An Assistant’s Guide to Staying Sane While Working for Multiple Bosses

Even when reporting to just one boss, administrative assistants are responsible for a myriad of duties to that boss. In addition, include the admin’s unofficial role as the organizer and mother hen for the rest of the department, keeping them happy and on track as well. Now, imagine being the assistant for multiple bosses and you’ve just increased the responsibilities—and the stress—exponentially. So how do successful administrative assistants keep their sanity throughout the craziness? (No … not drugs, although massive consumption of coffee is sometimes required.)

It takes fantastic organization and communication skills, a backbone of steel, and boundless energy (hence, the coffee!) to keep juggling all these balls successfully. Here are some of the strategies top admins use to work for multiple bosses:

Don’t leave anything to chance

Never assume anything when it comes to others getting their work done on time. This is especially true for admin with multiple bosses. It’s crucial for everyone to clearly communicate about things like deadlines and deliverables, according to Forbes. As an admin, it’s virtually impossible to over-exchange information with your bosses.

In a perfect world, all your bosses would stand hand-in-hand on a hillside covered with flowers and sing songs of praise to you together in perfect harmony. Unfortunately, admins like you work in the real world where managers have different agendas, workloads, priorities, and ultimately, career goals. Some of them missed that day in pre-school where we all learned to share. However, with exceptional communication skills, you can make sure all of their bases are covered and your sanity remains intact.

Be transparent

Admins with multiple bosses will have differing responsibilities that correlate to different managers. These tasks can become even more challenging without organization and transparency between employees and supervisors, according to Monster. Be sure your bosses know what’s on your plate. While it may not be in your job description to negotiate between your bosses, it will benefit you greatly. Err on the side of taking the initiative to coordinate between them. Bosses LOVE getting solutions rather than problems, so be proactive. You can create a shared document that lists all of your ongoing tasks and projects, or you can communicate these items in a weekly check-in meeting. At some point, your bosses will have to communicate with each other so that everyone can be happy.

Don’t be paranoid

With constantly changing tasks, upcoming deadlines and pressure from more than one boss, it’s easy for admins to become overwhelmed. Honestly, at times, last-minute requests or projects may seem a tad vindictive, but it’s critical for you not to take things personally. Each boss is probably focusing on his or her own agenda, without thinking about the obligations of their peers. To combat this, you must anticipate conflicting deadlines and challenging situations to avoid them altogether. If this isn’t possible, finding a quick solution that works for everyone is the next best thing.

Set firm boundaries

The most important skill for staying sane while reporting to multiple bosses is the ability to set boundaries. Harvard Business School professor, Leslie Perlow, surveyed engineers from a Fortune 500 company that were constantly interrupted by managers and co-workers. The engineers complained that it affected their ability to work properly. Perlow helped them create boundaries for quiet time: three days a week, there would be no interruptions before noon so they could focus on work. The engineers reported that these new rules enhanced their productivity. If your multiple bosses frequently come to you with questions, or to check in about their projects, establish protected times where you can be heads down without disruptions.

Do’s and Don’ts of working with multiple bosses

Do:

  • Be on the lookout for the most common challenges of having multiple bosses so you can proactively handle them
  • Keep a positive attitude and remember that the conflicts are most likely because of the situation, not because of you
  • Find out which of your bosses is responsible for making the decisions that affect your career and when in doubt, side with that one

Don’t:

  • Try to speak on behalf of one boss to the other—try to get them to talk with each other if possible
  • Keep your workload and task list a secret from any of your bosses
  • Assume anything … get someone to sign off on everything

Administrative assistants like you have a lot on your plate. From personal responsibilities to those of their team, and assisting multiple bosses, the daily workday can be difficult. However, these tips, among others, will help you find success, happiness, and a clean bill of mental health even during the toughest times.

 

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