Girl Talk Career Blog

June 21, 2010

Ghastly-Workers and How to Deal

Girlfriend we’ve all worked with difficult co-workers before and sometimes we’ve been stymied when it comes to maintaining a professional relationship with them.  Not fun but it happens and as long as you’re in the work force that will probably be the case from time to time.  Hey, that’s life.  Here are a few of my personal “favourites” and some suggestions as to how to deal:

1.   The Control Freak.  I worked with a CF once.  Her name was
       Gloria.  Gloria hated it when I had to leave the office and work
       next door for a different department.  One day she yelled loudly
       about it and told me I had to stay in our office and do some work here (my work was completed).  Gloria wasn’t my supervisor!  That was someone else and he had specifically requested that I work next door whenever I had the time.  How to deal:  I have no idea why me doing extra work for another department agitated this woman so much.  I told her she was not permitted to act in the capacity of a supervisor with me and I left the office to go ahead and work next door.  Now, I would handle it a little differently probably by meeting with her when she’d calmed down and telling her that I wouldn’t tolerate her tantrums and that she was to mind her work and I would mind mine.  I don’t know.  Inferiority complex perhaps?

2.   The Slacker.  It amazes me how many people take a job then exert a great deal of effort … at avoiding work while managing to look busy.  How about doing your actual job instead?  Most higher-ups aren’t clueless as to what is happening below and as soon as layoffs hit you know very well that the least productive among us are going to be shown the door firstHow to deal:  Unless that person’s productivity affects my work and my results with a project or with my daily tasks I wouldn’t interfere.  Of course if I’m her supervisor that’s a different story entirely.  Then it is my job to straighten her out.

3.  The Drama QueenEverything’s an emergency!  She’d suit the role of Chicken Little, running about and shrieking “the sky is falling!”  Of course most of the emergencies are about her and not necessarily her work responsibilities.  How to deal:  If she distracts you and tries to pull you away from your work you can’t allow it.  You’ve go to be firm with the DQ and tell her you’re unable to help her and perhaps she should speak to management?  Otherwise ignore her.  Actresses respond to an audience, so don’t be hers.

4.  Dazed and Confused.  Now I actually feel sorry for DC.  Sometimes this woman seems clueless when she’s not.  She’s intelligent enough or she wouldn’t be employed.  It’s quite possible that DC has a learning disability that makes it difficult for her to process incoming information, especially when it’s strictly verbal.  How to deal:  When you get paired up with DC to work on a project, break her role down into simple steps for her.  Assign her no more than 3 simple tasks.  Write them down for her so she can cross them off when she completes them.  Stay patient. She really is doing her best.

5.  The Bully.  Of all the office co-workers this is the one I believe needs to be put in her place and fast.  No one should work with a bully, whether its the boss, the boss’s boss, or your colleague. How to deal:  When she tries her attitude out on you stand up for yourself (literally).  Keep your cool. The more you lose control of your emotions the more she will bully you. When you are calm let her know you weren’t hired to be abused.  Document the encounter in writing.  If it happens again, document it and get yourself into the boss’s office.  Sometimes mediation is the only answer to the office bully’s tirades.

For a full, fun, frightful list of co-workers from hell click this link to a powerpoint presentation I put together all by my little self:  27 Ghastly Co-Workers and How to Deal with Each and Every One of  Them

Enjoy!

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June 13, 2010

Steelers vs Dodgers: Who is Your Money On?

Filed under: All Things Office — lisalahey @ 9:06 pm
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Recently I made a sports gaffe in front of my brother that tickled him no end.  Someone I know had been talking football to me. Me.  The last woman in the world who has a clue about sports of any kind since that just isn’t my arena (pun).  At any rate for some reason I brought home the word “Steelers” in my head from that conversation. Later in the week I chatted with my brother on the phone. Trying to sound as though I knew a thing or two about football I asked him quite casually, “are the Steelers playing the Dodgers anytime soon?”  Where the name Dodgers came from I don’t know.  Must have heard it on the radio that week.  Without missing a beat my brother managed to keep the stunned amusement in his voice on the down low and he replied “Lisa the Dodgers are a baseball team.” 

Ohhh.  So I guess the Dodgers won’t be playing the Steelers anytime soon eh?” was my brilliant comeback.  He finally let loose a snicker and replied “Well if they do I can’t say what the score will be but I’m reasonably certain the Steelers will kill them.”

