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New Assistants / Guide for Assistants who are new to the role / Building a brilliant relationship with your Executive

Chapter Four

Building a brilliant relationship with your Executive

It is so essential to build a fantastic working relationship partnership between an Assistant and their Executive. We share the steps to take to get started building your collaboration.

If you have zero interest in what your Executive does, then you are never going to thrive in the Assistant role. You have to care about them and the business.

Sure, this is easier said than done.

If you work in an industry that isn’t the most glamorous or an area you are not that excited about then, of course, you are not going to be overwhelmed with joy every time you open a briefing document. But, saying that, to thrive in the role of an Assistant you do have to be interested and knowledgeable about the industry and you have to care about your Executive and what they want to achieve in their role.

Without this, you will just be surviving in the role and not showing up as your best self.

To get you started in building that relationship, we are going to cover:

Working with a new Executive

Working Remotely – How to Keep Balance and Productivity

Congratulations you got the job, you’ve worked your notice, you have bought a few outfits, and now you are sitting at your desk ready to face the challenges of a new role.

Hopefully, you would have been interviewed by your new manager so you will have gained some understanding of what they are like and what they require from you.

Nevertheless, it can be a daunting prospect working with a total stranger, especially as an Assistant because we do need to build strong and close working relationships with our Executives.

Here are some of my tips on how to make sure you create a good rapport when you start working with a new manager and get you off on the right foot.

The first meeting

Point number one, make sure you have the first meeting with your new manager! During the meeting, make sure you cover what is expected of you and how you will work together, also discuss the following points:

What are your manager’s priorities for the week, month, year? What are they focussing on, and what are their objectives? Asking these questions will enable you to quickly pick up on prioritising their emails, travel plans and meetings.

What are their frustrations, and how can you help to relieve them?

This shows that you are supportive and will be an excellent resource for them to rely on. Also, senior members of staff do not often get a chance to talk about what irritates them at work, by asking them this question it shows that they can turn to you for advice.

How does your manager prefer to communicate?

Is it by email, regular meetings or popping into the office as and when things crop up? Finding out how they like to receive information will help you build a good rapport with them straight away.

How do they organise their calendar, and how do they like to have their meetings set out? It is fundamental for an Assistant to coordinate their manager’s diary effectively and it should be the primary service provided, asking this question will mean you get it right early on.

For more tips on how to organise your one to one, check out things to stop doing in your one to one.

The right-hand person

During the first few days in your new role schedule meetings with your manager’s trusted advisors.

Ask them about your new manager and how they like to work; this will help you gain a better understanding of your manager from another perspective.

Also, any member of the management team might be your boss one day, so it is good to get them on your side straight away.

New Executive / new you.

Comparing your new boss with your old one naturally will happen, especially if you had a good relationship with your previous manager, but try not to mention this to the new one, it will annoy them.

Instead, talk about best practice and systems you used in your old company that might help in your new role. Try to be positive and start afresh with your new manager.

Quick Wins

Think about quick wins that you can achieve efficiently, and that will impress your boss, be it clearing their long-overdue filing or using your contacts to get them an upgrade on a flight.

Proactively look for ways to help them be more organised and make sure you use your Assistant strengths to get things moving.

However, a word of warning, be sensitive!

You are in a new environment, but your colleagues have been working there for a while and might think the current systems are just fine. In the first few months be subtle, remember to consult the individuals concerned before you make any radical changes.

Socialise

After a few weeks organise for you and your new Executive to go out for lunch.

This will allow you to meet in a relaxed atmosphere and get to know each other a bit better. Having even a basic knowledge of your manager’s home life is beneficial in building a good rapport with them.

I hope you found these tips beneficial.

After a few weeks, you will have settled into your job and will be on your way to establishing a good relationship with your manager.

20 questions to ask a new Executive

Are you working for a new Executive and want to make sure you quickly build rapport and get the relationship off to a great start?

