2 October 2007

The Challenges of Working for More Than One Person

I had always worked one on one, but in my new job I work for two very busy lawyers and I have had to make adjustments in my working style because of the many challenges of working for more than one boss.

Here are some things I have learnt as I have transitioned into this new role.

When I am given work by either of my bosses I have gotten into the habit of asking them when they need their task completed, then I can prioritize my workload and organize my day better. Sometimes I find it is a learning experience for your bosses as well and it is nice if you can take the lead in making things run smoothly. Now when I ask them when they need it by, unless it is extremely urgent, they usually ask me what is on my plate and then they make their decision based on that.

I organize my desk in such a way so that I can accomodate both their needs. I have incoming mail trays for each of them and separate filing bellows, but otherwise I use my other trays for both of them. (See my earlier article on Getting Organized and staying that way for hints on how to organize your desk).

All incoming work I put in order of priority and go through the pile as quickly as I can.

I maintain both of their calendars and print out a copy of each of their schedules for the day so I have something in front of me to refer to. I try to keep up to date on what their week is going to be like so I can be aware of what may be coming up that they will need assistance on.

I also open and read their incoming mail and mark down any due dates and mark it in their calendars and in my Outlook Tasks, with reminders set, which helps me to plan and prioritize.

I have on rare occasions had to ask them to decide which job gets done first as I just did not have time to meet both their deadlines. I find if they are aware of my workload they will try to work with me on priorities.

Fortunately the assistants in my office work as a team and sometimes it is a simple matter of asking one of them to pitch in and help and between us we can meet the deadlines.

I actually now enjoy working for two people as it gives me variety in my day and I am learning to work with two people with different working styles. As long as you keep yourself and your desk organized it is not an impossible task.

Now what if in my next job I work for 3 or 4 people...well, that will be a subject for a future article, but for now I am handling two.

Here is a related article1 Juggle your work for multiple bosses.

I found this article2 on the IAAP Website in their archived articles which I thought was good.

1 Martin, Anya, Juggle Your Work for Multiple Bosses, http://admin.monster.co.uk/7441_en_p1.asp, (accessed October 2, 2007)
McCune, Jenny, Multiple Directions, OfficePro, August/September 2006, http://www.iaap-hq.org/officepro/OParchive/AS_06_CvrStory.pdf, (accessed October 2, 2007)


Anonymous said...

Hi Patricia,

I actually work for roughly 30 staff, which includes 6 managers. It can get a bit scary sometimes, since I get requests either all at once or none at all.

Thanks for the tips in this post, will definitely fine tune some of the ways I go about my tasks.



Patricia Robb said...

Hey Richard,

Maybe you need to write an article on this topic. I would be interested to read how things work out for you working for six managers.

Leah Mullen said...

Hi Patricia,

About 14 years ago I had a job where I was assisting three managers. I have no idea how I managed, I just know that I was terrified the entire time. Then recently after a hiatus of not working as an assistant for many, many years, I got a job assisting five managers and it wasn’t that bad at all.

I had read your book so I knew to ask each manager when they needed their work completed by. If they were vague, I established a deadline myself and stuck to it.

Also what helped is that the office manager asked the assistants to email her a list of all the work we’d accomplished each day. I began to use this email as a planning tool/status report by listing assignments according to each manager. Also I’d color code what I’d done that day (black) what I’d done the previous day (blue) and what still needed to be done (red).

At the end of the day, I’d print out a copy of this status report and leave it on my desk so I could look at it first thing in the morning.