Blog

Read, learn, and share these articles that I have written and those of other experts who I respect and admire. We’ve got a very complicated workplace and only getting more so. This blog is my way of navigating these complications. Feedback welcome!



Ethics for Executive Assistants

Ethics for executive assistants

By: Jordan Hensel of the Executive Leadership Support Forum | November 15, 2017

Executive Assistants are the backbones of companies and the right arms to their executives. They are constantly urged to continue professional development in their EA careers to become indispensable. The role of an EA has shifted, and now more than ever, EAs are seen as business partners and an extension of their executive.

The hard truth is, many assistants fear being replaced if they speak up about unethical behaviors in the workplace.

The fear is enough so, that in many instances, loyalty is valued as a bigger asset than ethical behavior. In a recent article published by the Washington Post, the assistant of a popular show-runner in Los Angeles spoke on the condition of anonymity saying, “You are not in a position where you have any remote sort of leverage, and you are extremely replaceable. There are very few things that are worth speaking up about because when and if you decide to do that, it’s over.”

We now see recent instances that even witnesses to non-ethical behavior can be held legally responsible. It begs the question, what ethical responsibilities need to be upheld by executive assistants? Does the landscape of responsibility change when held to a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement?

The fact is that executive assistants are valuable assets to their company and their executive. As an extension of their executive, they hold knowledge about many valuable stakeholders. They are costly to replace, not just in money, but in time. In addition, those contributing to the unethical behavior are costly to replace. According to the Harvard Business Review, “avoiding a toxic worker was worth about $12,500 in turnover costs”. You can bet that cost is a lot higher if talking about turnover costs for replacing an individual in the C-suite. Therefore, it’s valuable to companies to put an end to workplace bullying, sexual harassment, and other unethical components that lead to unsafe workplace environments. As workplace expert Bonnie Low-Kramen quotes leadership expert Simon Sinek in one of her most recent articles, “Imagine a world where people feel safe at work.”

So, how do we get there?

Acknowledge the stakeholders responsible

When discussing unethical behavior in the workplace, Bonnie Low-Kramen finds it important to acknowledge the role of all involved, “Everyone has a responsibility within companies, not just to the individual they are supporting, but to the company as a whole. In the instance of unethical conduct, witnesses should be held accountable, too. Witnesses to unethical behavior, such as bullying for example, bear almost as much of the trauma of bullying as the target herself. It’s called Survivor’s Guilt.”

If you are aware of unethical behavior being conducted by the individual you support, you bear responsibility as a witness, says Low-Kramen.

A recent study conducted by Executive Secretary Magazine on administrative professionals workplace bullying, 41% of respondents were being bullied by the person they reported to directly, 20% were being bullied by another manager or someone senior to them, and 20% were being bullied by their peers.

The bottom line is, if you see something, say something. There is too much at stake not to.

Change starts at the top

“Putting an end to unethical behavior in the workplace can’t just be lip service,” says Low-Kramen, “The solution needs to start at the top; it needs to start with CEOs, with the leaders who will enforce zero-tolerance policies. We need to create new expectations when employees start and discuss these new expectations with those already with the company. You can’t expect people to blow a whistle in a vacuum. Companies need to work to implement an integrated accountability system that begins at the top. No real and meaningful change can happen if it doesn’t start at the top.”

Discussing and reporting unethical behavior

If you’ve encountered unethical behavior, Bonnie Low-Kramen urges, “You hold a responsibility to the company to come forward. Put it in writing, inform the CEO and ask for a meeting. This is the professional way to handle it.” If your CEO or manager is the one inflicting the unethical behavior, there are a few ways to handle the situation. Speak directly to the bully calmly and with facts. Say, “I won’t be spoken to like that. We need to find a productive way to work together”. Make sure you always document instances so that you have a written record to turn to. If the problem persists, or if you feel more comfortable jumping directly to this step, report the incident to human resources. “To speak up is difficult and it’s so much easier when you have the support of upper management. That being said, there is power in numbers.”

If you haven’t had a conversation about unethical protocol with your executive, now is the time. If you feel more comfortable, you can bring it up at your yearly review or during employment negotiation. Bonnie suggests, “Respectfully ask that sexual harassment doesn’t fall into that category on non-disclosure agreements. Ask about your company’s stance on workplace bullying and sexual harassment.”

Unethical behavior in the workplace, such as sexual harassment or bullying, leads to damaged productivity, retention and profit. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of everyone at the company to create a safe work environment. As an executive assistant, there will be times when you are presented with unethical conduct and it’s your responsibility to handle it professionally, ethically, and legally. Have that discussion with your managers and peers and discuss where ethics falls into your confidentiality agreement and/or non-disclosure agreement. Having that discussion with your colleagues starts the conversation for the future. It help clarifies to everyone how unethical situations will be handled.

