Getting Coffee: Personal Errands Personified

By | Aug 30, 2010

Coffee www-sxc-hu-small Should you get coffee for your boss?  I find this question over and over in the searches on my site.  Why are admins asking this question.  Why is it important?

Personal Errands

Getting coffee is really just the tip of the iceberg.  What most admins are asking about is running personal errands for your boss.  Getting coffee, picking up lunch, dropping off dry cleaning.  You all know the kinds of things I’m talking about.  I’ve talked about running personal errands before. While many bosses are hesitant to ask their admin to run personal errands for them, other bosses think it is a requirement for the job.

Lack of Respect?

Is it a devaluation of our skills?  Does it show a lack of respect on the part of the boss to ask us to get coffee?  It depends on boss.  Most bosses understand our value and are reluctant to waste our time on such errands.  On the other hand, some bosses consider us lackeys.  We exist to do what he wants when he wants.  But does that mean we shouldn’t ever run personal errands for our bosses?

What Is Our Job Anyway?

Let’s break our job down to its core objective.  Administrative and Executive Assistants, at their core, exist to make the boss’s job easier and more productive.  If getting a cup of coffee or picking up lunch allows her the constructive time she needs to work on a project, then being the best coffee maker or getting that food meets our core objective.  It is, indeed, part of our job description.

It’s All About Respect

As I said earlier, I don’t think most bosses disrespect what we do as Administrative Professionals.  Some, however, do.  I don’t think the issue for any of us is getting coffee.  It’s being respected for the highly skilled professionals that we are.  If your boss doesn’t respect you, it won’t change if you refuse to get his coffee.

If your boss respects all that you do, I can’t imagine you would have a problem getting the coffee occasionally.  At least that’s the way that I feel.  For a boss who respects and values me and my work, I’d do whatever he needs to help him be successful.  For a boss who doesn’t respect me and my work…well…let’s just say I’d be looking for another job rather than worrying about the details.

What’s Your Opinion?

Do you get coffee or run other personal errands for your boss?  Why or why not?  Leave a comment and let us all know how you feel about this topic.

I’ve added a poll to the site.  Vote in the latest poll on the sidebar (click through to the site if you read this in a reader or e-mail).  This week’s poll: How Long Have You Worked in the Administrative Support Field?

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12 Comments so far
  1. Lily (3 comments) August 30, 2010 7:05 am

    When it comes to running personal errands for my boss, I have no problem so long as I can see the need for him not to handle it. I’ve gotten coffee, picked up lunch, dropped off prescriptions, made doctors appointments, ran dry cleaning – one time, I even hand-delivered his absentee ballot to his house at 5:30 AM. I don’t feel it’s disrespectful, so long as I can see the need for me to take care of it, instead of him.

    Many times, I take care of these things (doctors appointments, bills, prescriptions) as we’re preparing for international business travel. These things then fall under a definite “business” umbrella. As I’m setting up travel arrangements and checking visa requirements and vaccination requirements, I’ll set up the appointments to go with it, and check with him on whether or not he’ll need a refill during travel.

    Other times, if we’ve got a deadline coming up, or if he’s preparing for his next meeting, I’ll run out for lunch or grab coffee, because his time is better spent preparing. He’s the moneymaker. I consider these personal errands “business” as well.

    However, if he’s sitting at his desk, feet up, chatting away on a personal phone call and I’m the one currently working my tail off, I let him know that he needs to get his own caffeine fix. 😉

  2. Odalia Romero (1 comments) August 30, 2010 7:16 am

    Reading this article is really a refresher for me. I’ve worked as an administrative assistant for over 10 years. It was until I moved to Florida where serving coffee and cleaning the kitchen became to be the Admins sole responsibility. I worked for a company that really didn’t know how to utilize their admin support staff. Where making and organizing files, ordering supplies, were not the only tasks. The admins duties also included cleaning the kitchen, washing dishes/running the dishwasher (which involved moving it as close to the faucet to plug the water tube so that the dishwasher could actually run and plugging to the outlet), going to publix to shop for the coffee creamer, and making coffee for the office staff.

    Needless to say, this was a complete shocker because I came from a working environment where my duties involved different levels of professional support like wiring funds, typing quarterly and annual letters, typing investment confirmation letters, creating worksheets, mailmerge, etc and where the occassional coffee request was welcomed.

  3. Jodith (189 comments) September 1, 2010 8:24 am

    I’ve found it tends to be the company more than the geographic location that defines this. The medical field, for instance, tends to be one where they want the admin staff to do all the menial tasks like keeping the kitchen clean. It really does vary widely in what’s expected. Like I said, a lot of it seems to have to do with how much they respect the admin profession to start with.

  4. Cassie (1 comments) September 11, 2010 11:55 pm

    I work for two bosses. They get their own coffee or tea, and their own lunch. The only time I’ve been asked to make coffee or tea was when there were visitors (and it isn’t every time).

    One boss will sometimes ask me to do errands, like reschedule a doctor’s appointment or postpone jury duty. He’s married, his wife is quite capable, so I feel she should do it for him if he doesn’t want to do it himself. His wife will sometimes ask me to do stuff (related to his travel). I don’t like it but I don’t complain and just do whatever is asked.

    The other boss does everything himself. (Maybe his wife does some stuff for him, I don’t know because his wife has never called or emailed me – who knows if his wife even knows he has an assistant). Once he saw me making coffee for one of my other boss’s visitor and told me “tell him to make his own coffee next time”. Never asks me to run any personal errands for him and most of the time, even books his own work-related travel.

