For many assistants, it can take years to develop the skills and knowledge to understand when going the extra mile for your boss is required and when they are just taking liberties. Vincenzo Ferrara asks, when is it okay for an assistant to say ‘no’ to their boss.
A few days ago, I was sat at Kings Cross Station waiting for a train to arrive, when I overheard to my left a lady complaining to her friend about some of the tasks her boss had asked her to do. At first I naturally didn’t think much of it, it was the usual, working late, balancing work meetings, events and an office move. But, then she said something that took myself and her friend off guard. She was asked to do the weekly family shop for her boss and to deliver it to the office later than week, so he could bring it home with him.
After introducing myself, I found out that she was relatively new to the assistant world, with only two years’ experience. She started out at a much larger company and due to moving out of London with her family, she had decided to move jobs to a smaller firm.
At the larger company, she had been used to working long hours, scheduling events and meetings – all of the ‘usual’ assistant work. But, when she relocated, and took the new job, she found that things were about to change.
The new boss, she later found out, had a carousel of assistants working for him. Within a twelve month period, he had worked with over seven. The reason for this high turnover in staff then became apparent. According to the assistant, he was rude, selfish and treated his assistants like maids.
He would, of course, expect the usual duties done, in terms of event and office management/admin but he was expecting a lot of personal chores to be taken care of as well.
Don’t get me wrong, I have spoken to many assistants that have a close relationship/friendship with their boss and the boss’s family. Some of you will do a weekly shop for them and others will be required to supply a birthday card for a spouse, but this all depends on the role of the job and how much you are happy to take on.
When I asked the assistant, why doesn’t she just say no to some of the ‘outside work tasks’ she responded simply with: “I don’t want to be fired.”
It’s a very common response we hear a lot at PA Life.
There are a lot of PAs and EAs out there that have the confidence and understanding with their boss, to be able to draw the line at where work stops. Many of you have a boss that never expect you to do anything that isn’t work related. Some of you, however, will end up with a horrible boss.
As an assistant, you need to know your worth. You are a vital part of any company and even though the job will usually require you to work long and unusual hours, work on tasks and events that sometimes seem pointless, you should never feel pressured into doing something that doesn’t feel like it’s your responsibility.
Of course, that does depend on the relationship between you and your boss, the level you are working at and the experience you have.
I guess what is important to say, is that saying ‘no’ is okay.