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‘That’s Not My Job’ – The Phrase That Murdered a Thousand Admins….

Working with people just getting into the administrative field or returning after being out of the workforce for a few years has been energizing. We have superb discussions about what is or is not the role of today’s administrative professional and how can they better understand a company’s culture.

Technically, I am not supposed to give any direct advice or job search suggestions to them as there is another staff member assigned to follow through on those tasks.

I can tell them this, though.. Do not. DO.NOT. NEVER. DO. NOT. EVER. say the phrase, ‘That’s Not My Job’. Talk about a way to lose a job!! How many admins lost their positions during the recession because they uttered that phrase and stuck to the safe, complacency of the regular to-do list.

Saying that phrase (admin or not) is a certain path to unemployment! Mind you, you can think those words. You can talk about them with your best friend over dinner. But the day you speak those words in the workplace is the day you’d better get your resume out there.

There Are Better Ways to Address the Issue.

Assess the Question

  1. Is it that you don’t know how to do what that person is asking you to do?
  2. Is it that they are asking for your help when they have their own assistant?
  3. Are they asking you to do a task that has an ‘iffy/scratchy’ moral or ethical feeling to it? Is your instinct screaming for you to run?

Handle with More Polish and Professionalism

You can say:

  1. I’m in the middle of something very important right now. May I get back to you later this afternoon? Or, Can you tell me how urgent this is?
  2. I’m not familiar with that software/finance requirement– perhaps I can help connect you to a staff member that can get this task completed for you quickly.
  3. Would you like me to spend time with [Assistant’s name] to show him/her how to process this request so they can take care of it for you moving forward?
    And my all-time personal favorite response-
  4. I’m sorry, but I really have to use the restroom, something I ate did not sit well with me.. please excuse me (and then head to the restroom). Use that opportunity to gather your thoughts as to how to best approach this person/this issue.

Obviously there may be situations that you are under tremendous duress to address the issue immediately. Telling them it’s not your job is the business world’s adolescent giving them the finger. Don’t put yourself in that position that is almost impossible to recover from……. Instead, take a deep breath and address how you can help them get the job done even if YOU aren’t the person doing it. And, if you are… well, good for you. It’s super to be a helpful co-worker, but remember to keep those boundaries and expectations crystal clear so you are not taken advantage of for your considerable kindness.

This post originally appeared on Admin Renegade.


  1. Haha this is good advice. Clients make me want to pull my hair out often, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

  2. Thank you for some great suggestions.

  3. My motto is to ask for more; even if it is out of the rhelm of your job description. This is how I moved up in my position from a receptionist to an Office Coordinator.

  4. I’m really glad to see this issue addressed.

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