Experts like Bonnie Low-Kramen and other trainers and veteran assistants help guide a powerful message on how to handle these situations when they arise. Ensure you are understanding and communicative of your nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements, start the conversation with your executive, and report unethical behavior in a professional and documented manner. Last but not least, if behaviors don’t change, or if your company or executive respond in negative ways, it’s advisable to reevaluate your employment situation.

Link to original article by Jordan Hensel

What Now? What Should We Do Now About Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

What Now? What Should We Do Now About Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

Sexual Harrassment in the workplace

The assistants of the world have known the sexual harassment situation for a long, long, long time. It has been a taboo and stigmatized subject and the cause of much personal shame and embarrassment. It is discomfort of the highest order with symptoms of nausea, headaches, and sleepless nights. Sexual harassment can feel like a terrorist attack because you rarely know when or how it is going to happen.The assistants of the world don’t only work in Hollywood and not only in America but everywhere. They are 95-98% female. These women are the backbone of their companies, the face of the company culture, and the right arms to their executives.

Note: Men are sexually harassed too but given the worldwide demographics, women are the primary targets.

Many of these women have been bullied, humiliated, abused, and sexually harassed over a long period of time. They have willed themselves to stay quiet out of abject fear and simply not having any roadmap for what to do. These behaviors have somehow become their “normal.” They sit at their desks isolated and alone in the problem, often paralyzed, terrified to speak up in fear of retaliation. They avoid and resist conflict at every turn and most would be loathe to bring charges.

Until now.

Maybe.

The assistants of the world are not highly paid influential movie stars and they wonder if this new spotlight being shone on sexual harassment will make a difference now? Do they really have any new clout? Despite the media attention, the fear of speaking up is not going to go away in a minute. It took a very long time to get to this place so it’s going to take a while to move us to a brighter, more enlightened culture of respect.

The media attention is beginning to reveal the high price we are paying for permitting these toxic behaviors to persist. (See the October 19th Washington Post article where I am quoted about sexual harassment of assistants.) The trauma of harassment does not only last the day it happens or the week or even the month, but for years. If it is true that thousands of women have been the target of workplace harassment then it must follow that we have thousands of traumatized staffers helping to run companies.

That begs the question – If an individual is in emotional pain and turmoil, distracted by feelings of embarrassment, anger, depression, betrayal, disappointment, and regret, is it possible to expect a high level of productivity from that individual? The answer is a crystal clear NO WAY.

This obviously affects the bottom line, costing companies dearly in the form of revolving doors of staff and plummeting profits. The cost of protecting high producing harassers results in low morale, sick time, and legal costs to settle in court. Gretchen Carlson settled for $20 million in her lawsuit against Fox News.

It would seem from all the media attention that some harassers will be held accountable and may end up in jail and/or lose their jobs. But many will not.

How about those who are still there?

Education is the answer. I am not a fan of firing people until an effort has been made to provide education and coaching. If harassers are fired without coaching, they will just get hired at a new company and will repeat the same pattern of abuse. We must break the cycle in order to be free of sexual harassment and that happens through awareness and coaching.

Tomorrow is a new day to stop blaming the victims for sexual harassment. Here are four suggestions for a long-term fix so we can realistically move forward in a healthier and more respectful way as individuals and as companies.

  1.  Shining a light begins at the top. Assistants agree that no real and long-lasting change will happen in our workplace unless CEOs and upper management leaders commit to put muscle into zero-tolerance policies against harassment which is a form of workplace bullying.
  2.  When sexual harassment happens to you End it right when it starts. Know that you are the CEO of You, Incorporated and as such, you have every right to speak the clear and confident words: “I don’t know what gave you the idea that I want that, but I don’t. That will be the last time. If it happens again, I will take action.” “I won’t do that. I don’t feel comfortable and that is not what I was hired to do.” “We need to talk about what just happened. You cannot speak to me like that. It is not productive or effective.”
  3.  #MeToo Support Groups  Expert therapists speak to all staff as a way to offer realistic and healthy ways to heal the wounds. Peer-to-peer mentoring can be an ongoing company endorsed and supported activity.
  4.  Orientations for new managers. With guidance from experts and involvement by assistants, companies can create orientations for all new managers on the adherence to a culture of respect and professionalism which applies to all staff at every level. Accountability systems need to be implemented which make it safe to come forward to report infractions.
  5.  Sensitivity Training for both men and women to remove the stigma and taboos. We can no longer blame our victims for abuse. In order for real change to occur, we need a big dose of empathy education. Many men have no idea about the depth and breadth of this problem so how can we ask them to be a part of the solution unless they have information?
  6.  Education and training in colleges are critical. Universities can add classes in emotional intelligence and how to manage/lead human beings with a special emphasis on gender differences.

