It really is WHO you know…

We’ve all had new bosses. I sorta found myself in this boat recently, so I wanted to share something that is not necessarily HR advice, but rather general, make-your-life-easier advice: Get to know the boss’ Administrative Assistant. I mean REALLY get to know them: find out what their quirks are and avoid them. Seek out their advice, especially in matters regarding the boss, and treat them as well as you treat the boss. Maybe better. I am not kidding here – they can literally make or break your relationship with the boss man/boss lady. And while I don’t think anyone would argue with me on this, I am surprised at how many people actually don’t do this.

I once worked for a woman who was hard to read. Actually that is putting it mildly – she was impossible to read, and I make a living reading people. This was problematic for me because I would often have to go to her with news that was not always great and just like anything else, delivery is important. But also, just like anything else, if someone is having a particularly rough day, you may need to sugar-coat your approach a little more than on other days. At any rate, with this particular boss it was hard to know when, or how much, I needed to shift my approach. Now, enter her amazing Admin. Early in, I sat down with her and point blank asked “how do you know if she is having a bad day.” The Admin smiled and said “her hair. It’ll be flat.” Unfortunately I didn’t have time to get more specifics, so I thanked her and started observing and sure enough – if it was a flat hair day, I did well to alter my approach. Now why her hair was flat is beyond me and honestly it isn’t relevant. What is relevant is that by simply talking with the Admin, my job got a whole lot easier.

Another example involves a company I did a little consulting work for, but eventually joined full time. In this particular instance, the President was… volatile is the only way to describe him. One minute I could get anything I needed, the next I was challenged over the most minute detail. So one day I approached his longtime Admin and asked for advice, and she told me to never schedule a meeting with him in the morning. She said that his morning routine was to first review all his production reports from the day before and make sense of them, and any interruptions were never welcomed. Then he liked to talk with his production leaders to talk about the day before and see how they were doing for the day. By the time he wrapped that up he would start getting hungry, and he would very shortly go from hungry got “hangry,” and would stay like that until he ate at noon. She told me that she actually liked to take lunch early because he was too difficult to deal with in the hour before he would go to eat. I took her advice and anytime I needed something from him I went to see him in the afternoons, and found a much more receptive (and less hangry) ear.

So while everyone tries to get to know our bosses, their habits, their ticks, and what they like and what they don’t like; you can use the shortcut they are so overlooking, which is the person who knows the boss better than anyone else: the boss’s Admin.

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