Serials: Part V: Hiring an Arm and a Leg

Now it’s time to get to the nuts and bolts of the work of having a Personal Assistant.

Work? You or your friends might ask. I thought this was supposed to be help.

Well, it is help. But a smoothly functioning relationship only occurs when you recognize several factors:

1. You need to evaluate what management style to use with your PA – is he/she someone who can work from a list? Does he/she need a lot of supervision or a little? Does he/she need micromanaging to get the tasks fully done?

2. You may need to experiment with trying different styles of interacting with a PA. Some prefer a friendly, laid back approach while others want a crisp professional relationship. It is important that you get “in synch” about this or feelings can get hurt.

Let’s return to the first factor because it covers a lot of ground. If you take the example of scheduling, you’ll find most PA’s show up reliably, on time and ready to work. However, you may run into a few PA’s who cannot meet those standards. They arrive late – or not at all. They show up on time but tell you they need to leave in a half hour. They might call a half hour after their scheduled arrival time only to tell you they aren’t coming- but would it be okay if they came Saturday at 7 a.m.

After years of dealing with all of these scenarios, I keep a firm rule – three strikes and they’re out if it happens early on and frequently. This has saved me lots of aggravation because I’ve learned, for some reason, that some PA’s can’t even do the showing up and being reliable part of the job and many agencies don’t supervise this part of the job.

In a way that’s easier to manage than other management decisions. I’m fairly flexible as to how people prefer to work. I don’t like to micromanage but I will. But there’s one scenario where I’ve found the relationship tends not to work, at least for me.

That’s where I hire someone who needs micromanaging but won’t accept instruction. My experience with this when it happened (only twice over a decade) has been that it tends not to work out. If I don’t micromanage, the tasks don’t get done or get done in a way that’s of no use to me and if I do micromanage, these two people became resentful and angry. I decided in the long run to stop calling them due to the unpleasant work environment not just for them, but for me as well.

The second factor hasn’t been an issue for me. I tend to pick up rather quickly whether a PA wants to chit-chat or just get in and out as quickly as possible. Either style is fine with me and I leave it up to the PA to choose. I have noticed, however, that unless I’m comfortable with a PA I tend not to ever ask him/her to accompany me on outings other than business or mandatory ones. I wouldn’t choose to go to a movie, for example, with a PA assisting me whose style wasn’t comfortable for me. I’ve found that I don’t enjoy myself in that case and would prefer to go with someone else.

I think being aware of these issues helps everyone synchronize the relationship better when it comes down to working together. There really is room for everyone to have preferences within the confines of getting tasks done while maintaining the comfortable environment that everyone has a right to.

Copyright 2007 Ruth Harrigan

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