I laughed hard at that one, not at all embarrassed by my own stupidity. Hey, I’m used to it. 

Later when I was reflecting on the hilariously stupid question I’d asked my brother and his pleasantly dry reply something occurred to me.  Would the Steelers necessarily “kill” the Dodgers?  I decided my answer to that unlikely hypothetical scenario is:  It depends. If the two teams agreed to play football then the Steelers will win by default. Clearly the Dodgers don’t want to find themselves in traction for the remainder of the season (and perhaps their lives) so that’s a no-brainer. 

Now let’s say the Steelers (even more amused than my brother) agreed to a baseball game against the Dodgers. If the Dodgers have a good manager they won’t allow this game to be declared a default.  They will show up.  They will be nervous but they will be there.   The Steelers will be there too,  as confident as lions about to go after a poor unfortunate Christian in the gladiator ring, snickering, hooting and hollering at the Dodgers.

If the Dodgers have a good manager they will make sure the Steelers are up first.  When this happens approximately 8 minutes into the game, everyone will know that the Dodgers indeed have a good manager.  So will the Steelers since they and the Dodgers will realize that the game is over. The Dodgers have won and soon they will “kill” the Steelers by a landslide. 

How do I know?

I know very little about sports but I do know this much. Football players and baseball players have to be able to do three things:

  1. Run
  2. Throw
  3. Catch

But baseball players have another skill required to play their game.  They have to be able to hit. Not the kind of hitting that a footballer does, you know full body impact and knocking the bejesus out of each other.  Nope. In baseball you need precision. You have to be able to hold a narrow bat, stand confidently at a plate staring at a potentially lethal weapon as it comes flying at your head (without protective headgear) at speeds of up to 100 mph easily, plan your timing, swing and hit that ball out into the park.  We know baseball players can do this and have been doing so since they could walk. We don’t know if football players can do that. My guess is they cannot or at least not anywhere near the professional level of a baseball player. About 8 minutes into the first inning the Steelers will have struck out and it will be time for the Dodgers to take their place at bat – confident, strong and ready to emerge victorious. The lions will be subdued and the Christians will take their place beside the Roman Emporer.

A good manager would have known this well in advance of the (hypothetical and admittedly ridiculous) game. He would not have looked at the size and weight of the footballers and said “uh oh. We done.”  He would have looked at the skill required to play the game, the likelihood of the Steelers to have acquired one particular poignant skill  and he would have known that this game was a no-brainer for his team.  He would have told them that in the locker room. The Dodgers would have started the game a little nervous and ended it bursting with confidence and pride. (And if they are a classy bunch they would manage not to point and snicker at the Steelers since they have more than evened the score on that one). 

How does that apply to you, Girlfriend, or to anyone in the workplace?  Muscle and hustle don’t cut it in this world.  Precision and skill cut it.  Results cut it.  Courage cuts it.  You can be the unflashiest and least likely-looking employee in a business and be quietly raking in commissions that would knock the socks off the biggest blusterer. When you get promoted and Ms. Big-Mouth doesn’t you won’t be at all surprised even though she and everyone else will be.  The squeaky wheel doesn’t get the grease, not if you work for a corporation with a perceptive and not-easily-impressed CEO. In other words, a good manager.

When the recession hit Bay Street in Toronto, Ontario a lot of young MBAs stopped showing up at work in blue jeans and started showing up in 2-piece suits and ties.  Foolish mistake.  They were still operating on the muscle and hustle principle, the visuals and the bragging. If I was a CEO in such a company, the change in clothing wouldn’t impress me that this person wanted to keep his or her job. It would make me suspicious. Wasn’t she or he doing their best work before the recession hit?  Does the wardrobe change signify that I should take a closer look at their sales figures?  If they suddenly shoot up at about the same time my employee turns up in a Giovanni suit then the recession certainly has come to my office. That person will be fired and not because of company cutbacks.  Nope.  She’s out the door for consistently under-performing long before the recession hit (silly me, not figuring that one out until she conveniently waved that red flag for me under my nose).  She doesn’t want to keep her job because she’s a good worker and cares about my corporation and her future here.  She’s worried about paying her mortgage.  Fine.  Go work for someone else and pay your bills.  I want my people to appreciate their job opportunities with me.  I want them to want to be here for a lot more reasons than just the money.

