Yesterday my boss traveled back in time to 1940. It’s the only explanation for why what went down in the office yesterday could possibly happen. I’m all for time travel and I often daydream about what era I should have been born in. Hint: not the one with no indoor plumbing or hairdryers. So I really should have been giddy as all hell when I found myself face to face with a time traveler. Sadly, my reaction was anything but giddy. You see friends, this time traveler wanted coffee and he wanted me to get it.
Now some of you will think this is really not that big of a deal and I agree. In the scheme of things, it’s really not that horrible. He could have asked me to pack my desk and don’t let the door hit me on the way out, which would have been a very big deal. He could have also asked me to alphabetized the contents of refrigerator and that would have been completely inane. He made a simple request for a beverage. Truly innocuous when you get right down to it.
Or is it?
Let me back up and provide what may be some helpful background. My boss is a 50ish year old white male executive with a PhD. I am a 38ish year young white girl who has taken so long to get her Masters she has to start over. My role in our nonprofit, business casual, flex schedule & work from home loving office is to support him and our unit.
Last time I checked, the year I woke up in yesterday was 2015, which is mind blowing enough some days. As I polled some colleagues, it’s still no longer acceptable for this situation to take place. Guess who didn’t get the memo?
Now, I will say that I have a pretty great relationship with my boss and had a 75% chance of being able to respond with something slightly softer than “hell, no” or “get your own damned coffee,” but I really didn’t feel like testing those odds. I can assure you that the likelihood of me actually responding with either of those out loud is more like 10% on a good day and 90% in my head any day. So yeah, I got him coffee. Twice.
I wasn’t really annoyed until the second cup. That’s when one of my colleagues commented on the second cup I never have and she went ballistic when I told her who it was for. She’s older than I am, has served in several Executive Admin and Office Manager roles and would melt a man’s eyeballs out of his head with her nuclear glare if he dared ask her anything close to this. She was horrified and I love her for it.
I tried to justify and excuse the request. He’s not a mean person, nor do either of us think his request came with malicious intent. He has never asked me to do anything close to this before in the 9 months I’ve been working with him. He has zero radar for this kind of thing, so neither of us is all that surprised really. Yet it’s still baffling that it happened.
I shared the story with Hubs that night and because he would never in a million years ask anyone near him to do anything of the sort, he was pretty mystified. Then we started getting all psychoanalytic on the whole thing and became entangled in the nuances of whether the male/female or male/male working relationship would affect that scenario and how industry plays into it. It all boiled down to a big fat inappropriate ask.
I have no idea what I will do if I find myself back in time again. There is very little in my job to complain about so if this is the biggest complaint I have, I feel like I’m pretty far ahead. On the other hand, I did not like how that made me feel one bit.
What about you? What would you have done? Would you grin and bear it like me or point him to the coffee maker?