I don’t want to run office errands on my way home from work

A reader writes:

What do you think of a boss who asks you to do, admittedly minor, errands outside of work hours?

I am mostly an administrative assistant but am asked to do numerous other duties as well, which I don’t mind doing within work hours. I am on a temporary contract, so am paid for 3 days a week at 8 hours a day.

On several occasions, my boss has asked me to post some letters “on my way home,” which I did the first few times. However, the last couple of times I’ve said, “No, sorry, I won’t be past a post box on my way home.” This is actually true; if I am to post letters, I have to go a different route than the one I normally take.

Do you think I’m being petty by refusing to do this? It really irks me that he specifies “on the way home” and not “when you have time,” which rules out me actually taking 10 minutes to do it in my work hours. It feels like he is trying to sneak in a little extra work outside of work hours by specifically not incorporating it into the working day.

This is very normal in small offices that don’t have a dedicated mail room.

I think you’re irked because you’re misunderstanding his motivation. He’s not specifying “on your way home” in order to get out of paying you for the time; he’s saying that because he’s imagining you stopping for 10 seconds and he genuinely doesn’t think it would be an imposition.

If it is an imposition, then say this to him: “I don’t usually pass a mailbox on my way home, but if you give me letters earlier in the day, I’ll make sure they’re mailed before I leave.”

Problem solved, no irritation necessary.

But yes, asking administrative staff to mail some letters or drop something at FedEx or so forth on their way out is pretty normal. (And you can certainly log the time it takes you outside of your normal route if you want to.)

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