There is a hierarchy in Assistant Land that mirrors the company structure. The Assistant's authority is directly proportionate to the title of the person he/she reports to:. Today we'll talk about the Assistant who works for the Old Dog, the Old Dog was on the road full time for many years and finally turned in his road case for a desk. The Old Dog comes in two varieties: Asshole and Mentor. Considered an Executive (because titles are a form of compensation) He/she is someone who has the authority to hire you (as a crew member, limo company, caterer, runner, etc.) What stands between you and this Old Dog is the Mere Mortal Assistant. I will get into the Old Dogs in another post, but for this one, I will talk about the Mere Mortal Assistant to the Asshole Old Dog (AOD)
Be very, very nice to the Mere Mortal Assistant, (hereinafter referred to as MMA). The MMA works really hard, has long hours and has to do a lot of soul-crushing grovelling. The MMA is blamed for every mistake the AOD makes and must tolerate it. The MMA can sometimes influence his/her boss, so for all intents and purposes, treat the MMA like you would their boss.
The MMAs are to be cherished. Working for the AOD is a form of abuse. The AOD has an insatiable ego, if there were frequent flyers points for power trips, the AOD could circumnavigate the globe for free. The AOD is prone to rants and derives pleasure from making people cry, especially his Assistant. The MMA is subjected to things no one should be subjected to, including lying to wives of cheating AODs and nurturing relationships with useful pests among other things.
At some point the wives of the AODs will call the MMA directly to assign a chore; ‘can you please order a birthday present for a 7 year old girl and make sure AOD brings it home with him Friday for a party our daughter is going to on Saturday?’ The wife doesn’t care that it’s Thursday and finding a gift and getting it delivered within 24 hours means some of the MMA's real work is going to be put on hold. But, the AOD is afraid of his wife, you NEVER say no to the AOD’s wife. So, I repeat, cherish the Mere Mortal Assistant.
Often AODs are working from outside the office, they could be out at meetings or popping in on the tours they're responsible for, so anybody who calls the office looking for them probably hasn’t been given their cell number. The MMA knows this means this person is considered a 'useful pest.' The AOD needs them for something, maybe free car detailing for himself, or VIP access to a club for when a band is in town or some such thing. The AOD has told this person to ‘call anytime you need anything.’ This ALWAYS means tickets to a show and often means backstage access, which will NOT happen. Well, it could under the right circumstances, if the artist is doing a Meet & Greet (more on that later) the AOD can sneak the useful pest (and the person the useful pest is trying to impress) into the Meet & Greet and look like a hero.
Some useful pests think the MMA is at their service, that their 'friendship' with the AOD confers upon them the right to treat the MMA as their own personal assistant. This is so unfair to the MMA but he/she has probably learned the hard way that they can never presume to know the level of importance the useful pest holds with the AOD on any given day. The MMA could have been really busy one day and decided to cut the useful pest’s conversation short. The useful pest will feel slighted, 'how dare a mere Assistant treat a VIP like me with such disrespect?' The clever useless pest will be sure to bring this up to the AOD when the AOD calls him for a favour. The AOD will then call the MMA (in front of the useful pest,) and berate him/her mercilessly. Please, cherish the Mere Mortal Assistant.
The MMA has to work at least the same hours as his/her boss, often more, and trust me, they're not paid that well, they're certainly not paid overtime. They are on call 24/7 and have to be able to answer a question or perform a task even if it's 10:00 PM and they're out at a friend's birthday party. Eventually the interruptions to the MMA's social life will become such a pain that the MMA ceases to have a social life at all.
The MMA doesn't see the perks the Receptionist sees. Every once in a while the AOD will get some swag from a client or potential client and may deign to throw the MMA a bone, but that doesn't happen often.
Some tips on approaching an MMA
ALWAYS be respectful. The MMA deals with enough abuse and can shut you down before you make contact with his/her boss.
YOU MAY suck up to a certain degree, as long as you're not insulting their intelligence. The MMA needs a life, if you're in a position to offer the MMA some respite; or swag, go ahead and offer it up.
HUMOUR IS ALWAYS APPRECIATED; the MMA needs to laugh every once in a while. Anything that can brighten up their day is welcome.
DON'T be a pest. The MMA is extremely busy, if you pester him/her, you will be sent directly to voice mail and your call will not be returned
DON'T ASK FOR A FAVOUR unless you're in a position to reciprocate with something the MMA values, the MMA spends most of his/her waking hours accommodating other people's needs, you haven't earned the right to ask anything of the MMA yet.
The MMA works very hard and gets the least in return. They're in a limbo position, their goals are either to support the Big Boss, or work their way up to a management position. He/she is the de facto scapegoat; the one blamed when something goes wrong. The AOD never takes responsibility for his own screw-ups and usually blames the MMA. The life expectancy of an MMA varies, the AOD doesn't want to train someone else to his 'likes and dislikes' so he will try to keep the MMA from making any progress in his/her career.
The life of an MMA is hard and the rewards are few. This is the point in their career in the industry when they start to become jaded. They have to remind themselves on a daily basis why they got into the business in the first place. Some hang in there, some decide it's just not worth it.
I will tell you about the Executive Assistant to the Big Boss in my next post.