I'm a personal assistant and have been at this company for over a year now. It really bugs me when directors interrupt me while I’m working and ask me to get them tea or coffee.

I really don’t mind doing the drink round if I offer but find it very belittling when they ask me. It's my responsibility to get drinks for the group during meetings, but not all the time.

Today I was eating my lunch and still had my mouth full when my boss came in and said "I know you’re on lunch, but can I have a tea?". I made it but was too frustrated to even finish my lunch! I feel like they don't see what I'm actually capable of and just see me as the run around.

Am I wrong for being frustrated? How can I get them to stop this?

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    You say you are a personal assistant - is it part of your job to get the higher-ups coffee and tea? – David K Oct 23 at 15:51
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    Related question, not a duplicate: Did I overreact to my boss asking me to get him coffee? – David K Oct 23 at 15:52
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    Only during meetings (if we have people coming in to meet with the directors) – Anonymous Oct 23 at 15:54
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    "It's my responsibility to get drinks for the group during meetings" sounds very specific. Was that perhaps mentioned in the interview/early on? Is it possible your boss meant to say "During meetings, etc..." but said or you heard "During meetings"? – Basic Oct 23 at 22:05
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    There seem to be some confusion about whether it's just your boss asking you for tea/coffe, or a number of other people as well. Could you clarify that? It seems to me like these are actually 2 distinct categories of requests. – Frax Oct 24 at 0:07

It's not that unusual for Personal Assistant roles to include such tasks as making drinks.

Asking while you're on your lunch break is not on in my opinion though - and I would say the same of any request to do a work task while you're obviously on a break.

Fortunately there is a work around for that situation at least - which is to eat lunch elsewhere. Should you have to in an ideal world? No. But this is the world we have and for some reason millions of people out there seem to translate "eating at desk" to mean "yes I'm accepting work requests at the moment".

I made it but was too frustrated to even finish my lunch!

Honestly while I understand and completely sympathize with your frustration I do think this is an over-reaction. If a small, albeit thoughtless action can get you worked up to that extent then you are going to be in for an extremely stressful life in the workplace!

I feel like they don’t see what I’m actually capable of and just see me as the run around. Baring in mind, they have to walk past the kitchen to come into my office to ask me...

I'm not trying to be harsh here.. but "run around" is pretty much the point of a Personal Assistant. It's not that they are incapable of doing the tasks they delegate to you, it's so that they can get on with doing the bits of their job that can't be delegated to an assistant.

Imagine you're the CEO of Acme Mega Corp and one of your execs tells you they haven't finished the Widget report that day because they ran out of time and you've seen them making tea and coffee. You are probably going to be wondering why you go to the expense of employing them a PA.

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    As another option for the lunch situation, if it happened again I would just say "Sure, I'll grab it when I'm finished with my lunch." – David K Oct 23 at 18:15
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    Yeah. This looks like a PA not getting the point of a PA at all and being upset to be treated like a PA. Ah. Yeah. – TomTom Oct 23 at 20:13
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    Re: Being an over-reaction... It depends on how long this has been happening. A minor annoyance on week 1 can easily become a major issue after 6 months of repeats, each one adding to the frustration. Of course, that's why it's good to address these things early [I tend to give people a few false starts before I'll comment, in case it's an outlier] – Basic Oct 23 at 22:03
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    @Basic Its an overreaction because the request is exactly the kind of thing a PA is supposed to do. – Andy Oct 23 at 23:50

Eat your lunch elsewhere - out of sight. In the kitchen, if you have one. Or e.g. in a nearby park if you don't.

And yes, it's usually normal for people for whom you're a PA to ask you for tea/ coffee. If you're not ok with that you should search for another job.

My answer would be totally different if you weren't a PA just a random subordinate to these people of course. But PAs are normally responsible for "the logistics".

My answer holds even if it officially isn't part of your obligations, it's so minor that you probably don't want it to be the hill to die on.

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    I don't agree that the OP should have to hide when eating their lunch in order to avoid being forced to make a cup of tea at a moment's notice when they're literally mid-mouthful. – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 23 at 17:36
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit. If I am at my desk, people do approach me with questions. Even if I am eating. I would never see it as them disrespecting me. It's not other people's business when you take your lunch break. Being at the desk means being approachable. You can try explaining and educating that people shouldn't approach you when you're at your desk, but I don't think it is be something you will be able to change. – 385703 Oct 23 at 17:52
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    I agree with @LightnessRacesinOrbit 's comment. I think eating lunch somewhere out of sight might be a good practical way to help address the issue. However, I am of the opinion that if you are obviously on a lunch break, that is supposed to be your time and interrupting you for a tea/coffee is unreasonable. Perhaps consider bringing it up with your Boss in private? – Time4Tea Oct 23 at 17:54
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    You can find "rude" whatever you like, but such behavior is normal and can't be changed easily. – 385703 Oct 23 at 18:02
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    @DoktorJ The flaw with that argument is if they don't have the time to make the drink themselves, how on earth would they have time to track when you finish your lunch break AND go to you at that time. I understand waiting to fill the request till you finish lunch, but it's easier to pass requests when you cross paths than "whenever it's convenient for everyone". – Tezra Oct 23 at 20:18

I feel like they don't see what I'm actually capable of and just see me as the run around.

Am I wrong for being frustrated? How can I get them to stop this?

If you haven't already done so, you need to ask your boss for a quick meeting. In the meeting, discuss your role, what is part of it and what is not.

You can express your desire not to get tea and coffee if that is your preference.

In your manager's mind your role might actually be the one who does all the running around. If that's the case and it's not what you want, then you'll know it's time to start looking elsewhere.

  • To the very last sentence: If you disagree with your manager, the company's attitude might also matter. If your manager thinks it's your job to make the coffee, but your manager's manager disagrees, and your manager's peers disagree, then he or she might have to change their mind. – gnasher729 Oct 28 at 10:39

If your job description explicitly says "get drinks for meetings", but does not mention specific individuals or other times, then you can simply point to that fact. If your job description is implied that you get people the drinks, well, that's your job and though the boss is being inconsiderate of your time, he's still the boss and did make a request that is part of your job.

On a personal note, you should ask yourself if personal assistant the right job for you. Fetching trivial things is sort of a hallmark task for personal assistants. The longer you are in this job, will you eventually find it belittling to fetch other things? Did you take the job to hopefully be promoted to something else? If yes, evaluate if that is actually something you think may happen. Have a frank discussion with your boss about it and see what is actually possible. In the meantime, I'd seriously evaluate if personal assistant is a job you even want to do, and if not, find out what it takes to get you to do it anyway, being the "run around" included.

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    Talking about what a job description explicitly says doesn't seem a productive route - how many job descriptions have you ever seen that didn't include something to the effect of "and other duties as assigned"? – Chris H Oct 24 at 5:59
  • Exactly. If the job description does explicitly say "get drinks for meetings" and you make a point of objecting to getting drinks at other times, that's unlikely to go over well. It could be a valid complaint if you work as a meeting/event planner and are being asked to get drinks for non-meetings, but wordsmithing the precise language of your job description over tasks that are broadly within the spirit of your job tends to provoke negative reactions. – Zach Lipton Oct 24 at 6:59

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