Flossie and the work grenade

Flossie and the work grenade

Flossie – name of a new, super cool band? No, although if anyone wants to adopt it as a band name I’m copywriting it here. What I’m actually referring to is the “Flossie” trap, a situation which many people find themselves in both in their work and home environments. It’s when you’re the reliable go to person that always says yes and does any task thrown at you. You never let people down. It sounds like a good thing right? No, it’s not. It’s the doormat end of the spectrum of getting it done.

I first heard about the concept when I undertook the Springboard Development Programme for women, an inspiring series of workshops for women who want to reach their potential. Don’t let my horrible experience of the module on personal branding and style put you off. Everything else was amazing!

Although I found the workshops fascinating at the time, it’s only now, that I’m realising their benefit. Why? Because sometimes it can take a long time to really process your current situation and apply tools fully. Sometimes, your path changes and what’s relevant at one time of your life, is less so at another.

So what or who is a Flossie? If you’re someone who always takes on extra work, works hard and hopes that you’ll be noticed, takes on the undervalued roles and makes yourself indispensable – then you’re probably a Flossie. As I reread that sentence it doesn’t go unnoticed that I could easily insert the word Mother instead.


An additional key element of Flossiedom is that while you’re beavering away, you are probably undervalued, overlooked and possibly a  seething, simmering pot of resentment. You take on all the jobs because you feel obliged to or don’t know how to say no, rather than loving it or getting a kick from mailing the tasks. When the rare situation arises when you feel unable to take on extra work, you snap – or at least that’s people’s perception. What’s the matter with her/ him? She always does extra things for me/ stays late/ comes in ill? Why is she saying no now?  

I sat in this particular workshop feeling quite proud of myself at the time.  I’m not a Flossie I thought smugly as looked back to all the achievements I’ve made in my career, the changes I’ve made, the risks I’ve taken, the appreciation I felt from colleagues and customers.  Now as a busy working mum, trying to balance home life and flexible working, I find myself juggling more, and becoming a Flossie myself occassionally. Although I’ve successfully negotiated part time and flexible working, there is still a pressure to manage a full time workload and more.

My occasional Flossiedom has led me to experience what I have termed the “work grenade.” Simply, put someone throws a piece of work at you and then runs away, leaving you with no other option than to pick it up and deal with it. This is most often done at the last minute when the person realises that something needs to be done and they pass it on to you on their way out of the door. Another favourite is doing this via email, copying in just about everyone you work with making it virtually impossible for you to decline. Of course, you can try to pass it over in passive aggressive terms but suggesting that you “could try to get it done if you have time”, but that’s generally seen as broad acceptance. Don’t expect anything back but a “Great”. You naturally feel frustrated at the delegator, but of course this is often a problem of your own creation. If you always say “yes” without any caveats, why would anyone expect you to say no?

These are real examples, ones which I’ve often experienced and one which I’ve inadvertently allowed to happen. As I’m not ashamed to admit my skills, ask for opportunities and I know am valued, it’s easy to misread the signs – how could someone like me possibly be a Flossie? Easy, especially for mothers returning to work. Sometimes we get sucked into just taking more and more on, putting our own needs to the back of the line. We don’t want to let our employers down, let our kids down, and a whole host of other things.

So are you a Flossie, and how are you dealing with it? My dentist tells me I must floss at least twice a day, how about we all plan to de-Flossie every day?

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