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Ltryptophan's avatar

Would you fire your assistant for such misconduct?

Asked by Ltryptophan (9102 points ) October 13th, 2011

You hire someone to be your personal assistant. You give them small tasks that do not require much thought or effort. In return they are paid 25k a year, and have weekends off, health benefits, etc.

Day one, you send them to get you a salad. Before you go you tell them, I like tomatos on my salad. Do not bring me a salad without tomatos. When they return they’ve brought you a very nice Caesar salad, with no tomatos.

Is that enough to fire someone? Do you think that this sort of detail orientation is something you’d want to train that person to be able to handle?

I see a lot of personal assistant culture centering around getting things like this right. Is this sort of failure the essence of what it is to be an assistant, or is the bigger set of tasks that they have to deal with more important than such bloopers as forgetting the boss likes their coffee with whole milk, not half and half.

Maybe a temporary trial period would be appropriate for such jobs, to see if its a good fit.

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23 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

No, maybe I’m just too laid back, I don’t know, but that seems excessive and quite douchebaggy.

wonderingwhy's avatar

If it’s the first time, whatever. If it’s the 15th time in a row, you’re fired. People have different definitions of what they value most in a PA. For me, I need someone who when I tell them to do something they do it as I told them to. If I have to check in or look over their shoulder every time I assign them a task because I don’t have confidence in them to get it done as instructed, it defeats the purpose – whether it’s a salad or a contract.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

For 25K a year, you can get me to pretty much do anything short of sexual favors so… A personal assistant understands that it is THE WAY THE PERSON PAYING YOU WANTS IT TO BE!

Otherwise go into business for yourself…

For limited or easy tasks. Kick some ass and take some names… Someone doesn’t appreciate the fact that they have a job.

poofandmook's avatar

I think I would feel like a douche asking someone to get a salad for me. I guess I’m not the type to have a PA lol

Coloma's avatar

I’m the complete opposite, I’d probably bring back the biggest salad I could find loaded with tomatos. I’m big on following the protocol of the “boss”, and would not veer off the path of their preference.

I’d speak with them about following your wishes to the letter and if they continue to ignore your wants, or “forget” a lot, I’d say you’re dealing with a passive aggressive personality and yes, I’d let them go.

I’m quite assertive and straightforward, I’d tell them point blank..” I am not paying you to frustrate me.” lol

Rheto_Ric's avatar

“I like tomatoes on my salad” is a world away from “Don’t bring me a salad without tomatoes”. If you said the first, then it’s quite acceptable that they failed to pick up on this piece of information, but if you really also said the latter then that puts you on the path to horrible boss in my eyes.

From the standpoint of the PA, it’s their first day so cut them some slack. They are taking in a lot of information, they are possibly nervous, they thought better some salad than no salad if Caesar was the only option… or maybe, just maybe, they were hoping to be working for a reasonable human being who would say something like “Oh, did they not have tomatoes?” to which the response will hopefully be something like “Oh, s***, you wanted tomatoes. I am so sorry.”

blueiiznh's avatar

I suppose if you are pompous enough to say “I like tomatos on my salad. Do not bring me a salad without tomatos” then you are pompous enough to dismiss them over it.

But the other twist is, if that person was allegic to tomatoes (or tomatos) then there is real need to follow exact words. If it was allergy based, most people tell you why in that case.

But it you accept a job as a gopher and you are paid to pay attention to those special needs, then it is part of the job condition and terms that you accepted. Unless you are in a place where you are an “employee at will” or it was written directly into your job description, you may have some issues when the shizzle hits the fan.

For me, I wouldnt be this demanding unless there was a valid reason. Second, people make mistakes. Allow for them to learn by it the next time.
Personel are harder to let go than they are to find.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@poofandmook Some people have very high powered and time intensive jobs and literally do not have the time to waste on line at stores dealing with the public and all of the things that can and will go wrong given the chance concerning them.

If you can afford not to, then why should you.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Misconduct? I think what you describe isn’t misconduct. I wouldn’t even have an assistant…even if I did, they wouldn’t be getting my food.

poofandmook's avatar

@GabrielsLamb: Oh, I’m absolutely not knocking people who do… but I can’t conceive of a situation where I would feel comfortable ordering someone around that way.

