What is Your Executive Assistant Really Thinking?

Michele Warg
Posted by

Company leaders often expect executive assistants to know what they're thinking and make their demands a reality. Yet, the wants and needs of assistants are rarely priorities when bosses rattle off long lists of instructions, impose impossible deadlines and make requests far beyond the scope of any support position. Leaders who foster two-way communication and support for executive assistants create a stable backbone that yields benefits for the entire company.

1. The Workload Is Overwhelming

Both ambitious and negligent bosses can develop the habit of piling on work without considering the complexity or time constraints of the task. Executive assistants inevitably absorb the extra responsibilities and sacrifice their own personal lives while executives take vacations and long lunches. Unfortunately, many executive assistants choose to burn out in silence rather than speak up and face the threat of being fired or labeled as poor workers.

Proactive executives eliminate this stigma by requesting status reports and prioritizing duties when assistants juggle too much work. Executives gain realistic perspectives of the time necessary to complete each task, and assistants feel less pressure to manage major problems on their own.

2. The Training Is Inadequate

Companies that support continuing education are an executive assistant's dream, as they provide the tools to stay relevant and indispensable in competitive environments. Yet, such companies remain the minority, and executive assistants struggle to find the time and finances to expand their skills, often devoting their vacation days to training courses.

Beyond the administrative and soft skills required for every position, executive assistants have to develop specialty skill sets for different employers and industries, ranging from technology to event planning. When companies invest in training, executive assistants have a shorter learning curve and can transition to advanced roles without losing productivity.

3. Upper Management Is Oblivious

Executive assistants feel deserted when company leaders are too sheltered or disconnected to take notice of serious workplace problems, but they're also reluctant to overstep boundaries by confronting their bosses. Bullying, backstabbing and demotivation overtake environments where executives fail to coach staff and enforce clear behavioral codes, and assistants have the unpleasant job of navigating countless minefields.

Executives create chaos and inconsistency when they leave workers to settle all problems and disputes on their own, while establishing companywide standards sends the message that everyone is valuable and accountable. Upper management should consult support staff at every level to understand obstacles that slow output and adapt policies as the needs of the workforce evolve.

Executive assistants form the foundations of most administrative teams, and their willingness to go where needed makes them essential to solving operational problems. Assistants gain vast exposure to different facets of a company or industry. Executives should cultivate and take advantage of their knowledge to better understand where resources and improvements are needed most in the company.

Photo courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

  • Miriam D.
    Miriam D.

    Thanks for share this information, so true!!!! ;)

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Shirley so very true. It always boils down to performance. I encountered the same issues working as a marketing assistant many years ago. I had enough work for ten people but they didn't want to hear how overworked I was. I just bit the bullet and did what I could. Stayed late; worked weekends - anything to keep caught up. Finally I had to ask myself what I was doing. Why was I doing this? Did I love the job that much? The answer was no. I put in my two week notice and visited a local temp agency. I landed a great gig with a law firm for a short while and then went on to bigger and better things. So yes, it is true - if an admin says that they are overworked, you can bet that they are. Companies will try to get by with as little as possible meaning that they will pile the work on you instead of hiring another person. It's up to the workers to stand up and say - enough is enough.

  • Shirley Beckwith
    Shirley Beckwith

    This has been a long standing issue in every EA position I have ever held over the course of 15 years! The biggest fear is speaking up and then being told "you can't handle the job" or "perhaps the responsibilities are too much for you". They make it about the overworked assistant, instead of examining the REAL issues and demands on their assistant's time. Trust if your assistant tells you they are overworked, they ARE. No one would make it up for the fear of the ramifications and suppositions made about their capabilities. The objections of an assistant to a heavy workload (no matter how diplomatic) are almost always met with some level of doubt or concern about THEIR performance regardless of any reassurances management or HR may provide,

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Laurie exactly right! Companies try to get by with more work but less people and, as the admin, it always seems like the buck stops here. I, too, was an administrative assistant and it seemed like everything got dumped on my desk and I would have to weed through it all and try to have it reassigned. And, instead of talk around the water fountain, it was always talk around my desk. All of the problems of the world came right there! Some days it was hard to keep an upbeat positive attitude. But, in the end, it was a great job with many perks as well as two wonderful bosses. Glad that I had the experience and I hope you are, too.

  • Laurie R.
    Laurie R.

    Exactly right!! Unfortunately I was on the receiving end of unreasonable workloads, deadlines; and becoming the dumping ground for all other's negativity and I allowed it to happen. Word of advice, don't be afraid to speak up or move on.

Jobs to Watch