This is the template for you! We have 20 great questions you can ask your Executive, which will help learn more about them and provide excellent support.

Download now

Working with an Executive who has never had an Assistant before

Working for a new Executive who has never had an Assistant before can be a tricky situation to find yourself. You may have been an assistant for years and know the role inside out, but your new Executive doesn’t have a clue what you do and how to work with you.

In this instance, Assistants do have to take the lead.

It can be time-consuming and frustrating, particularly if you are also working with several other Executive’s or if you have been given this new Executive without much notice.

But it is worthwhile.

You do have to work together, and you will have to prove to them what you can do. You may also have to push back if they don’t have a very good perception of assistants and treat you like the office dog’s body.

Here are my top twelve tips for Assistants who are working with a boss who has never had an Assistant before.

Delegation: Your new Executive will need to learn to delegate work to you, which will be new to them. A great way to start is by showing them what you do for your other Executives or what you have done in the past. Make a list (or use your job spec if it is updated and relevant) of everything that you are capable of doing. They may not need you to do everything, but at least they will understand how much you can help them.

Get the basics up and running straight away: Tell them you will need access to their inbox and calendar. This is non-negotiable from your point of view. You can not effectively assist them without being able to manage their schedule and review their emails.

Set boundaries: It is essential that you set boundaries early in your working relationship so that you both know what is expected of you. Clarify the different tasks you will be completing for your Executive and if you are comfortable with them. Although they are new to having an assistant, you are not new to the role so you can have some say over what you do.

1-2-1 meetings: Ideally, you want to see your new Executive a few times a day but ensure you have a 1-2-1 meeting with them at least once a day. Schedule this in their diary straight away. The sooner they get used to how closely you will work together, the better. Write the first agenda for this meeting and make sure the first point of conversation is on the structure of your 1-2-1 meetings.

Priorities and objectives: You will need to quickly understand what your Executive’s priorities are for the coming months and their objectives for the year. Your Executive will also need to know your priorities, especially if you are an assistant to more than one Executive. It is also essential that you share your career development plans with your new Executive so that they know you take your career seriously.

Over the first few weeks take the time to work out your new Executive’s ‘work style’.

How do they work, how do they communicate and what does their routine look like. This will help you be proactive in your new role.

An Executive should be able to trust their Assistant, but this is easier said than done.

It certainly makes the role much more manageable.

So do, from the outset, be enthusiastic, open and honest with your new Executive. The sooner they realise they can trust you with confidential matters and complex tasks, the easier it is to work together.

Get to know them: Do try to find common ground and show friendliness and respect towards your Executive. You don’t have to be friends, but it can be easier to establish a comfortable working relationship when you add a personal touch.

If they are receptive go out for lunch every so often and take your catch up meetings outside to a coffee shop at least once a week. This will allow you to meet in a relaxed atmosphere and get to know each other a bit better. Having even a basic knowledge of your manager’s home life is beneficial in building a good rapport with them.

Learn how your Executive prefers to communicate.

Some Execs like to have frequent face-to-face meetings, while others prefer e-mail or phone check-ins. Your manager might like to get regular updates on a project, or he might want to be informed only if there is a problem. Pay attention to your Exec’s communication style and ask what communications method they prefer if you are unsure.

This way, when you do need to talk about something important, you will be heard.

Keep your Executive in the loop: Continual dialogue provides the opportunity to gauge progress, make sure you are on the right track and adjust your actions accordingly. If needed, you can ask for an additional resource or change any deadlines. By keeping your Executive in the loop, you will ensure they are aware of your progress, good or bad.

With long term tasks, such as diary or email management, define exactly how they want you to manage their correspondence and calendar. Again have this conversation immediately – how else do you know if you are meeting their expectations?

Do be patient with your new Executive: We all have to learn new ways of working on taking on a new assistant can be daunting especially if your Executive is new to the role and has loads of other aspects of their job that they need to learn. They may be overwhelmed, and this is where you can help.

