Isn’t it ugly when the assistant acts like the boss, and when the boss acts like an assistant? Maybe you haven’t thought about it but it may time to do so. Let’s take a look at what this looks like; it can give us some useful ideas to help us out.
When a boss looks only like an assistant, it pressures the people to be the boss. How can they be the boss when they lack the authority? They can’t. The pressure naturally plays out, and the person burns out.
When the Boss Isn’t Specific
Cindy was an assistant whose boss told her, “Take on the challenges; it’s all right.” With this vague instruction in mind, she set off to do her best. Sometimes, she did well but other times her boss would chew her out for something she had done. Cindy did not remember the times when she had done well. She remembered the times she had been chewed out. It wasn’t long before she was taking on the challenges to “not get chewed out.” This paralyzed Cindy, and being paralyzed in an environment where things have to get done is not a good plan for success.
Finally, Cindy could not take it anymore and she found another job. Her boss complained of his loss to me because she was a really hard worker and had done some really great work. Too bad, she was gone.
The boss made this mistake and he will probably make it again. He is “always looking for good people” and can’t seem to keep any of the good ones around. This guy will make this mistake over and over again. He would do well to be the boss. He would do well to be specific about what he wants done and to be more clear and open to follow up. He needs to learn how to assist his assistant to be more effective and he can do that by being a bit more attentive to his job as boss, and her job as assistant.
When an assistant looks like the boss, this can be equally disastrous. An assistant should look to how they can help the boss be the best she can be. They have to have some anticipatory skills, and be able to follow instructions, procedures, and protocols. When an assistant looks like the boss, the boss gets frustrated.
Wendi had a legal assistant who had great experience on her resume. She had worked out of state for some pretty good lawyers. Wendi would ask that her assistant do certain things. When they were not done, or done improperly, her assistant would say, “Well, that’s not how we did it down south.” Wendi really wanted things to work out. She worked hard to get her assistant to understand that the laws and procedures of the state they were in were different from those of down south. Work as she may, Wendi finally burned out. Her assistant did not get the message. Wendi had to fire her assistant and find one that would let her be the boss that she was.
When You Have to Balance Both Roles
You may find that you are both a boss and an assistant. If you work for a corporation, you may have to manage a group of people and work with a boss above you. Here, it is very useful to keep in mind which role you are playing. People who lose track of their roles usually can’t keep a job. These people usually say that they don’t like the corporate structure, or that the place where they worked wanted too much and were unreasonable.
Either way, it is in your best interest to figure out your roles, figure out a strategy for fulfilling your roles, and then execute on that strategy.
In the comments below, share your most powerful insight from this post about being the boss.
Brian Vincent has over 30 years of experience as a business law attorney and has worked extensively with business owners to protect and defend their interests. Contact Brian online or at (616) 608-4440 with your questions.