Don’t worry about your $1,000.00 suited colleague in the next cubicle.  Don’t feel intimidated by the woman who keeps bragging about her latest client acquisition.  Keep on doing what you’re doing Girlfriend.  You’re doing just fine or you wouldn’t be there.  In fact my hunch is you can circle commissions around the loudmouth next door.

I’ll see you in the VIP office.

June 1, 2010

Rockin’ PowerPoint 2007

Filed under: All Things Office — lisalahey @ 10:54 pm
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Yes I know I’ve written all about how I love PowerPoint before but I’ve not enclosed a sample of my PowerPoint work or how to rock Powerpoint either.  It’s so easy I couldn’t help but put the two together…all for your use, Girlfriend.

Now I am aware that there are those amoung you with a Ph.D. in PowerPoint 2007 so lest I embarrass myself I will come right out with it:

  • This is an instructional Ppt for making a great basic slideshow – not your truly advanced big-time Steven Spielberg production.
  • I use bullets (like these ones) on nearly every slide even though a lot of people hate that.  Why?  Let me explain:
    My show is like an online manual.  How do you read a manual about putting something together?  In bullet form of course.  Do you really want paragraphs and paragraphs and you lose your place and have to go back and figure out where you were, cursing away the entire time?
  • Don’t you hate it when there is TONS of text packed onto one slide? Bullets are great for scaling that down.
  • I do use lots of graphics, lots of movement and even a pretty little instrumental background accompaniment just for your enjoyment.
  • I have lots of links to videos to offset my very simplistic instructions.
  • I threw in a couple of funny videos to make you smirk.  Who says learning isn’t fun?

I would love feedback but of course hardly anyone reads this blog (woah is me).  If you do somehow pull it up and check out my show do comment – good or bad I’ll leave it be and even respond to it if you like (I won’t be rude and I won’t sulk, I promise).

Enjoy! And bless your little soul for watching Rockin’ MS PowerPoint 2007  ….

May 24, 2010

Incredibly Sexist Attitudes Towards Women in the 1950s Workplace

Filed under: All Things Office — lisalahey @ 5:52 pm
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Consider this to be part two of Women in the Workplace: Welcome to the Jungle, Baby! I had so much fun doing my research for that blog that I had to make a brief PowerPoint out of it…couldn’t help myself.  Well one thing led to the other and of course I ended up making another website too (there’s a history behind that one; see my blog I Can’t Get No Site-isfaction)….not to whimper and whine about the unfairness of it all when you’re a woman in the corporate world, tsk, tsk, no. That one has been done to death. I simply love making slideshows and formatting websites is so incredibly easy (mine are through wix.com) that these activities have become a hobby for me. Seriously. They are a hobby. That is why I currently have 6 websites and approximately 14 powerpoint presentations tucked away on my PC. 

I only remain attentive at the moment to 2 of my websites and this blog. That’s because the other websites became so “old” as soon as I built a new one and I cannot stand to revisit old work (even though I made them all within weeks of each other). Bit of a site hopper I admit, but hey it could be worse.  I’m not a job hopper or a husband hopper for instance. Now that would be worse, n’est pas?  But I digress …

At any rate as I was saying I had so much fun doing my homework to put together my last blog that it turned into a presentation which in turn ended up becoming a new website.  So here is the very brief presentation and a link to my new site Girl Talk Career Advice which is an extension of this blog.  Actually the presentation was meant to be a PDF book – a nice little freebie but somehow I converted it into a Ppt instead.  Darn.  Well it will have to suffice as a slideshow until I figure that one out. (I’ve made lots of PDFs in my day – I must be having one of those momentary brain hiccups so to speak).

I would love your input, guest blogs, experiences, links to your blogs and sites etc either here or on girl talk career advice, so please feel free to contact me.  I really like hearing about women’s personal experiences in the work world. I am not naive enough to think sexism doesn’t exist in the modern day work world you understand … I just think it’s a lot more subtle than it used to be.  But hey that’s what you call progress.

I think.

May 22, 2010

Women in the Workplace: Welcome to the Jungle Baby!

Filed under: All Things Office — lisalahey @ 11:58 pm
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Girlfriend before you start grumbling about how much you hate your job, how crappy the pay is, how much overtime you have to work and how much you hate your boss, consider women in the workplace in the mid-20th Century and how tough they had it away back then. In the late 1930’s at the outset of the 2nd World War women were necessary at work, in the office and in factories building armaments and anything war-related. They were trained as mechanics, plumbers, electricians, riveters, assembly line workers, you name it, we did it Girlfriend, truly a first in 20th Century history for women of the middle class. Now this is not to imply that women have never worked in factories or performed laborious back-breaking industrial labour. Consider the Industrial Revolution where women worked alongside men and children for up to 14 hour days for a pitiful wage and few breaks. However that is an entirely different era and not one I’m tackling in this blog.

