Thursday, October 31, 2013

Workplace Wisdom IV- When the PA strays

Like Caesar’s wife, the Big Boss’s (BB) PA must be above suspicion. She is the repository of all the information pertaining to the organization and the people in it. And she is also the conduit through whom the BB routes his communications, his memos, and his final decisions. Working this closely with the head of the organization swells the head of many a PA who may just initiate power games in the office. It therefore takes someone of some maturity and a level-head to perform this task well. “If it is the BB you want to win, then it is with the PA you begin,” becomes the motto of those who want to woo the demi-god.  Officers befriend her to try and win her confidence. This is as good as winning the approval if the BB as his PA is his first source of information about his subordinates. The information she supplies to the BB likely to be in favor of those who kow-tow to her.
 Most BBs are reluctant to survey the floor themselves and so rely on their Pas for information. Human nature is naturally inclined to prejudice, and unless simpered by wisdom and far-sightedness, the PA is going to pass on a lot of her own opinion for information. Some BBs even consult their Pas about the promotion of juniors and when writing performance appraisals.
 A PA with mischievous intentions may pretend to be friendly with the staff. To get them on to her side, she may regale them with instances of her Boss’s oddities. Soon inhibitions are down, anecdotes are being traded and opinions aired without the customary caution. Thus armed, Madame PA may well hurry to the BB to give him the lowdown on her discovery – adding her own tidbits to pep up the account.
 If such behavior is indulged in, it is a clear indication of the questionable ethics of the person occupying a crucial position in the organization.  It does not speak very well of the BB’s maturity, basing his decision solely on what may often be pure gossip or hearsay.  It takes two to tango and so much more so in a professional situation such as this. BBs must make a fair assessment of their Pas. They must rely on their own observations, avoid exchanging gossip with them and resist the temptation to seek their counsel on official matters such as those that may affect the career of an employee.  As for the PA, she must have integrity and a non-partisan attitude to the people who work for her boss. She must not misuse her position to create factions in the office. If a discordant note has been struck in inter-personal relationships at work, she must, in the interest of the BB and the organization, intervene to restore harmony.  If she has been confidante of some members of the staff, she must hot hold them to ransom when it suits her and abandon them at will.  She must not part with any confidential information, and as far as possible, keep to herself.  Familiarity, in her position, is bound to breed unpredictable situations.  If talk she must, there are always general subjects like the weather, films or the nuclear ban.  And personnel or recruiting managers must beware when they choose a PA. A mature, balanced person with a good family background and a dignified deportment are essential qualifications.  A soft voice is an excellent thing in woman, as Shakespeare said, and a smile while it need not be perpetual and plastic, can save the day when it is genuine.