How to Tactfully Decline doing another Coworkers Work

by Staff - Original publish date: January 18, 2012

Dear Annette,

I am having some issues with a coworker who thinks I am there to do her job. How do I tactfully tell her I have a job of my own to complete, and don't have time for hers?

Nice Guy

Dear Nice Guy,

This is an issue about People. And I don’t mean just people, I mean People.

As I go about my daily routines - salons, color consulting, wardrobe, appointments for my dog Dickie - I travel with several hand-picked People. I have People to handle my schedule, People to introduce me to men, even People to write my columns for me. I trust my People and I pay them well. So I expect them to get along.

If a problem develops among my People, I want to be the last to know about it. But if someone else tries to take advantage of my People, a gift basket of Stilton cheese and salt cod is usually enough to make them stand clear.

Your challenge is to be less Nice yet keep your self-respect intact. If you don’t say something directly to your coworker, she will not only continue to treat you as if you were one of her People, but she will also by example encourage everyone else to do the same. You can’t have that. You have Things to Do.

If you are firm, direct, yet collegial, but you still get nowhere with your coworker, you can always ask your boss to intervene. Whatever else can be said about bosses, they are great for handling unfabulous situations because almost all of them want to protect their People. If they don’t, they have to do more work themselves. It’s your boss who sets your priorities and holds you to the results, not your coworker. So if you must escalate, approach your boss diplomatically, describing the situation as neutrally as you can. Your boss should diffuse it, in ways you and your coworker might never even notice.

It seems as though your coworker might need a job makeover. Don’t let her make you over too. After all, you are one of your boss’s People.

Stay fabulous,