Leadership expert Simon Sinek (StartWithWhy.com) challenges us to “Imagine a world where we feel safe at work.” He knows what I know which is at this moment in time people do not feel safe at work. If leaders doubt this, I suggest asking their teams.

We have much work to do to have a workforce who feel safe. Safe to be free to do great work without fear of sexual harassment. Safe to speak truth to power without fear of retaliation. Safe to expect a culture of respect & accountability when issues arise.

It is high time that we break the silence and the patterns of abuse. What is clear is to commit to building cultures of respect is a smart business strategy that will not only benefit our current workforce but our daughters and sons and generations beyond.

It is completely within our reach to leave this as our legacy. It’s our choice. It’s a new day. Isn’t it time?

Resources About Workplace Bullying 

www.betheultimateassistant.com/workplacebullying
2017 Worldwide Workplace Bullying Survey Results
Book: Taming the Abrasive Manager by Dr. Laura Crawshaw

About the Writer: Bonnie Low-Kramen worked for 25 years as the Personal Assistant to Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis. She is an international trainer and speaker and the bestselling author of “Be the Ultimate Assistant.” Bonnie is speaking in 11 countries in 2017.

A Must-Read! 2017 Worldwide Workplace Bullying Survey Results

This 2017 Worldwide Workplace Bullying Survey is sponsored by
Executive Secretary Magazine, Bonnie Low-Kramen and Carole Spiers.

This could be one of the most important and truthful pieces of workplace research of the decade. Please READ AND SHARE this document.

Warning: These Workplace Bullying Survey results are not easy reading. Clearly, we must work to find ways to stop this global epidemic.

Bonnie Low-Kramen VerticalIntro by BONNIE LOW-KRAMEN

When you know better, do better.” This quote by Maya Angelou is the reason why I co-sponsored this first-ever international workplace bullying survey.

From my work training assistants all over the world and from hearing hundreds of stories, I know
that we have a global epidemic. The survey results prove it. 69% of the respondents have personally experienced workplace bullying in their careers and 67% have had it occur on more than 3 occasions.

World, we have a problem.

There are numerous issues that this data raises but to me, the top 3 are:

1. The trauma of bullying does not only last for the day it happens. It lasts for weeks, months, and
sometimes years. Assistants can instantly recall the exact words that were said to them, the time
of day, and what they were wearing. The human price we are paying is far too high.
2. The trauma of bullying eats away at people’s morale, productivity, and ability to work at optimum
effectiveness. Leaders need to be aware that to permit these behaviors to persist means profits
decrease due to absenteeism, presenteeism, and low motivation. Can anyone produce great work
while feeling humiliated?
3. The data shows that we need a fresh look at the problem by our leaders and human resources
professionals in collaboration with the staff and recruiters in order to come up with a realistic
plan, which begins with setting clear expectations at the start.

The future of our global workplace is at stake. This is not hyperbole. Awareness is the first step which
was the goal of the survey. Training and education is the second. New and effective policies that are
actually enforced and based on accountability and consequences is the third.

When we break the silence and the destructive cycle of bullying, the workplace will transform not
only for ourselves but for our daughters and sons. As leadership expert Simon Sinek says, “Imagine a
world where people feel safe at work.” I can imagine it. Can you?

Let us shine a bright light on the workplace issues that face us. Only then will we have a chance to solve them. Your comments are welcome. Thank you.

Link to the complete survey: http://executivesecretary.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Bullying-Supplement-vol-7-iss-2-1.pdf

Businesses are affected by crises and disasters all the time. Are you ready?

By Bonnie Low-Kramen for Smart CEO Magazine | April 2017

March 22, 2017: A car and knife attack takes place near the Houses of Parliament in London. April 2, 2017: A water avalanche in Colombia kills 254. April 3, 2017: A train explosion in Moscow kills 14.

These are just three of the most recent examples of crises or disasters that struck suddenly and had an impact on a great number of people. Does it not seem as if these events are happening more and more frequently? That’s because they are.

In addition to man-made crises such as the terror attacks in Paris, Brussels or at an Orlando nightclub, there is the ever-growing threat of natural disasters such as blizzards, hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes. Read more

Closing the Gender Wage Gap: How to Earn What You Deserve | Ep. 23

 

 

Recorded in front of a live audience in London at the Executive Secretary LIVE conference, April 1, 2017.
Too many women around the world are seriously underpaid. One reason is that they have no idea what their jobs are worth. Another reason is that they are afraid to ask. Still another reason is that the subject of money has been forbidden and taboo for too long. But how to do that and then to make the case for more money? This is an issue that affects assistants in a very big way since 95-98% are women. Bonnie and Vickie break the silence and discuss real-life step-by-step strategies that have led to increases of thousands of dollars by assistants all over the world. You will learn how to negotiate your skill set, experience, and relationships into the compensation package that you deserve now and for the future and that will impact your daughters and granddaughters, sons and grandsons.

