Last Tuesday night I was taking the Metra from Ogilvie station back to Elmhurst. The cars were full, and conversations carried from one seat to the next, whether anyone intended to overhear them or not. Behind me, a woman sat sideways in her seat, knees curled up beneath her, sketching on a notepad and talking to her friend on the phone. Even as I listened to my fiance talk about wedding plans, I couldn't help eavesdropping on the woman's conversation. Apparently, my fellow passenger has just hired a new assistant at her design company, and it's not going well.
"This girl seemed so bright. She just got a Master's in PR and plenty of internship experience. She had great recommendations. And I'm just so... disappointed. She's... lazy. Now that I have an assistant, I'm not only doing my work, but hers as well."
The woman went on to explain several scenarios in which the new girl had fallen far short of her expectations. The girl has even responded to her requests, saying, "Well, I don't do [insert task here]."
The conversation was intriguing to me for a number of reasons. For the first time, I was able to hear exactly how bosses perceive an employee's behavior, everything from their verbal response to their body language, to the way the dress and the amount of time it takes to accomplish a task. I know that it's important to dress professionally, work efficiently, and show office ettiquette. What I was hearing in her conversation was an unedited, heart-to-heart between two seasoned professionals. This new girl will probably never hear any version of that conversation. Maybe she'll hear a version of the "It's just not working out"-talk. But she might never know the specifics that I heard in that phone conversation.
When you are an assistant to a boss, they rely heavily on your ability to speak, spell, react quickly, and make suggestions or offer constructive criticism. I was slightly shocked to hear that there are employers that care and even rely on their employees' opinions of the material produced in their company. I should know this, but somehow I feel that we've been trained to believe that if we tell our bosses what we think they want to hear, they'll respect us more. In truth, we've simply been trained to cover our asses, a mindset which molds employees like Disappointment Dimwit into the lackluster assistant that she is.
As I kept listening, I had an irrational and overwhelming urge to turn around, stick out my hand, and say,
"Hello, my name is Bethany, your long-lost wonderassistant."
But I didn't. Probably would not have been a very good first impression.