How I Was Royally Fucked Over As An Executive Assistant
As the headlines about how privileged women in Hollywood are getting fucked over by the consequences of the gender pay gap — dominate the news cycle — I can’t help but reminisce about my days working in corporate America — at one of the most esteemed wealth management firms in the world.
No, I wasn’t an entertainment reporter for E! — like Catt Sadler — even though I did try to get my foot into that door back in 2005 — but after three failed attempts — I settled for a low paying gig at a talent agency. I’m also not a movie star like Michelle Williams who manages to retain a dignified anonymity with her tendency towards independent films.
I’m just a lowly writer who moved to New York City in pursuit of journalistic glory and then left for Los Angeles when the abuse of neglect and wasted dreams became unbearable —before moving back to my abuser to help define the meaning of when old habits die hard.
By this time I was in my early thirties — I was actively yearning for some form of stability — and naturally that meant earning a respectable amount of money by staying at a job for longer than six months.
I found the executive assistant position at JP Morgan Private Bank while perusing the pages of Career Builder. I was temping at Bank of America and there were rumors that I might be converted to a salaried worker before the year end — but I needed more than promises. So, I applied for the position at the private bank — did my own background screening — and got the job.
The first four years were quite swell. The first two were actually fantastic. I didn’t really have a clue how to thrive in a supporting role — but I was able to quickly learn how to perfect mail merges and navigate the droopy landscape of lotus notes. By the six month mark — I was breezing through assignments and making the two bankers who were dependent on me — quite content and confident in my abilities.
When the third year mark hit — my responsibilities had increased — thanks to a more robust team that gave me a total of three executives to care for — as well as a couple of officers on the credit team. I had started off making $52K annually when I was hired and the modest raises had brought me to about $55K. The end of year bonuses were usually around $1K and then of course after taxes it was much less. We also had the Christmas cash offerings from the executives themselves who would strategically plot when to stop by your desk — to drop off the envelope that contained evidence of your value. By the time you had collected all there was to give — you could make out with anything between $450 to $1200. It really depended on their generosity or how many calendars you were balancing daily.
The fourth year brought major changes and that’s when shit hit the fan. We not only had to vacate 350 Park Avenue for 270 Park Avenue — but the team that once felt like an extended family was chopped up into bits to fit a new ambitious agenda.
The economic crisis had been quite good to the private bank— thanks to the resilience and calculating wizardry of the credit and mortgage teams — who tirelessly drafted profit-making strategies for the young and eager analysts to translate into pitch books — on behalf of their assigned bankers.
Our team was divided into two parts: Hedge Fund and Wall Street. That sounds so simple and neat except it literally dissolved anything resembling my comfort zone.
Our former team manager who I adored was relocated to the Greenwich office in what seemed more like the classic demotion — and I was forced to work directly for the head of the Wall Street vertical — and also support his crew of bankers, associates and analysts.
Yep! It was just as fucked up as it sounds and even more miserable than I could’ve ever imagine. My boss was a major asshole who’s bad temper was legendary. I was thankfully never at the receiving end of his erratic fury — but our working relationship wasn’t ideal. As my manager — he had no interest in ensuring that my workload didn’t overwhelm me and even worse — my raises and bonuses were abruptly halted.
The irony of it all was that as an executive assistant supporting the head of the team and nine others with the possibility of more — I found myself struggling to make my paycheck work. I logged in impressive overtime — just to break even and I used my downtime and lunch break to fulfill my role as daily editor for then thriving online publication — Clutch.
I was basically hustling like a motherfucker both — during the day and after hours.
Then one bright and sunny afternoon — right after I had hurriedly chowed down my lunch — my manager casually asked to speak to me. I knew instantly that it was bad news. As soon as we were seated in the booked conference room — he told me that I was being let go. The reasons were budgetary and not at all personal. All I remember is the wave of relief that took hold as I internalized the prepared script he read off to me that included logistics of my off-boarding.
I spent the next three weeks warding off potential internal opportunities as I finally realized the betrayal of working for a wealthy bank — that believes in treating “the little people” like shit while making sure their rich clients get richer — and the privileged employees continue to be well compensated.
But just as I was getting accustomed to the visual of leaving behind a job that left me over-worked and under-paid — I was called into the same conference room by my manager who announced that I was no longer being let go. As it turns out — one of the assistants on the team had unexpectedly given her two weeks notice — which meant they were screwed and in order to cover their asses — they needed me to stay.
Instead of seizing the golden opportunity to demand a substantial raise in pay and whatever else I felt should be afforded me — I meekly accepted my pathetic job back and endured another year of shipping over 300 books to clients without any assistance — as well as the challenge of scheduling never-ending meetings and travel for bankers and their twenty-something associates.
I did draw the line when it came to expensing shit for the analysts. But even that proved to be a short-lived victory.
I ended up leaving JPMorgan in the spring of 2013 — after accepting what turned out to be another job from hell — at The New York Public Library.
My exit was unceremonious and and left me with an acute disdain for corporate America as I realized how the structural pillars uphold the livelihood of well-suited hoodlums — who work to keep the disadvantaged buried in debt and desperation — while they retain their vacation homes in the Hamptons and secure the Ivy League education of their offspring — years in advance.
The supporting cast who remain in their positions for decades — retiring after 30 years of service with a cloudy plaque and a modest reception as a parting gift — are part of the population who don’t have the option to bargain their worth to the tune of millions of dollars or the expectation that they can do much better elsewhere.
I was the lucky one — with a college degree and work experience — and I was still subjected to a shitty treatment and outcome.
The current job market is an absolute mess as I’ve been privy to how the big name companies in the media realm — present similar obstacles that I encountered in the financial sector.
The trick is to work employees to death and then discard them for fresher meat. The best is when you’re given the bright hope of actually being hired staff — and then have the inevitable happen — when you’re temp agency delivers the disappointing news while you’re still slotted in your cubicle.
Regular people are getting royally fucked over — and they don’t have the encouragement or support that is needed to help eradicate the growing culture of terrorizing workers who need to stay employed — in order to survive a climate that is relentlessly brutal and unforgiving.
Movie stars have the voice of other movie stars screaming for justice in their defense — but who will speak up for the little people?