Book Reviews. He loved to read book reviews. He said that reading book reviews is like reading half a book and he usually enjoyed less than half a book anyway. Win-win, he said.
I found myself silently questioning the logic. And then, years later, I’ve begun reading book reviews and thinking, somehow, that it satisfies my love for the written word. But that’s not really what this is all about.
Now, I haven’t read the book. But something in this lengthy, impassioned book review caught my eye. Shulevitz quotes the book,
“My clients outsource patience to me,” a personal assistant tells her. “And once they get in the habit of doing that, they become impatient people.” Could it be, Hochschild asks, “that we are dividing the world into emotional types — order-barking, fast-paced entrepreneurs at the top, and emotionally attuned, human-paced mediators at the bottom?”
Now, this caught my eye for one, because it directly pertains to my job as an (virtual) assistant.For another, it asks an interesting question: that of a possible 180 degree split between top and bottom level employees.
I’ll do the interesting question part first. I love interesting questions (“always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question” wrote cummings ), if only because they force a perspective that I haven’t taken yet. Thus the “interesting” part.
To reiterate, the interesting question is: can we completely divide professional life into two spheres – the upper-level directive void of emotion and the lower-level facilitators, who make the world go round with their patience? Certainly, our present-day entrepreneurs are busy. And, since such a high volume of their work is completed over the Internet, they can afford to be emotionally numb, right?
Personally, I don’t think so. I think the most successful of entrepreneurs understand emotions and “human-pacing” more than others. This understanding is what makes them so successful. They recognize that creating news ways to connect can answer our inner desire for interaction. Thinking of new ways to buy, to sell, to share; coming upon these answers does more than just satisfy needs, it fulfills emotional desires. Is it possible to concoct a system that simply answers our needs? Yes. Without attention to sincerity, demanding entrepreneurs could get what they need done. But the best of ideas, the ones that thrive, are the ones that go to the root of humanity and make their presence felt there. They tug invisibly, always, at the strings which play our songs.
And I think it’s unfair to hand the mediator tag to assistants by default. Some of them work as lightning fast as entrepreneurs. Some have little patience for their work, their bosses and their lives.
In fact, it can be the case that patience is tested so often in an assistant that it can lead him or her to become an impatient person. I contested a traffic ticket last week and I can tell you that the secretary was one of the most impatient people I have ever met. The city attorney, chill as a gas station Gatorade, spent more time talking about his grandmother’s love of my dear Chicago Cubs than the ticket.
So there’s that.
Now, on to the virtual assistant bit. As a Zirtual assistant, I spend my share of time in patience-testing situations. Calls to service centers, calls to large corporate offices, e-mails that go unanswered the first, second and third time, etc. That’s part of my job. And I’m happy to do it – even if it is, perhaps, an outsourcing of patience.
But I don’t think that handing these tasks to me drives my clients to become less patient people. In fact, the freeing up of time seems to make them all the more patient. Now, my clients are exceptionally kind people to begin with, so perhaps that has something to do with it. But the freeing up of time allows them to breathe a little lighter and focus their time on the larger tasks at hand. They embark upon these tasks with heightened patience, knowing I have their trying tasks covered.
On my end, I do learn about emotional fine tuning and human-pacing through my work as a Zirtual assistant. But I often find I am far from robbing the patient DNA cells of my clients. Using myself as an example alone I’ve already debunked the two-tier theory of the entrepreneur-assistant patience split.
Are bosses outsourcing patience? Perhaps. But the scales are far from completely tipped. And is what we are creating two distinct emotional types based on position? I don’t see it. Emotional types are going to show true colors regardless of employment level.
In answering “no” then to Hochschild’s interesting question – I’ll pose some others. What kind of patience equation is all of this outsourcing creating? At the end of the day, isn’t our goal to increase patience in the professional world overall? How do assistants and entrepreneurs together work to build the gross output of this valuable commodity? Wouldn’t we rather multiply here than divide?
Perhaps we’ll have to save those answers for another book review.