If you’re new to my blog, I offer advice to those who write in to me. I try to write my advice so that young or new EAs can also gleam tips even if the question asked may not apply directly. Anyway, here’s this week’s question.
“Hello! I do hope you are doing well and I really appreciate your blog!!!
Long story short, I am in need of some guidance and I have no where to
turn! If you have any advice to offer me, it would be appreciated
I am a 25 yr old, female executive assistant and I am about to begin a
HUGE opportunity for a high profile guy! This includes all of the
perks; travel, private jet, top notch everything, great pay,
incentives, etc etc. BUT my concern is one that I come across much too
often. My looks. Being that I am a young, "attractive" girl, with
brains and drive, this executive is already texting me 24/7 and some
of the comments make me uneasy. I am in NEED of this job as my current
position is with a company that is closing.
He has a wife and child, but it seems that is irrelevant. He wants me
to travel everywhere with him and basically the "attached at the hip",
partner type relationship, which is fine. But I have a boyfriend and a
personal life and I don't want to be in an uncomfortable situation. :(
It is really stressing me out, I feel as though I need to master the
skill of utilizing this sort of "power" over men to my benefit! I just
don't know how.
THANK YOU so much for taking time to read this.”
Thank you for being a loyal reader! Congrats on the new job and beating out everyone else, many apologies for your current predicament.
I’m assuming you were told the role would be 24/7. And it sounds as though you haven’t officially started yet so I’m curious why he’s already contacting you for business or personal reasons. The unwelcome comments are a big no no. I have no idea if they are the variety of “you looked extra nice today,” which could be questionable/harmless or something more suggestive and highly inappropriate.
The travel and the attached at the hip assistant is somewhat common and it’s good you are fine with that. However, being put in an uncomfortable situation is the biggest issue here.
You mention you don’t know how to master being attractive to your benefit. Sure, it’s nice to have the “power” you have, but the only safe and professional way to use it is to be really charismatic, disarming, self effacing, and personable - that’s it. Just be a really good people person and if anyone is overstepping their boundaries, I’m afraid you already know the answer, but aren’t happy with it or just want to confirm you are doing the right thing from an objective person. I’m not saying you would/will, but for any new young, readers - flirting at work with promises of more or sleeping your way to the top is not suggested. It’s also why sexual harassment training is mandatory and sexual harassment is considered illegal and cause for termination. Realize anytime you give someone that power, they can also take it back and move on to someone younger, prettier, smarter, more agreeable, or who knows whatever it is they value. The best power is to be smart, confident, good with people, honorable, moral, and good at your job. It’s an asset you have that no one can take away because all these traits are who you are - how you speak, act, and carry yourself.
You mention is it already stressing you out now, which means whatever lines he has crossed is already too much. So while trying to do a super, demanding stressful job, you will have to contend with all the emotional sparring and head games with him 24/7 for the foreseeable future unless you’re lottery lucky and something changes. The question isn’t so much of how to utilize “power” over men to make them change, or to your benefit with this boss, but rather what can you do alone right now to avoid the situation from getting worse or coming up again. This is what I know about human behavior and reality. There are only so many things you can directly control. You can’t make him stop writing creepy texts. You can’t make his wife and children relevant to him so he doesn’t jeopardize that relationship. You can’t make him change or behave. Bottom line, you can’t control him. What can you control? You. And that’s it.
So there are only two things you can do: 1) leave now before the sh*t hits the fan or 2) find a way to work thru it but realize the (highly likely) consequences of persistent unwelcome advances that will lead to a breaking point, getting let go/fired for not going along, being manipulated as the stakes get higher and higher, or hope you somehow manage to work thru it all.
I’m not sure how well-known your new boss is. Regardless, generally speaking, industries are small, everyone knows each other and sometimes that means the good and the bad. My personal advice to you is to leave, now, before anything else bad happens. If you leave now, there won’t be a bridge to burn because you they have no way to evaluate your work performance when you haven’t even started yet. If you start and leave, you have to explain why you were at the company for such a short time without bad mouthing them (especially if your next employer runs a background check to verify your employment even if you leave it off your resume). Or if you stay awhile and suddenly decide to leave when you were supposedly happy.
