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Surviving the 24/7, High-Intensity Workplace

High Intensity WorkplaceIf all work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy, then some of us are about as boring as we can get.  If she manages a busy executive, a Revolutionary Assistant may have to be available 24/7 even in a low-key workplace.  But in the world of Wall Street or other 24/7, high-intensity businesses, a Revolutionary Assistant can work herself to death if she’s not careful.

I’ve been reading my Harvard Business Review again, and the June 2016 issue talks about the unrealistic expectations being placed on employees in a high-intensity industry.  It can be difficult to “find your place” in a workplace that demands you be available at 3PM and 3AM, and in order to cope, employees must make adjustments in their lives.  In fact, “Managing the High Intensity Workplace” authors Erin Reid and Lakshmi Ramarajan say that they find three employee strategies emerging within those “always available” cultures:  accepting, passing, and revealing.

These three strategies each have their merits, and they emerge based on the employee’s innate tendencies.  There are benefits and pitfalls to each.

Accepting – These are the employees that grit their teeth and do what’s expected of them.  When that call comes in at midnight, the employee not only answers but possibly does a little bit of work to address the issue.  If they manage subordinates, they expect them to take the same approach to their careers.

  • Benefits – They’re blending in well and living up to expectations
  • Pitfalls – They may burn out quickly; they may also have a hard time developing promoteable employees

Passing – These employees make it look as though they are available for work 24/7, but they really aren’t.  They just aren’t letting on.  They might respond to an email right away, but say, “I’m working on it, will be back to you in a few hours” and then go on about their lives until they have a moment when they can address the issue.

  • Benefits – This employee protects his career but still enjoys other aspects of his life.
  • Pitfalls – Not only are they probably not building close relationships at work (for risk of being “found out”) but they also perpetuate the “ideal employee” myth by fulfilling unrealistic expectations

Revealing – The most “rebellious” of the three strategies, the employee simply says, “I will get to this later tonight.  I’m at my daughter’s swim meet.”  They reveal themselves as resisting the norm and may think that the 24/7 culture needs to change

  • Benefits – These employees enjoy open relationships with colleagues, protect their free time and have lives outside of work
  • Pitfalls – They could damage their careers by not “playing along” and may not be credible enough to move the organization away from the high-intensity culture should they try.

The article goes on to recommend changes to each of these employees’ strategies – accepting workers should carve out time for their personal lives and not expect subordinates to behave like they do; passing employees should try to develop relationships with a small group of co-workers and reinforce to the boss that outside activities don’t hurt performance; revealing strategists should focus on results instead of time spent and encourage others to be open about carving out personal times in an effort to change the culture.

But what of the Revolutionary Assistant?  If she supports an executive, it’s pretty likely that executive is one of those “accepting” sorts, and while many of them learn early on that they shouldn’t expect 24/7 from their subordinates, Revolutionary Assistants are often caught in the cross-fire of last-minute travel and off-hour meeting scheduling.  Here are some suggestions that might work:

Revolutionary buddy system – If you know you’re going to be away for a few days or over a weekend, alert your manager and arrange for a member of your admin network to cover for any emergencies that might come up.  Reinforce with your manager your need to detach and recharge your batteries for a few days before you leave.

Carve out time for you and the family – If having dinner with your family is important, then make sure that you’re free during that time.  Turn off your mobile device and enjoy them, and after everyone has gone to bed, check in one more time to see if there are any last-minute needs.  Let your manager know that this will be your daily practice.

Encourage your manager to step away from this kind of culture – Sure, time is money, but well-rested, many-faceted employees make a better company.  S/he should take a few hours away from work each night, a couple of weeks of vacation each year…and set an example for the subordinates.

As a high-powered Revolutionary Assistant, I’ve done the 24/7 thing and burnt myself out plenty of times.  Be a great employee…take time for yourself.

 

Next Post:  Wednesday, August 9

 

 

 

Happy Holidays!

