Managing colleagues who bypass you to get to your Executive

I’m sure every Assistant will have, at some point, experienced a colleague who constantly goes to their Executive with every issue, question, and idea before speaking to the Assistant. Am I right? I thought so! Managing colleagues who bypass you to get your Executive is a prevalent challenge many of you constantly face.

It isn’t very pleasant. But more than that, it can undermine your role. Assistants are employed to save their Executive time. If you have colleagues who don’t get that, who think they can judge when it is okay to interrupt and often disrupt your Executive’s schedule that you have spent a lot of your time planning out, they are not taking your work seriously. And that is a problem.

But, it can be managed, and we have a lot of suggestions to share with you today that will help Assistants who do have colleagues that go directly to their Executive without speaking to them first.

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Why does your colleague bypass you?

The first step is to look at the root cause of the problem. Why is your colleague doing it? They know you work there, right? So why do they bypass you? It could be for several reasons, some easier to manage than others. Here are a few examples:

  • They don’t want to bother you
  • They don’t know they have to speak with you first
  • They consider themselves friends with your Executive, and the rules don’t apply to them
  • They don’t know what you do
  • They don’t value your role or input
  • They feel threatened by your relationship with the Executive
  • They are underperforming in their role
  • They want to impress your Executive / They are very ambitious
  • They are more senior than your Executive

As I said, some of these reasons are much easier to manage than others, but the first step is understanding the colleague’s motivation. Why are they acting in this regard? Once you know the issue, you can take the next step and get them to start talking to you first.

Do they know what you do?

Often colleagues who do bypass you are not terrible people. They don’t know what you do and how much value Assistants bring. Most often, they don’t have an Assistant themselves. So a friendly reminder is needed if you have a colleague who clearly doesn’t understand that they should come to you first. It is best to do this in person.

Next time they wander past your desk or pop up in your Executive’s emails, ensure they understand that you manage your Executive’s schedule. It is a difficult job. There are lots of moving parts. Your colleague must check with you before they take up your Executive’s time. As an Assistant, you see the complete picture and understand your Executive’s priorities. Your colleague doesn’t and shouldn’t assume they are a priority.

You want to maintain a working relationship with your colleague, so approaching the conversation openly is worth it. Colleagues who often bypass Assistants don’t trust that the message they need to get to the Executive will be heard unless they deliver it themselves. Ensure they know they can trust you to do your job and that the message will eventually reach your Executive. The trust you build up with your colleagues underpins your authority.

When to make your Executive aware of the issue?

I think it is worth quickly making your Executive aware of the issue. Assistants don’t like to bother their Executive with minor problems like this, but it can escalate and undermine your role. If a colleague also wanders into your Executive’s office unannounced, your Executive might wonder why you didn’t intercept them.

So I suggest you make a small comment in passing at your next 1-2-1 meeting. Let them know you’ve noticed a colleague who is bypassing you, and if for any reason it happens again, can your Executive loop you in or let your colleague know they should come to you first? Again, reiterate you are there to free up your Executive’s time, and colleagues who go over your head challenge that role.

If the matter persists and the colleague is a repeat offender, you may need more support from your Executive. But communicating the problem to them and informing your Executive should make it go away much quicker.

Consistently communicating your role

You must consistently communicate your value and that you are visible. Colleagues who bypass you undermine the value you bring, so you have to call them out on it.

Set expectations with colleagues, including your Executive. Their behaviour is counter-productive, and they are not operating as a team player.

Assistants pride themselves in being proactive, organised and knowledgeable professionals. We have been trained to handle common occurrences with ease and finesse. But if you have ever encountered colleagues who bypass you to reach your Executive directly, it can be frustrating and stressful. The challenge of managing this situation is real and must not go unrecognised. The Advanced Assistant Online Course helps tackle this problem and more – with proven strategies for successfully navigating any sort of tricky work circumstances and strengthening the relationship between you and your Executive. Beyond that, the course’s refresher tips will help hone your skills as an efficient Administrative Professional even further. Now more than ever, it is essential to invest in yourself – take charge today and learn what it takes to become a successful Advanced Assistant.