I am working in a retail store. There is one to three of employees working at a time, usually with no manager on site. I have almost never worked with the manager and mainly communicate with him through text messaging and verbal notes he passes on to other employees. My first question is, is it reasonable to suggest to the manager to leave written notes just to reduce the chance of miscommunication of someone relaying?

One of my coworkers has been giving me huge lists of things to do. I think he's getting me to do most of the work while he just sits waiting for a customer; in other words I don't think the work is being distributed fairly. For example he just sits at the checkout waiting for a customer to come while I'm moving all the boxes around in the cooler. Is it fair to bring to management's attention that one person is almost always doing the harder task (either to get more recognition or to have the work divided more evenly)?

Something specific happened the other day. The manager scheduled me as "crowd control" since we can only let so many people in the store given COVID precautions. I very much liked this task. However, the way the manager wrote it on the schedule (which everyone sees) was "casablancaeggplant [me]: crowd control, duty X, duty Y, duty Z". Right when I arrived a co-worker gave me a huge list of things to do for duties X,Y,Z. I asked him why he couldn't do it and he said the schedule said it was my responsibility. I'm pretty sure the manager did not mean the X,Y,Z was my EXCLUSIVE responsibility, but it's still shared. As per the answer given on this question, I messaged my manager saying "co-worker told me I'm the only one doing X,Y,Z. Is that correct? I won't be able to do crowd control if I'm e.g. taking out the trash". The manager replied "look, it takes 2 minutes to take the trash out. Crowd control is for later when it gets busier". I replied "so the other people working are just staying on till the whole shift and not helping?" to which he replied "they will help out too and this is your job, got it". I told him right when I walked in, the people who had started earlier gave me a list of 28 tasks and asked if he knew about that. He said that he tells people to write a list right when they come in and I should do it to.

I think I angered him with my messages. I think having this kind of conversation is not well suited to text messages. Is it reasonable to ask to be scheduled to work a shift with him? Even if he does tell people to write lists of things to do (which I hadn't heard before) I don't think he means to give to someone else the list to do. And 28 tasks is rather a large number and I think they were just waiting for me to arrive to do everything (in fact the other coworkers said "why didn't we do this earlier?"). My ideas for next time someone gives me a list of things to do: Ask "why can't you do it?" and "I am already working on X". If they persist and the list is long, I could say "how would you like to divide the work? We could split the list in half". I could say I prefer to write my own list of things to do, but then they may argue they are just saving me the work of looking for what needs to be done.

  • 3
    You have already bought it to your bosses attention, unsure what you'd accomplish by telling him again. Why are you accepting to-do lists from coworkers anyway?
    – Kilisi
    May 22, 2021 at 8:42
  • @Kilisi thanks for asking that, it makes me realize he's just acting with apparent authority. Next time he comes up to me and says "I wrote you a list of things to do", how should I reply? Should I just say "no" and stare at him? May 22, 2021 at 9:05
  • Yesterday was a bit different because he argued that the way the schedule was written I was EXCLUSIVELY responsible for certain tasks. When I confirmed this with the manager he said the others would help me, but I'm uncertain if "help" means it's still primarily my responsibility. May 22, 2021 at 9:05
  • 6
    " Should I just say "no" and stare at him?" Saying "no" would imply that LIstIdiot has some reality or importance. Just smile as if ListIdiot is a 2 year old, and go about your business. You're in a tough, likely under-paid, cog - in - a - corporation retail job. It's inconceivable you should be bothered in any way with any nonsense; you shouldn't have to "think" about anything whatsoever. Put in your hours and go home with your pay and a smile.
    – Fattie
    May 22, 2021 at 11:41
  • For that kind of job, for once I fully agree with Fattie, just do whatever task is on the to do list until you've worked your hours, and go home...
    – Laurent S.
    May 22, 2021 at 15:10

1 Answer 1


You're being far too passive with your job.

This sounds a bit harsh, but the main reason for your problem is due to not having your own priorities. If you have an active list of things to do, your response to someone telling you to do stuff would be "Oh, I'll take a look when I'm done with my responsibilities. Thank you for the suggestion though."

Your goal is not to be like them, standing at the till and doing nothing. Whatever they chose to do with their time and responsibility, that's their problem, and your manager's problem, not yours.

Start writing up lists for yourself and let your manager deal with the other guys. Don't use words like "fair" because your manager isn't being "unfair" at all. You just do your colleague's work for some reason.

When I worked in retail, everyday I have a list of things to do:

  • Check priority corporate communication on whether any urgent tasks need to be done (price changes, promotion/discounts, pulled stock, end-cap advertising, other high priority items).
  • Stock shelves and reorganize according to corporate communication above. This is going to be on the floor so simultaneously be ready to help customers.
  • Tidy and Reorganize shelves in addition to what is required by corporate. Note problematic area that require extra attention (dirty spots that are hard to remove, broken/loose shelving, missing price tags)
  • Check shipping schedule / clear warehouse / floor presence. These tasks change in priority based on circumstances. No shipment means clearing warehouse can be done later. Floor presence can be prioritized if there are special promos or the store is busy.
  • Help out other departments check to see if other departments are short-staffed and help out, without sacrificing my own responsibilities.
  • Receive shipping / Clean problematic areas noted above / Reprinting missing price tags / miscellaneous time consuming tasks. My store receives shipment during operating hours so I will have to go and unload the truck. Once in a while I'll have to come back out to help customers but the other departments help out with floor presence. This is because I help them out from above so they help me out for this part.
  • End-of-day floor clean when the day is ending, do proper clean that couldn't be done earlier (don't want a staff to be unnecessarily taking apart shelving when there are customers around).
  • Final warehouse clean, sweep, put things away

With this list, when other people want me to do their work, I ask them if they want to help me first and they tend to go away. Those that really need help actually DO help me and get things done really fast.

If you ever get into trouble because you didn't do your colleague's work, bring out your own list and tell your manager what you've done.

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