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Who's my boss?

Q. My employer rents an office to another professional and made it very clear to me that I was not employed by this person and was not to answer his phones, etc. Unfortunately, he often says things to me like, "I'm going out now,Ē "I'm having clients this afternoon," or "I'm going downstairs for a minute." He periodically asks me to help him with problems with his computer, or to answer his phone while heís out because heís expecting an important call. I have told my employer about this but nothing has changed. Would it be appropriate for me to talk to this person and tell him that since I don't work for him I donít need to know the details of his schedule? And to tell him that it is annoying? This is a very small office, space wise, and it is annoying to me to hear about every move he is making all day. He is not a bad person, but Iím considering leaving this job because of this.
Boston, MA

A. Itís clear that the tenant didnít get the message or heís trying to take advantage of you. As it currently stands you are between a rock and a hard place. Either you disobey your bossís instruction or you confront the other professional, which youíre not sure is the right thing to do. In the absence of any direct communication and resolution, the other professional will continue to inform you of his whereabouts and ask for your assistance. A reasonable first step would be talk with him. Donít be accusatory or caustic. ďJim, I know weíre all in this space together, and itís easy to ask me favors or let me know what youíre doing. The problem is itís making it hard for me to get my work done, and Tom (your boss) expects me to focus on my work for him. I hope you understand.Ē

However, given your frustration level and the need to have everyone on the same page, it might be quicker and more effective if you, your boss, and the other professional have a face-to-face meeting to address your situation. Give your boss the headís up, then offer to set up the meeting yourself. ďTom, youíve made it clear to me that Iím not working for Jim. Unfortunately, he informs me of his comings and goings as if Iím his receptionist and asks me to cover his phone or help with his computer. Is it okay with you if I set up a meeting between the three of us so we can make my status clear?Ē Then in the meeting, take care to remain calm and focused on facts. Explain the situation but avoid comments like ďItís so annoying when youÖĒ that could be perceived as a personal attack. Also, donít let your frustration with the situation tempt you to make rash statements. Unless you are willing to follow through, donít threaten to quit. Good luck.

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