How to make your Executive happy!

This is a pretty fundamental question for Assistants, isn’t it? How do you make your Executive happy?

Some of them can be quite grumpy, can’t they!

Aside from a lobotomy, there are a few other options that will ensure your Executive is happy with your performance, and I thought I would share a few with you today.

Under-promise and over-deliver

I recently chaired a panel session at the PA show, and this was one of the answers given by the panellists. It is so true when it comes to working with an Executive a sure-fire way of keeping them happy is to under-promise and over-deliver.

Assistants should first and foremost deliver what they have promised, whether that is meeting a deadline or making a reservation at an exclusive restaurant, and then think about any additional work they can do that goes above and beyond their Executive’s expectations.

Assistants can’t over-deliver on every single task (that would be crazy) but once in a while, making an effort will keep that smile on even the hardest to please Executive’s face.

Return every call, reply to every email

This kind of goes without saying, but when you are slammed with work, it can be difficult replying to every message, particularly if you get a gazillion messages from your Executive per day.

To keep your Executive happy you must, must, must reply to everything. Even if it is a simple email that says you’ve received the message and you are working on it. I know this is time-consuming, but keeping your Executive in the loop means they don’t have to chase you for a reply and they know that you are dealing with everything.

It might be worth keeping a few standard replies in your draft folder if you get the same sort of email requests from your Executive.

Understand when something is urgent

It can take time to develop a good understanding of how your Executive goes about their day, their moods and their work style.

Assistants must understand all of this, though. It is the only way to create a genuinely great partnership with an Executive. Watch your Executive closely. I wouldn’t suggest stalking, but do get to a point where you know when they are at their most productive, when they need to be left alone and when you should schedule meetings for them.

To keep them happy, you will also need to know everything about their day and what they have coming up that week, month, year. If they are having an incredibly stressful time, make sure you are around and there to help at any point.

If they have given you a task during these periods, make sure it is completed quickly and with the minimum amount of input from them. If you know, they might require your help – be there.

Come with solutions

To make your Executive happy, you mustn’t cause them any unnecessary hassle.

As their Executive, you must be the port in the storm. This can be an absolute pain in the arse, especially when you are annoyed and just want to vent to your boss.

But! As an Assistant, you can’t be that kind of employee. If you have any issues or problems that you would like your Executive to resolve, you must think of a solution to the problem and take that solution to your Executive.

Never be that employee that gives your Executive more problems than answers. They don’t like those employees!

Managing expectations

What exactly is expected of you?

To manage your manager’s expectations, you first have to know precisely what is expected of you.

The very first step is that you have a job description that covers all of the skills and tasks that your boss requires of you, this, unfortunately, is very very rare! Job descriptions for assistants are sketchy at best and often have a phrase such as ‘and anything else that might be needed’ or ‘and ad hoc duties’.

If you have a detailed job spec, this will work in your favour. If not, it is worth asking your manager if you can flesh out a few more specific tasks. Do this tomorrow, don’t wait for your next performance review.

Communication will always be key!

As I’ve always said communicating with your manager is key to EVERYTHING!

It is especially important when it comes to managing expectations. You must have regular and face to face contact with your manager. If you do not, it really will jeopardise your working relationship because how will you know what your boss is thinking and what is expected of you?

A continual dialogue is so meaningful.

Don’t make the mistake that you and your manager are on the same page! It’s hard enough being on the same page with your friends and family, let alone your work colleagues!

The only way you can ensure you understand what your boss wants from you is to continuously communicate with them and have an open and honest dialogue. It is in your best interest to understand their priorities and align your goals with theirs.

What are the specifics?

So your manager has given you a project, you will need to know the specifics so that you can deliver what is expected. Make sure you ask them the following:

  • What are the objectives of this project?
  • Is it an ongoing project, or is there a deadline for success?
  • If you have a deadline, is it realistic?
  • What are you being judged on here?

Don’t let your manager get away with vague instructions.

