From the desk of Penelope Alice, Britain’s most fabulous PA – PA Life Club

From the desk of Penelope Alice, Britain’s most fabulous PA

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It’s that time of year when the jolly, fat man in the red suit might pay you a visit if you’ve been good and people take stock of what’s gone on over the last 12 months. Professor Sydney Finkelstein of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth in New Hampshire has decided it’s the perfect moment to present his best and worst bosses of the year.

At the top of the ‘who’s been nice’ pile is Jeff Bezos of Amazon, the company that appears to be taking over the high street, if not the entire world. On the ‘naughty’ side of things we have Eike Batista, the Brazilian entrepreneur behind the EBX Group. Apparently, 2013 has not been a very good year for Eike, who lost the title of Brazil’s richest man as he saw stocks take a massive nosedive at five of the six companies that he owns.

Meanwhile, US retailer JC Penney’s Ron Johnson has been let go; apparently, his performance has been compared by business analysts to someone who tries to restore an old car to its former glory, but instead of getting it up and running again, they decide to set fire to it instead. Now, I may not be an expert on automotive matters, but this definitely doesn’t sound like a strategy for success.

Also on Prof Finkelstein’s list of losers are Thorsten Heins at Blackberry, who was told last month that his services were no longer required after a buyout deal fell apart; CEO of Sears Holdings Eddie Lampert, who had to surrender majority control of the company when hedge fund investors pulled out; and Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, whose fellow board members indicated that he wasn’t moving the company on in the right direction quite as quickly as they would have liked.

All of which set me thinking: what are the characteristics that for PAs make a good boss? The negative qualities are a lot easier to list, certainly: being boorish, lecherous and moody are right up there; then there’s taking credit for work done by a team member, choosing office favourites, refusing to listen, and abusing their position of power.

That last item reminds me of an American executive I once worked for who commandeered some of our IT staff to come over to his house at the weekend and hook up his new home cinema equipment. Apparently, he also asked one of them to work on a small project that involved finding out how he could access US baseball games while in the UK without actually having to pay for the privilege…

I think that ultimately what PAs want is what employees everywhere hanker after: a boss who’s fair, even-tempered and rational and who treats them the way they’d wish to be treated themselves. Here’s hoping that’s what comes our way in the New Year.