Your job description doesn't include the word manager, but sometimes you're forced to wear a manager's hat. You may find yourself hiring temps to help complete a project, or your department may grow and move you up the totem pole. Unfortunately for administrative professionals, many organizations don't train staff in management skills, yet companies pile on supervisory expectations.
Part of the problem is that businesses have cut out many middle-management positions. "Administrative professionals are picking up some of that slack," says Susan Botts, an administrative professional at Hood College. What's missing for admins is training and experience that traditional middle managers possessed, she says.
When Regina Graham was put in a supervisory position several years ago, she took some seminars and classes on how to manage. But that was after she'd already been through a rough experience.
Several years ago, Graham found herself suddenly thrust into a trial-by-fire management role. She was assigned to manage a difficult administrative assistant. The surly admin claimed she hadn't been told Graham was going to be her new supervisor and became uncooperative."It shocked me; I wasn't sure how to handle the situation," says Graham, now vice president of the Capital Chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals in Washington, DC.
Her solution? She went to the human resources department to straighten things out. HR told her to meet one-on-one with her employee to discuss the conflict and then write a detailed report about the discussion. Graham worked hard to turn the employee around over the next few months. Unfortunately, she was given the grim task of firing the assistant when performance didn't improve.
Graham's experience is all too common for administrative professionals. Through that difficult first experience as a supervisor, Graham earned her stripes and went on to manage several more workers over the next two years. Today, she's happy to be in a new job that doesn't include overseeing others. "While I learned a lot, I don't miss managing people," she says. "I don't miss writing performance reviews.
It's difficult, to say the least, to be thrust into an area that requires new skills you are not trained for. Here are some tips to help you get started in your new role as a supervisor:
Enlist Your Boss's Support
"Don't be afraid to ask questions of your boss and coworkers," says Botts. Graham recalls that her supervisor's support made a difference. "You can't be put into a management position and be left there to hang yourself," she says.
"Keep the communication lines open between the supervisor and employee," says Graham. "You can't play guessing games; you can't read each other's minds. You must talk about situations and try to resolve them together."
Ask to Go to Training Programs
Two good places to find training programs are Padgett-Thompson Seminars and American Management Association.
Supply Your Employees with Plenty of Information
"I believe in teaching someone how to do something as opposed to telling them," says Botts. "Also, if you explain to someone why they are doing a task, it helps them see the big picture."
Learn the Art of Delegation
"One of the biggest challenges to a new admin supervisor is how to do all of your work while you also supervise someone," says Botts. "You have to learn what to delegate to an employee."
Go to HR
"HR was a big help," says Graham. "If you find yourself in a bind, immediately talk to someone in HR."
For more information and tips to help you advance your administrative career, see all our advice for admin professionals.