By Sophia Denton
“ ’My stomach was in knots when I went to work,’ she said. ‘I was terrified.’ Erin (she asked Global News not to share her real name for fear of professional repercussions) has worked in media for years, but the bullying she experienced at her last job pushed her to her limits. The 39-year-old said her boss would frequently talk down to her and other employees and would get very upset if someone made a mistake. The toxic environment caused her to feel anxious at work, and made her question if she was capable of doing her job.”
Bullying has made a big leap from the school playground to the workplace and is a serious issue within North America.
Those who are victims of this behavior typically suffer from stress, anxiety, a lack of confidence, and/or low productivity and self-esteem. This not only has a strong impact on their professional lives but also on their personal well-being.
So, how do we know when we are being bullied and what does this look like? According to the Government of Canada, “bullying is usually seen as acts or verbal comments that could ‘mentally’ hurt or isolate a person in the workplace. Sometimes, bullying can involve negative physical contact as well. Bullying usually involves repeated incidents or a pattern of behavior that is intended to intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate a particular person or group of people. It has also been described as the assertion of power through aggression.”
This can include:
– Spreading rumors
– Making belittling comments
– Causing physical harm
– Undermining a person’s work
– Excluding someone from things like meetings
– Yelling or using profanity
I remember a fellow EA, who was being bullied at work, reached out to me when she realized that the situation was never addressed after filing a formal complaint with her HR department.
Why are bullies so confident in their mission to exert power over others, and why do some get away with it? Many bullies are high achievers who bring value to the company they work for. They may have a good report with senior-level executives and are often promoted or rewarded for their commitment and high productivity; this makes it easier for employers to turn a blind eye rather than address their inappropriate behavior.
When you’re faced with a bully what do you do if your employer provides you with little support?
Here are a few actions to consider:
Nip It In The Bud
Your first negative encounter with a bully should not go ignored – and, as intimidated as you may be, you must not let it show. For example, a response to a less aggressive encounter with a bully may be to show concern for their behavior. You can say, “John, is everything okay? You seem bothered. I ask because I didn’t appreciate the way you just spoke to me. Is there something troubling you? Let me know if you’d like to talk about it. I’m here.” For a more aggressive encounter, it is important to stay firm and let the bully know that their actions will not be tolerated. These examples may not work in every situation, but it lets the bully know that you are not threatened or intimidated by their actions, which may help prevent a pattern of behavior from occurring.
Seek Support From Your Boss
Your boss may be able to help you overcome the situation by supporting you and helping you address the problem; however, before confiding in your boss, ensure that they do not have a good report with the bully. If this is the case, you may want to reconsider as it may not be worth the risk if your boss mentions your discussion to them; this could make the situation worse.
Start A Log/Build A Case
Start recording all negative interactions with this individual – include dates, times, locations, witnesses, words/emails exchanged and a description of what happened. This will come in handy when you file a complaint as you will be asked for examples. Having a record of interactions will easily show the frequency of incidents as well as a pattern of behavior. This will also show how serious you expect this situation to be taken.
File A Complaint With HR
It is a good idea to file a complaint with HR so that it is on record; however, remember that this may or may not be as effective as one would hope depending on your HR department. For example, filing a complaint with an HR department who does not have a bullying policy, yet has a focus on people, culture and values may be more likely to support you than one who is more focused on process.
Estimate The Cost Of Bullying
This is my personal favorite! Why not add concrete weight to your business case by calculating how much of a financial risk this bully poses to the company by taking into consideration turnover and lost opportunity costs, absenteeism & presenteeism, etc. You can use this as a strategy to better gain the support of a higher-up whose responsibilities are tied to the bottom line, i.e., the COO or someone under the COO. Click here for a strategic step-by-step guide on how to easily calculate these costs.
Explore Your Right
We all have a right to feel safe within the environment we work, and employers have a responsibility to protect their employees. Explore your right by taking advantage of a free consultation with a lawyer.
When The Bully is Your Boss
If you are an EA reading this article, I’m sure you would agree that at some point in your career, if you haven’t already, you will likely end up working with an executive who feels that it is okay to talk down to you, yell, use profanity or possibly even throw things. It would be great if there was an easy solution that would change their behavior, but I’m afraid to say that there is not. If you’ve tried the steps mentioned above, talked to your boss or requested a transfer to another department and still nothing has changed, in my opinion, it is time to move on. No matter who the executive is that we work for, with all that we do, it isn’t our job to tolerate their inappropriate actions. We deserve better.
If you are being bullied and have received no support from your employer, you should ask yourself if this is the kind of environment/culture you care to be a part of? Remember, bullying starts from the top and if a company condones this behavior, then that is the type of environment it fosters. In the end, it will be up to you to decide if living in fear of your boss or coworker is worth it.