Another year of Revolutionary conversations in the books!  Happy holidays to all my readers, and many thanks for celebrating our fifth year with us.

I hope that 2017 finds you looking to tackle all the revolutionary issues presented to you.  Have a delightful holiday season, and we’ll see you in January!

happy-holidays

 

 

 

Next post:  Wednesday, January 11

Why Aren’t There More Male Administrative Professionals?

CNN and Money Magazine reported in 2013 that “secretary” was still the top job for females.  The feminist movement is, perhaps, responsible for the name change to “administrative assistant” or “office professional,” but no matter what you call it, it’s what females in the workplace do if they’re not being librarians or kindergarten teachers.

So, what about men in the administrative field?  Do they exist?  Why, yes!  The profession is 97% female (it’s why I use the pronoun “she” when I write), but three percent of us are men.  More than a century ago, 85% of all clerical-type work was done by men, but when women entered the workforce and showed preference for this kind of position, it became “feminized” and men were no longer as interested in doing it.

Man as assistantAlso, there’s the case where men are still expected to have a job that provides for a family, and administrative work (now that it’s feminized) is not the kind of position that pays well.

Not so if you hop the pond, though.  I read an article in The Guardian (from 2013) entitled, “Jobless Male Graduates Turn to Secretarial Work.”  Our British counterparts are valued a bit more than we are here in the states, it seems, because some administrative professionals earn upward of £75,000 (that’s a little less than $100,000, by the way).  British men find the salary adequate (no doubt!) and see it as a “stepping stone to other positions within the company.”

This doesn’t seem to happen in the United States, particularly because most of the time “administrative assistant” is a stepping stone to nothing…although that wasn’t always the case.  As Amy Eagle wrote in her Chicago Tribune article, “A Job Once Filled By Men Became a Pink Profession:”

The position of clerk (as secretaries were more commonly known then) had been an entry-level professional job. “Clerks often went on to become managers,” said Leon Fink, a history professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. As corporations grew and management required more specialized training, office support became “more of a permanent subordinate position,” he said.

Still, there are some men in the field.  I headed over to a write-up Monster.com posted called “The Few, The Proud: Men in the Admin Position” and what I read there was somewhat interesting.  They reported that women should expect to see more competition as the position grows and expands beyond typical secretarial duties.  “Men find the technological side of the profession more likeable than typewriters or mimeographs,” explained Ronald Hyman, CPS and president of the Florida division of the International Association of Professionals.

I can’t remember when I last touched a typewriter or even laid eyes on a mimeograph, but whatever.

As long as perceptions of the administrative position are tied to typing, calendar management and…um…mimeograph machines…we females will continue to dominate the field.  Men will hesitate to enter a “pink profession” because it’s not masculine, it doesn’t pay enough, and it’s not interesting because there are “typewriters.”   A Revolutionary Assistant, though, is a business partner to her executive, and does much more than that.  We could make this into a position that’s much more interesting.

But let’s keep it under wraps, because boys are gross.

Next Post:  Wednesday, October 26

 

Assistants: Read The Assistants! You Won’t Be Disappointed

Revolutionary Assistants, we’ve all had our moments when we ask ourselves the following two questions:

 

Why do I do this for a living?

and

Does my boss really deserve me?

 

And if you’ve been lucky enough to work for a top-level executive at a large company, you might find yourself asking, “Does he really need that pair of socks that costs half my monthly salary?”

The AssistantsSuch is the premise of Camille Perri’s debut novel, The Assistants.  Heroine Tina Fontana is the 30-year-old assistant to the CEO of Titan Media.  The novel starts when her boss asks her to book a first class ticket on a commercial flight leaving in a couple of hours.  He also wants her to arrange to have the rest of the first class passengers on that flight booted so he can have the whole cabin to himself.  And the airline is, of course, expected to comp his ticket, because he’s the CEO of Titan Media.

