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Status obsessed: The unnecessary power struggle between EAs

power struggles

Do you sometimes feel like you are surrounded by other assistants that are status obsessed? We’ve all worked with these type of EA’s before, injected with a bit of power because of their position and the Executive they support, they’re more interested in hierarchy more than anything else. Perhaps they’re confused by the role they’re there to perform, but they seem to forget that they’re actually the assistant to that Executive, not actually the Executive themselves! Unfortunately though for the fellow assistants around them, this can result in a rather unnecessary power struggle, leading to complete inefficiencies when trying to get things done, and not to mention it can be just damn right annoying! It’s terrific when your Executive empowers you to lead and act like more than ‘just an assistant’, but when that power is taken too far and their assistant uses it for bad, rather than for good, it can leave a bitter taste in other’s mouths, especially that of other assistants.

Now don’t get me wrong, by no means am I downgrading the role of the assistant and the leadership and managerial qualities that it entails. The reality of the situation is however, that assistants are there as a support function and there to act as the Executive’s business partner. Yes we should consider ourselves leaders and managers in our own right, but when power gets the better of some of us, it often makes the fellow assistants within team feel bitter and jaded which just ends up in a broken EA network or community. Its obvious in these situations though that assistants that feel the need to power trip are often those that, at some point, felt disrespected by others, leading them to try and omit their power over others. And in this case they target those that they see, in their eyes, to be at a ‘lower level’ based on the hierarchy of management they support.

Now the definition of power tripping is when people advance their own interests at the expense of the common good. The power tripper benefits at the cost of others by taking advantage of the trust placed in them. But trust and respect shouldn’t come from the level that you are at.  Trust and respect are things that should be earned, whatever level you’re at, and earned because you are credible individual. As an assistant, if you have credibility (as opposed to just capability), respect in turn will follow. Now credibility is an essential quality to have an EA/PA of which I have a lot to share on the topic, but that’s for another time (or place!).

So, how do you deal with other assistant’s that are power tripping? As lets be honest, its not something you want to have to tolerate for long! We’ve all been in situations before where we’ve had to deal with ‘that assistant’ that thinks that their boss is more senior than everybody else’s and in turn makes life hell for those of us who need to arrange meetings with them and get into the diary of their boss!  Have you ever been asked by your boss to set up a an urgent hour long meeting with a particular Exec that must happen this week, only to be told by their EA that they have no availability for the next four weeks and even then they can only offer 30 mins in a month’s time at some God-awful time of the morning that only the birds would know about? Sound familiar? I bet it does! So how do you deal with these assistants? Well I have three key pieces of advice that should help.

1. Call them out on it

Now the best way to make someone aware of what they’re saying or doing is to ask them to repeat what they said. So ask for clarification to see if they really meant what they said.  Sometimes the act of repeating the inappropriate communication or behaviour shocks the other person right back into reality! And if you find yourself continually being ‘bossed around’, pushed down and have things pushed on to you because you are seen to be not as senior, then have the confidence to stand up for yourself and have the balls to say no! We are all there to perform the same job at the end of the day, and we are all just as busy as each other, and we have every right to say no when you feel like you’re being taken advantage of or belittled. It all just comes down to confidence. If they truly are no more senior than you, then don’t be afraid to push back and stand up for yourself. And just remember, the next time they need to get time for their boss in your Exec’s diary, you’ve got one over them!

2. Talk to them about it

Sometimes we have to remind each other that we are all equals. We all perform the same sort of role and essentially should support each other, not try and out rank each other. So if the individual is continually power-tripping on you, or other fellow EA’s, it might be time to have a frank conversation with them about it. Be careful in your approach though as you don’t want to make matters worse, so be gentle. The alternative to pointing the finger at them is to have a general discussion about how annoying it is when other EA’s in the business behave in that way. It might just open their eyes up to what they’re doing, without you having to be so direct.

3. Embrace more equality in the team

The best way to embrace more equality with your fellow assistants is to bring them together more frequently. So if there is a group of assistants in your company/department, then make sure you are meeting with regular EA/PA meetings and that there is open communication amongst you always. Rotate the chair of the meetings so its not always the same assistant leading and ensure that tasks are delegated out equally and not always to the less senior assistants. Consider even raising this topic as an agenda item, or even more broadly on what your EA etiquette is, so that all the assistants are more aware of the way they conduct themselves and the way they approach their fellow EA colleagues. See my post on EA etiquette 101 which is a good reminder for everyone on the way we should conduct ourselves.

You don’t have to tolerate power trippers, as it essentially comes down to re-educating them and being confident and bold enough to call them out and address the situation. That is unless they’ve just got a mean streak, of which in that case I would just smile and nod and if you can just work around them.

Before I sign off today I wanted to share with you all two pieces of exciting news! Firstly, you’re probably wondering why I’ve been quiet on the blog front for the last month? Well its with good reason, I can assure you. I have been busily working away on my new website – which I proudly share with you all today!  No longer just a blog, the new Who’s the Real Boss site is designed as a platform for all administration professionals with advice and services to benefit you all! I encourage you to explore the new site and see all it has to offer. To all of you that were subscribed to the old blog, you are all now automatically subscribed to the new platform and will continue to receive all my posts and exciting offers. And to those of you that haven’t yet subscribed, you can do so on the homepage.

Secondly, you will see as part of the new look I will now be offering a wide range of services including master classes, mentoring and my new exciting “Like a Boss” classes in a city near you! Check out the dates for the next classes and be sure to book your spot before classes fill up! Learn all about what it takes to be actually taken seriously in this rather challenging role we all choose to work in, and refine your skill set to ensure you are credible, as well as capable. As I mentioned, there is a lot to be said and shared on credibility and I do hope you all see the benefit in investing in your development in this area so that we can all be the assistant’s that we want and deserve to be.

Happy browsing!

Edwina sign-off

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