The role of an Assistant requires the ability to establish close-knit relationships and a level of trust that only comes from years of close and consistent social interaction with those you support.
Setting boundaries with anyone in life can be difficult. Pushing back and saying no in your career can be tough, especially when you’re fond of the person you’re working with. However, as important as it is to establish a strong connection with your boss, it is equally as important to create and maintain clear boundaries. What if they’re a workaholic, have back-to-back meetings, send emails 24/7 and expect you to be on the same wavelength as them, all on less than a third of their salary?
Of course, there are benefits of working for someone who constantly pushes you, but what happens when the pace becomes unsustainable and the expectation of your role and responsibilities becomes confusing and unreasonable?
As an Assistant, you should have time allocated in your executive’s calendar at least once a week to catch up on both short-term and long-term issues. Take a deep breath, step back and start to look at these one-to-one meetings more strategically. Remember, you are having a business meeting, not a catch-up with your best friend.
Whether you’ve been working with your boss for a long time or you’re starting a new position, setting boundaries is not as difficult as you may think.
Approach the conversation with confidence. Open as you would normally do with general conversation on topics you feel comfortable with. Take control and raise a discussion regarding the boundaries you would like to establish to ensure that you aren’t constantly swimming upstream. Perhaps you don’t want to answer emails before and after certain times in the day. You might want to be able to leave earlier than usual on a Friday if all your loose ends are tied up or work from home if your boss is away on business. And maybe you want to be undisturbed when your out of office goes on…
Whatever the conversation and the expectations you put forward, make sure you end on a positive note and reassure your boss that you’re committed to your position and to them. Managing expectations is part of your role, so don’t be afraid to manage up.
Establishing boundaries can be hard, but maintaining those boundaries can be even harder. Stay strong and don’t be under any illusion that boundary violations won’t happen – because they will.
Stay committed to your original conversation and reinforce the boundaries you put in place if necessary. Better still, you may even be able to pre-empt compromised boundaries through learning the behavioural habits and general demeanour of your boss during particular times of the year.
The role of an Assistant is to make the lives of those you support as easy as possible. Use boundary setting and maintenance to your advantage in your everyday routine. Learning the warning signs of boundary violations means you can develop ways to prevent these instances before they occur.
Boundary setting will be viewed differently by everyone you speak to. You are always going to run the risk of relationships becoming awkward, but defining who you are and what your value is to a business is not only a responsible approach to your work ethics but also important to your mental well-being.
Article provided by The Assistant Room.