Q: After four months in my new job, I am extremely frustrated. I was hired to help manage projects and provide administrative support, but now I seem to have become my boss's personal assistant. While I don't mind doing general administrative tasks, I don't think I should have to run her errands and make personal calls.

Although I was clearly told that project management would be a large part of the job, I have yet to be given a task which requires those skills. When I asked my manager for more complex assignments, she seemed to understand. However, her idea of a project seems more like random busy work.

Because this experience has been so disappointing, I recently began investigating other jobs. It now appears that I may get an offer for a more suitable and rewarding position. However, I feel guilty about quitting so quickly. If I do get an offer, should I accept?

A: Even the most diligent and experienced applicants may encounter unpleasant surprises once they start work. Because it is virtually impossible to determine the actual requirements of a job from outside, new hires frequently suffer from unmet expectations.

Unfortunately, such misunderstandings can easily occur during the hiring process. In an effort to attract desirable employees, interviewers naturally tend to emphasize the positive aspects of the job. Since eager applicants tend to be willing believers, they often neglect to ask probing questions.

During the interview process, you were apparently told that your position would include both project management and administrative support. But since the reality appears to be personal errands and busy work, I doubt you will ever be happy there.

So if a more suitable offer should happen to come along, don't feel guilty about accepting. Just be sure to examine the job carefully before committing, since you don't want another short-term stay on your resume.


Q: My coworkers constantly ask me to help them solve simple problems. Whenever they encounter an obstacle, they automatically come to me for assistance. Because I have more than enough to do in my own job, this has become very frustrating.

After I discussed the problem with my manager, he initially told everyone to handle these issues on their own. But when they replied that coming to me was faster, he backtracked and said we should work this out among ourselves. How can I stop these annoying interruptions?

A: Since your boss seems to have abdicated his management responsibilities, you must develop your own strategy, and then tell him what you plan to do.

For example: "I'm always glad to help my coworkers solve difficult problems, but they keep asking me to do very simple things. While this may be faster for them, these requests are interfering with my own work. I plan to show them exactly how to resolve these issues so they can do so independently in the future. I would appreciate your support on this."

Tell your needy colleagues about the revised expectations, teach them what they need to know, and provide written instructions where possible. After that, you must resist any temptation to continue helping. Otherwise, they will never learn to fly solo.

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Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and author. Send in questions and get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com.


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