the deal.  Here are my best tips to stop your boss from treating you like a personal assistant — but I can’t wait to hear what advice the readers have for you.

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Sexual Harassment at Work

Sexual Harassment at Work | CorporetteWOW.  Staci Zaretsky over at Above the Law has collected some amazing sexual harassment at work stories from women lawyers, and the collection is too… revolting, I guess?…  to not discuss over here. (My first reaction to the post was of a mental roundhouse kick, but the fight scene from Mr. and Mrs. Smith will have to do to illustrate the post.) What stories do you care to share, ladies? Here’s one story of the several they share:

I wore dark purple suede heels to court. Opposing counsel asked, “Where are you dancing now?” in open court. Later that morning, he came to my office with cash in his mouth.

PURPLE HEELS, LADIES. Purple heels. For my $.02, I remember recognizing that people were being inappropriate around me in my legal eagle days, also, I suppose — older male lawyers I worked with would occasionally make negative comments about some of the secretaries based on how they dressed (usually implying something regarding clubbing), and one of the partners I worked with said something once about my “long, flowing hair,” like I was a princess or something. (I was growing it out for my wedding!)  But mostly I remember there being an invisible thin line that seemed to be present in every interaction I had — that was definitely not there for my male coworkers, who were free to drink, joke, have meals, and share personal stories with partners.  Vivia Chen at the Careerist had an interesting post a year or two ago where she scoffed at the perception that older male lawyers couldn’t take female associates out for a meal, and in response got a ton of emails from older male readers saying YES, the fear of being accused of sexual harassment absolutely did limit their interactions with younger female attorneys. In some ways that’s worse, because sponsorship and mentorship are essential to move up the career ladder.

Above the Law is suggesting women lawyers band together to speak up and say something — do you know who you would speak to in your workplace if something came up? (Or, in the above example where it was opposing counsel — do you know who would you speak to regarding that kind of behavior?) Do you feel like there would be retribution — or at least judgement, such as “she can’t take a joke” — for speaking up?) How do you think workplaces should walk the line between discouraging sexist behavior and encouraging senior workers to sponsor more junior workers, regardless of gender?

Psst: we’ve also talked about what to do when a client hits on you, how to discourage a flirtatious boss, how to deal with sexist coworkers, and how to network with older men

 

Should You Friend Your Boss On Facebook?

friend-your-bossShould you friend your boss on Facebook or other social media sites? What about colleagues? What do you do when your superior sends you a request?  We haven’t talked about Facebook and bosses for a long time, so I thought we’d revisit. While there are still a ton of amusing stories of people getting fired when their boss saw stupid stuff on Facebook (Buzzfeed, HappyPlace), a recentish (2014) study says that adding your boss to your social networks can have advantages (Time).

For my $.02, I agree with most of the experts: privacy controls are HUGE here. I keep a variety of different friend lists anyway — one very small one for my BFFs, a general one for my friends, one for parent-friends (so I don’t annoy my single/childless friends with a bunch of baby questions), and one for Brooklyn friends (so I don’t annoy friends elsewhere if I see a good deal somewhere local).  To be honest, I’d probably keep my boss off all of them but the general one for my friends.  Personally I hate that FB makes them so confusing — so I dug up some recent articles for further reading. [Read more…]

What to Do When Your Boss Tells You to Smile

bitchfaceThere has been a LOT in the news lately about “bitchface” (when your resting face looks slightly angry/bitchy). A lot of women have poked fun at the problem, such as the Smile, Bitch! Training Camp or this great cartoon, but the policing of women’s facial expressions is also starting (finally!) to be more understood as a form of harassment — often on the street, as in one of the catcalls men feel entitled to make to women. But reader F has a different problem: her coworkers and superiors are the ones telling her to smile. Here’s her question:

I’m hoping you or the Corporette community could give me some advice. I am a recent university graduate who’s accepted a public sector position. I have my own office but we keep our doors open, and anyone who walks by can see my face as I work. A number of my coworkers and superiors have stopped while walking by to tell me that I look “too serious” or “angry” while I’m working. I do furrow my eyebrows when I concentrate, and often am reading very tiny print, which makes me squint a bit.

