Office coffee mules harm careers

Anny Chih photo

By Anny Chih, 24 hours Vancouver

Leave serving coffee to the professionals. (REUTERS)

Leave serving coffee to the professionals. (REUTERS)


Unless you work in the food service industry, feeding others at your workplace may be harmful to your career.

Though balancing multiple coffee trays is difficult work, beverage delivery is not usually listed on office job postings as an integral responsibility. Instead, employees who regularly fetch coffee and other sustenance during office hours are typically viewed as lazy. After all, how much work could someone do if they’re always out of the office running errands?

In addition to giving a perception of laziness, feeding co-workers also makes a person appear soft and unnecessary. Lois P. Frankel, PhD, author of Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office, writes that “[people] don’t ascribe a sense of impact or import to people who feed others.” Though it’s a nice gesture to leave a candy bowl on your desk for passersby, doing so is like hanging a sign that says you’re someone who’s ready to make snacks and chat, but not the right person to make hard decisions or manage an important project.

If you find yourself unofficially tasked as the office errand boy or regular coffee mule, ask your manager for responsibilities that can be more directly tied to business. Managers typically assign tasks based on perceived abilities of individual team members and if they’re unwilling to give you more responsibilities this is a good opportunity to discuss how you can improve your work.

Sometimes food-related errands fall on your desk because they simply need to be done by someone on your team. If this happens frequently, ask your manager if these tasks can be rotated each day so that every team member shares the responsibility.

Even if you’ve already fallen into the habit of bringing food to share with co-workers or volunteering to get the coffee in the morning, it’s not too late to change. Put away the candy bowl and start drinking your coffee before you get to work. When others ask you to get their beverages, kindly explain that you are in the middle of your new job responsibilities and won’t be able to play fetch anymore.


Reader's comments »

By adding a comment on the site, you accept our terms and conditions