How can I ruin your day?

How can I ruin your day?

The other day I was asked what features I like in my new flat. It is terrible but I could instantly list a few things I didn’t like before I answered positively (the sofas too close to the telly, the dining room table is in a weird place etc etc!). I think it is human nature to think about your dislikes rather than all the things you adore, it just seems easier – especially when it comes to work!

I always say that assistants should try to remain positive at work and not moan too much and I do honestly stand by that.. but what if we could use our colleagues’ natural negativity to enhance our productivity and value in the company? Instead of asking our managers ‘what can I do for you?’ ask ‘what will ruin your day?’

Asking what your manager doesn’t want is as important as asking what they do want

I think this approach works particularly well when you first start a new job especially if your manager hasn’t had an assistant before or isn’t sure how to work afresh with you. If you have been in the role for a while but are struggling to develop your relationship with you manager or a colleague this approach might also be worth trying too. Here are a few questions you can ask your manager that will provoke good honest answers and will help you understand their needs and add value too.

  • Is there anything you do not want me to go near or change in anyway? 
  • What is your biggest distraction?
  • What do you dislike in your daily routine?
  • Is there anyone that you don’t want to talk to… ever?
  • Are there any points in the day when I should just leave you alone?
  • What personality types do you dislike working with?
  • Are there any aspects of my role that you don’t need me to do?
  • What do you least value in an assistant?
  • Are there any forms of communication you dislike?
  • What details bother you? What doesn’t?

If you have been in the job for a while these questions are still relevant as you will probably gain a different insight into how your manager likes to work. Remember we are taking their dislikes and making them disappear! 

I would say that asking negative questions rather than asking what success looks like is certainly refreshing and I think if you are honest with your manager and say you want to try a different approach they will go along with you and find it a fun way to develop your working relationship. As we all know it can be quite cathartic moaning about your least favourite parts of the day and I bet your managers get very little chance to do that!

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5 comments

  • Rita May 17, 2013   Reply →

    Yes, Nicky – quite agree. You need to know how to work those buttons and if you hit the wrong one … O dear! It’s true to say that knowing what doesn’t work for someone is as helpful as konwing how to please them best.

    By the way, I love the illustration – very tempted to compare … but I shall resist. 😉
    Kind regards, Rita

  • Layne May 17, 2013   Reply →

    Love, love, loved it! Some of those questions are great to ask at the end of an interview when they say, “So do you have any questions?” Also, it is a great way to start of a new job in the first day when you are orienting for the position. Also, the title and the questions would make for a fantastic downloadable PDF poster (style) reference sheet.

    These questions keep you from “Going where no man (or woman) should ever go.” Thought I would put in a funny.

    Thank you for sharing!
    -Layne

  • Viviana (Italy) August 4, 2013   Reply →

    I agree with all of you.
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Gabriella Hall June 2, 2014   Reply →

    I agree, what a refreshing approach! I can definately see value in this, not only in work relationships.

    I will discuss this with my boss even though we’ve worked together for years. I bet I will learn a few things…

    Thanks for sharing!
    Cheers,
    Gabriella from Sweden

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