What Personal Assistants Really Want

By: Lorraine Pirihi

What would happen if the personal assistants in your organisation were away for a week? How would it affect the running of your business or department? How would it affect you…personally?

If you are fortunate to have a personal assistant whom you heavily rely on to assist you, in most instances you would find yourself run ragged if they were absent for longer than a day.

This week I spoke with two clients who were in the situation where their p.a.'s had been on holiday and these clients' lives were super-stressed as a result. Although they had other people in their organisation helping out, it wasn't the same as having an assistant who knows you very well and can get things done without you having to even ask.

If you are fortunate to have a great p.a. then I hope you appreciate and look after them. Often they are undervalued, yet are the key people who keep the wheels turning in your organisation.

I know there are many p.a.'s out there who love what they do and have great bosses, however there are heaps of others who don't.

These women (and there is the odd male p.a.) do their utmost best , start early, stay in at lunchtime, work late and yet are undervalued, unappreciated and underpaid.

Marion's Story

Marion is a hardworking, reliable and competent p.a. She had worked for the same company for 8 years. That's a long time in today's work environment. I bumped into Marion this week, when she attended a presentation I gave for the Victorian Office Professionals, a network for p.a.'s.

I asked her if she was still at the same company and this is what she said…"I was beginning to tire of my job.

My recent boss was not easy to get on with. He was quite uncommunicative and did not fill me in on issues that affected my work for him. Information was only forthcoming if I prompted for it. Then I had to guess the right questions to ask. He never made me feel accepted or supported. It made it really difficult to come to work. I arrived at work one morning recently, and he informed me that my services were no longer required. Within two hours I had packed up my belongings, said goodbye to several close associates and drove home in a state of shock…and that's what I got for all the hard work, extra hours and loyalty."

Helen's Story

Helen started her own business. What motivated her to take such a brave step? Her last position as a p.a. was extremely stressful, mainly due to the person she worked for. Helen told me that every Sunday afternoon around 4.00 p.m. she felt a dark shadow cast over her as she began to think about the forthcoming week. Her decision to quit her job came directly after she visited her doctor. She had developed a lump on her breast. Fortunately, it wasn't breast cancer, it had formed due to her stress levels!

Tips for the Boss

Treat your p.a. with respect

Ask them how they are each day

Invest in their personal and professional development.

Listen to them

Say 'thank you'

Realise that your p.a. has a life outside of work and needs time out just like you do

Be flexible - many p.a.'s have a family to care for, if you are flexible they will be extremely loyal and work even harder

Understand that when you give them tasks to do, although you many have taken 2 minutes to discuss with them, it could take them 2 days, particularly with the many interruptions they have to deal with.

Keep your p.a. in the loop. Organise a regular time each day to 'catch up'.

Share your successes with them.

Tips for the P.A.

Look after your health and fitness first. You'll feel good, look good and be more confident. NEVER SACRIFICE YOUR HEALTH AND FITNESS BECAUSE OF YOUR WORKLOAD.

Avoid the martyr syndrome. Ensure you take time out at lunchtime and get out of the office. The place will survive without you.

If the workload is too much, let the boss know. It's no point whinging to everyone else and doing nothing about it.

If saying 'no' is hard for you, then do an assertiveness course.

When communicating with a male boss, get to the point.

Join a professional association for office professionals. Share ideas and resources.

Develop your skills, attend courses and seminars and read books to help you grow. Remember the more valuable you are, the better person you become and the more you can earn.

The Final Word

For many managers and business owners, having a good p.a. helps them to leverage their time and enables them to focus on what they need to be working on. When you find the right person, treat them like gold, do not take them for granted. If you look after them, they will look after you and make your working life so much more manageable.

When you look after your people, they will look after you…just make sure you never forget that!

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