Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Do you have an assistant? 8 simple tips to make her work better, starting with give your head a shake

I took the subway today with a couple of neighbours, and along the way we ran into a friend of one of them. She's a legal secretary and her boss is a psycho jerk asshole. She hasn't taken any vacation days this year. And he insists that he can't do without her for even a day. In the past two years, she's only taken 3 sick days. She's in her mid-50s (outside the target demographic, natch), she's worked for a lot of different lawyers over many decades, and this guy is the worst. She does not need this shit. I'm telling you, she's in such a bad way she can barely talk about it.

Also, did you know that most law firms don't provide short-term disability? One of this woman's colleagues had cancer last year. She used all her vacation time for her treatment. The rest was unpaid. Nice!

So for the folks out there who are fortunate enough to have an assistant (not just lawyers, eh), please answer the following questions (do it yourself):

1. Have you given your head a shake lately? Which means, have you given any thought to what it must be like to be your assistant? Put yourself in that person's shoes for a minute. No, not literally. Come on, you can do this. Examine how you speak to her (or him), just for starters.

2. Does your assistant have any remaining vacation days left this year? What's that? A lot? If she's (or he's) got any left, encourage her (or him) to take them, give her time to arrange a holiday, and call in a temp so there isn't a mountain of your shite to clean up when she comes back.

3. Do you realize that your assistant's work day is all about you? What would that be like for you if it were the other way around. Use your imagination. What was the last thing you asked her to do. Now imagine it was your job to do that for her (or him).

4. Is your assistant having trouble keeping up with the work load? Find out why, with a mind to coming up with a way to help. The best way to do this ask your assistant what the best way would be. I bet you $1,000,000 (seriously, I have it) that your assistant will say, "can you bring in some effing help already, you stupid, willfully blind git?" Maybe not in so many words. But bring in another person.

5. Do you look over your assistant's shoulder much? Stop it. You're in the way, you're obstructing the work you want done, and she's fantasizing about killing you right about now.

6. How often do you remind your assistant about a task she does routinely? More than once? Stop it. You're in the way, you're obstructing the work you want done, and she's fantasizing about killing you right about now.

7. How much does your assistant make, salary-wise? How much did you get for your bonus last year? If it's more than what your assistant makes, then grab the nearest newspaper, and smack yourself across the face a few times, then call in your assistant and give her a 20% raise, retroactive to the date that she was actually supposed to have her last salary review.

8. Last, but not least, remember this: you and your assistant are just two humans. You're not actually above her or him in any way other than the corporate structure. You both poo, you're both gonna die, and you both occasionally go "awww" at videos like this one of a blind kitten playing with toys for the first time. Do something nice for your assistant. In fact, just do something for your assistant, instead of it always being the other way around.


  1. I don't have an assistant. I have to do all the shit myself. I'm really fair to me, though.

  2. PS I've BEEN an assistant though, for both good and bad employers. The bad ones are nightmarish. I was with one for six months. I outlasted every assistant he had ever had before.

  3. Maybe bosses are like that kitten... did you notice how it seemed to understand what to do with the ball, even though it couldn't see it? The kitten plays with it just the way a I've seen sighted cats play. Those instincts must be buried deep. Sort of how a Jerky Boss® reacts to an underling. The toying instinct is irrepressible.

    Okay, I'm stretching. Cute cat.