This is so important because it is so easy for them to do. You are there to support them so they may spend less time explaining what they need from you than they would do with your colleagues.

Always define the specifics back to your manager (either with a follow-up email or during the initial project conversation).

With long term tasks, such as scheduling or email management, do the same thing, define exactly how they want you to manage their correspondence and calendar.

Again have this conversation immediately if you haven’t already – how else do you know if you are meeting their expectations? If you have been working with your manager for a while, it is always worth having a review meeting to suggest new ways of working and any best practice you have picked up from colleagues or previous roles you’ve been in.

Suggest this to your manager and work in ways to ask precisely what their expectations are!

Evaluate and Re-evaluate!

During your working day, it is always worthwhile keeping your manager in the loop. Let them know if you have hit any obstacles, what you are doing to overcome them and any progress you have made. Adjust what is required of you depending on the feedback you receive from your manager.

Don’t always seek approval but do evaluate their expectations based on the everyday conversations that you have.

Invest in your relationship

Again this is something I’ve mentioned in previous posts. It is the case that the better your relationship, the easier it is to manage your boss’s expectations.

Invest time in getting to know each other, go out for the occasional coffee and do ask about their life outside of work. Also, appreciate their sense of humour and laugh at the occasional joke (even if you have to force yourself!)

Are the expectations realistic?

This is when having a good relationship with your manager comes into its own because it can be hard to speak up when expectations of you are unrealistic. You must stand up for yourself. It might feel uncomfortable, to begin with, but it will ultimately help.

You don’t want to fail in meeting their expectations because you haven’t been honest with them. If you do have concerns that you won’t be able to meet deadlines, plan an alternative approach and discuss that with your manager. Don’t bury your head in the sand and hope to get through everything.

Also, think about the best time to raise your concerns. Having an awareness of their moods through the day will help you pick a good point to discuss any issues with them.

Have a contingency plan

I know this can be difficult with all of the work that most of us have to get through in a day, but I do think it is worthwhile having a little contingency time in place every day so that you can manage any urgent requests that come from your boss.

If you can drop everything and help them immediately, you will exceed their expectations. If that contingency time isn’t used, then you have some extra time to play with each day, yay!

Be proactive

Proactivity will always be a central skill for assistants, and again it is imperative when you want to exceed expectations. Do be self-motivated and go the extra mile for your manager.

Be helpful and easy to work with.

One little tip is always to ask your manager if there is anything more you can do for them before you go home at the end of a working day.

It is an excellent way of showing that you are thinking of them when you are thinking about going home. If there is anything they need you to do at least they have delegated it and you can deal with the request first thing in the morning. Do think to yourself ‘what can I do today that will make my boss’s job easier’.

You want your boss to have high expectations!

There is nothing worse than having a manager that doesn’t expect much from their assistant. Trust me; it is like an uphill battle trying to convince them you can do more. Having a boss that expects great things from you means that you can perform to a higher level and you can excel in the role.

How to exceed expectations as an Executive Assistant

What does your Executive REALLY expect from you?

Knowing this will allow you to EXCEED those expectations.

Most executive assistants and personal assistants will have a good understanding of the technicalities of the role but may struggle to understand what their Executive expects from them.

It is undoubtedly never nice to hear your boss say phrases such as ‘back to the drawing board’ or ‘this is good but not quite what I wanted’.

This is such an essential subject for executive assistants and personal assistants because we must have a significant relationship with our manager, understanding and meeting their expectations is vital for us to succeed in the role.

In this video, Nicky will talk through 5 different methods that will help you manage and exceed your Executive’s expectations. They include:

  • What EXACTLY is expected of you?
  • Communication, communication, communication
  • Getting into the specifics of any request
  • Evaluate and invest in your relationships 5. Contingency planning
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Staying in the loop with your Executive

The say goes that information is King.

For Assistants, information is everything! Keeping up to date with all the goings-on within your organisation is incredibly crucial for several reasons.

