“An office manager is responsible for anything and everything that can affect the quality of life in the office,” says Jase Bergen, office manager for an entertainment company in New York City. “If it's broken, you better fix it -- no excuses. You just do it. And when six things break at once, you have to keep your cool and have the presence of mind to figure out what has to be fixed first.”
Few roles are as integral to an office as that of the office manager. Responsible for circulating information throughout an organization, as well as coordinating the efforts of vendors, management and support, office managers ensure everyone is working in tandem toward the company's overall success. Could you be up for the task?
The description of an office manager job often includes pricing office supplies, managing payroll, controlling petty cash, supervising support staff and interviewing job applicants. An office manager must exercise sound judgment every day, and any lapse may mean termination.
Consider the People
Equipment isn't the only thing that needs regular maintenance and support in an organization. A large part of an office manager's job is motivating and coordinating others to ensure everyone is working together productively toward a common goal.
“The trick to being a good office manager is to earn people's respect,” says Bergen. This means your staff and managers should know that they can count on you in a pinch to do the right thing for everybody, time after time. Sometimes this translates into standing up for what you know is right, even if a fellow employee -- or your boss -- disagrees with your decision.
“Your reputation is everything,” Bergen explains.
While an office manager often works under great pressure because her responsibilities are so great in scope, her satisfaction level is high, too. In a 2004 survey conducted by the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), office managers reported that being able to see the results of their labor reflected in increased productivity and office efficiency immediately is what they liked best about their job.
The Ideal Office Manager
Jack Deal, a behavioral psychologist specializing in business issues, compiled the following list of must-have skills for the ideal office manager.
- Top-notch computer skills.
- Excellent phone demeanor.
- Verbal Skills: If an officer manager can't speak well, what kind of impression will she project? In many companies, foreign-language fluency is also an asset.
- Good Written Skills: The ability to use proper grammar, syntax and logic when writing is crucial.
- Good Organizational Skills: Not being able to find or access important information efficiently can hurt a business.
- Leadership Qualities: Office managers should be able to supervise others and have a willingness to use but not misuse power.
- A Good Work Ethic: Showing up on time and staying until the work is complete is also important.
- Team-Playing Skills: The ability to share information where relevant and help make improvements.
If you're an administrative assistant interested in becoming an office manager, check with your human resources department for any related in-house training programs available. According to the IAAP, many large firms offer training and professional development courses to help prepare you for office management.
The Self-Taught Manager
Admins can also develop managerial skills on their own, and many pick up these skills on the job, according to Annette Dubrouillet, president and owner of Continuum in Springfield, Virginia.
A consultant, speaker and personal coach who works regularly with administrative professionals, Dubrouillet advises admins to develop self-empowerment skills. “Admins have to be responsible for their own professional development, their own mental health within their jobs and their own skills, whether through networking, educational seminars or finding a coach,” she says.