It seems silly to put mental energy into holding my face into a more pleasing expression while I work, but the comments are getting on my nerves and I’m unsure if there is any ‘talk.’ I haven’t found a good response to the comments yet. Do you have any ideas of something appropriately light-hearted I could reply that wouldn’t be rude if said to a superior?

MAN. Welcome to the club, Reader F! I also “suffer” from resting bitchface, and I can’t wait to hear what the readers say here. A few thoughts for you: [Read more…]

How to Tell a Flirtatious Boss to Stop Hitting on You

Flirtatious bossWhat should you do when a flirtatious colleague — one who’s kind of your boss — is hitting on you at work? Reader J wonders…

I am a (female) BigLaw associate, who has become the focus of flirtatious attention from a (male) partner, who (1) works in another, but near-ish office, (2) is on the Executive Committee, and (3) has quite a reputation for hitting on firm employees (attorneys and non-attorneys alike). My friends/colleagues’ advice has generally boiled down to: Don’t outright reject him, stroke his ego, etc., but continue to deflect invitations for dinner and drinks. A few have suggested telling him I am not comfortable dating someone at work (which is true). What is your and the readers’ advice re (1) how to handle his attentions and (2) whether I should report him to someone in the firm? FWIW, I have been aware of his reputation of flirting with other attorneys, but have learned of his recent shift to a staffer.

Yeouch. We’ve talked before about handling a flirting client, dealing with unwanted attention from older men while networking, and even about dating at the office — but not this particular situation. In my legal-eagle days, I would have considered any partner (even if he was in another office or another group) to be my “boss,” and someone who sits on the Executive Committee — presumably with firing powers — to especially be my boss. So I can see why Reader J is concerned, and I’m curious to hear what the readers say. (Pictured: Hey so I was wondering if maybe you might want to…, originally uploaded to Flickr by nate bolt.)

A few thoughts:

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Plus-One Style: Dinner at Your Husband’s Boss’s House

Plus-One Style: What to Wear to Dinner at Your Husband's Boss's House | CorporetteWhat should you wear to your husband’s boss’s dinner party?  How does plus-one style (in appearance as well as approach) differ?   Reader L wonders…

My husband and I are both lawyers in our late (or, more accurately lates-est) twenties. He recently accepted an associate position at a new firm, and one of the shareholders invited us to a small dinner at his home along with several other associates and their significant others. The dinner is not until the end of March but I am already in a panic about what to wear. Any suggestions?

We have talked about what to wear to your boss’s holiday party, but the suggestions there (post and comments) are all very seasonal, so I thought we’d revisit.  The important part here, I think, is that you’re the plus one — it isn’t your boss; it’s your husband’s boss.  In my mind this is a very different approach than when you’re going to your own work-related social event.  Things that might be of concern were it YOUR boss: being too feminine, being interesting in that “I have a life outside the office” way,  having the entire social event run in a way that it bolsters your boss’s and colleagues’ good opinions of you as a work colleague and doesn’t undermine those opinions at all… But when you’re the plus one, none of that matters.  Obviously, you’re intelligent and a lawyer yourself — don’t pretend to be something you’re not, and don’t do/say anything that will lay the groundwork for a bad impression if you later meet another dinner attendee in a work-related capacity.  But: if you leave that evening and their impression of you is, “she’s pretty and makes a nice wife for Mr.  L,” that’s A-OK.  You wouldn’t want that if it were YOUR boss, but since it’s HIS boss it doesn’t matter.  (Incidentally, this has nothing to do with husband/wife dynamics — in general I think it’s the mark of a bad plus-one if they outshine you at your work events.  Part of having/being a good partner is knowing when to throw each other the ball and let the other person run with it, rather than trying to make all the goals yourself.  I would be peeved if my husband and I went to an event for MY work and he actively hogged the spotlight, or even if he led/perpetuated a conversation that he knew I couldn’t take part in.)

THAT SAID — what should you wear, whether it’s to your own event or your husband’s event?  My advice is kind of the same: if it’s on a weeknight, wear something you could have worn to work.   [Read more…]

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