Firstly, it means that you can update your Executive on the high-level stuff, which means they don’t have to attend every meeting or read every bulletin. You will know about any emerging issues and can plan accordingly, and lastly, you will be fully aware of all of that ‘big picture’ stuff which means you can work proactively within your role. A skill that is super important for assistants to master. How do you stay in the loop when there is so much going on?

How do you work out what is essential information, and what is just office gossip? Here are some handy tips:

Networking is key to staying in the loop. Keep in regular contact with the other people in your department, assistants throughout your organisation and any other key members of staff. Maintaining your internal network will help you understand the business and what happens daily.

Make the most of Google Alerts by setting one up with your organisation’s name. Any time your business is in the news, you will be able to read what is happening and what has been said by others.

Ask lots of questions. This is an obvious but underused skill. Sometimes if you just ask how someone I or what they are working on, you will get a whole load of information. This is something you should do daily with your Executive, but the same applies to other members of staff.

Keep in touch with colleagues that have left the business. It is amazing what you find out about a company you have just left!

Attend events and functions organised by your business. It is an excellent way to get to know your colleagues on a less formal basis, and it gives you an excuse to have a glass of wine… Or two.

Read all of the newsletters, bulletins and company emails that pass by your desk. You may be surprised, but most folks don’t read all of the updates released by their internal Comms department… Seriously!

Most career development people would say that if you have received information that you should share this with others so that you build reciprocal relationships.

This is not the case for Assistants – we have to be a little more cautious because maintaining the confidence of others is crucial. It is okay to share widely known information about the organisation but best not to tell people anything that a board-level Director may have mentioned.

What is going on with your Exec?

The key to success in this role is an excellent relationship between the assistant and their boss. That kind of goes without saying, right? Yes, it kind of does… but actually, it can be pretty tricky maintaining any good relationship when a gazillion other things are going on.

The day to day stuff takes over, and it can be easy to neglect each other. There are lots of different things you can do to ensure you have a good working relationship with your boss. However, I am going to concentrate on a straightforward question that you should ask yourself every day – what is going on with my Exec?

So what exactly is going on with your Exec?

Well, they are probably busy, slightly stressed, in and out of meetings all day and didn’t have anything organised for their lunch. You are probably also busy, somewhat worried, scheduling more meetings and eating your lunch at your desk.

The day flies by and before you know you haven’t got a clue where or what your boss is up to. I find it is so helpful when trying to maintain a good relationship just finding five minutes to ask yourself that question – what is going on with them? Once you’ve asked the question you can then look at their schedule – are they on track? Do they have the right paperwork for each meeting? Do they need you to be there, and what can you do to help with any actions that come out of the meeting?

Again you can ask yourself the question and then get up from your chair walk into their office and ask them if they need anything – even if it is lunch or a cup of tea.

Getting into the habit of asking yourself this a few times a day will ensure that you are thinking about the relationship, what more you can be doing for your Executive despite being busy with the day to day stuff.

When you look like you genuinely care about your Executive it makes it easier to gain their trust and confidence which is a whole other area of relationship maintenance for assistance!

Building rapport with a remote Executive

Building rapport with a remote boss is something that many of us are going to have to contemplate in our roles. Many of you are already working with a remote boss, and in the future, it is going to become more common that you will support an Executive who is even on the road constantly or lives and works in a different location.

So how can you build rapport?

To make an Assistant/Executive partnership successful there needs to be rapport. You have to work well together; this is hard to create when you see each other every day but can be impossible when you don’t even live in the same timezone. So how do you build rapport with a remote boss?

