Ways Assistants Can Support Multiple Managers

10 Ways Assistants Can Support Multiple Managers

Many administrative assistants have been given the task of supporting more than one manager. If you have just been assigned this as a new duty, you may be worried about how you’ll manage such a seemingly difficult task. Don’t worry. Administrative professional skills lend themselves to mastering this monumental task with grace, know-how, and tact. We all know that the role of a top-tier administrative assistant goes well beyond simply organizing work and meeting planning. If you’re a stellar administrative assistant, you probably already excel at some of the basic elements that will allow you to manage multiple executives with ease like communication, organization, and project management.

The Executive Assistant with Multiple Bosses - A Commonality in Today's Workplace

While supporting multiple managers has been a reality for many assistants for decades, we’ve seen it continue to become more and more prevalent as executives and leaders develop technical skills and learn to manage more of their own work. In 2020, it has intensified since the start of the pandemic.

We’ve seen many companies cutting their administrative staff, leaving the remaining assistants to take on more managers and executives. That has put many multiple manager novices in the line of fire and forced them to “figure it out” while maintaining a high-quality work product.

Whether you’re new to managing multiple managers or have been doing it for years, there are some key strategies that will help you conquer the task.

The Most Effective Strategies for Working With Multiple Executives

  1. Encourage managers to use uniform procedures. This may be the hardest one on the list because you need to convince all your managers to get on board. Everyone has their own way they like to work. That’s understandable, but learning and adhering to five different sets of protocols and preferences can be untenable. That approach limits scalability. When everyone uses similar procedures, the office as a whole thrives. Push to make uniform procedures a way of life.
  2. Limit personal tasks for managers. Learn to say, “no.” At some point in your career as an administrative assistant, you will probably be asked to assist with personal tasks, like booking a dinner reservation, buying an anniversary present, or picking up a child from school. Be clear with your leader on what you are and are not comfortable with and ensure you’re both on the same page in terms of what your role and job entail.
  3. Treat each manager fairly and with respect, despite your personal preference. You may not like everyone you support, but you do need to treat each person equally. You will inevitably enjoy working with some leaders more than others. That’s part of everyone’s working life. However, be careful to not allow personal connections to override your professionalism. Your job is to support each manager, regardless of whom you like working with best.
  4. Understand each manager’s unique work style. While you may encourage uniform procedures, pay attention to the work style that best suits each manager. You want to become familiar with things like their most productive working hours, communication styles and preferences, and typical tone and demeanor. Developing a keen understanding of each executive you support will enable you to more effectively communicate with them, work in tandem, and improve the ultimate quality of the projects you tackle together.
  5. Establish a priority list for your projects and tasks and keep it up to date. Distribute it frequently. This is simply about transparency, and it allows all the managers you support to be aware of what projects you are working on, how many you have, the priority for each, and what tasks are associated with each project. This will go a long way in “coaching” your managers and providing project management training to them so they understand why some tasks can’t be turned around in one day.
  6. Communicate regularly with all your managers. The lines of communication are bidirectional. You want your executives to keep you in the loop, so make sure you give them the same courtesy and act proactively in encouraging stellar communication. Be sure to inform them of any delays in projects or tasks. You don’t want them to feel like they’ve been blindsided by something.
  7. Except for time-critical projects, do the senior manager’s work first. If your managers are on the same level, complete the task with the earliest due date. Use factors like these to help you prioritize your work. You want to find the right balance between demonstrating respect for your leaders and putting the right priority on all your tasks. If you need to, communicate to junior managers when you have a time-sensitive task to complete for a senior manager.
  8. Use your tools. Understanding the technology and software applications used by your company will allow you to work more effectively. For many administrative assistants, 2020 has introduced a whole host of new platforms and programs. Was Zoom a part of your company’s arsenal in 2019? Did you regularly attend Zoom meetings in 2018? I bet not. Staying up to date with all the technology used by your company will put you ahead of the rest and ensure you’re making the most of every minute of your day. Seek out online training for executive assistants and training videos for assistants that are aimed at helping you improve your technical skills.
  9. Plan ahead. Find out what projects are coming your way. Knowing what tasks are up next and understanding what priority to place on projects will allow you to develop a solid plan of attack. Your workdays are likely already very busy. If you allow them to be driven by chaos, constant reaction to “fires”, and deadlines that sneak up on you, you’re going to end every day feeling drained and unaccomplished. Plan and prepare to succeed.
  10. Ask your managers to give you project materials as sections are ready. Large projects should be tackled in sections. This tact makes it much easier to ensure quality and maximize time. You don’t want to always run into a last-minute rush. As you and your leader work on projects, ask them to send each section to you as they complete it. You spend time on each section and begin to develop techniques for ensuring consistency and excellence.