“When Sophia asked me to join [as co-founder of] myEAcoach, I jumped on board immediately, but I had one requirement: to never speak in front of an audience,” which is what I said while standing on stage in front of an audience. Though it was only Day 1 of myEAcoach, I learned the valuable and necessary lesson of becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable to drive success.
However, the days leading up to the launch tell a story of doubt, anxiety, and an opportunity almost missed.
HIDING BEHIND FEAR
I had drafted a speech – my safety blanket – that was quickly pulled from my shaking hands.
“What do you mean I can’t read from a prepared speech?” My words cracked.
“It has to be a conversation,” I was told. “Don’t worry, you’ll be great!”
A wave of anxiety came over my body before becoming a mass in my throat. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak, and then I couldn’t think.
Days of encouragement from Sophia and others failed to ease the constant worrying and sleepless nights until it turned for the worse on the eve of the big event. At rehearsal, I looked out to an imaginary crowd and decided to start by saying, “I’m quite nervous.” The words alone scared me stiff. I drew a deep blank – into a void I barely escaped.
THE TURNING POINT
HOW did I manage to overcome a paralyzing fear of public speaking?
Strength in Numbers
The game-changer is the moment you realize that everyone in the room is there because they WANT to be there and they are genuinely interested in what YOU have to say.
Fortunately, that moment for me occurred early in the event as we hosted a networking session that allowed me to engage with our network of EAs before the presentation. Their excitement and support made me realize that when we come together, there isn`t anything we can`t do!
The Right Support
Reach out to someone who has been in the same situation as you, but has already taken the leap. If they have been doing it long enough, they will be able to share with you both their wins and losses, which will inspire and prepare you for the journey forward.
I would have never stepped so far out of my comfort zone without a business partner and friend in my corner every step of the way – an inspiring force that made me want to face my fears and achieve greatness.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Practicing your speech is essential so that you are comfortable with your material and confident in your delivery.
I learned early on that failing to memorize a speech added to the anxiety. Instead, we constructed key messages, and each had three bullets we had to hit. As a result, our delivery was in the form of a conversation, but we still had to practice. We practiced to fine-tune our messaging, to time ourselves and even videotaped ourselves to gauge awkward pauses and gestures. We also requested early access to the event space so we could familiarize ourselves with the stage and spacing. Once I felt the urge to get up on stage and own the moment, it was the time we invested in practicing that gave me the confidence to deliver.
ONE STEP AT A TIME
In my moments consumed by anxiety, I dismissed my husband when he said, “You and Sophia will look back and laugh at how nervous you were to speak in front of a group of people because, in 10 years, you two will be speaking in front of thousands!” Though I am elated by my small step in big shoes, I am not ready for a larger audience, but I can tell you now that I won’t be so quick to dismiss the thought.
By Jennifer Puckett
By Sophia Denton
“They won’t hire me. I don’t have enough experience.” Have you ever uttered these words? A colleague once told me that it’s not always about having experience in the field you are applying to; instead, employers are more likely to focus on someone’s list of accomplishments because it provides a picture as to whether this person is the right fit for the job.
The insights gained from colleagues and friends is what gives you the confidence needed to overcome challenges and propel you forward – which is why I make mentoring an integral part of what I do.
When one of my mentees finished the Executive Administration Program at her college, she had a tough time getting interviews and thought it was due to her lack of experience as an EA. After looking at her résumé, I advised her to outline her duties from previous roles, and then highlight and quantify her accomplishments in a way that would complement the competencies required.
I shared with her an accomplishment from my own résumé:
Reduced firm`s travel expenses by 25% through negotiations with vendors on hotel and hired car service rates
I quantified my achievement by figuring out the percentage that I saved the company, which tells the employer the following:
I understand that high travel expenses negatively affect the bottom line
I have strong negotiation skills; and,
I have the required problem-solving and budgeting skills required for the role.
Then in an interview, I would explain why I felt there was a need to negotiate rates and the process I used to get to the end result.
The information I passed along helped my mentee land her first EA position and I’m so proud of her!
Remember, the success of our profession relies heavily on the success of each and every one of us. Share knowledge, mentor, and empower your EA peers!
By Jennifer Puckett
To celebrate our launch, we invited our network of top EAs in the city to enjoy a memorable evening of pampering, elegance and luxury. Held in the stunning Sovereign Ballroom at the Omni King Edward Hotel, the event featured everything you would expect from a premium Toronto event: unparalleled service and catering from Toronto’s historic King Street hotel; exceptional swag from r4 branding co.; exclusive table drops from Baskits; superior AV services and support from Freeman Audio Visual; beautifully captured moments from George Matthew Photography; and professional interviews conducted by weDSTLL.