People sign contracts and quit before or within two weeks of when they start all the time. They got a better deal, they changed their mind, something personal came up. Don’t feel bad about it. You’ll feel much worse a month or a year from now when you didn’t leave when you could. How do I know this? Because you told me: I am in need of some guidance and I have no where to turn! This executive is already texting me 24/7 and some of the comments make me uneasy. He has a wife and child, but it seems that is irrelevant. I have a boyfriend and a personal life and I don't want to be in an uncomfortable situation. :( It is really stressing me out.
I've had other readers ask me for advice where they felt torn just like you. Between my two sites, I'm sure you can find those posts on this blog and my column. However, this is what I tell them. If you can tolerate the negatives, you will enjoy the positives easily. If you can't live with the negatives, all the perks, money, and glamor don't matter. It’s the 80-20 rule. You can only have 80% satisfaction and 20% will always be problematic. Any time you switch, hoping for greener pastures, it will just be ANOTHER/DIFFERENT set of problems within the 20%. So the 20% you dislike now, can you see yourself dealing with it for the next 3 or 5 years?
Some have even asked about hiring a lawyer, and while you are not in that place yet, if things escalate, I would also tell you: I’d advise against talking to an employment lawyer. Unless you are loaded, it will cost you a lot of time and money to see if you even have a case. And if you do, the chances of you winning are probably slim. And while it’s very noble to fight for a cause, your career and employment prospects will suffer the most and probably immediately. Yes, the best scenario would be you paving the way for future generations to come, but if modern history, politics, and society are any indication, these things take time...
There is nothing more important than your peace of mind. Give yourself permission to leave the situation now. For any if, and, but, or excuse you can think of - is it worth your moral compass, good reputation, and untarnished work history? For situations like this, you must assume it will stay the same or get worse. There is no reason for you to believe it will change. Keep in mind your reputation is at stake here too. In this Enron-like era, if you work for a “bad boss” your character comes into question because you were his 24/7 assistant. What we know right now is he is acting inappropriately so who knows in what other inappropriate ways he is behaving. You, for the most part, will/do know every detail about his professional and personal life. When Martha Stewart got in trouble, her assistant was also questioned. Who you work with and for impacts you and your career and personal life. Even if you didn’t do anything wrong directly, depending on the circumstance, you could also be liable because you knew.
The question really comes down to, what do you want out of life and your career? Do you want to do what you can, within your power and control, to change your situation or just hope it all works out magically somehow? I understand your other company is closing and you really need this job. I'm sure you feel that you are confronted with a "lesser of the two evils." I need you to look at the big picture - because you are so smart and driven, you will land another job. You can always make more money, it’s much harder to defend your character or battle it out with your boss should things end badly because you won’t engage in personal affairs with your boss. Don’t ever compromise on your integrity and make exceptions, because once you give an inch, he’ll take a mile and that leads to many, many regrets. Give yourself permission to leave. And if you can’t, I give you permission to leave. This is what you can tell them. “I’m really sorry, however, I’d like to resign my position. While I understand this isn’t opportune for you, I’m no longer able to work at your company.” If they press you for an explanation you can bring up the 24/7 schedule if you weren’t told about it earlier. Or, just keep repeating, “I’m sorry. It’s a private matter. I’m no longer able to work at your company.”
Look for a new job and make sure it it leaves enough time for your boyfriend, your personal life, and peace of mind. Life is too short otherwise. And you deserve better. And so do your friends, family, and boyfriend who will have to listen to you complain, cry, and stress out if you choose to stay. So if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for them. Imagine all the fun things you can do during the week, the dinners, happy hours, and sleeping in on the weekends. When you are on call, you are working 24/7. 2am phone calls, texts in the middle of dinner, if you watch The Devil Wears Prada it’s just like that... Your loved ones want good things for you, not a boss that acts inappropriately. I can see you are in a very difficult and uncomfortable position. I trust that you will think things over with care and some soul searching. I’m not sure how helpful I was to you, but please keep me posted. I wish you my best. I honestly believe you will be fine without this "opportunity" - you are smart, driven, and brave. Bite the bullet now instead of a year from now. Make the best and right decision within your power with all the information you have today... It may be hard, but you can do it.
“...sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same...” -The Fray
***New “rule” - when you ask me a question for anonymous advice and I answer it, could you write an anonymous comment so I know you read the post? You can just write “Thx!” or something! :)
As always, I usually tweet any new posts I have. And anyone can email me questions and I respond only via this blog, not to your personal address. It usually takes me 3-4 days to answer.
I also write over at Jobstr.com under Hollywood Executive Assistant.