I have had several surreal moments in the last few weeks – some good and some bad.
I was invited to take tea with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his staff at his foundation; He is such a huge personal hero of mine and it was an honour to meet his staff. (Sadly, the Archbishop was unwell and in hospital during my trip). I have stayed at the homes of both Bill Gates’ Assistant and Bill Clinton’s former Director of Events. I have spoken at APC in the States – one of the biggest events in the Assistant calendar – and received a standing ovation. I have spoken to the Assistants at The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And amongst all of this, I have spoken to and presented awards at Old Mutual Insurance in Cape Town, have spoken at the first ever conference at the Vaal University of Technology and made guest appearances at the ACEPA training course in Chicago as well as Bonnie Low Kramen and Vickie Sokol Evan’s Be The Ultimate Assistant event in Seattle.
We are also in the process of pulling together four LIVE conferences – Dubai, Johannesburg, London and our new one in Auckland. And we have been listed in the top 40 of The PPA Top 250 Social Media Power List, above brands like Cosmopolitan & Hello Magazines.
These are exciting times. Life’s opportunities are expanding in ways that I never imagined.
And yet I am reminded daily of the other side of the coin.
I had a message this week from a former Assistant of the Year for her company who is currently on medication because she is being bullied so badly. This is at the same company that gave her the award! Nobody in HR or in her team wants to get involved or speak up in case it impacts on them. She feels utterly alone and suicidal. Unfortunately she is not the exception, I constantly get messages from Assistants all over the world who are going through the toughest of times in their offices because they are being bullied to a point where they are making themselves ill. I have been there myself and ended up making myself very ill indeed.
Many will never speak up and find their voices. They will simply move onto the next thing, costing their company huge sums in terms of loss of experience and replacing them.
It’s why we are about to launch a huge global survey in conjunction with the EPAA to find out what is actually going on and what the implications are for business. We want to use this survey to start conversations with HR departments all over the world about how they can tackle this epidemic and best support those going through it.
I also had a shocking message this week from my team supporting our Isipho Admin Bursary recipients in South Africa. They are so close to the end of their studies but we have had to put out a call for donations because two of them simply don’t have enough basic food. It puts things into perspective! These young women are so impressive and a great testament to what hard work can do. Two of them got 100% in their Microsoft Word exams last week and all of them look set to have jobs at the end of their studies. We just have to get them through this bit. Huge thanks to the team in South Africa that have worked so hard this year to support them.
I understand how blessed I am, especially when I see both extremes at such close quarters over such a small timeframe. And yes, I do work hard and I’m a great believer that the harder you work, the luckier you get. I also believe that those of us that are doing well and have great careers have a duty to give back, whether that is in terms of mentoring, public speaking, donating time or money, or speaking up for those that are going through it at work.
As Gandhi said ‘the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others’.
How will you serve your profession?