Well, the airline doesn’t agree to comp his ticket, and Tina puts the $19,000 purchase on her own credit card when her boss’ card turns out to be expired.  Nineteen thousand dollars?  That’s the entire amount of her remaining student loan, spent so that her boss can fly four hours in a first-class cabin by himself.  What a waste!

Tina expenses the $19,000, and the day that her reimbursement check arrives on her desk is also the day that the airline calls to apologize.  That customer service representative, they say, has been fired, and of course her credit card will be refunded immediately.

Tina knows she should return the check…but it’s exactly the amount of those student loans that have been weighing her down financially.  In a weak moment, she deposits the check and pays off the student loan.  Her boss will never miss it.

Ah, but the assistant in finance, the one who approves all her expense reports, doesn’t miss it at all.  Tina is caught red-handed.  Is she on her way to the slammer?

Nope, not so long as she does the same thing to pay off that assistant’s student loans as well.

Before long, Tina and her new friend Emily find themselves in a downward embezzlement spiral, paying off student debt and liberating professional young women to start the lives they’ve dreamed for themselves.  What follows is a story of hilarious empowerment as these women who are “only assistants” realize the power they can wield, the systems they can game, and the lives they can build for themselves if they can just dig up enough confidence to rise to the occasion.

Wanna know if they all end up in jail?  Well, you’re going to have to read it to find out.

If you’re looking for a lighthearted, laugh-out-loud summer read, then check out Camille Perri’s The Assistants.  You won’t be disappointed.

 

Next Post:  Wednesday, August 3

Happy Holidays!

Happy HolidaysThank you for sticking with us for another year!  We have a lot planned for 2016 so please come back and visit the site!

A special thank you goes out this year to my wonderful husband, Mitch, who never fails to inspire and give me incentive to keep writing.  Also, a big thank you to my company and my fellow co-workers, who never let me run out of material!

My biggest thank you goes out to you, our readers.  Have a wonderful holiday season, and let us know if you want to talk about anything in particular in the coming year!

Happy Holidays!

This Revolutionary Assistant hopes that you and yours have a safe and happy holiday.  Many thanks to all of those folks out there that contributed to The Revolutionary Assistant this year and helped to make it a success.

Mostly, I’d like to thank you, our readers, for giving us a reason to plow on and make our site better and better all the time.  Have a great holiday, and we’ll see you after the first of the year!

We’ve Got A New Look for Administrative Professionals’ Day!

Happy Administrative Professionals Day, and welcome to the NEW Revolutionary Assistant.  We’ve got the same great content, but now we’re adding so much more!

Our blog entry is still front and center on our new home page, so you can check out what we’re talking about every week, right here in this spot.  But now we’ve added new Revolutionary Reference Pages to make it easy to find helpful administrative information that will help you be a better partner to your manager.  All our information is organized there for easy, at-your-fingertips research on topics you need to know more about.

We also have three more new areas at the bottom that we think you’ll really like:

Revolutionary Quotes are quotes that we really like here at Revolutionary Assistant.  An inspirational saying or thoughtful observation is sometimes just what we need to get through the day.  On top of that, we’ll pull a link to a related article from our wayback machine to go along with it!

Revolutionary Tips will hone in on a handy practice that you can put into action right away.  It might be a quick key stroke in MS Word or a clever calendar management trick, but it’ll be guaranteed to make your life easier!

Revolutionary Apps highlights a cool mobile application that is guaranteed to make a difference in how you do your job.  Mobile is here to stay and growing every day.  Keep up with the apps that can help you look like a movie star!

We hope you enjoy our new look!

Next post:  Wednesday, April 30

Nailing Punctuality

Make promises you can keep.

Really, that’s what punctuality is all about, isn’t it?  Making a promise to be somewhere at a certain time, and actually being there.  So why is it so hard?

People who are chronically late share some common characteristics.  They will underestimate how long a task will take, or misjudge the passage of time.  They are sometimes just overly optimistic about how much they can get done in a certain amount of time, or maybe they like the power trip they get from knowing someone is waiting on them.  Whether your motivation is honorable or not so nice, if you’re not punctual, you’re being less than thoughtful.