Back to women in the workplace during the war. They worked hard, made superior weaponry and of course earned lower wages than men doing the exact same work even though women were more productive.  Women and beauty remained a significant focus and women had to be encouraged through media propoganda to protect their own safety by re-styling their long, curled hair into what became known as a Gibson roll.  Factories even installed beauty salons for women to have their hair rolled, then released from its pins and re-styled at the end of the day.

After their men returned from the war women were demoted and fired, making jobs available for men and enslaving women into the suburban housewife myth of the 1950s. Women didn’t want to be forced into suburban submissiveness although the American government, their men and the media worked hard at trying to guilt-trip them into accepting the status quo. Many women rebelled however and over time they were re-hired into assembly line work and other low-paying menial jobs.

When women entered the corporate workplace it was typically in the role of secretary or receptionist.  They may have experienced some triumph by re-entering the workforce but their battle had just begun. Let me interject for a moment. Receptionists and secretaries are as relevant to an organization now as they were last century and always will be (see my post Are Secretaries Doomed to Obscurity?)  I have great respect for them especially since I have worked as both over the years and thoroughly enjoyed the job for the most part, as well as learning how integral this role is to an organization. My point is not that secretaries are inferior, rather that women of this era were not hired for responsible, senior positions. They were offered virtually no powerful corporate opportunities. There were no women CEO’s or Presidents which hardly surprising considering both the sexist view of that time and how few women were encouraged to acquire a post-secondary education.  Many men and even women remained unimpressed by the number of women who insisted on the right to work. Americans and Canadians felt strongly that if a woman was married and her husband was employed she had no right to return to work but instead should embrace her role as a stay-at-home housewife.

However once middle-class society got it into its suburban head that women were returning to work propoganda slowly began to encourage the use of women in the workforce, albeit allowing for stereotypes to permeate supposedly women-friendly views. Incredibly office advice for women hasn’t changed much since then. Etiquette is extremely relevant of course but consider this delivery.

Along with women entering the corporate scene the issue of women and men co-mingling over the water cooler became cause for employer and spousal concern.  The notorious office romance began to bloom and along with it corporate problems. Sexual harassment was par for the course and not only was it not considered inappropriate it was blatantly promoted.  Over time the secretary became known as the “office wife” since she managed her male boss’s calendar, often ran personal errands for him such as picking up his dry cleaning and occasionally indulged in an after work drink with him. Uh-oh. For married bosses that arrangement occasionally turned into an office affair although in the 1950’s it was rare that a married man left his wife for his mistress. Divorce was frowned upon , it bore a significant social stigma particularly during the fragile post-war era, hence the higher percentage of lasting marriages.

That gender discrimination continues to exist in the workplace is unmistakable. Unfortunately some women try to overcompensate by working much harder in the same role as men, usually for the same or less money.  Others may behave like office bullies, operating under the mistaken perception that behaving in “tough guy” mode will enable them to maintain job security. That sexual and other harassment continues to plague women is undeniable and although there are many laws in place to counteract this behaviour harassment can be subtle enough or can cause enough jeopardy to a woman’s career that she is reluctant to report it.

However slowly changes are beginning to take place albeit in certain spheres under specific, limited circumstances. Have we come a long way? Undoubtedly. Do we still have a long way to go Girlfriend? You know it.  But next time you’re feeling pissy about getting passed over for a promotion (see my blog How to Be Your Own Change Management Consultant (and a little help from David Bowie)), or feel underpaid and overworked, take a glance back over the workplace history of women and take a little comfort in the opportunities you have educationally, professionally and financially. Had you gone through school and the work force when your mother or grandmother did there is no way you’d be sitting where you are now, and no way you’d be headed down the highly successful corporate path you’re carving out steadily and courageously for yourself now.

May 15, 2010

Are Secretaries Doomed to Obscurity?

