Never Take Advantage of People, Just Because You Can

In college, I took an unpaid summer internship with a Public Relations Firm, along with two other interns. I was there to learn more about the PR field and to learn how to code HTML.  By the end of the summer, I was highly aware of what I had in common with Florence from The Jeffersons.

A few weeks after working there, my manager announced that she was hosting a women’s networking event at her home.  She invited all three of us to attend and for the next week, it was all she talked about.

The day before the event, all of the interns discussed what we would wear and talked about the types of questions we wanted to ask these incredibly fabulous women. We were really excited and extremely happy that our manager extended an invitation to us.

The afternoon of the event, our manager walked into the office and said, “I think it makes the most sense for one of you to come over to my house right now and the other two can come over later, after work.”

One of the interns, Elizabeth, volunteered to head over early. Margaret and I obliged and stayed behind, secretly hating on Elizabeth for getting out of work early.

We took the subway to our manager's house and when we got there, Elizabeth’s face said it all.  When our supervisor went upstairs, Elizabeth ushered us into the corner and scream whispered to us, “I have been cutting up carrots, celery, and fruit ALL afternoon. She brought me here early to help her prepare all of the food for tonight.” Margaret and I just looked at each other.

As soon as she appeared, we were put to work as well.  The three of us chopped and prepared food in silence, angry, upset, and totally caught off guard that we were invited to an event to be the help.

An hour later, the women began arriving for the networking event.  As our manager told the women that should they need anything, the three of us, Elizabeth, Margaret, and I, would be there to serve them.

The networking event that we were invited to had morphed turned into an evening of refreshing people's drinks, preparing hors d'oeuvres, and being a personal maid to our manager.

That was an unforgettable evening, and not for the reasons that I expected.  I've heard horror stories that include a judge who regularly made their law clerk pick up her dry cleaning and children, an admin assistant who was asked to travel to an exclusive hair salon to pick up their manager's shampoo (using her own money for the cab), and a production assistant who was told to clean up their manager's desk.

There are employees that will do what is asked of them, because they feel powerless.  No matter how far you climb up the ladder, you have a duty to treat the people around you with respect, regardless of how low on the totem pole you think they are.  Any great manager understands that a team will run through walls for you, as long as they feel valued and respected.  Once you lose their trust, you may never gain it back.