10 October 2008

Working for the Disorganized...

I was recently reminded by a reader of what it can be like to work for someone who is completely disorganized. That definitely can be a challenge.

In all my career I have only worked for one person who fit this description. A wonderful person, but totally disorganized and always waiting for the last minute for everything.

How can the assistant cope? The argument could be said that the role of the assistant is to assist and keep your boss organized so we shouldn't complain when we have to do it. For the most part I agree with that but when it comes to working for multiple bosses this can sometimes be a daunting task when one or more is very disorganized. I have found the best way to cope is to keep yourself organized. Keeping yourself organized will give your boss assurance that everything is under control and they will feel more secure that you are handling things for them. You will also feel more in control of the situation and less stressed.

  • A disorganized boss will oftentimes leave more things in the assistant's hands to get done on their behalf because they see that you are good at it and can handle it, which makes for a more interesting job. Although you have to be careful they don't pile everything on you.
  • Disorganized bosses are also very appreciative of the way we can make order out of chaos so there is a lot of job satisfaction when you are appreciated and needed.

In my reader's example, the problem was the trials of working for multiple bosses when one or more of them is disorganized. In today's working world it is probably the norm that we are going to work for more than one person, the question is how to balance it? When I worked for multiple bosses, while the one was a proscrastinator and disorganized, the other one was excellent to work for and could fend for himself. The unfortunate part of this was that the person who was organized tended to get less assistance because the most time was spent on the disorganized person.

If you get along well with your bosses then that makes it more bearable and you are also more able to discuss the problems with them. Sometimes bringing the situation to their attention may help. It probably won't help the disorganized get organized, but they will at least have an understanding of what you are coping with and hopefully keep that in mind when they are giving you work.

Here are some things I would suggest to help:

  • Have regular meetings with your boss. If that is not happening, schedule yourself in their calendar. If you do arrange to meet with them, be prepared with questions and information so they will see the benefit.
  • Read all incoming correspondence and if you have access to their Inbox, read their e-mail as well. You want to keep up to date on their working life and all they have to do.
  • Keep up to date on their calendar and look ahead to see what is coming up and what your boss might need to prepare for that. A good bring-forward system is a must for this as you will want to bring forward items they will need for meetings and conference calls.
  • Put reminders in their Tasks or Calendar of anything you know is coming up with enough lead time so they will have time to complete it. Remind them verbally as well when you meet with them.
  • Keep an organized filing system and file list. You will be the one they go to if they want something.
  • If your boss tends to misplace things when they get it, make an extra copy for your file before giving it to them.
  • Your co-workers may be able to lend a hand when things get too overwhelming. Return the favour if you can.

To my reader I say, we sometimes put a lot of burdens on ourselves to perform perfectly. Sometimes we just have to accept that we can only do so much in a day and leave it at that. If you are a hard worker, that will be noticed and appreciated. So keep yourself organized and do the best you can do and that is all anyone can expect from you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Patricia,

I usually am in this same predicament. I work for 6 different managers as well a staff of another 25 or so. It can be difficult to juggle all of these requests, but at times, when I have to get something done, I send out a friendly and gentle e-mail stating that if there are any urgent requests, to let me know and I will deal with it right away, otherwise, I will get back to them as soon as possible.

Another thing that I've found is that my boss has a lot on her plate. She asks me to do certain tasks for her and I usually don't respond stating that it's been completed. Granted, this took time, but eventually, she learned to trust me and realized that once she sends a request to me, she considers it done as soon as she hits the send button in her Outlook.


Richard Rinyai