Receptionist with Demanding Lawyer Boss Learns Being Too Nice Hurts Careers

  • Print

A receptionist working for “a high-powered attorney” wrote to a career columnist for advice when the boss began demanding that he or she run personal errands.

“For the past few weeks,” the receptionist wrote the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.), the lawyer “has been asking me to do things that are in no way part of my job description, like picking up his kids at camp and then babysitting them at the office until the end of the day or fetching his dry cleaning.”

The receptionist explained that the lawyer’s wife was out of town and the personal demands might end when the wife returns. In the meantime, the receptionist asked, how should the situation be handled?

The columnist’s advice: Have a candid conversation with the boss and set some boundaries. It can help your career in the long-run.

Backing up that advice is Christine Riordan, dean of the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business, the columnist says. Riordan tracked the careers of more than 1,500 people over a 20-year period and found that people who are too nice or accommodating are perceived less favorably by their supervisors. People who are too likeable and too trusting are paid less and receive fewer promotions, she found.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.