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What Every PA Wishes Her Boss Knew

Personal Assistant

When Jason asked me to write this article I thought it would be no problem; just need to bang out a few thoughts and pearls of wisdom - how hard could it be? How hard indeed! The truth is that the vast majority of bosses out there are wonderful people doing a great job and it almost felt like I was preaching to the choir when I was putting together my thoughts. With that in mind, rather than try and compile a “must have” hand book on PA’s and their Bosses, I have just written what I hope, and what is intended to be, a list of my personal biggest annoyances about my job. Please don’t be personally offended or feel that I am “getting at you” with any of my ramblings here, tis all in good fun.

Please note that these thoughts are not in order of priority or importance - it’s just how they came to me.

Please Communicate With Us

Having said there is no priority list, this is probably the most important thing we would like you to know. The role of a PA is very diverse but it all boils down to organisation; we are there to help organise you and make your life go along smoothly. The only way we can do that is if we know what is going on in your life; who you are meeting with, what you need to get done and by when, what you have promised you will do or arrange and so on. I’m not saying we need to know every little detail of your day to day existence, but honestly, it would help! Effective and timely communication is the key here. There are so many wonderful programs, tools and aids out there that can aid with communication, from the humble paper diary or appointment book to a Blackberry or PDA to shared online calendars - the options are endless. In most jobs I have had, my boss and I have shared his diary. We would catch up in the beginning of the week and he would let me know what he had planned for the week, which days he wanted to keep free and then we would block out his diary, leaving free spaces for impromptu appointments.

A Little Respect Goes a Long Way

Ok, so I’m not talking about you, but there are some bosses out there who think that we’re there to do all the crappy stuff they don’t want to, and because they’re paying us to do it we just have to take it on the chin and lump it. I used to have a boss who would say “you don’t have a dog and bark yourself”, after getting me to do his more menial tasks - a great morale booster. Needless to say, he was a popular fellow! Honestly, we don’t mind doing the donkey work, picking up your dry cleaning, making your coffee - whatever helps you is fine, we just appreciate being treated with respect.

I have met PA’s who have been the fiercest business people I have ever met. Depending on the role of their boss, a PA can be effectively equivalent to senior management, which can mean that they are in demand by other companies. Who knows the boss’s secrets, shortcomings and strengths better, or has a better overview of the company as a whole? Loyalty is a huge asset in a good PA and the vast majority of PA’s appreciate the role they have and the trust placed in them. We are only human however and if people feel unappreciated, overlooked or underestimated, they can become so disenchanted that they jump ship. It really astounds me how many boss’s underestimate the value of simply saying “thank you” or writing a card to say they appreciate you or other small gestures. They seem to think that unless they can give a large monetary bonus, nothing else is worth it. Now hear me out, MONEY IS GREAT! Bonuses are wonderful incentives and motivators, but they are absolutely not the only ones and sometimes just a small bunch of flowers, a card, movie tickets or even a heartfelt expression of gratitude is all is takes to command incredible loyalty.

Know And Appreciate That We Take Some Heat For You

One important and unwritten role of a PA is to be the eyes and ears of the boss in the office. We’re not spies; reporting back every little piece of office scuttlebutt is a dangerous road to take. However, it is a fact that because you’re the boss, many people are either too afraid, intimidated or “cool” to talk to you directly about issues. In that instance, they often use us as the conduit and share some issues with us that you should know about but they don’t want to tell you.

There are some people in an office who dislike us because they perceive us to have “the boss’s ear” or to hold some sway in the office, and they can make life very difficult and uncomfortable for us. Sometimes they may have an issue that we agree could have been handled better, but we would never say that to anyone else; we know that it is never OK to bag your boss, or say something behind their back that we would not say to their face. A good PA is loyal, so when we come to you with suggestions or sharing what other people in the office are thinking or feeling, please don’t take it personally. We’re just trying to have your back - what you do or don’t do with the information is up to you.

Variety is the Spice of Life

We love the challenges of the day and never knowing what might turn up in our in tray. As part of my job I have booked and held training sessions for clients, written and sent a weekly newsletter to our members, written a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a new computer system, taken minutes at board meetings, organized a breakfast function, organized a client function at a sporting event, finalized printing requirements for a client, prepared staff manuals for the new recruits, RSVP’d for the directors to attend functions and so on. The diversity of our role is great and for many PA’s, the most rewarding part of the job, so don’t worry about throwing random stuff our way - we love a challenge!

When You Succeed, We Succeed

We are on your side and we want you to do well. When you do well, it means that we have done well. Your success is our success too. You may think everyone else in the office is out to get you, but don’t ever think that about us. Likewise, when you fail or let someone down or miss a deadline, we take that on board as well. It’s deflating and it’s even more frustrating if we know we could have helped to lighten the load or do the donkey work but you didn’t ask us (that ole communication chestnut again).

We Need The Technology

We do need you to understand that the results we achieve may be limited by the equipment and training we are provided with. I’m not saying we need the newest computers or office equipment to work, but please don’t expect us to be able to make produce a glossy company magazine worthy of Vogue, or Home & Garden on your old Commodore 64. Conversely, if you are able to afford all the mod cons of technology and office equipment, please don’t forget to train us up to use it. We could waste 5 days trying to figure it out ourselves, but that wouldn’t be the best use of anyone’s time. There is also some fantastic training around specifically for PA’s these days and it is well worth the financial investment.

Really, in a busy business, what every PA needs, is a PA! Who doesn’t need someone to assist them with the day to days of life and help do some of the ground work? We really appreciate it when our boss is able to assign an office junior or part timer to help us, even if we are sharing with other managers.


One of the great things about working as a personal assistant is that it can be a great step to running your own business or working out which field you want to work in without having the qualifications in that field. In my case, my previous PA role was for smaller company within a large corporation and I learnt the whole business back to front. In that role I also learnt how bigger corporation's work and the importance of procedures and foundations for setting up a successful company.

One of the worst things about being a PA is that because I am (generally) so well organized, everyone comes to me to find everything. Even things I don't have anything to do with, like, “where will I find some more teabags?” Of course, I always know where they are.

In short, a Personal Assistant can be a boss’s right hand; Hutch to your Starsky, Tubbs to your Crockett, Tonto to your Lone Ranger. A good, professional working relationship between a PA and boss is a beautiful thing and with a little communication and mutual respect you can become a powerful team working more efficiently and effectively in your business.

Lynda Rule

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Jason Harper

Jason Harper

Run Web Design is a Geelong based company committed to providing businesses with a complete, professional web site development service.

With services covering all aspects of web site development, including website design and construction, search engine optimisation, domain registration and web hosting, and online advertising advice, Run Web Design is able to provide clients with a web site that works for their business.

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