I’m the Manager, but I Won’t Manage

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There will be times when an assistant/admin is tasked with assignments that their supervisors or managers don’t have time to do or, let’s be honest, assignments that they don’t want to do. I’m all for delegation and understand the need for it, but there is a fine line between just delegating and not doing the job you were hired for.

These delegations gone too far are what bring me to my title topic, I’m the manager, but I won’t manage. What do you do when there is an issue that you do not have the authority to take care of, yet your direct supervisor tells you to just take care of the situation for him or her? This is one of the issues that really get me going since assistants tend to have a lot on their plates already and now we have to put on our “manager” pants when we do not have the authority.

Not only are we not getting the higher pay to deal with managerial issues but we are told to do things like, instruct a difficult coworker on following procedure or notify another employee, whom is a supervisor, (i.e. higher rank than you) that they are not doing their job properly. From where I stand, one reason managers and supervisors tend to get paid more than assistants is because they have to deal with the heavy stuff like hiring/firing, disciplining, and customer service issues … so … why are they tasking assistants with the big stuff? It makes me feel very uncomfortable when I am told to correct a coworker on performance; especially when said coworker is a supervisor.

Imagine you are a supervisor and someone else’s assistant comes to you and tells you that X and Y are being done incorrectly, that you have already been corrected multiple times, and that these mistakes are causing issues. (Keep in mind this assistant informed you that her manager instructed her to say all this and she says it all politely.)

Even so, if you were the supervisor being basically scolded, how would you feel? What would you think?

I might feel embarrassed that an assistant just told me how to do my job. I might think, “Why in the world are you, a “lowly assistant,” telling me, a supervisor, how to do my job; regardless of if your own supervisor told you to or not??? I might also wonder why the supervisor didn’t have the decency to talk to a fellow supervisor regarding an issue but instead sent his assistant to do the heavy lifting when it wasn’t his or her place to give direction.

This has happened to me on multiple occasions. Managers that do not want to manage and try to give their authority to their assistants for the uncomfortable duties. Yet, when the assistant takes their own initiative on some things this same supervisor gets upset for his assistant “crossing the line” because the assistant didn’t have the authority to make policy.

It is almost like these types of supervisors/managers want to get the respect and pay for those titles but do not want to do all the work involved. It also puts the assistant in an uncomfortable position regarding the coworker or supervisor he or she is admonishing. People tend to remember when they are chastised or lectured on the job and it makes it ten times worse if the person doing the lecturing is of equal status or a lower status.

When these types of things happen it can hurt the assistant in the long run. That coworker you corrected may become your supervisor one day or that supervisor you corrected may remember your “harping” when it comes time for reviews. In order for things to run smoothly, yes, people need to be informed of mistakes in an appropriate manner but the appropriate supervisor not assistant, needs to be the one doing the correction.

I understand it is difficult to correct someone on the job, especially if it has to be done more than once, but please if you are a supervisor, do not put your poor assistant, secretary, or office staff in a position to do something they have no business or authority doing.

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