• Simone

Friendships in PA relationships

Traditionally friendship in PA and PA users relationships have been frown upon; after all the relationship is a paid contractual one based on professional conduct. However, I do not think that our contractual relationships are of an impersonal nature. In reality, too often our choice of service are not only based on the quality of product, the price and efficiently. For instance cleaners, gardeners, cab drivers, beauticians, head-dressers and other paid workers providing us with one-to-one services are often selected for not only the quality of the work but also their personal qualities. After all, are we going to invite people we do not like or feel comfortable with into our personal space in our homes or elsewhere; similarly are we going to permit paid workers to undertake intimate and personal tasks that we do not like. So our contractual relationships are therefore partly based on liking the contracted worker. Liking someone is what we may experience after a short encounter with a paid worker in a less personal situation such as thinking I liked that sales assistant that helped me identify a lovely outfit for a party or helping one of public transport. However, our relationships involve personal care or support is likely to be experienced at a deeper level because the encounters will be more frequent and prolonged.

This therefore raises the thorny question of whether or not friendship plays a role in our PA and PA user relationships and to what extent does friendship affect the quality of personal care that we experience in our daily lives; and whether friendship can have a positive rather than a negative impact on the quality of personal care that we experience even at an unconscious level.

What is meant by Friendship?

Friendship as part of our relationships can have a positive impact – after all we are more likely to help someone else or go the extra mile if we like the person; we are likely to care more about the quality of work, or indeed the quality of assistance received. It works both ways, as if we like our PAs and feel an affinity to them, we may ask them to do tasks or be more honest about the standard of their assistance that we may not do with less friendly PAs.

Friendship is a stronger form of interpersonal bond than an association, the day to day fleeting encounters we may have with others. There are many and different characteristics which are signs of friendship, that includes affection; kindness, love, virtue, sympathy, empathy, honesty, altruism, loyalty, mutual understanding and compassion, enjoyment of each other's company, trust, and the ability to be oneself. There are likely to be some characteristics such as a mutual affection and love that we would not expect to be part of a professional relationship between PA and PA users. However, some powerful loving relationships between PAs and PA users have led to the union of marriage. And as such loving relationships cannot be ruled out especially when the work is of an intimate nature. Whilst loving relationships are likely to be rare, other forms of friendship including characteristics of kindness, empathy, honesty and loyalty are likely to be present in our relationships as we would not want our PAs being unkind, unpathetic and not loyal to us. However, friendship may get in the way of the PA and PA user relationship. Maintaining relationship may trump the quality of assistance provided by the PA. I know PA users who have said that they give different levels of slack depending who they are. If maintaining friendship becomes a big component of the PA and PA user relationship then quality of assistance can become compromised.

Like with everything else in PA and PA user relationships, there is nothing to guide us about the type of, the level of and the characteristics of friendship that is permissible or should be avoided like the plague. And even within a team of PAs working with a PA user it would be difficult to boil down what role friendship plays in the PA and PA user relationship as we are all have different ideas about friendships and what characteristics are important. So as such friendship in PA and PA user can become a double-edge sword – a very delicate balancing act between friendship and professionalism.


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