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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How much responsibility does your boss give you? Is he quite at home with you signing off on the HR/office facilities/business travel budgets, or does he freak out if you buy so much as an extra packet of biscuits without his express permission?

It seems that in Whitehall, some executive assistants have been given way too much leeway altogether and there’s been a huge hue and cry about a PA who was allowed to sign off on contracts worth more than £30 million as part of the government’s Universal Credit programme. That is certainly an astonishing sum of money and way beyond the remit of most office professionals – I’m lucky if Mr P doesn’t grill me when I buy a new set of biros.

This got me thinking about all the other responsibilities that we PAs are asked to take on – it can be quite a considerable undertaking in some cases. Our friends at the Office show (we loved the talk with Katie Piper at this year’s event by the way and Laura Schwartz was just amazing, she’s such an inspirational lady, so impressed that she worked directly with Bill Clinton!) put together a survey earlier this year that showed the scale of the tasks with which managerial assistants are often asked to deal.

Some of the examples are quite comical: from the PA who had to sit in her boss’s flat and wait for the Sky TV installation engineer, to the lady who had to book her (presumably female) executive a bikini wax.

Then there are the more questionable, eg the assistant who was coerced to intervene in an argument between her manager’s mother-in-law and her daughter, followed by the downright seedy: “I was asked to arrange for the services of escort girls”. There are also the plaintive: “my boss asks me to print documents for him in single pages and then gets me to check they’ve been printed properly. He doesn’t ever allow me to do anything more responsible than that.”

So what’s your take on this? Do you seethe every time your exec asks you to do something that isn’t explicitly spelled out in your job description, or do you relish a challenge? Leave me a comment below with your thoughts on the matter, I’d love to hear from you.