Over the years I’ve had a number of roles that have required me to work for more than one boss. I’ve been Executive Assistant to the CFO, COO and Company Secretary. I’ve been PA to a Director and Administrative Manager for a whole department. I’ve even been Account Manager for 12 Committees. These jobs were hard because I had to juggle multiple tasks, deal with multiple personalities (sometimes within the same person) and I had to work to lots of different deadlines. On top of that I had to make my many bosses feel like they were the most important part of my role and I would always prioritise their needs first.
Many assistants are now being asked to work for more than one Director and quite often will complete tasks for whole departments of people as well. Those one on one roles are becoming much more elusive and tend to be for high net-worth individuals, top level CEOs and private households. Most of us in the corporate world will be asked to support other people in the company even if it is just to arrange travel or do expenses. I believe this is and will become the norm for assistants so we must adapt and learn how to juggle all of our bosses demands without dropping any of the important balls we have flung up in the air, while also, you know, remaining sane!
So how do we do this? Well here are a few tips that I have used in my multiple EA roles:
Communication is key
All of your Directors and colleagues know that you work for multiple people. Be clear that you can’t do everything for everyone all of the time and that you need to prioritise your work in the best way you see fit. If you work for one Director that is senior than the rest unfortunately their needs will probably come first. If you make this really clear from the outset most of your colleagues will understand (especially if they report to that Director!)
You will also need to communicate on a regular basis with each boss. The communication should be two way. They should be telling you what they require of you, what they have coming up and any big projects that might take up a lot of your time. You should also tell them the same things – what you have coming up, any work that is taking up a lot of your time and what you require of them!
Actually planning is key
Well it is as important is communicating anyway! Assistants that support more than one boss have to be supper organised. They have to be able to plan meticulously and they can’t really leave much to chance. Using task lists and keeping note of deadlines really is crucial as is your business knowledge. If you get to know the business you will be much more aware of what to prioritise and what is important. You may also have to organise your bosses so that they can plan in advance what they need you to do for them. This can be tricky but worthwhile if you have multiple bosses and one of them is totally unorganised and asks you to do things without warning and with a short deadline.
Remember that all of you should share the same goals
If you have been asked to complete an urgent piece of work for someone and you know for a fact it is urgent and will benefit the company (for example completing a presentation for a client pitch) then you can say this is a priority for the company not just that one particular Director. If you are being asked by another Director to complete an urgent piece of work then remind them that you all share the same goals and client pitches come first! If you have two bosses demanding all of your time it may be best to let them sort it out between the two of them, they should have the same goals but as we all know this isn’t necessarily the case in business!
If your multiple bosses are all trying to get all of your time then you must offer a solution to the problem because you are in the best position to tell them what your workload consists of and how much time you can dedicate to each one. Offer a solution such as you work a certain number of hours for each one or you dedicate all of your time on one particular day to Director X and another day to Director Y. If you have a consistently heavy workload then you may have to push back on some of the work or at least ask for extensions on some of the not necessarily urgent deadlines. This can be hard, especially if you lack experience, but it is worth asking, and if they say no then you know which bosses will work with you and be flexible and which ones you will have to work around.
It can be quite rewarding
Believe it or not working for multiple Directors can be quite rewarding and this is something you have to remind yourself so that you don’t go multiple boss mad! Your day can be very different, you can get involved in lots of different projects, you’re never be bored, you avoid working for one Director that you dislike, you get to work for multiple personalities and learn to understand different working styles, you get to know more people in your company and I think you are respected for the ability to work for more than one boss. So on the whole it can be great for you and your career! … Honest…