 

Bonnie & Vickie recording the podcast at ExecSecLIVE London
Vickie Sokol Evans & Bonnie Low-Kramen at ExecSecLIVE in London recording this podcast.

Related Links:

www.indeed.com

www.glassdoor.com

Book: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Video: Amy Cuddy on Body Language

Book: The Confidence Code by Katty Kay

Book: Knowing Your Value by Mika Brzezinski

Book: Presence by Amy Cuddy

Article about teenagers fired for demanding equal pay

ExecSecLIVE

Personal assistants: A busy executive’s most powerful secret weapon

It’s about freedom.

In my work as the personal assistant to Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis (“Moonstruck”), my goal every day was to free Olympia to do the things that only she could do. These included memorizing her lines, going for a costume fitting and working out with her yoga instructor. I did everything else and I did it for 25 years.

My job was about maximizing our 24 hours each day. This is what an assistant can do. In 2017, assistants aren’t only for celebrities. It is a relationship that can impact your life in profound ways. Your assistant can be your right arm, trusted ally and even a surrogate at meetings. When utilized properly and fully, she can enhance your business by acting as a strategic partner and freeing you up to make even more profits. S/he can also enable you to have more free time to enjoy those things that feed your soul.

Workplace 2.0 The Future is Now with guest Melba J. Duncan | Ep.22

Workplace 2.0 The Future is Now with guest Melba J. Duncan

Melba Duncan of The Duncan Group Recorded live in Johannesburg, South Africa at the Executive Secretary LIVE Conference on February 18, 2017. As a prominent and respected workplace expert and NYC-based recruiter for 30+ years, perhaps no one has her finger on the pulse of what is happening in our workplace better than Melba J Duncan, Founder and President of The Duncan Group. What is Workplace 2.0? Hear up to the minute information about what working as a “strategic business partner” really means and if you want to be one, what do you need to do to get there? According to Melba Duncan, the role of Executive Assistant is misunderstood and undervalued, and it is time to change this perception. Bonnie. Vickie, and Melba talk technology, salaries, skills, and much more. Listen in to hear Melba’s sage advice for EAs and the CEOs they support. To see the video on YouTube click here.

Related links:

Melba J. Duncan
www.duncangroupinc.com

Book: The New Executive Assistant

Subscribe_on_iTunes_Badge_US-UK_110x40_0824

Subscribe to » BTUA Podcast with Bonnie & Vickie

The Training Executives Really Need to Succeed

Bonnie Low-Kramen Office Life Support

By Bonnie Low-Kramen | SmartCEO Magazine | January 2017

This column gives me the golden opportunity to share burning workplace issues with CEOs and leaders. I get to pull the curtain back on what your support staff is thinking and needing. This piece is about the need to train new managers on how to utilize an Executive Assistant. Why? Because most don’t know. This is important information that is not taught in business school or anywhere.

Imagine this. You are a new driver and one day you go outside to find a brand new car with the keys hanging on the window with a note that reads “Good luck!” The car is filled with gadgets and shiny buttons but there is no physical manual and no one to tell you what to do.

Here’s the problem. You want to drive the car NOW. So you struggle to understand how to unlock the driver’s door and finally figure out to turn the car on. You find the online manual but you keep bumping into buttons and symbols that you don’t understand which ends up being frustrating almost on a daily basis. The annoying and energy-consuming learning curve continues for several weeks and months. Read more

Connecting the Dots: A Key Attribute of the World’s Top EAs with Guest: Debbie Gross, CEA at Cisco | Ep. 21

 

Bonnie, Debbie, & Vickie
From left: Bonnie, Debbie Gross, & Vickie at Executive Secretary LIVE Dubai, Nov 2016
John Chambers & Debbie Gross
Cisco Executive Chairman John Chambers presenting Debbie with the Colleen Barrett Award in 2015.

Debbie Gross is respected as one of the top assistants in America. She has been working as an administrative professional for 40 years and for the past 25 years, as the Chief Executive Assistant to John Chambers, former CEO, now Executive Chairman of Cisco in California. Read more

Listen Up! Bonnie interviews Lucy Brazier at Exec Sec LIVE Dubai (21 min)

 

bonnielucyinterview4

Do you want to know more about Lucy Brazier, the visionary leader behind the Executive Secretary LIVE conferences and Executive Secretary Magazine? We did! Bonnie Low-Kramen interviewed Lucy from the stage at Exec Sec LIVE in Dubai on Nov 17th. Introduced by Vickie Sokol Evans, listen for 21 minutes and get to know Lucy’s big plans for assistants all over the world.

Page 1 of 2112345...1020...Last »