As we celebrated our role and the many opportunities that lay ahead of us, the evening was also a reminder of how quickly we can overcome the challenges and isolation we experience when given the space to empower one another. Our community understands that we are more than just EAs. We celebrate who we are as individuals, because who we are and our individuality shapes what we deliver to our executive and company.
Our launch event was a testament to the diversity and strength of our network and to the incredible things that happen when we come together:
1) We inspire and empower each other. Sharing pain points, encouraging stories of both wins and losses, and providing reliable support builds our confidence and reminds us of our worth.
2) We maximize our drive to innovate. myEAcoach is building a professional development platform with the help of our network. Together, we will create new ideas, tools, and strategies to encourage positive change and design successful futures.
3) We benefit from shared resources. Sharing honest advice and information is important. It creates awareness by keeping us current and improves efficiency by saving us valuable time.
A heartfelt thank you to our partners, attendees, and supporters for making Day 1 such a huge success! We are thrilled to launch our future together and are excited about what’s to come!
By Jennifer Puckett
I haven’t even made it past the first floor before I stop wide-eyed in admiration of the Sovereign Ballroom. The regal space paints the exact picture of where Richard Burton proposed to Elizabeth Taylor and the room’s impressive beauty has me wanting to see more.
As a guest, I stand in awe; but as an executive assistant, I see a preferred venue.
The ballrooms are architectural gems and can be transformed into beautiful and energetic spaces, including the 17th floor Crystal Ballroom, which is truly fit for royalty. “It’s not your typical four walls,” says a catering sales manager for the hotel as she smiles broadly. As an extension of the hotel’s renovations, $6.5 million was spent to bring the space to fire code, restore the ballroom to its previous opulence, and underline it as one of the most spectacular venues in the city.
Many factors come into play when booking a space for meetings and events, which often requires creative thinking. The hotel provides flexible function space and strives to accommodate all requests. Suites can even be shifted to hold private meetings and the Royal Suite seats 12 at its dining table and is equipped with a butler’s kitchen.
The meeting rooms are soundproof and can host private meetings, executive dining, receptions, socials, roadshows, and interviews – to name a few. Tables and seating, in most rooms, can also be adjusted to allow for creative floor plans that maximize the space in a comfortable way.
To deliver consistent, high-quality service, all event catering is done in-house and the hotel partners with Freeman for outstanding audio-visual and internet support.
All of the hotel’s rooms and suites have been renovated, providing guests with lavish accommodation and modern touches. Grand arm chairs complement the high ceilings, rooms are spacious with large closets, and each room is equipped with a workspace, Keurig coffee machine, laptop-sized safe, and mini fridge (left empty for conveniences such as storing medication or personal beverages).
For a nominal fee, guests can enjoy the Royal Club Lounge on the 11th floor. The upgrade provides morning car service within 3 km, deluxe continental breakfast, evening hors d’oeuvres with complimentary domestic beer and house wine, snacks throughout the day, as well as access to a computer, printer, and two meeting rooms that can be blocked for three hours at a time on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The King Street hotel was originally built in 1903 to provide luxury accommodation to business travellers and an exclusive destination for the elite. Over a century later, the landmark property preserves its history and charm through its grand spaces and elegant detailing and, with the recent renovations, moves forward to attract the next generation of travellers.
The hotel is one of over 50 Omni Hotel and Resorts across North America and a sales manager at the King Edward tells me how the owner of Omni stresses the importance of customer service across all properties. The company takes pride in their exceptional service and “no messages program” to ensure that the customer always gets a hotel staff member on the other end of a call and, during weekdays between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., a sales representative is always available to assist.
When a venue and its staff understand luxury, it comes with a paralleled quality of prestigious hospitality and customer service that saves time for both executive assistants and their executives – as everyone knows, “time is a luxury.”
By Jennifer Puckett
One of the many hats an executive assistant (EA) is required to wear is one of a travel arranger. In this role, you spend a lot of time planning, booking, and managing your executive’s travel, but keeping this checklist on hand will ensure every booking experience is a success.
BEFORE BOOKING A TRIP
WHEN PLANNING A TRIP
AFTER BOOKING A TRIP
PRIOR TO DEPARTURE
24 HOURS BEFORE DEPARTURE
WHILE YOUR EXECUTIVE IS TRAVELLING
WHEN YOUR EXECUTIVE RETURNS
Checklists are key to ensure consistent and successful execution of tasks as you continue to show your VALUE and earn the RECOGNITION and RESPECT you deserve.