When your boss thinks making coffee is a part of your job... and your female colleagues agree
“How do I deal with "old school" mentality at work, especially when it's perpetuated by other women? i.e. the expectation that the women should be making the coffee in the morning / planning the social events / etc., even if that's not technically part of my job?”
Get your own damn coffee.
This is not the first time that coffee has been the topic of discussion at Women.work. One of the women here had a job some years ago where on her first day her boss told her to run out and get him coffee. She went and got him coffee, but she also scheduled a meeting with him later that afternoon to ask him if picking up coffee was part of her job. She expressed concerns that her new team wouldn’t respect her as their manager if she was just seen as a coffee runner. Her boss agreed, and he apologized. Of course, he still asked her to get him coffee from time to time, but he was asking as a favor, and she was comfortable telling him when she didn’t have time and when her other responsibilities took priority.
Now, it’s one thing to schedule a one-on-one with your reasonable and fair boss, but it’s another thing to change the behavior of your peers. The best thing you can do to fight the old school mentality is to simply be your own school mentality. Do your job, and do it well, but learn to say no when asked to do otherwise. If you suspect someone may ask you to make coffee, you can say you’re sorry, but you need to focus on doing this and that before the next meeting. And if you’re asked if you’d like to plan something, simply decline and say, “but I can’t wait to attend!”
It’s great that you want to be an advocate for other women and show them that they don’t need to pick up these extra duties, but remember, your colleagues may be approaching these dated habits with different perspectives. Maybe Liz is happy to grab the team coffee because she likes stepping out for fresh air on the walk to the coffee shop. Sometimes Emily cleans the kitchen because it helps clear her mind. And it’s possible Alexis takes notes because Mark’s notes suck and this is her project, damnit. Hell if she’s gonna let Mark mess this up again. And sometimes, all three of them get together to plan the company party because they like planning parties.
Your best defense against performing these duties will always be needing the time to do your actual job. If you’re getting paid $25 per hour, spending 15 minutes making coffee every day is not a great use of company funds. If it’s guilt that’s directing you, just take a look at your job description: if making coffee isn’t on there, you shouldn’t feel pressured to do it. And the best way to break the mentality that women should make the coffee is to burn the shit out of the coffee. I’m kidding. Sort of. Just don’t forget to be kind and to be reasonable. Making coffee doesn’t always mean losing the battle against the patriarchy, sometimes it just means being part of the team.
Send us your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.