If you’re like me, you want to be thoughtful and considerate of other people’s time.  Not only that, but being punctual makes you look like you’re in control, shows integrity and shows respect for others.  And that’s not a bad professional image to convey.

So here are some hints on how you can be more punctual in your work and home life:

Wake up when the alarm goes off – Being on time is harder when you start your day behind the 8 ball.  If you’re rushing to get out the door, you’re already at a disadvantage, so pop out of bed when the alarm goes off and give yourself plenty of time to look and feel your best.

Stay on top of local weather and traffic reports – Being caught on the road longer than you want to be just adds stress to your day, and that’s no way to kick it off.

Check directions before you leave to go somewhere – Nothing saves you time and anguish like knowing where you’re going.  Even if you have a GPS that leads you by the nose to your destination, it’s helpful to look at a map and get your bearings.

Be realistic about how much time a meeting or activity will take – If you’re like my manager and ask for 30 minute meetings to discuss a subject that will take 45 minutes to cover, do yourself a favor and plan for 45 minutes (or even an hour).  If you find that you’re unable to determine what will put you behind schedule, just add some time in to be sure you’ve got it covered.

If you’re unsure of your estimates, spend a week timing your regular activities so you’re fully aware of how much time you really need.

Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early for every appointment – You may think that’s a waste of time, especially if you’re one of those people that try to cram more into your day than actually fits.  Well, you can still cram if you plan ahead!  I get all of my business periodicals and whitepapers electronically, and I take that extra 10-15 minutes and get some of my reading done on my iPad.  It makes me feel like I’m still accomplishing something, even when I’m waiting.

Try making appointments off-hour – A meeting at 3:10 says “My time is precious!” and people will be more likely to show up on time for it.  True story!  It’s the same case for you – holding a meeting at 3:10 conveys a psychological urgency that will have you showing up on time as well.  Give it a try and see if it works!

Punctuality conveys respect and dependability, and that’s what being a Revolutionary Assistant is all about.  Make your on-time arrival a priority no matter what you’re doing, and your friends and co-workers will appreciate you all the more.

Next Post:  Wednesday, April 16

 

 

 

 

Job Interviews – They’re Not Just For Your Prospective Employer

Good positions are often hard for a Revolutionary Assistant to find.  After all, fewer executives have their own assistants nowadays, and those that do usually share them with at least one other executive.  Your administrative dream job isn’t always right there waiting for you.

Because of that, it’s easy to be overly enthused about an interview with a good company.  You get charged up, put on your best business clothes, and go out to knock ‘em dead.  Problem is, your enthusiasm might keep you from recognizing some of the warning signs that this isn’t such a good place for you to work!

Chester Elton, the apostle of appreciation and best-selling author of The Carrot Principle and All In, sat down with Melissa Francis of FOX Money to talk about some of the danger signs you might encounter on a job interview.

Remember, if you see any of these signs…

  • Interviewer badmouthing the person you’re replacing
  • Hiring manager hasn’t reviewed your resume before sitting down for the interview
  • The interviewer asks personal questions
  • The company has a high turnover or a toxic culture

…be on your guard!  Ask probing questions so you can determine if this is just a bad representative for the company you’re speaking with, or if it’s a company you just don’t want to work for.  If it turns out to be the latter, don’t be afraid to say “thanks but no thanks.”  Better to steer clear of a bad situation than be sorry later that you took the job!

Next Post:  Wednesday, February 5

Happy Holidays from the Revolutionary Assistant!

As the end of the year draws to a close, Revolutionary Assistant is going on a little hiatus to enjoy the holidays with family and friends.  I hope you are, too!

I’d like to thank all the people that helped make Revolutionary Assistant go this year – Mitch Gillett, Jason Smith, Stacey Smith, Tabi Walters and Maryellen Blette to name just a few.  I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, and we’ll see you again on January 8, 2014!