It is understandable to see how these relationships could take intense turns. We work in a day and age of constant connections. You don’t ever have to be totally offline. It is easier than it was 25 years ago or even 10 years ago to be able to check in with your assistant and have them help you with something at any hour of the day. And if you are on the clock all the time, then why shouldn’t your support staff?
Men may be more prone to form unhealthy dependencies on their assistants for the same reason that they often fall in love with them: They provide all sorts of caring, secretarial, personal services that men want to get for free. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd once wrote, “Famous and powerful men have taken up with the young women whose job it was to tend to them and care for them in some way: their secretaries, assistants, nannies, caterers, flight attendants, researchers and fact-checkers. Women in staff support are the new sirens because, as a guy I know put it, they look upon the men they work for as ‘the moon, the sun and the stars’. It’s all about orbiting, serving and salaaming their Sun Gods.” Dowd also points out that in the film Love Actually, there are no fewer than three storylines that feature high-powered men falling for women in subservient positions.
Unhealthy dependencies can be formed between female bosses and male assistants as well but women don’t like subservient qualities in the opposite sex as much as men do. In pop culture we usually see that the female bosses can have very close, often unhealthy, relationships with their female assistants.
But maybe there are some good things about assistants being considered so vital by their bosses. Six out of 10 (61%) executives polled said they consider their assistant’s opinion important when evaluating potential new hires. “Administrative professionals know their boss’s management style and understand the work environment, which makes them adept at identifying people who are a good fit and is why executives value their opinions,” said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam.
Hopefully if you are at a place in your career where you have an assistant you have set up a clear and established relationship. If that includes them picking up your dry cleaning then great as long as that was made clear when they were first hired or you checked to make sure it was okay with them first. Relationships with assistants will be different for different people. And relationships can very much depend on the nature of an industry. For Bethenny Frankel and her assistant Julie Plake, it was just them running her company out of her apartment when they first started SkinnyGirl. Their relationship is going to be different than a lawyer and his assistant. And if your assistant is not working out, there is always Siri.