Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Missing Assistant

There are many reasons one may miss one’s Assistant. Several days ago, my Assistant was pulled from her home, family and me by an urgent medical need, from which thankfully she is now recovering (though not without some unhappy consequences, namely the possible need for a kidney transplant).

The event brings to the fore many elements and characteristics of one’s life which are otherwise pretty much regularly ignored or taken for granted. Apart from the obvious calamity of the medical diagnosis and the related concerns for my Assistant, foremost for me was the prospect of having to get a new Assistant (until today we really had no idea how far reaching the condition may be). Mercifully for both me and my Assistant that possibility seems now very, very unlikely. I am much relieved that I will not have to undertake a re-hiring process, which I find is largely a crap shot at best, as methodical and scientific as one might fashion the investigations at the time. Nonetheless, the whole affair has heightened my perception of things.

Given that most co-workers spend more time together than they do with their respective spouses and partners, it is not surprising that deep and non-traditional alliances develop. The relationship between the "boss" and "staff" is certainly a hybrid of the more general co-worker association. If the employer and the employee are blessed to have a good relationship, it is all the more meaningful. The odd thing is that, in the working environment, a good relationship is not imperative, as there are so many ways to avoid letting it get in the way of what must be done on a purely commercial and functional level, quite unlike the a romantic liaison, for example. I like to think that my Assistant and I have a good relationship. We have imbued the relationship with affection, humour and a good deal of effort on my part to transfer to her what little wisdom I have. My Assistant is less than half my age (I never imagined in a thousand years I would have hired anyone so much my junior), and I am anxious to warn her of as many pitfalls as I can before I’m out of the picture (especially since she and I share so many of the same foibles, pity that it is for her).

Of course whenever an Assistant goes missing, it is invariably followed by an epiphany wherein the boss awakens to all that his Assistant once did, and how extremely well. This sickness is the first extended absence of my Assistant which I have had to endure since she was hired 2½ years ago. No doubt because of her high level of self-confidence, my Assistant is not one to proclaim and advertise what she has done; she just does it. As a matter of marketing, this is perhaps not a good thing, because it leaves the impression that nothing much is really happening. But as I say, upon the withdrawal services, it doesn’t take long to discover that the fluidity of accomplishment is tougher than it previously appeared.

Without becoming bathetic about it, many good working relationships enjoy the same commitment of the parties to one another as a good friendship. As a result, a serious threat to that relationship tends to rock the boat considerably. In a small office such as mine, where we are only two, the sinews are by force even stronger. To destabilize that arrangement is equivalent to dismemberment, quite unbalancing. I have to confess that my hopeless dedication to routine and habit also make such disturbance yet more unpopular. I’ll excuse myself only by saying that I am too old to want or to be expected to learn new tricks. I embrace the speedy possibility of making whole the union.

The time and energy which goes into training an employee is not negligible. As I tend to be didactic (I have always known I would have liked to have been a teacher), the process is for me all the more expansive. I can never settle on mere instruction without, for example, disclosure of the legislative reason for it. The undertaking becomes still more protracted by the fact that I adore language and words, so I am constantly injecting elements into the discourse which precipitate further discussion of the very words being used to impart the knowledge. Talk about pyramid schemes!

In my case, the bottom line is quite apparent, and that is that what my Assistant and I have going for us is very workable in every respect. It must be conceded that there are employers who would welcome the opportunity to see the back end of certain employees, especially where the penalties of severance pay needn’t apply. This is not our situation. As I jokingly told my Assistant today when she called from the hospital to up-date me, she better be back here before the end of the month to do the financial reconciliations (which I abhor), or I’ll kill her!

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