How do I stop my boss from sending me on personal errands?

Friday March 26 2021

Caroline Mboijana

By Caroline Mboijana

Dear Caroline,
My boss keeps asking me to run personal errands for him during work hours. I didn’t mind doing it at the beginning, but it has now become a habit. He behaves like the errands are part of my work and never gives me room to say no. I don’t get paid extra for running his errands and find them time-consuming. How do I refuse to run the errands without annoying him? Joy

Dear Joy,
In addressing this matter, you have a clear definition of “personal errands.” If you’re a personal assistant or an executive assistant, there will be moments where your supervisor’s requests fit in the delivery of your role. Those errands could be issues such as handling visa applications and the like.  If the relationship is manager and team member, you’ll have to approach your situation differently. While it’s uncomfortable, you’ll need to address it in a non-combative approach. It would be helpful for you to document some detail.

Define the errands and cluster them; when are you being asked to perform these errands; how long does it take you to complete the errand, and more importantly, what does it cost you. Cost can be both financial and time spent away from doing your work.  Have a look at your job description, review what you are held accountable for in terms of delivery; plan each of the activities and work, etc., into time slots during each part of the day, make sure you give yourself lunch breaks, etc. Don’t forget any meetings that you have with other colleagues. Make sure these are all scheduled into your weekly planner. With all of this information and data, schedule an appointment with your supervisor to discuss how you can become more effective in delivering your role.
As the discussion progresses, you will discuss your strengths, what’s going well, what isn’t and what needs to be addressed to address any gaps. During this point of the discussion, you present the need to have uninterrupted time to meet all your goals.  Showing your supervisor how you need to have all work time dedicated to work should trigger him to step back from sending you on “personal errands.” Managing the situation ensures the intention to focus on what you want and not what you don’t want. If you focus on what you don’t want, the discussion will become personal and hostile and cause your supervisor to become defensive and use his position to manage inappropriately. Good luck

Caroline Mboijana,
Managing Director,
The Leadership Team (U)