    If it’s an occasional thing (like when there are visitors), it’s okay, but I don’t think I should have to be getting coffee or tea every morning. One of my coworkers washes out her boss’s mugs (tosses out tea leaves, cleans it), or picks up lunch for him when he asks her to. I think that’s too much (the mug washing). But my coworker does it without complaint (she may even started doing it on her own volition). I know another coworker who, when asked to get lunch for her boss, told him to get his own lunch. And I guess he never asked her again.

    I understand that as assistants, our job is to make our bosses’s lives easier. But there’s a line between being too busy to do something (such as going to the store to get food) and just not doing something because you choose not to (if you go to the bathroom, which invariably the bosses do, you can take your mug there and wash it out). Also, we are not just generic “assistants” – we are actually analysts who handle financial stuff as well, so it’s not like we’re just a receptionist or something. Having to take time out to do something menial like that is cutting into time that could be used making charts or reports or whatnot.

  5. Sabrina (5 comments) September 23, 2010 9:04 pm

    @Cassie: You really need to get over yourself. No matter what your inflated title, you are “just a secretary!” You are no better than anyone else. So quit wearing your bosses rank! This “I don’t do coffee” mentality is so 1980s. You’re in the middle of a recession, and by God you do what it takes to KEEP YOUR JOB! FTR, I am a receptionist and there is no shame in doing this job. It’s better than being unemployed.

  6. SFGurl (1 comments) October 13, 2010 2:14 pm

    Like the article said, this is all about respect. I used to work as an Executive Assistant supporting a C-Level Marketing Executive, on a 1:1 basis. So I supported only him, and did everything for him, including getting him lunch, getting passport for his partner, one time I went to his house to let an appliance technician in, etc., etc.
    He and I had a fabulous working relationship and are still in touch now although we haven’t worked together for 4 years now.
    I always said “I worked with him”.

    My current job, almost 8 months now, is as an admin assistant who supports a VP and the entire department. So I get involved with onboarding new hires, making sure the person gets all he/she needs, from computer, desktop, cellphone, etc.
    I also help out the team members, some expense report, some copying, meeting scheduling, etc.
    My VP is a total Diva. She wants me to get her lunch on a daily basis, and coffee as well, minimum once a day. It’s very clear that she views me as her personal maid. She asked me to bring in her coffee when she was having an offsite across the street from my office. And guess what, that meeting location is actually right in the cafeteria.
    But apart from treating me as a personal maid, she also wants me to be her chief of staff, with regard to prepping her for EVERY single meeting in the calendar, and she expects me to print out her calendar everytime there is an update. Sometimes I have to print out 10 calendar when she is in an hour meeting since things change quite fast here. She has an Ipad and an Iphone, but still wants me to provide her with paper calendar.

    Why did I leave that great old job, you might ask. I received a very good offer with a very good company, which unfortunately had a really bad culture. Long story short, I ended up with this current job with a psycho boss. With the current job market, I just have to suck this up until I can find a ‘normal’ job, supporting a ‘normal’ boss.

  7. Betsy (2 comments) October 15, 2012 6:18 pm

    I would have no problem getting my CEO coffee. I have asked and he is adament his exec assist won’t be doing that, he feels weird about it. On the other hand when we first started working together he would ask me, since he was headed to the kitchen anyway, if he could bring me back a cup of coffee. Lovely gesture but I don’t drink coffee. As someone else said, it really is about respect and respecting one another. Working for a true gentleman doesn’t hurt either. He does have a tendency to leave coffee mugs either in his office, on my desk forgetting to take it with him or in the sink, which drives some co-workers bonkers having dishes in the sink unwashed. So, I frequently take mugs to be washed, I honestly don’t know if he even knows because he wouldn’t like me washing his coffee mugs out either. I feel like it’s one less thing he needs to do and instead he can focus on other things far more important.

  8. Lydia Grace (2 comments) January 25, 2013 11:33 am

    I don’t get individual coffees. My direct boss has never asked me. But I work for about 10 people (as a pool), and only one has ever asked me to get him coffee. Once I did (I could have kicked myself afterward). Once he poked his head in my door and asked me to go and get him coffee. I didn’t. I didn’t say no, as I didn’t have time. He disappeared down the hallway. So I was expected to pay for it as well. AND interrupt an important meeting to bring it to him (the others at the meeting would have SEEN me fetching him coffee) For groups or special visitors, yes. As a courtesy to special guests, coffee is ordered, but I don’t “get” it. It is brought to the office. Sometimes guests are taken to our coffee room.

  9. Lydia Grace (2 comments) January 25, 2013 11:36 am

    We often think “The Devil Wears Prada” is so over-the-top that it can’t be true. But they ARE out there. Horrible bosses. Still. We were glad to hear one such boss in our corporation was marched off the premises for mistreatment of staff.

  10. Corrine (1 comments) October 28, 2014 10:01 pm

    I just recently started a jobs and recently have been asked to do office cleaning, plus cleaning the bathroom which includes scrubbing of the toilets. I would like to get others input as to if they feel this is crossing the line?

    Thanks

  11. Carolyn Baeta (1 comments) February 26, 2015 12:54 pm

    I’ve gotten my boss coffee before and she’s gotten me coffee before. I’ve picked up prescriptions for her and have run a number of personal errands. I’ve even walked her dog a few times. As long as I’m treated with respect and I’m appreciated, that’s all I care about. She’s extremely busy with work and I’ll assist in any way I can.

  12. Jodith (189 comments) May 12, 2015 9:03 am

    Personally, while I don’t mind emptying my trash or cleaning up the spill, I do draw the line at cleaning the office. They need to pay someone to clean the office.

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