I read an article recently that truly annoyed me. It’s titled “As Job Market Shifts, Some Workers Are Left Behind” by Catherine Rampbell.  I’ve enclosed the link here for you to read and make your own judgement. I’ll tell you what’s annoying me. It’s not the unemployment Cynthia Norton is suffering, as unfortunate as that is. It’s not even the fact that there are indeed jobs that have become obsolete and will never return again. That’s progress. Not regress, progress. I can remember when we had a milkman deliver milk straight to our door when I was a kid. Since grocery stores came into being for most people milk delivery days are long over. That’s how it has always been in history with work, supply and demand. Let’s take a brief trip through history if you will.

Consider working from home for instance. A big, radical new trend nowadays right? Wrong. Working from home has been the norm for centuries upon centuries. In “olden times” when people didn’t have cars, and few could afford horses, and the streets were made of dirt so they swam in mud and horse feces when it rained, it wasn’t possible or feasible for most people to leave their homes and travel to a different locale for work. So naturally they set up shop inside their own houses or they traipsed around the corner to the farmer’s market, just a stone’s throw away. This arrangement stretches back to ancient times and all the way up to the pioneer days before this type of set-up began to change.

Consider that pioneers built their homes by hand (and oxen). Not easy. Not fun. So rather than go through the exhausting task of building another house to conduct business, the candlemaker sold candles from downstairs in his home then he went upstairs to live with his family and retire for the night. Same with the tinmaker and the medical doctor. Of course the blacksmith worked out of a stable for obvious reasons but his house was alongside the stable so he was only a few steps away from work. Hence the term cottage industry. People’s work were set up in their homes, or “cottages”.

Then the Industrial Revolution hit and all hell broke loose.  Cars were invented. Roads got paved. Factories were constructed and naturally people couldn’t remain at home and take work on an assembly line. Besides many didn’t want to work from home anymore. They needed to go where the jobs were and they wanted to separate family and work, so leaving home to go out and make a living became the norm. Now we’re seeing a trend towards working from home again and although at first it seems to be a new employment trend it is anything but.  It is merely history repeating itself.

Now when trends change in the work place there is always a socio-economic change to accompany or precede those trends. In the 18th Century it was all about industrial manufacturing. In the 21st Century we’ve gone global. It’s all about technology. That’s one reason why so many people can now afford to open their own business or take work with someone else and never leave the house to earn cash. All they need is a laptop, high speed internet and voila! They’re in business.

Amoung other things software has made booking your own travel arrangements and managing your own calendar incredibly easy to do. Companies noticed and reassigned that sort of work to their own executives and managers.  Now not all secretarial work is possible for one person to accomplish and be able to complete his or her own work in a timely manner. For example it can take hours to produce a decent PowerPoint presentation and that is valuable work time better used elsewhere when you’re a senior executive.  And consider this job advertisement seeking an Executive Assistant (a high level secretary):

Responsibilities:
Manages both partners’ schedules, maintaining a complex schedule of events, identifying potential conflicts and working collaboratively with others to resolve them. Constructs briefing materials, proposals and presentations.
Develops and maintains rapport with key stakeholders to build strong work relationships and promote business initiatives. Regularly uses own judgment to respond or delegate response to inquiries directed to the partners
Participates in the development of systems and processes to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of work flow. Coordinates the preparation, submission of supporting documents and ongoing tracking of expense reports and budgets. Manages document preparation and retention for the partners. Maintains the integrity of confidential information.
Qualifications:
3 to 5 years of experience in an executive support role. Demonstrated high level administrative support to senior management and ability to work effectively with all staff levels. Detail oriented and organized, with exceptional prioritization and completion/execution skills. An ability to conduct research and prepare correspondence.
Strong communication skills including interpersonal and written, with excellent proofreading skills and typing accuracy. Ability to work effectively within a group with “team spirit” as well as independently motivated with minimal supervision. Advanced skills in MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint along with Outlook, internet and online communication tools a must.

Pretty tall order, I’d say. The secretary of the 1950’s,, 60’s, 70’s and onward until perhaps the 1990’s  is a distant memory. And this is precisely where I get annoyed. Rampell argues that Norton was downsized simply because a great deal of secretarial work can easily be handled by people who used to rely upon secretaries. However I would argue that this is not the reason why Norton has found herself suddenly without work. Norton’s description of her secretarial abilities are what has me scratching my head. 

