Over the years, I’ve had some 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 complex because I juggled multiple tasks, dealt with various personalities (sometimes within the same person), and worked too many different deadlines.
On top of that, I had to make my many bosses feel like they were the most critical part of my role, and I would always prioritise their needs first.
I believe this is and will become the norm for assistants, so we must adapt and learn how to juggle all of our boss’s demands without dropping any of the essential 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 various people. Be clear that you can’t do everything for everyone all the time and that you must prioritise your work in the best way you see fit. Unfortunately, if you work for one Director that is senior to the rest, their needs will probably come first. If you clarify this from the outset, most of your colleagues will understand (especially if they report to that Director!)
You will also need to communicate regularly with each boss. The communication should be two-way.
They should tell you what they require of you, what they have coming up and any big projects that might take up a lot of your time. But, of course, you should also tell them the same things – what you have coming up, any work taking up a lot of your time and what you require of them!
Planning is key
Well, it is as important as communicating anyway! Assistants that support more than one boss have to be super organised. They have to be able to plan meticulously, and they can’t leave much to chance. Using task lists and keeping note of deadlines 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 essential.
You may also have to organise your bosses to plan what they need you to do. This can be tricky but worthwhile if you have multiple bosses and one of them is unorganised and asks you to do things without warning and with a short deadline.
Remember that all of you should share the same goals.
Suppose you have been asked to complete an urgent piece of work for someone and know it is critical and will benefit the company (for example, finishing a presentation for a client pitch). In that case, you can say this is a priority for the company, not just that one particular Director.
If another director asks you to complete an urgent workpiece, 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 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 trying to get all your time, 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 devote 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 incredibly rewarding.
Believe it or not, working for multiple Directors can be satisfying, and you have to remind yourself of this so that you don’t get numerous bosses mad!
Your day can be very different. You can get involved in lots of various projects. As a result, you’re never bored. You avoid working for one Director that you dislike. You get to work with multiple personalities and learn to understand different working styles. You also get to know more people in your company, and I think you are respected for your ability to work for more than one boss.
So, on the whole, it can be great for you and your career! Honest!