Monday, May 26, 2014

Resenting Your Boss & How to Overcome It

“Hi there,

I've been a Personal Assistant for a C-level executive for 2 years now (where I received some great advice from you before I started, thank you!) and I could not be more thankful and grateful for all that I've gained from that position. I have developed both a great professional relationship and personal friendship with my boss and have enjoyed working with him and the company. He's expressed his appreciation for my hard work and his desire for me to move up in the company once I've decided where I want to be, which I am still figuring out. I also handle his executive calendar and work in the office with him.

But recently, I've been getting annoyed with my daily tasks that never used to faze me before: getting his lunch, coming to my desk to ask me something, driving his car to run an errand, etc. It's getting to the point where I feel as if I'm starting to resent him and get angry for all the little things I have to do for him, even though I know it's my job to do them. I don't want to do anything beyond my regular position (when I didn't mind before) because I rather not spend extra time with him. He hasn't been anything but his usual friendly and appreciative self me so I feel guilty for feeling like this.

I'm still figuring out what my next move is so for the time being (a few months at least) I will still be his assistant, but I wanted to know how you've dealt with these feelings of annoyance towards your boss if you ever have and how you've overcome them. I would talk to him about it, as a friend, but I don't want to cross any lines professionally and make things awkward.

Please let me know your thoughts, thank you!”

Dear M.E.,

It’s so great to hear from you again and with a new question!  I love hearing from readers!  I am glad my previous advice to you was helpful and that you’ve been flourishing as a PA to a C-level exec for 2 years now!  It sounds like things are going swimmingly with your productivity and work performance.  It says a lot when your boss wants to grow you within the company and promote you.  So, many kudos to you for getting to where you are now! 

You mention you’ve been getting a little irritated with your boss about the tasks that you have to do.  The odd thing is, it’s not anything new or out of the ordinary which is why it may be perplexing to you.  I have totally been in your position where the resentment slowly builds and the logical side of you is at odds with the emotional side of you.  You know deep down what he is asking of you is par for the course and totally reasonable, but your reaction isn’t congruent to the situation.

I love your question because no one has ever asked this question on the blog.  I can relate as it took me awhile to figure out why I was thinking/feeling/reacting/and behaving the way I was too.  I do applaud you for NOT talking to him about it.  You are right in NOT crossing any lines professional or making things awkward.  So good job on that part too, M.E.! 

And to go into answering your questions, I will be thorough for any new readers to my site even though much of what I say may not apply to you directly. 

Many many years ago, I was an assistant to my boss for about 2 years and I started to feel the same way you did.  I hated having to do EVERY LITTLE thing for my boss.  I resented my boss for not being able to function without me as if I was the mother and the boss were my child.  I hated the mental stress and burden of putting everyone else first and getting only the usual thank you’s and words of appreciation.  I hated going non stop for the entire business day, not having lunch for myself, and seeing my boss 1,000 times a day.  I also knew everything I was feeling was very true for me, but also confusing because if my boss didn’t need me, I wouldn’t have a job, I wouldn’t get a paycheck, and I wouldn’t have all this experience to put on my resume.  And so a part of me wished I could do my job, but that my boss would need me a little less, although I know that sounded absurd on the face of it.  I was hired to help my boss and I agreed to that for all the benefits I outlined above.  Granted, these were feelings I kept to myself so no one had any clue, but I know what you are going thru and I can tell you it’ll get better. 

I finally figured out what the issue was after a lot of soul searching.  Before I tell you what I figured out for myself, I knew something wasn’t quite right.  When I shift into the mode of focusing on the negative, being irritated, fantasizing on how I wish things were different I know something is wrong.  For others maybe they sleep more, exercise more, drink more, avoid the person/whatever is bothering them, or start getting snippy. 

Know how you act when you encounter a problem or something difficult.  Because too often people know they are slightly displeased yet it takes them weeks to even figure out that seed of unhappiness is starting to grow within them until they look back in hindsight.  So here are some things you can ask yourself.

1) What are all the emotions I am feeling - annoyed, burdened, shortchanged, mad, sad, bored, overextended, cheated, stressed, lost, drifting, helpless, life is unfair, panicked, what is the meaning of life, is there meaning to life, etc?

2) If I had to wildly guess and make totally random assumptions on why I am feeling the way I am, I would guess it could be these three or five things...

3) If I take better care of myself - eat when I’m hungry, get enough sleep, exercise, and relax/play, will it make me feel better about my situation?

4) Will it help if I go on vacation?

5) Am I getting “me” time to think about life and what I want?

6) Do I have full and happy social?

7)  Do I have a full and happy love life?

8) Am I spending my free time (and my life) the way I want to?

9) How do I want to spend that time?

10) What is it that I enjoy, believe in, and want to help share/spread?

11) Have I ever felt this way before and what happened then?  Is this incident similar or different and in what ways?

12)  Does my Myers Briggs personality type shed light on why I might be feeling the way I do?  (Is it hard for me to work with really close friends and blur the lines of my private and professional life?  Am I in the wrong job or just at the wrong company/dept?) 