Typing. Answering phones. The human thought process. She’s good at anticipating people’s needs. Well whoopee do.  Most people can type and answer a phone. Last time I checked lots of people could think and a few could actually anticipate needs.  Norton further insists that technology has all but replaced her yet when I read job boards and want ads I continually see a need for receptionists, secretaries, administrative assistants and EAs.  My friend “Anne” recently got hired as an Office Administrator (secretary) who assists the Executive Assistant. Can you imagine? A secretary for a secretary! And Norton insists that secretaries are becoming obsolete. What’s wrong with this picture? Probably the only secretary nowadays who can get away with typing and answering the phones and nothing else is  Maggie Gyllenhaal. However she seems to be providing another sort of …er … service.

Perhaps its more likely that Norton, who began her secretarial career at 16 and used to wear a secretary “uniform” of pale blue dress and neck scarf, is still living in that era. Maybe she has refused to learn MS Office or at least she’s refusing to go beyond the most basic software skills. Maybe the word “internet” is something she has to research in a dictionary. Perhaps when she walks into an office where she has been invited for an interview she stares at a computer and exclaims loudly “what happened to all the typewriters?”

Norton’s unemployment isn’t about becoming obsolete, at least not due to fate or any other situation beyond her own control. She has made herself redundant by resisting ongoing education in her career, refusing to embrace technology and stubbornly clinging to outdated ways of operating within an office. In short, Cynthia Norton is a dinosaur.

There is a glimmer of hope for her however. She could update her secretarial skills and like the 4.12 million Americans who work from home, she could go virtual, outsourcing herself to people who don’t have hours to make PowerPoint presentations, create financial statements and track projects. Heck she might even get a job as secretary to a secretary. That is, when she finally realizes that when you cannot beat em’ you really do have to join em’ and decides to bring 21st century software know-how into the pioneer cottage industry.

May 6, 2010

How to Be A Clueless Executive Assistant

Filed under: All Things Office — lisalahey @ 5:53 am

 Wow Girlfriend,  talk about shooting for the moon (yes that was sarcasm).  I read a Q & A recently in a Linkedin group just for EA’s. An EA wrote in stating she has to work too much overtime including every weekend for her boss and she’s not happy about it.  So she and her coworkers discussed the situation.  It appears that as individuals they told him they “don’t like the overtime” situation. She then asked the Linkedingroup if she should go discuss the issue with HR.  Wow again.  I mean if that isn’t clueless Girlfriend, what is?

I doubt that she and her colleagues are working every single weekend in a month to keep the boss happy. I just don’t believe it, colour me cynical.  And even though there may indeed be overtime every night a certain amount is reasonable.  She stated that they have to wait for him to “return to the office every night” before they can leave.  How late is he returning?  A half hour? An hour?  Big deal!  That’s called overtime and that is a reasonable amount of OT.

Or perhaps you are unmotivated in your work and your boss is trying to hint about that troublesome situation.  I see youtube videos all the time aimed at employers about how to motivate their employees.  In this economy with all the job cutbacks and layoffs can you believe that employers have to worry about instilling motivation? Seriously! Consider yourself lucky to have a job!

A truly professional EA needs to keep these issues in mind:

  1. The key word in Executive Assistant is Assistant, not Executive.  You are the boss’s helpmate, right hand man or woman, what have you.  That means you answer to the boss not the other way around.
  2. A successful EA buildings a partnership with his/her boss and tries her best to make him look good to other people, NOT to diss him behind his back with her/his coworkers.
  3. NEVER NEVER NEVER go over the boss’s head no matter what the issue!  You WILL lose – the fight and your job. Period.

Instead there are a few things to consider in this scenario or any situation with a boss who seems to be doing something unreasonable in the office.  Consider the following:

  1. Communicate professionally and effectively.  What does it mean to say “we told the boss we don’t like the overtime?”  Did you mumble it in a nervous, offhand way?  Were you whining?  Did you offer a reasonable alternative such as taking work home with you?
  2. Did you ask the boss why the inordinate amount of overtime was necessary WITHOUT being confrontational?  In other words, is there something in YOUR work performance that he is finding lacking and so he requires that you remain behind to help you complete your projects to his satisfaction?  If that’s the case he is trying to save your job, not make you miserable.
  3. Try approaching him with this type of comment:  “I’m concerned about the amount of OT I’ve been putting in since I think it might reflect poorly on my work performance.  Am I not performing up to standard?  Are there suggestions you can offer me to help me achieve my goals in a more timely fashion?”  Then be prepared for the answer.  It might be more brutal than you thought.  Have a notebook on hand to take notes about how you can improve your performance. Stay calm and collected. Don’t be hurt. It’s business not battery. Then ASK the boss to help you put together an action plan to start brushing up on your EA skills.
  4. Request another review to get his feedback on your action plan and performance and make the date with him in his appointment book before you leave the office.  Give it about a month so you have time to put his suggestions to use.
  5. Remember he has ultimate control over whether or not you get to keep your job.  Going over his head, whining about overtime, talking about him behind his back to your colleagues are surefire ways to get your surely fired.
  6. Manage upward.  Yep. That kind of probing for feedback about your work performance so you can ease up on the OT is called managing upward.  You are setting boundaries without being obvious about it.  If you are professional enough in your approach your boss will not figure that out straightaway and he will appreciate your professionalism.

