Sometimes workplace friction is unavoidable, nobody works harmoniously with everyone all the time. However, when the tension builds between you and your executive, it’s normally up to you to make the peace and preserve a pleasant working relationship. Looking to maximise your happiness and stability in a long term career, PA Life editor Molly Dyson sat down with a panel of Executive Assistants at the office* show to discuss how to strengthen your relationship with your boss and work more effectively.
When taking a job with such high expectations, tensions are expected, according to the panel, who believe that dealing with a CEO or senior figurehead can be a particularly tough role as a boss can be more abrasive than other workers. One particular issue comes from dealing with a boss surrounded by ‘yes men,’ who never openly disagree with their senior.
“When things do get out of hand, it is quite a difficult position,” said Amy Marsden, EA to the CEO of WorldRemit. “Parameters change, deadlines change, and you could be dealing with someone who is never confronted.”
A major concern for one EA was how to deal with a boss who is rarely in the office, or not ‘working to a timezone’. Constant international travel can make working with a CEO tougher, as they aren’t around to see how much an EA consistently delivers, and can be demanding at unsociable hours. Highlighting to the audience that the keyword is ‘working’ relationship, boundaries must be set, but you sometimes have to go the extra mile to be noticed.
“You’re essentially micromanaging your boss’ expectations,” said EA to CEO of American Express Global Business Travel, Abigail Jones. “You need to be proactive. Any email that says ‘good job’, keep them in a ‘praise folder.’”
All at the discussion emphasised the importance of communication, especially in a job so directly linked to a boss’ life as an Executive or Personal Assistant. And while you have to make personal boundaries to establish your working hours and make a firm stance when you’re off the clock, that doesn’t mean you should be closed off from your employer.
“Get to know that person inside-out,” said Christine Hampson, EA to CEO of the British Security Industry Association. “The relationship you start off with is the one you want to continue, so mutual respect is paramount.”
The personal happiness and wellbeing of the worker must come before anything else, they all agreed. If there’s a problem, the panel suggested adding it to the timetable, treat it as any other meeting and lay out the problems you have.
“The role we play is so critical that you can’t carry it out if you aren’t happy,” continued Amy Marsden, reminding the audience that if there are problems you can’t address directly or aren’t comfortable bringing up, “you do have a HR department.”