3 December 2011

Working with your boss

I work with a boss who is very self sufficient (in other words he could live without me, but chooses not to) and a friend of mine works with someone who wouldn't know what to do without her help.  Which would you prefer?

My job is unique in that I do my own work apart from my boss.  He does his thing and I do mine.  My work is generated by what he does, but I pretty well carry on with my duties on my own.  I do provide other support to him, but he doesn't really need it, but likes it.  The problem is when we are both working on the same thing and I think I am the one doing it, but in the meantime he has done it, i.e. we both contact the same person and he says he is available and I say he is not.  Of course when I check his calendar he really isn't.  Too many cooks in the kitchen is not a good thing.

My friend's boss needs assistance in every little thing.  I prefer having a job that gives me a little more independence and being able to work on my own on projects, but it all depends what you signed up for. That is why when I go on an interview, I interview them as well.  I want to make sure this is a good fit for me.  It is all personal preference and strengths.  It is just not my thing to provide that level of support, but there is nothing wrong with a boss needing it or with you providing it.

I also like that my boss is not a micro manager.  I feel confident I know what my job is and I just go about doing it and respecting the deadlines to get it done.  He would not like it if I missed a deadline as then it would affect him, but he trusts that I know what I'm doing.  Although I do like this kind of working relationship, it makes it harder when you first start a job with a boss like mine because they just expect you to step in and start doing it.  I was not used to that at first so was waiting for him to tell me what needed to be done, but quickly discovered that it was going to be up to me so took on the challenge and found I enjoyed it even more than being told what to do.

I worked with another admin who didn't seem to know how to proceed without having her boss tell her step by step what needed to be done next.  It all depends on your maturity, your confidence in your skills and what your previous work experience was.  I expect that an inexperienced admin will need more guidance and I enjoy working with them as they learn, but my goal is always that they will work towards knowing their job and taking it on as their own.  We will always need some sort of guidance in our job since we are the support staff, but some jobs we can take on ourselves.  For instance, if you are in charge of ordering supplies, I would think that over time you should be able to take that job on and set up a schedule of when to order, have an orderly supply cabinet so people can find things and work with the vendor to get familiar with how to order (whether online, by phone or on paper) and finding deals and best prices, etc.

If you work with a micro manager then you have another challenge, but for your own personal growth I would suggest that you try to take on as many jobs as you can.  Show your boss that you can do it by being one step ahead of them.  When you know the order is due, approach them and ask if you can go ahead and make the order.  They will start to relax and rely on you that you know what you are doing.  Be smart about it though and make sure you really know what you need to do before taking it on. I have worked with people who tried to show initiative, but they weren't quite ready to take it on by themselves and that didn't work out very well.

So what can you do?
  • Be willing to learn and work hard at knowing your job, especially at the beginning.  There is a lot to learn when you first start a job.  Put in the extra time to learn it.  It will be noticed and will pay off in the end.
  • Write down instructions so you will know how to do it the next time and won't have to ask the same questions over and over.
  • Show your boss that you know what needs to be done next without them telling you.  If you have been on the job for awhile and your boss is still not giving you things to do on your own, take a chance and do something you are confident you know how to do and see what happens.  You may be surprised that they were just waiting for you to do it on your own.  Or they may be suprised to see you can do it without them and will be happy they can give you the job instead of them doing it.
I recall working for a lawyer who would dictate letters for me to transcribe. Over time I knew exactly what needed to be in those letters, but day in and day out he would dictate them to me. One day when I received a certain correspondence, I took the chance of drafting the letter and preparing it for his signature. He was pleasantly surprised and from then on let me do it. It gave me greater job satisfaction and relieved him of this task.

Working with someone is the same as every other relationship.  We are getting to know each other and as you get to know the other person you start to learn their preferences, what makes them cranky and what makes them happy.  They are also learning the same things about you.  It is easy to have misunderstandings and assume things if you don't take the time to get to know your boss.


Mystique said...

Thank you for this great post. I've recently discovered your blog and it could not have come at a better time. I will be starting a new job soon as an Admin Assistant and I've been reading up on all of your helpful tips. I look forward to your next posts. :)

Patricia Robb said...

All the best in your new job and glad I could be of help. Always nice to see a fellow Ottawan too :)