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The Thin Line: Executive Assistant or Errand Runner?

The Thin Line: Executive Assistant or Errand Runner?

"And while you're out, could you pick up my dry cleaning?"

By Therese Droste, Monster Contributing Writer

Her boss’s cat hissed and scratched Sally as she maneuvered a busy intersection. She told herself the cat was just upset from the veterinarian’s visit. Besides, Kitty didn’t like to ride in cars.

“All I have to do is keep the cat calm while I pick up my boss’s dry cleaning. Then I can take it home and wait for the painter to arrive so I can let him in and return to the office to finish my report for a 2 p.m. meeting. I’ll have to skip lunch again today,” Sally told herself.

Suddenly the insanity of it all hit her – she was a professional, not a personal assistant. Yet over the past two months she’d spent more and more time doing her boss’s personal errands during business hours. While Sally knew it wasn’t right, she couldn’t envision a way out of it.

Sound Familiar?

Sally may be a fictional character, but her situation is shared by many assistants. Indeed, many executives have their secretaries or assistants run errands from time to time. Some assistants even expect this to be part of their job. So you must size up your own situation. Maybe you knew this was part of the job, or maybe you really like running your boss’s personal errands as long as he decreases your office workload.

But if you feel you’re being taken advantage of, you probably are. Whether it’s right or wrong is not the issue. The bottom line is that running errands for your boss takes valuable time out of your workday. This causes you to get behind on your own work and miss out on valuable professional opportunities at the office.

If you’re a person who just can’t say no, don’t fret. There are professional ways to solve the problem with your boss. It only requires good timing and preparation.

Timing Is Everything

Next time your boss tells you to run a personal errand, use the opportunity to raise the subject. But be prepared: Keep a list of the work you need to complete in the office and the amount of time each project will take you. Tell your boss: “I’d really like to help you out, because I know you have so much work to get done. I do as well. I need to finish that XYZ report you want by Friday.”

If this backfires and your boss tells you to hand the project off to a colleague, stand firm. Say that in order for the report to be finished properly, you must do it. The key is that you tagged your work deadline to a high-priority project your boss needs completed.

Practice and Prepare

Visualize yourself saying no to your boss. Think of someone in the office who might be intimidating, but you know would not run a personal errand for his boss. Imagine how that person would decline if asked to run an errand, and then picture yourself doing the same thing.

Find the Name of a Professional Concierge Service

Concierge services cater to busy professionals and run every errand, from getting oil changes to mowing lawns. Drop a hint.

This article originally appeared on

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