Disability and life: the control dynamic between you and your PA

Rupy Kaur is a young, British Asian, disabled woman, who is very independent and can be feisty when needed (so she says!). She is writing for DH on some of the experiences that happen to her on a day-to-day basis, focussing on relationships with PAs.


One of the interesting dynamics that I have learnt since being an employer has been the element of control between people and their PAs. 9 times out of 10 I have a good relationship with my PAs and this is because I am thorough in the interview process and we both have a mutual respect where we know our boundaries. However, sometimes I realise that I go over and above my role as an employer and end up being a councillor to some… good job I did my undergraduate degree in psychology (shame I don’t get paid for my skills)! Let me give you an example…

I used to have this PA, let’s call her Florence. Florence was an older lady and it was really interesting to see how the relationship developed. Due to her being older, for most of the time it felt as though she adopted a “mother” type role. She was really molly-coddly and her way was the best way. She used to advise me on issues such as dating, like telling me to stay away from boys because they are only after one thing. She used to advise me on driving my car and what would happen if I was in a crash, like telling me to always have my licence details on me. She would tell me what products I should use on my skin and the list just went on and on. If ever I disagreed with her opinions I felt as though my opinions were dismissed by her because she was older and therefore more world-wise. She definitely had the need to be in control. Interestingly though as we continued to work together, I realised that she had a lot of ongoing personal issues. She was constantly in new relationships with different men and her relationship with her children had broken down. She used to come into work full of anxiety and I felt as though it was my role to calm her down and therefore act as a “councillor.” The control dynamic suited her on her terms and in the end I became exhausted.

I think the above example is a tricky one for an employer. Practically she was very good at her job. However, she became an emotional drain and sucked out all my energy. Unfortunately I do believe that sometimes people apply to be a PA for their own sense of purpose. If their personal life is not going too well, being a PA is their chance of asserting control and authority. Obviously the above situation could have been a lot worse with Florence, but I know of other people in similar situations where it is worse.

I’m not saying that you should not develop an emotional bond between yourself and your PA. If your PA is good then it is inevitable that a friendship bond will develop. However, you must be cautious that you are not going over and above your role as an employer being a councillor and making sure that your PA sleeps well at night is not your responsibility. My PAs need to be both physically and mentally healthy and that’s because my needs come first when they’re working. My advice is that if you notice a similar situation between yourself and your PA for a prolonged period of time, then you should speak to your brokerage advisor in order to protect yourself.

Never feel guilty for trying to maintain control over your life and not being able to offer the emotional support that some PAs may need.

Until next time,

R x

By Rupy Kaur

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