I’ve asked some experts who are currently EAs to Executive’s who either travel all the time or live in a different location. Here are their tips:

Building rapport with a remote boss

My boss and I speak throughout the day and we also Instant Message and text. I find texting is excellent, especially when he’s travelling and in different time zones. We have seen each other in person about 6-7 times when I’ve attended meetings with him, but not much more than that! Communication is vital, and when it works, it’s fantastic. However, if there’s a lapse in communication on his part, it makes my job more difficult. I have access to his email, which helps me immensely. There are times he forgets to copy me on essential emails, but I find out what he needs on his email, and I can figure it out from there. Brianne Sirota Kreitman, EA at Juniper Networks

My Executive is based in another country. He works at our office in Switzerland, and I work in our office in The Netherlands. We have daily calls and about every four weeks we have a meeting in person, he travels to The Netherlands, and I travel to Switzerland regularly. We have a Google Sheets doc with all our to-do items, and we both update that list daily, we also add questions or remarks so that we can collaborate effectively. My Executive also travels a lot, to different time zones, which makes it challenging. Ellen Kosters, Manager Corporate Services Team and Executive Assistant to the CEO at Xeltis

I’m in Houston, TX, and my CEO is based in Raleigh, NC but travels extensively. We rely on email, phone, and text to stay in touch. I am also available after hours as much as I can be. Kelly Neely Olsakovsky, Executive Assistant at Pharm-Olam International

Have some sort of ‘getting a signature’ protocol in place. I use Diligent Boardbooks for most of the Executive signatures on things and DocuSign for others. Joley Oxenreider Hidaka, Executive Assistant at LTC Properties, Inc.

My boss travels about 90% of the time – we talk on the phone regularly (sometimes during the day more than once). We WhatsApp all the time; we also have WhatsApp groups for certain events too. We have a diarised call every other week for non-urgent or activities that need more than a five-minute call or too long for WhatsApp. I travel with him sometimes – that helps build rapport. I also have a fantastic team of EAs across our EMEA region who can get him to sign documents for me if needed – so building a good rapport with the wider Administrative team for me is critical. The time difference isn’t an issue for us; if he works in the USA, then I do tend to start and finish later if he is going East then I get up earlier, if it’s European time then I tend to be around anyway. My smartphone is vital to help us keep in contact with each other – I will say that’s he’s very mindful of not interrupting my evenings or weekends unless necessary. Charlotte Logsdon, Senior Executive Assistant to the President EMEA for Dell EMC

I work remotely 85% of the time, and my Executive travels nationally and internationally as well. We typically text, and I screenshot requests I need to work on later and email them to myself or add them to Asana. We usually meet once a week face to face or via FaceTime. If something is urgent, I am available, and if he is out of the country, I try to be available 24/7. Otherwise, he’ll send me something, and I’ll complete it during my regular work hours. Erin M. Wagner

The Executive I work with travels every week. I’ll see him whenever he has a meeting in my location. We talk every morning and touch base most afternoons. We share to-do lists via Wunderlist (brilliant multi-platform software & we use the free version – I downloaded it to his laptop, iPad, phone etc.) We have monthly 1:1 Skype for business calls, where we talk about performance & any niggles either of us have. We have a coding system in place for his emails (Action / Read / Reports etc.), and lastly, we also use our Gateway SharePoint site and Diligent to share documents (or, I will save it in his email drafts folder.) Jaisha Bruce, Executive Assistant at The Open University.

Running personal errands for your Executive

So I have a question for you!

Do you run personal errands for your Exec? If there is one thing people know about me it is that I love a good cup of tea, I am English after all! I plan my tea breaks at work so that I get a chance to step away from my desk and, you know, load up on some caffeine while having a small amount of ‘me’ time.

I worked at a few different places before I moved into an assistant role, and I always made my tea or coffee and because of this I never really made drinks for anyone else, call me selfish or fussy, but that was the way it was. When I became an Assistant, I was very much aware that my job was to do, within reason, what my manager asked me to, and this would include personal errands. This was fine, and I quite often would get lunch for my manager when she was busy or in meetings.

I remember once asking her if she wanted a hot drink because she had been in back to back meetings all day she responded that I didn’t have to make her coffee, but she appreciated the gesture. Skip forward a few jobs, and I was working for another manager who would ask me to get drinks for him all the time, if I came back with a drink for myself, he would make a remark about it, and I would have to apologise for not thinking about his hot drink requirements… It was all very ‘Mad Men’!

