Personal-Assistant-Tips Newsletter
April 2017
Welcome to our Personal-Assistant-Tips Newsletter. 

This edition addresses an issue that is close to the heart of many PAs - the passive-aggressive boss. If you have been in the PA profession for a while you will no doubt have encountered this type of challenging personality. Our article entitled "How PAs Can Keep-It-Simple With a Passive-Aggressive Boss", provides a number of strategies for taking control and ensuring that your interactions are productive.

In this edition we revisit an article about failing. Failing is an inevitable part of living but it's important to understand that failing is not the same as failure. This article reminds us to see failure as instructive.  

April is almost over, and you may be hoping that your boss has allocated money in the budget for your continuous professional develop. Perhaps you need to present a convincing case for PA training. If so, please download our business case for PA training template. It will show you how to argue effectively for the PA training you deserve.  

I would like to invite you to subscribe to this free monthly newsletter using this link if you have not already subscribed.

Very best wishes.

Marguerita King
Managing Director
How PAs Can Keep-It-Simple With a Passive-aggressive Boss 
Some people take the view that “people” are either a blessing or a lesson. “Passive-aggressive” people tend to fall into the latter category. They present the type of challenges PAs can really learn from.
PAs are project-managers: managing a project of one (depending on the number of bosses). An important aspect of the PA skill-set is relationship building. They are expected to be adept at dealing with difficult people.  Working successfully with a difficult boss is a learning opportunity that builds a repertoire of useful responses.
Each challenging encounter teaches the PA about variations in work style, expectations, standards, personalities, outcomes, and most importantly, their ability to cope. You can bounce back from anything if you have a positive attitude and learn from past experiences. Like a bouncing ball, each challenge helps you to bounce higher.
The important thing is to learn how to hold your own in a challenging exchange. The passive-aggressive boss makes simple things complicated through subtle miscommunications that can have an adverse effect on the working relationship.
Passive-aggressive behaviour is aggression that is expressed in an indirect manner, rather than stating their disapproval directly to the person concerned. The hostility associated with passive-aggressive behaviour is often derived from miscommunication, failure to communicate, or the assumption that the other person knows what they are thinking or feeling - yep, we’ve all been there!
Passive-aggressive people often exhibit “sabotaging” behaviours such as willful procrastination [repeatedly delaying action], stubbornness, withholding of information, sullen behaviour, deliberate or repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks they are responsible for.
If you have ever dealt with a passive-aggressive boss you can probably remember a time when you really wanted to keep it real and say
“If you want something, ask for it.”
“If you want to be understood, explain yourself.”
It’s their preference for evasive dialogue and their refusal to meet you half-way that's so frustrating. PAs have to keep it running so they can’t afford to voice their feelings. The trick is to coach the passive-aggressive boss in the art of “keeping it simple”.
It is difficult to meet the real needs of a passive-aggressive boss because they often don’t say what they really want. Getting them to commit to a set of parameters is the best way to keep things simple and have something to reference and refer to. Try to get the parameters agreed in an email – a paper trail settles arguments.  
This is especially important if you are working with a passive-aggressive boss who does not understand how to use a PA. When you're given a task, try to establish how much time you have in reality to complete a task. As a PA mentor I often encounter situations where the boss gives his PA a random and seemingly unimportant task to complete but does not give a deadline. The PA then prioritizes the task as low priority because there are far more important things on the To-Do List.
When the boss enquires about the task a week later and discovers that "the simple task" has not been completed, he/she imagines that the PA has not done what was asked of her/him. The PA has a long list of justifiable reasons for not completing the task ahead of other priorities, but this disappointment results in withdrawal on the part of the boss, and the PA is left confused.
The PA suspects that the boss is angry but has no proof.  She/he is not sure whether to raise the issue and offer an apology, or let it slide. But why would you apologise if the boss says it’s not a problem, and in any case you haven't done anything wrong? The mood becomes frosty!

1) Passive-aggressive behaviour can lead to self-sabotage, where the boss disconnects from the consequences of her/his behaviour, and is prepared to let the PA miss a deadline just to prove incompetence. Remember that there are deadlines and then there are deadlines, so agree an absolute deadline with your boss, even for basic tasks.

2) If your boss is passive-aggressive and prone to tripping you up, try to remove all the obstacles. Find out how important the task is “to her/him”. Don’t rely on your own perceptions and common sense, because completion of that basic task may be essential to the success of a project your boss is working on.

3) Find out what the finished task should look like. New employees are always hindered by the learning curve, and there is no guarantee that a passive-aggressive boss will cut you enough slack to get over the curve without looking ineffective. Therefore, the new PA should do the necessary research to discover what standards they ought to be working to - sometimes your best has to be adjusted so that it's fit for purpose.

Asking the boss about their expectations may not yield sufficient information to discern standards. Therefore, new PAs should ask other PAs for standard templates, preferred fonts and best practices. Also, a lot can be gleaned from the boss’s sent items folder.  Observe their communication style and copy it [assuming it’s not abrupt].

4) If you are faced with sarcasm or the silent treatment, and you think you know why, try to further diagnose the problem. Ask your boss some constructive questions. Phrase your questions as options so that you can use a process of elimination. Ask if he/she would like you to stop doing a particular thing, start doing a particular thing, or continue doing what you’re doing.
5) Passive-aggressive people are drawn to people who enable their behaviour, but the consequences of tolerating or encouraging such behaviour is general confusion. The passive-aggressive person can make you feel like a crazy person because they don't behave the way you expect them to behave.
Use assertive language in a non-reactive but respectful way. This will help you to build and maintain a collaborative, win-win relationship. Make it clear that you are listening to what they are saying, and always acknowledge their feelings. To keep-it-simple, maintain control of your interactions by constantly bringing the conversation back to specifics.