Consider that you might not be EA material either.  Or perhaps working in a corporate environment or even working for someone else isn’t for you at all.  Consider becoming a freelancer or an entrepreneur in a completely different field.  Or it could be as simple as changing industries. There are many factors that can weigh on a disgruntled employee and of course we always blame ourselves last if at all because that is human nature. 

I’m no saint either. I am equally culpable. When I was in my early 20’s and just starting out as an EA I made that kind of mistake with my first boss..  In my eyes she didn’t seem satisfied with my work. She told me off once in front of a staff member. I blamed her for all of my supposed problems.  Looking back I realize now that yes there were times she was somewhat unreasonable but so was I. My attitude went from great to so-so to downright unprofessional and that was NOT the way to handle things.  After a while I am NOT kidding you she would tell me she wanted me to do a certain task and I would just say “no.”  Can you believe she tolerated that?  So there is no doubt in my mind now that I wasn’t the easiest employee to have in the office either. Mind you I was just a kid and as the saying goes “if I knew then what I know now” I wouldn’t have handled the situation like that. On that note what I have learned is this: if you aren’t part of the solution you ARE part of the problem.

Also consider that your boss may indeed be insensitive to your needs and he is NOT going to change.  Then you must consider the following:

  1. ADAPT to his style.  It is what it is and it may not ever change.
  2. Quit.

Here is a short link to a youtube video about dealing with bosses, coworkers, etc.  You might find it helpful:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2GsqwYiT70&feature=related 

Now that you’ve clued in best of luck in your quest for less overtime!

April 19, 2010

The Indispensable Executive Assistant

Filed under: All Things Office — lisalahey @ 8:34 am
Tags: , , , , ,

The Indispensable Executive Assistant  
Ask any CEO or senior executive or Executive Director what their dream office would include and no doubt you’d hear an exceptional, can-do-anything, indispensable EA.  Well CEO’s, I have a feeling there are a lot more of us indispensable EA’s out there than you’d think. Trouble is if you get what you pay for. In other words if you only throw $30 – $40 meager grand a year at someone then that is all the EA you are going to get. Start thinking $60K and up on the other hand and you’ve just hit yourself into a new, seriously professional ballpark. Isn’t that right Girlfriend?

It’s only fair to ante up more bucks and perks when you have a look at a combination of two things: the formal educational background and the EA’s experience. Most corporations suggest 5 or more years is essential for a superlative EA. Perhaps. But some people are a quick study with an amazing work ethic and they learn a lot faster than that. Does it matter how many years an EA has beneath her (or him) if she can do the work and then some? I’d say not.

Let’s list a few key characteristics in an indispensable EA:

  1. Superior software skills – MS Office is always a given. Nowadays terrific internet skills don’t hurt either. If she can toss in a few graphic software programs like 3D imaging then you’re whistling dixie.
  2. Great software calendar management skills. That usually goes without saying since the days of the day planner seem to be heading into the Neanderthal Era. Now it’s the blackberry era and usually they connect nicely to Outlook.
  3. Superlative english skills – writing, reading, editing, drafting, proofing, you name it and if she can do it then better and better.
  4. Fabulous administrative workflow skills – yep, keeping the whole damned office running seems to come down to the EA nowadays. It makes sense. If she’s going to manage a departmental budget and calendars, hire and train new recruits and arrange meetings and conferences well she’s basically the one in charge here, not you Mr. or Ms. CEO.

But why listen to me going on and on in such a dry manner?  Click the link above and you get an utterly indispensable powerpoint presentation about The Indispensable Executive Assistant written by one who knows – the real thing. Me, of course.

As if I had to tell you, Girlfriend.