March 6, 2001
Turf Wars


I'm beginning to suspect that my new boss is a virgin.

(No,  I don't mean a virgin in that sense of the word. He's a middle-aged divorced guy with kids: somewhere along the line, he's seen a little action.)

I mean that he's a *corporate virgin*  ...  someone new to upper-level management, someone who has never had a fulltime assistant devoted 100% to his professional care, feeding and file management. 

In other words, he's never had a SecraTerri before. And the truth is, I don't think he quite knows what to do with me yet.

It's sort of a confusing situation for both of us, actually. Before I became Jim's assistant, the two of us enjoyed an affectionately-jokey, buddy-buddy office friendship around the Totem Pole Company. He called me "Miss Fire Prevention" whenever we passed in the hallway. I poked fun at his baseball cap collection. ("Feeling a little bald today, are we?")  We exchanged dorky e-mail jokes about crotch rot and vegetarians and George W. Bush. Once in a while we walked downstairs to the coffee cart together. Now, though, we're sort of floundering around, trying to figure out what our new relationship is supposed to be ... what my duties and responsibilities are supposed to be, as his assistant ... what his obligations are supposed to be, as my boss. 

Neither one of us has much of a clue yet.

Still, I don't see this as a huge problem. It's nothing that time won't cure. Our roles will become more clearly defined, the more we work together. I've already gotten his office three-quarters of the way organized, set up an Outlook calendar for him and caught him up on four months' worth of unread mail/faxes/e-mail. Eventually I will become as indispensable to him as his lucky *Constipated People Don't Give A Crap* baseball cap.

The biggest problem right now -- the problem that has disaster-potential written all over it, especially if it isn't resolved quickly -- is that nobody on the fourth floor (besides me) seems to have a clear idea of exactly what I'm doing there ... or exactly who I'm working for.

Including Jim.

In the past couple of days, ever since I finished training Joni (aka "Knee Hi Lady") and moved back upstairs, hopefully for good this time, the other Upper Management Testosterone Units on the fourth floor have begun to wage a ridiculous turf war  ...  over me. They've all begun dumping their paperwork and their unopened mail on my desk ... leaving me terse little voicemail messages, asking me to set up meetings and change travel reservations for them ... forwarding their phone calls to my extension when they're out of the office ... blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda. The VP of BFD actually requested that I change my voicemail greeting to identify myself as HIS assistant. (I politely ignored him.) And this morning Bradley, the fussy little VP in the office next to mine, burst through my door breathlessly wanting to know when I would be "available" to begin setting up his new filing system. This was the very first I'd heard of it. When I told him that I would have to check with Jim, he came unglued.

"Why do you need to 'check with Jim'?" he sputtered.

I calmly explained to him that Jim is my boss, and that Totem Pole Company protocol requires that I check with him before I commit to undertaking a huge project for another manager. (And this would be a HUGE project. Bradley's office is a total landfill: I don't think anyone has seen the floor in there since Tori Spelling had a career.)

This did not sit well with Bradley. He went storming out of my office and down the hallway. A few seconds later I heard Jim's door slam shut, and a muffled, heated exchanged taking place from within. Several minutes later Bradley emerged, still looking dangerously disgruntled ... but he returned to his own office and didn't approach me again for the remainder of the day. I figured, OK, good, Jim has set him straight. Yay, Jim

So you can imagine how I felt when Jim timidly walked into my office, at the end of the day, and said, "Hey Secra ... if you have some time tomorrow, would you mind giving Bradley a hand with his filing? Maybe spend an hour or two in there every day for a while, getting things organized?"


Here's what I should have said: I should have said Jim, my understanding when I moved up here to the fourth floor is that I would be working exclusively for YOU, as your Executive Assistant.  I'm more than happy to pitch in and help plug in some of the admin gaps around the office, but I believe that in the long run my effectiveness as your assistant will be diminished if I'm asked to spread my energies too thin among the other managers.

Here's what I wanted to say: I wanted to say Oh HELL no! I'm not a leftover Buffalo Wing to be fought over! Tell Bradley to hire his own fudking SecraTerri!

And here's what I actually said: I said YeahOKsure.

In other words ... I caved. I really didn't know what else to do. My boss was making a personal request ... his first official request as my boss, basically. The usual Princess Mentality wouldn't fly here. I figure that I'll spend a few days whipping Bradley's office into shape, the same way I did Jim's office: I'll get all of the crap picked up off the floor and sorted into some sort of order, and I'll set up a rudimentary filing system for him, and I'll make everything look all neat and pretty and organized. I'll hate every single minute of it, of course, but I'll do it anyway -- and I'll do it cheerfully -- because I'm this incredibly wonderful admin professional, this team player who willingly pitches in to fill the gaps, this versatile, in-demand Jacqueline-Of-All-Trades who can do it all ... the World's Most Perfect SecraTerri.

And eventually maybe my boss is gonna figure that out.

two years ago: battle weary

before i have to kill somebody ...
help bring back Fast Lane Tea!
[tell 'em SECRA sent you]

throw a rock