For all of you that could not attend the Assist Conference this year I wanted to share my presentation with you – Reward and Recognition within the Assistant Industry.
Good question right? I think so. I know so many personal assistants who are highly intelligent, experienced, skilled and professional yet they are often deemed as the person that does the menial office tasks. Why do we allow ourselves to be seen like this? Why do we put up with it? And what actually is it that holds us back?
Research suggests that the role of the PA is constantly evolving. Many of today’s PAs and secretaries are multi-skilled and work in complex roles; one minute being reactive and supportive, the next expected to have a proactive approach in a pressured environment. In the workplace of today, change seems the only constant and there is an ever increasing requirement to be resilient and utilise the most effective ways of working.
I’m not going to lie, I became an assistant because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Growing up I’d dreamed of becoming everything from a spy to an air hostess but those dreams faded once I left University and hit the big wall of reality that is paying bills and funding your social life.
Here is a brief history of my career to date – After University I landed my first job as a Team Administrator at Deloitte, after a year and a half I left to join the Institute of Chartered Accountants where again I worked as an Administrator and Assistant to a department manager.
If there is one thing people know about me it is that I love a good cup of tea, I am English after all! I plan my tea breaks at work so that I get a chance to step away from my desk and, you know, load up on some caffeine while having a small amount of ‘me’ time. I worked at a few different places before I moved into an assistant role and I always made my own tea or coffee and because of this I never really made drinks for anyone else, call me selfish or fussy but that was the way it was. When I became an assistant I was very much aware that my job was to do, within reason, what my manager asked me to and this would include personal errands. This was fine and I quite often would get lunch for my manager when she was busy or in meetings. I remember once asking her if she wanted a hot drink because she had been in back to back meetings all day, her response was that I didn’t have to make her coffee but she appreciated the gesture. Skip forward a few jobs and I was working for another manager who would ask me to get drinks for him all the time, if I came back with a drink for myself he would make a remark about it and I would have to apologise for not thinking about his hot drink requirements… It was all very ‘Mad Men’!
This may seem like a trivial insight into my love of tea but it is a subject that comes up on a regular basis – should you get coffee for your boss? Having discussed the subject with other assistants it does seem to divide opinion; some of us are happy to it and others are adamant it is not part of their job. So what are the reasons for the differing attitudes – there must be more to it
Getting a drink for the boss can really be the tip of the iceberg for some assistants. I have colleagues that will spend more time running personal errands for their manager than completing work for the company that actually employees them. I’m not saying this a bad thing because our role is to make our manager’s day easier so that they can concentrate on their job, but where do you draw a line?
Does your manager value your skills? If you answer yes to that question, running personal errands and making coffee are probably not going to be an issue as you will know you have your boss’ respect. On the other hand, if you are treated as the office dog’s body then no wonder you are frustrated with the tasks you have to perform.
I think realistically we have to look at this type of task as something that is part of our job, in fact it could be seen as a fundamental part of being an assistant. I personally am not a big fan of making or getting drinks for other people, but if I can see my manager is rushed off their feet then I will – along with getting lunch, running to the dry cleaners and any other tasks that make them more productive. If running personal errands and working on basic tasks are all you are asked to do then refusing to get coffee won’t change your boss’ perception of you or the role of an assistant. If this is the case it is worth discussing your work load and the quality of the work with your manager. If you can demonstrate your abilities they may be less likely to ask you to do menial errands.