During my working years, I saw the role of women in the workplace change considerably but not completely. Some women became more militant drawing hard lines in the sand and some reacted with more subtlety.
I worked for a high-level female manager during the ‘90s. During a “what would you do” conversation she was asked what she would do if she was asked to get an executive coffee in a meeting. Her response was, “Milk and sugar with that?”
We were all surprised because she was outspoken and blunt. As she explained her point of view it made sense. There are so many variables. Was she pouring herself a cup? Was the person in the middle of something that couldn’t be stopped? Was the requester asking for a favor? Was it worth losing your job or maybe work collaboration? Was it truly a put-down? (Or as she said, “Is it worth getting your panties in a knot about?)
Fast forward a few years. I had a co-worker who was high-strung. That is the kindest work I can use. Any request was a threat to her self-worth. I’m not talking coffee but work requests too. You better be sure it was in her job description before you asked to do anything.
One day I desperately needed a ride to pick up my car not too far away. This was a personal favor. Although I dreaded asking her, there wasn’t anyone else I could ask. She did take me but she was sure to let me know that it was on HER LUNCH HOUR (which was her time); she never let anyone in her car ever; and it was a once-only deal.
On one occasion her boss asked her to cover his phone while he grabbed lunch. He was expecting an important phone call (this was before cell phones) and would be right back. Her response was, “Do I look like a receptionist?”
I worked with her for about six months and she was let go. She was stunned. No one else was. She could be a nice person and she was funny but her stand-up comedy routines about her boss got back to him. (The routines were hysterical. Even I couldn’t stop from laughing.)
A few months later I heard that she was canned from her next job. Her boss asked her to get him a cup of coffee. She said something naughty and he said, “You’re fired.”
I don’t really know the specifics. She was a new employee in an entry-level job. Maybe he was a lousy person or maybe she continued to be inflexible but it took me back to my boss from the ‘90s. It’s better to roll with the punches.
Sometimes a request for coffee is just a request for coffee.