CWOTUS's avatar

No, I don’t like tomatoes that much. I hasten to add that I like tomatoes a lot. Just not ‘that much’.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

It’s not misconduct but it is a lack of attention to detail for which personal assistants are paid in the first place. Fire away.

SpatzieLover's avatar

It sounds to me like a test.

Will the person get extra starch for your shirts when dropping them off at the dry cleaners? Will they get your double shot of espresso when you send them for a coffee? Will they remember the details?

Yep, it could be a cause to fire. Personal assistants are hired to handle the details you no longer have the time for.

john65pennington's avatar

I have always believed in the three strikes and you are out rule. Of course, it depends on how serious the mistake may have been, also,

Maybe this person is just an airhead. Next time, write it on a Post It note and let them take it with them as a reminder.

If this does not work the second time, give this person a warning.

Three strikes and you are out…....of a $25,000 a year gopher job.

Jeruba's avatar

Maybe this is really weird, but I thought that’s what a pencil and paper were for. I taught my children when they were little that writing is a way of saving words for later. It actually works pretty well.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@poofandmook I know what you mean kind of… I have horrible guilt from getting my feet done. I watch and feel like somehow it’s just not right and I wonder if anyone else feels that way too.

I ALWAYS tip the girls very well because I do think some people do feel entitled and are bitchy to them as if it is their God given right to be having their feet done by a real live person sometimes by the way some people act, it feels as though they feel they arent dealing with a human being.

HungryGuy's avatar

It depends. I’m assuming you asked your assistant why he/she didn’t put tomatoes on your salad and didn’t give you a reasonable explanation (if you didn’t ask, maybe the salad bar was out of tomatoes, or they were covered with little bitty bugs and the assistant was taking some initiative to look out for you [Sorry, but in my job as a computer consultant for myriad Dilbert-esque organizations, I know all too well how a typical boss’s mind works—assign blame first and investigate later, if at all]).

Also I don’t know what a personal assistant makes, but considering the wage you’re paying, I’m assuming that your assistant isn’t exactly a rocket scientist.

So If you haven’t done so, I’d (1) try to find out the reason for the oversight and (2) give the assistant a second chance.

Hibernate's avatar

NO. I would give them a few chances. Might be a bad day .. might be something else. I am not perfect and I don’t expect those around me to be perfect. We have to adapt.

Gabby101's avatar

I don’t think you should fire someone over one mistake – you should fire someone if they exhibit a pattern of mistakes.

I don’t know why people are so upset because you asked someone to get you a salad. Anyone who eats at a restaurant is paying for someone to bring them their food AND then they have the nerve to only pay them if they think they did a good enough job (tip)!

Jeruba's avatar

I’ve been wondering if @Ltryptophan was the one who got fired, or threatened with firing.

Ltryptophan's avatar

@Jeruba why not a friend of mine?

The truth is it’s just a hypothetical question. Sorry, no correlating real life drama.

CWOTUS's avatar

I just noticed a key word error in the question. “Misconduct” might include stealing the tomatoes, embezzling the lunch money, throwing the salad at the employer or other “bad acts”. I suppose you could even make a case for “willfully mis-ordering lunch” as misconduct, if you had any evidence of that.

“Making an honest mistake” or even “forgetting the order” does not rise to the level of misconduct. Too many mistakes, or making critical mistakes, could get anyone fired. Forgetting elementary orders could be a critical enough mistake to lead to a firing.

If the assistant’s sole job for the day was to get a luncheon salad “and make sure it has tomatoes”, and that assignment is blown, then sayonara babe, even though the Ceasar salad is great, if I really wanted tomatoes.

Jeruba's avatar

@Ltryptophan, only because so many posts above assumed that you were the employer doing the firing. I’ve noticed that people who pose was-I-right-or-wrong questions, essentially looking for justification, often imply a role reversal as if that would disguise their bias.

My real answer to this question is implied in my previous post. If a personal assistant is hired to take care of exactly such details as this, I think he or she must get them right or forfeit the job. It isn’t the employer’s responsibility to babysit them; that’s not why busy people hire someone to take care of small tasks in their lives. If the person doesn’t have a good memory, then the person should use whatever memory aids are necessary—such as writing a note!—to get it right.

Someone who truly can’t handle buying a salad that includes tomatoes has no business taking a job where a job requirement is an ability to buy a salad that includes tomatoes.

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