The Boss/Assistant Relationship

By | Feb 20, 2008

No, no, no…not that kind of relationship! Goodness gracious, get your mind out of the gutter!

I’m talking about the relationship that exists between a boss and his administrative assistant.   At least, the relationship that should exist between a boss and his admin.

One of the questions I am often asked on interviews is my view of being an administrative assistant.  My usual reply is that, as important as skills and credentials are, it is just as important, if not more so, for the administrative assistant to be of the right personality to fit well with the boss.

For example, if you are the kind of administrative assistant that works well independently, is willing to use delegated authority and make decisions, you would be miserable with a boss that wants to have input on every step of every task he gives you.  And the truth is, he would be just as miserable.  He’d feel that he had to watch you every second to keep you from doing things and making decisions you shouldn’t.

By the same token, if you’re the kind of assistant who likes to have close supervision and clear instructions on tasks, you would be terribly unhappy with the kind of boss that tosses a task at you as she walks out the door and expects you to have it done when she returns.

Neither of these bosses are bad bosses, and neither of the assistants are bad assistants.  It’s just that they are bad for each other.  If you’re in a job where your boss grates on your very last nerve, you have two choices.  You can put yourself on the boss’s calendar and sit down to have a heart to heart discussion.  Talk about what drives you crazy and how you two can work together more productively.  If you aren’t too far apart personality wise, this might be effective.  I’ve had bosses that I was actually fairly compatible with personality wise, but who had certain habits that made me have to bite my tongue several times a day.  Approached in the proper manner, you can work these things out if you like the boss and the job.

Your second choice is to dust off the old resume and start job hunting.  I recommend this choice strongly if you wake up every morning dreading having to go to the office, if you have to give yourself a pep talk several times a day just to get the most mundane duties accomplished, or if your dreams at night consist of roasting your boss over an open flame.  Well…maybe not that one…I’ve had that about some bosses I’ve actually liked.  But if you find yourself dreaming about work and waking up stressed from your dreams?  Yeah…time to get the resume out and give it a good overhaul.  The resume overhaul, though, is a topic for a future post.

The point to take away from this post is that life is too short to work at something that makes you miserable.  If you love the work but absolutely hate the boss, you’ll be doing both of you a favor by moving on to something new.  Because if you’re miserable working with him, odds are he’s just as miserable, but it’s harder for him to do something about it if you’re a good administrative assistant.

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2 Comments so far
  1. lisy (1 comments) August 12, 2009 5:28 am

    Thank you so much for this site, it has been helpful in so many way I can’t even begin to tell you. Finally someone thought to put something useful beside the clerical duties of an assistant.

    Thank you once again, I look forward to future reading and great findings.

  2. Jodith (189 comments) August 26, 2009 9:11 am

    Thanks, Lisy. I’m glad you’re finding the blog helpful. I’ve got a bunch of great new topics in the wings, so please keep reading.

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