These are a lot of personal questions and you may not have answers to many of them, but that’s okay.  The  point of the above exercise is to figure out if the solution is something that can be fixed with a little action/daily maintenance (go on vacation, take better care of yourself, respectively) or will take long term planning and goals/strategy (move closer to family or save enough money to travel for a year).  More importantly, once you figure that out, it can help you MANAGE your feelings and perspective during the day whenever you get frustrated or every hour if needed.  If it’s a major change or overhaul, having a plan and executing it is required.  Taking those baby steps to get there will help ease your mind knowing an end is in sight. 

For me, and this may or may not be the case with you, I learned I was bored, unhappy, stretched too thin, and I was neglecting myself.  How did I learn this?  It may take some time to gain self awareness, self reflection, and self management skills, but over the years I’ve come to know a few things about myself that most likely will not waiver.  Perhaps you can identify with my story or after hearing mine, be able to see what your story is.

I love being an EA.  However, after I’m in a role for 2-3 years I’ve learned the ins and outs of my new boss, role, job, dept, and company.  I then tend to get a little bored because everything is already so routine.  I’ve seen what an entire year looks like 2-3 times now.  While I do NOT want to get another job and job hop every 2 or 3 years, I know I need to have something else engage my mind and body in my professional AND personal life. 

At one job I had the freedom to take a longer lunch on Fridays so I would actually volunteer at the local elementary school as a Big Sister once a week.  This helped me look forward to work since our company partnered with the school and it was company approved.  I would also volunteer at work and socialize with my co-workers during the holiday gift wrapping parties.  I also tried to get to know the other assistants by going to lunch with them during the year.  I mentored other younger assistants.  I started this blog while temping/job hunting and I was allowed to write or do personal side projects as long as it was not interfering with my work. 

Outside of work, I started to take classes at night (and even on the weekends).  On Monday nights I went to hula class.  Once that ended I took pole dance class, ballet, mat pilates, and various other classes I had never tried before, but always wanted to.  I did make a point to take at least one class during the work week that I could look forward to after work.  That left the other 4 days of the week for “me time” to watch TV or socialize.

Socially, I also made it a point to date and then when I met my boyfriend, see him once or twice during the week and then on the weekends.  When I wasn’t with him, I was catching up with friends over dinner, at an event, or reading and relaxing alone.  I also started a book club, a meet up group, went to networking events, book lectures, and now I am very much into Yelp and Yelp events. 

I also thought long and hard about why I was so unhappy and stressed at my job and why I had growing resentment.  I learned I need a vacation ASAP.  I needed to find a new job that had lesser hours, lesser stress, lesser pressure, and a lesser sense of urgency.

People have a tendency to get mad at others when they are really mad at themselves.  I’m sure you heard that saying:

“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us.”

― Hermann Hesse, Demian

So for me, I was resentful that I was no longer enjoying my job and getting out of it the amount of blood, sweat, and tears I had to put in into it.  The benefits were no longer worth it.  It meant I needed to  move on.

I knew I loved being an EA I just needed to do it for someone or a dept who was okay with me NOT working 12+ and some weekends.  I have had a couple roles where I worked 80-100 hours a week.  I was willing to work hard and in a demanding environment, but I was specific with what I wanted.  I needed to find a new job and to make sure that it was the RIGHT JOB, not just ANY JOB.  This meant I had to know what I liked, disliked, what I wanted, and what I could live with or compromise on.  And this is what I eventually came up with.

New EA Job Requirements:

I will find a job working no more than 50-55 hours a week. 

I will find a job that pays MORE than what I make now.

I will find a job that is stable, yet slightly challenging.

I will find a job that is near my house with hardly a commute.

I will find a job with a boss that is humble and smart and a team that is friendly and kind. 

I will find a job with an exciting journey on the way. 

I will temp and enjoy the downtime to spring clean and read for personal/intra self improvement.

I will find a job helping a person/people. 


Once I came up with this list I also knew I’d have to be diligent in selling my perspective on a positive note.  I also had to listen in interviews really well.  This meant I’d say, “I love working hard and being in demanding roles.  I’m looking to work 50-55 hours a week, at most, rather than 12 hour days and on weekends.”  If a recruiter said a thick skin was needed I knew it wasn’t the right role for me. 

As much as I knew myself it took me awhile to get things rolling.  I debated with myself if I was doing the right thing, being too picky, or making a rash decision.  What tipped the scales for me was I knew myself too well - I like learning, I like growing, I like giving back, and living a life that is in accordance with what I value, believe in, and can stand behind.  If I didn’t make the change now or soon I’d just be wasting time and losing time.  I realized I’m not getting any younger and life is not getting any longer. 

The bottom line is, take your irritation and resentment and do something useful with it.  Use that energy to build the life you want, create the dream you’ve envisioned for yourself, and find the happiness you deserve.  Learn, grow, flourish, and never stop!  I don’t know what it could be for you, M.E., but I can only assume the answer lies in figuring out what you want to do next and getting there couldn’t happen sooner.  I’d love to hear an update once you’ve figured it out! 