6) When you're dealing with a passive-aggressive boss, putting too much faith in a flippant “yes” is a mistake, because “Yes” sometimes means “not sure”. Always check again and/or confirm by email. 

Successful communication with a passive-aggressive boss requires a shift in the way the PA communicates.  It's not about treating your boss like a child, it's about stepping up your communication strategy. 
Finally, avoid the unspoken power struggle by recognising that you don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.
Marguerita King
Marguerita King BSc DipPA is the founder of Personal-Assistant-Tips. She is a world-class EA/PA trainer, speaker and Consultant PA mentor, with over 25 years’ PA experience. Her courses are consistently rated 5 out of 5 for excellence and she has been described as “a PA guru”, and “The Wikipedia of the PA profession”. Marguerita has developed some of the best PA and EA training courses on the international market today and has delivered courses in major cities around the world, from Dublin to Shanghai.  She is a highly effective EA mentor that knows how to bring out the best in EAs/PAs. Contact Marguerita or call her on +44(0)845 862 2687

Peace begins with tolerance and respect.”

Don't let compliments get to your head. And don't let criticisms get to your heart.


[Written by Marguerita King and first published in Personal-Assistant-Tips April 2016 Newsletter]

Zig Ziglar once said “Failure is not a person, it’s an event."  Everyone fails at some point or another, but it's important to note that "failure” is not the same as “failing”. Failure is permanent but “failing” is temporary. Failing can be classified as a setback or a disappointment, but failure suggests that it's the end of the journey. Most people can cope with setbacks because setbacks are an inevitable part of life's journey.  

Can you think of a time when you thought you had failed, only to discover that it was the best mistake you ever made.  Perhaps you were really disappointed because you thought you had found your dream job but you didn’t make it through the interview process.  
Perhaps an even better job opportunity came along and now you almost cringe when you think about the opportunity you almost never had. And how getting the job you wanted would have limited your horizons. Failing can introduce us to new opportunities that arise as a direct consequence of failing. Failing is an opportunity to grow. It's instructive; therefore, it can point you in another direction - towards the real goal.

It’s a fact that the only thing you can achieve in life without effort is failure. Benjamin Franklin said “I didn’t fail the test. I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.” You can’t lose with an attitude like that. Why? Because your goals and objectives are bigger than that one event of failing. Failing is not falling down, it is refusing to get up again.  You get up again if you are committed to achieving your goal and understand that you have to be consistent in re-examining, re-trying and raising your game. 

Other people’s negative opinions can break down your confidence and focus your mind on failure.  Therefore, you ought to put “other people’s opinions” firmly in its place. Letting others define what is a failure for you is a mistake. It's "you" that has to pick “you” up and try again. If others are defining failure for you, they won't help you to try again. The reality is, they don’t have your unique perspective on the issue.  Think for a moment about the goals you would set for yourself if you knew you could not fail and there's no danger of being ridiculed.  Those goals represent your untapped potential and unexplored possibilities.

For some, the prospect of giving up drives them to take action they might not have otherwise taken. People learn more from failing than from succeeding. Failing encourages tenacity. And tenacity builds character and determination. If you have ever achieved success after failing consistently, you will have learnt that whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right!  You would have also learnt that every mistake serves a purpose and can spur you on to better informed actions. Failing shows you how not to do it next time round. And when you have accumulated much knowledge on how not to do something, you become “an expert” by default. 

Failing can cause you to fall forward. It can lead you to the very thing you thought you were failing to achieve. In order to achieve your goals you have to "learn how" to achieve your goals.  Failing can make you smarter and more flexible than those who achieve success the first time round and with little effort because they have access to resources. Treat failing as a false start. False starts take you one step closer to your goal if you view your mistakes as valuable feedback. 
To use a metaphor, failing is like an irritating SatNav system that takes you on a joy ride; makes you late for your appointment and leaves you exasperated. But it get’s you to your destination eventually, if you refuse to abort the journey.  If you don’t mind travelling in the slow lane for a while, you could discover more interesting and scenic routes to your destination.

By Marguerita King



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EA & PA Career Mentoring Programmes

PA mentoring is an excellent development resource for increasing your productivity, building a strategic partnership with your boss, and creating your unique career roadmap to success.  

- Developing a productive strategic partnership with your boss
- Improving your day-to-day performance
- Building an effective business network
- Creating a powerful personal brand
- Preparing a case for a pay rise and/or job title change
- Creating a 1-year and 5-year development plan
- Creating an effective CV/resume 
- Compiling a professional career portfolio
- Maximizing your performance review scores
....and much more

As a former Executive PA with over 25 years' experience, our Consultant PA Mentor, Marguerita King, is a knowledgeable and trusted advisor who understands the challenges faced by Executive Assistants & PAs. She has been described as "a PA guru" and "the Wikipedia of the PA profession" so you can be sure of getting the very best in EA/PA career mentoring. 

Our mentoring services are provided via Skype, email and/or face-to-face.  To discuss options please contact Marguerita King on +44 (0)845 862 2687 or
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