This may seem like a small insight into my love of tea, but it is a subject that comes up regularly – should you get coffee for your boss? Having discussed the issue with other assistants, it does seem to divide opinion; some of us are happy to it, and others are adamant it is not part of their job. So what are the reasons for the differing attitudes – there must be more to it.

Running errands

Getting a drink for the boss can be the tip of the iceberg for some Assistants. I have colleagues that will spend more time running personal errands for their manager than completing work for the company that actually employees them. I’m not saying this a bad thing because our role is to make our manager’s day easier so that they can concentrate on their job, but where do you draw a line?

Respect?

Does your manager value your skills? If you answer yes to that question, running personal errands and making coffee is probably not going to be an issue as you will know you have your boss’ respect. On the other hand, if you are treated as the office dog’s body, then no wonder you are frustrated.

I think realistically we have to look at this type of task as something that is part of our job. It could be seen as a fundamental part of being an assistant. I am not a big fan of making or getting drinks for other people, but if I can see my manager is rushed off their feet, then I will – along with getting lunch, running to the dry cleaners and any other tasks that make them more productive.

If running personal errands and working on actual tasks are all you are asked to do then refusing to get coffee won’t change your boss’ perception of you or the role of an assistant. If this is the case, it is worth discussing your workload and the quality of the work with your manager. If you can demonstrate your abilities, they may be less likely to ask you to do errands.

Should you lie for your boss?

I think it is fair to say that quite often we do lie for our managers. For example, if they receive a sales call, I will quite often say that they are in a meeting rather than say they have absolutely no interest in anything you are selling and never will do, which is, of course, the truth! All of these activities probably take place three or four times a day, seem to be part of our role, and I would imagine we don’t even think to ourselves that we are lying to someone. Our bosses are not asking us to lie for them, but I don’t think they would discourage it either, and I suppose these little white lies are not harming anyone. But what happens when your boss does ask you to lie for them or do something that you feel uncomfortable with? How should you handle it and when should you most definitely say no?

I think these are tough questions and thankfully I have never been put in a situation where I have had to say no to one of my directors but here are a few tips I’ve learnt over the years that I would call upon if I were asked to lie.

Think before you answer

Depending on how the request is delivered, do not reply straight away, if it is face to face write the request down but do not commit to doing it. Ask yourself, what is it that they are asking you and is it unreasonable? If so, what is making you feel uncomfortable specifically? Having this clear in your mind before speaking to your manager will help you remain clear and to the point. It may also give them time to rethink what they have asked you in the first place.

Prepare what you are going to say.

Now that you have decided you won’t lie for your manager or do what they have asked to prepare your answers. Be honest with them, if you feel uncomfortable then say so and give a reason, the last thing you want to do is lie about why you don’t want to lie! I don’t think your manager will appreciate your honesty, but they will probably respect you for it. I find it helpful to rehearse the conversation in your mind and also out loud (in private!). I also would try to anticipate the questions your manager will ask and think of suitable responses.

Choose the right time and location.

You are about to say no to your boss, they probably are not going to be happy with you so whatever you say make sure it is in private and at a time that is convenient for them. If they are not a morning person, wait until the afternoon. Why make the discussion harder for yourself than needs be!

Give and take

Depending on what they have asked you to lie about you can offer an alternative approach or a compromise but don’t jeopardise your morals if you feel strongly enough about the situation. If there is some sort of middle road that will mean you are still able to do part of what your manager is requesting then at least attempt to do that. Hopefully, they will understand you are trying to help despite your reservations.

Remember if you are being asked to do something that is not in the best interest of yourself, the company or it is illegal then say no straight away. I would also suggest reporting the occurrence to either HR or a senior manager.

Next chapter:

Working with multiple Executives
Chapter Five