A few days ago I was referred to as "The Help."
Who says that?
Why don’t I provide a little context for you: A gentleman from IT came by my office to make sure that I was happy with the upgraded keyboard he ha d left for me (since I had been out when he dropped it off). Additionally, he came to personally tell me how he was handling another problem I was having, so that I could trust it was under control. The executive assistant around the corner from me walked by and said to the IT guy, "Stop flirting with the help!"
This assistant is of the late Boomer generation, with children around the same age as me. So at this point, I’m trying to decide is this a generational thing…a gender thing…or a position thing. (Did I mention I’m a manager?)
Google "the help" and it turns out there’s even a company called The Help Company: "The Help Company also offers you a premier list of consultants to train your domestic staff. Your house will run like a five star hotel in areas such as laundry, cooking, housekeeping, etiquette, and organization."
Ok, so perhaps the phrase isn’t as Old World as I had thought it was. But this brings up a good point…are older female assistants threatened by the aggressive ladder-climbing Gen-Y women in the workplace?
It’s not just assistants. My mother has a master’s degree and her last position before retiring didn’t pay as much as my current newbie salary. She likes to remind me of this every time I ask if I should be negotiating my pay.
When I was in my first role, I picked up a book called New Girl on the Job: Advice from the Trenches. There’s a whole section about how to avoid being "assistant-ized." I figured this was as good as gold: I was a high-potential employee on the bottom rung in an operations role, someone was going to think I was his or her bitch.
I had a major flaw however. I am a nice person at heart.
So while my title had never included the word "assistant," I became a damn good one (in addition to everything else required of me).
It appears that I haven’t snapped out of that even in this new role. So it seems natural the executive assistant around the corner assumes I’m lower on the food chain than her. I’m too nice, she sees me take care of other colleagues, and I am the help.
In the grand scheme of things, this one comment won’t break my career. However, it makes me aware that companies are not immune to "classes" within the organization. There’s more than just the politicking at the senior levels.
At this point, I don’t have any advice to share. In fact, I’m going to make an experiment out of this situation. One woman’s attempt at de-assitant-izing with the other assistant.
The views expressed in my blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.
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