Celebrity Assistant Tips: Handling Temperamental People
Time and again, you are going to find yourself in situations where a disgruntled person may hold your job’s future in their hands. On some days it will seem the universe is conspiring against you because when you least need the headache, some strange situation is going to arise.
I was on an assignment once and a potential disaster was coming at me head on, like a runaway freight train. My celebrity boss was going to an awards show and the shirt he needed was at the dry cleaners. I went to pick it up and, behold, they could not find the shirt.
It was important that he wear that specific shirt because it had already been picked out to go with his suit, which also complemented his wife’s dress. In short, an army of publicity agents who carefully crafted that night’s photo ops would have been furious if I didn’t come through. Not having the best-looking photo possible, perhaps, could cost a celebrity their place in that week’s pop culture magazine. So no pressure in this situation, right?
The attendant behind the counter was almost impossible to deal with. She was new, so I did not have any rapport with her. Maybe she was having a bad day, I don’t know. But I do know that she did not even want to budge to help me.
I thought back to my days of dealing with rude personal assistants at my hotel job, so I tried to handle this situation with kid gloves. People being rude to me didn’t make me want to help them, so I’ve always remembered that philosophy when I felt like I might lose my cool with someone else.
When in this kind of situation, take the following steps:
STAY CALM: If you’re dealing with an angry or belligerent person, don’t get pulled into their state of mind.
DON’T ARGUE: Most people who have confrontational or combative personalities want a fight, either verbally or physically. Don’t even go there. Make sure you maintain a posture that isn’t going to challenge the person. At the same time, you don’t want them to think you’re a pushover either.
HEAR THEM OUT: Something started the angry person off. Let them get their issues off their chest. You have a much better chance of solving the situation if you let them vent and tell you what their problem is. If they are too out-of-line or are using profanity, tell them you’re willing to hear them out but they need to maintain the appropriate level of professionalism.
PUT YOURSELF AT THEIR LEVEL: Start making like-comparisons of your job and theirs. If they see that you’re “just like them,” you have a much better chance of getting them to help you out.
To the letter, I used the aforementioned steps to solve my problem at the dry cleaners. After some careful and calculated talking, I got the person on my side. She went to the back of the store and as it turns out, the shirt was ready but had been put in the wrong place. Now, if I lost my cool and started giving her the nonsense about being “powerful” and that I may “get her fired,” then nothing would have happened. I only would have left the dry cleaners without the shirt and, perhaps, would have lost my job.
By the way, many people don’t even care that you work for a celebrity or VIP, so I don’t ever tell them that kind of information. If anything, it may hurt you. If the person you’re dealing with thinks you’re rich, then they may want you to shell out a bunch of money before they will help you. In effect, they will hold you hostage. That often happened when I was with the Royal Saudi Family because it was impossible to pretend I wasn’t part of an elite crew. When people see you get out of a chauffeured Rolls Royce that’s part of a motorcade and security agents around you are talking into their shirt sleeves, it kind of blows the “try to be inconspicuous” tactic.
As far as trying to assert your power goes, there have been a number of times I saw celebrity personal assistants get thrown under the bus for saying things like “Do you know who I am?” In short, many people don’t care that you work for a celebrity because it’s not going to make their life any better. You may just get yourself fired and put your boss on the front page of the tabloids. Do I need to say any more?
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