Ask Luci – 3/17

Cat with a frustrated expresionI’m here with a new name and one question today.  But I still love to tell people what to do with their lives, so don’t forget to submit your questions here or e-mail me!

Back Story: I am a total type-A personality at work. I also have an assistant who works with me. Because I am total type-A, I don’t like to give her too much to do for fear that she won’t do it correctly. She always tells me that I should utilize her more, so I gave her lots of copying to do the other day.

Problem: She totally messed up ALL the copies. (And hole punched my master copies- which totally irked me). Some of the mistakes were easy to correct (like the papers she had collated but should have been uncollated like I put on the copy request form), but it took a long time. Other copies are completely unreadable.
She’s older and means well, and I know I can be anal-retentive, so do I mention it? Or do I just suck it up?

Both? Is that an answer?  The point of an assistant is to … assist.  So you both are better off if she is actually doing work that’s helpful for you. She’s going to feel worthless and annoyed if you keep avoiding giving her work, and your frustration that she’s not doing the job correctly is going to be apparent even if you think you’re sucking it up.  So it would benefit both of you to have a discussion about what her strengths are and what type of tasks she would like to have, as well as constructive criticism about making sure she’s following instructions.  The trick, obviously, is to get your point across without being too harsh.

That said, as someone who has worked for some major type-A bosses (no, it’s not you, Ophelia), I have to say that sometimes you just need to learn when to let go. This issue with the copies sounds like it was pretty time-consuming to fix, so this may not be the issue that you want to drop. But in the future  you should consider whether the aggravation or constant perfection-checking is worth it.  Obviously you recognize that you tend to be anal-retentive, but to this point you’ve actually been avoiding dealing with the issue by not giving your assistant work.  Being a motivated, perfectionist Type-A employee can have a lot of advantages.  I bet you’re great at your job and always very thorough.  Unfortunately, it has its negative aspects, too, and just in life it will be good for you to learn how to deal with some of the challenges around being that type of person.  It’s not like shoddy assistants are going to end with this woman, and by not learning now how to pick and choose what you deal with and what you let go, you’re doing yourself a disservice for your future work relationships.

I hope that answers your question.  But really, even nice old ladies should learn how to read instructions.

That’s all for today! Send me your questions here or e-mail them to lucifurious at persephonemagazine dot com.

3 replies on “Ask Luci – 3/17”

In the example given, it sounds like she doesn’t know how to use newer copy machine models. If she’s the sort of older person who has internalized her resistance toward newer technologies as a mark of individuality, you might need to let her go. She’s never going to learn, and she’s going to mess up any task that involves a computer or copier.

I just thought I’d point out a possibility:

Maybe she was quite anxious about the job at hand and it caused her to make mistakes?

I’m pulling from my own experiences here. I’m an extremely anxious person, and very much a people pleaser. When I get nervous, or rushed, or feel intimidated, I tend to mess up big time. In the past I’ve worked for some pretty big type-A personalities. One boss would scream at his employees over the smallest mistake and another boss would haul you into his office and ask you rhetorical questions in a serial killer voice until you were reduced to stutters (both of those bosses ought to be hog tied, but that is another story). When I worked for these guys I would mess up really bad when I’d get nervous. And they’d get angrier. And I’d mess up more. And so on and so on.

Maybe your assistant is aware that you aren’t too pleased with her performance, and she feels inadequate and anxious? Which may cause her to make mistakes. Just a thought. Go a little easier on her while still being firm and it may help.

My two cents.

I was also wondering if anxiousness was a factor. I have a co-worker in a different department who is awesome. Occasionally, I will need to get her help on a project. She’s always thorough, positive, and generally great. Our mutual boss (whom I love to bits even though she definitely has her faults) thinks this person is sweet, but a bit of a screw up. My co-worker tries so hard to make sure everything is perfect for our boss, but then she will make a silly mistake or forget some information. It’s just sad that the one person who’s opinion really matters has the opposite perception of my co-worker than everyone else.

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