***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.

I also write over at Jobstr.com under Hollywood Executive Assistant.

http://jobstr.com/threads/show/4303-hollywood-executive-assistant

13 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for your insight! It's been difficult to work out the root of the problem but I will go through the questions and answer them for myself.

    I appreciate your help and will keep you posted!

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    1. The Muser at Musings of A High Level ExecJune 5, 2014 at 10:47 AM

      Yes, keep me posted!

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    2. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.June 12, 2014 at 4:04 PM

      Dear Anon - I am glad you will take the time to go thru the questions and figure out what is bothering you. Would love to hear from you in a few months or a year! Have fun on the journey; it will lead to bigger and better things!

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  2. Hi! I'm so glad I found your blog. Very informative and I spent hours reading your former posts. I want your advice on my situation and how you would handle it. I've been the EA to the President of a local t.v. station for almost 2 years. Prior to this role, I supported 4 Executives at a Security company for 8 years and loved it but they relocated the division to another city so that's how I ended up where I am currently. My current role bores me to tears, I only have 2 hours of work at most per day and spend the rest of it sitting waiting on something to do. My boss seems oblivious. I make an incredible salary so when I tell my husband and friends I want to explore other avenues, they think I'm crazy. Couple the lack of work with the fact that this is a very isolating position. We are in an executive wing which is just my boss and I. No one and I mean no one comes into this area unless they have an appointment with my boss. This position doesn't fulfill me at all and I can't believe they pay me what they do just in case he needs something. There is only so much surfing you can do on the net before you start to go crazy. I also have a 50 minute commute each way which isn't helping. How would you discuss this with your boss without sticking your foot in your mouth? Many people think working at a t.v. station is glamorous but it's just like working anywhere else. If I had more work to do and would be learning along the way, I would stay. Right now I just put things on his calendar and order food. Any advice you give me would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks!

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    Replies
    1. The Muser at Musings of A High Level Exec AsstJune 5, 2014 at 10:48 AM

      I will be answering this question in a full blog post within the next week! Such a great question.

      Delete
    2. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstJune 11, 2014 at 3:58 PM

      I answered your question in my new blog post!

      Delete
  3. Hi.. I am from India, glad i found your blog. i have started my Career as male PA. thanx for the insights

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.June 12, 2014 at 4:02 PM

      Hello, new reader! So glad you found my blog and are starting a career as a male PA. I hope you enjoy being in an admin service role as much as I do! Thank you for being a reader!

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  4. WOW! I am in the exact same shoes as M.E. right now, it sounded like they had been spying on my life!
    Your answer was so beautifully written as well. I have been so fed up and resentful of my employer I've been job hunting like there is no tomorrow and trying to hide my negative attitude while I search. Your blog has completely opened my mind and made me realize that if I jump at the first job I find that it may be just as bad as the one I am currently in, Thank you so much for making me realize I need to take a step back and figure out what I want in a job, not the other way around.

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.June 12, 2014 at 4:01 PM

      Dear Anon - I am so glad you enjoyed my post and could gleam some insight! I wish you a great job hunt! Thank you for being a reader!

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  5. Wow. As a former EA I only wish someone had done this before, but it was prob pre-internet blogging. Very insightful advice and comments. I worked for a couple of those "thick-skinned" Execs and it finally took its toll. I went to therapy I was such a mess but when I described my job my therapist was in shock. She said I probably have PTSD! Seriously. You can only take so much humiliation and cruelty before it chips away at your entire sense of well-being and you cross the line of no-return. I see this happening to friends who are EA's but the problem is they're making good money for sticking it out. Tough situation but your health has to come first. Now days you can go to HR without fear of retaliation at most companies however the entertainment biz is a whole different beast. It's still very much the "old boys club" ie "you'll never work in this town again." Also as you get older it gets way more difficult to get back in the game because the players change quickly and so does the office technology. If you're in a good job think twice about leaving and/or staying. The advice here is crucial for survival but don't take those high level C jobs for granted. Life is short! Be very wise with your money too!

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstAugust 12, 2014 at 4:41 PM

      Anon - Thank you so much for your comment. I am glad you liked my post. I am glad to hear you are doing much better and learned a lot from your EA days. I answered another reader question called HOW TO WORK FOR A DIFFICULT boss in which I wrote much of what you shared. I do agree nothing is more important than your health. It's great to hear from readers so my audience can hear from others too. I also started vlogging so hopefully you were able to catch that one about HOW TO STAYCATION (and that it's important to take care of yourself first to be able to take care of your exec). Thank you for being a reader and so glad you commented!

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  6. Thank you so much for this comprehensive and thoughtful post. I am exactly in this position right now with my current job and it was very helpful to read something that confirmed what I already know. I am very self-aware, almost too much so, so I appreciated your outline of the whole process from questioning, to better self care, and next job planning. I am stuck in the next job planning and had been stressing myself out about not being able to move on right away ( I have 2 months left on my contract). The quote at the end advising that you use your frustration to create progress will be a guiding principle for me moving forward. Thanks so much for writing this blog and I'll be sure to read your other posts. Great professional perspective and advice!

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