Additionally, our Orchestrate Supporting Multiple Managers Webinar with Founder & CEO of Office Dynamics, Joan Burge, elaborates on the steps above. 

The Ultimate Executives & Assistants Working In Partnership Resource

At Office Dynamics International, we believe that the key to becoming an excellent administrative assistant rests in the power of:

  • Seeking out executive assistant learning and education
  • Developing transformative executive assistant skills
  • Staying hungry
  • Being willing to adapt and evolve

If you’re ready to learn more, our Executives & Assistants Working In Partnership Bundle provides a structured path for the processes involved with managing multiple executives. You’ll uncover key information on:

  • Understanding the Stages of Growth
  • Communication: The Foundation of Trust
  • Being in Agreement
  • Resolving Partnership Problems
  • Regularly Scheduled Meetings
  • Calendar Management and Meeting Preparation
  • E-mail Management
  • Prioritization
  • Project Management
  • Travel
  • Telephone Calls
  • Follow-up Systems

And much more.

This bundle offers specific, step-by-step tools for creating a dynamic, productive, and powerful working relationship with each executive. It helps create consistency in how things are done.


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32 thoughts on “10 Ways Assistants Can Support Multiple Managers”

  1. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants
    Helen j Maxwell

    These tips are very resourceful. I find that having a to do list is very beneficial with keeping organized. I am going to create profile preferences for my VPs this way I can periodically check to see what their preferences are for travel, meeting requirements, expenses, time management, etc. Also, having a weekly meeting is helpful to see what the upcoming weeks hold so I can be prepared. Thanks Joan! You are truly amazing!


  2. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants
    Victoria Nicholls

    When working with multiple managers I find it is always helpful to advise them immediately of your currently workload and estimated time of completion for their work. That way they have a realistic expectation. When there are competing urgent priorities it is a useful trick to get managers to talk to each other to determine whose work comes first.

  3. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

    I used to work for a small company with 4 partners. When communication between them fell apart, everything seemed to fall apart, which made my job almost impossible. No one knew what the others were doing or what tasks or deadlines they were giving me. Rules within the company were being changed and it got to the point where the employees didn’t know who to go to in getting answers to their questions. Because of that experience, I believe communication is the key to working things out. If you don’t have that, you can’t move forward in any other area.

  4. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

    Thank you, Joan. I have a tip I can share with the group from my experience. Regarding “a priority list for all your principal supports to see” – when my managers were located in the same office, I used a whiteboard on my wall to share the major projects (at a high level) that I was working on for them. This visual method included the project’s associated priority level, due date, and a progress indicator for all the managers to see. Maybe a whiteboard can help you and your team?

  5. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

    It always comes down to communication. If managers know what you need, then it will help you accomplish tasks quickly and correctly.

  6. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants
    Gail Wright, CAP-OM

    We understand what it is like to work for multiple individuals.

    I have been working at a school site now for 28 years in many different positions and all clerical are considered “support personnel”. All of us have to support the administrators, all the teachers and of course the students and parents. We have specific job descriptions like Registrar, Treasurer, Principal Secretary but our contract says we have to perform related work as required or assigned.

    The clerical have been severely downsized and we now have to cover each others positions along with rotating out of our offices once a week to work the front office, phones and clinic. We also have to cover each other in case of an absence so we have cross-trained for each position. I think its good to have some understanding of each position but it can be extremely difficult when you are covering for someone else and trying to do your assigned job with all the interruptions we encounter during the day.

    We have no one to delegate to and we cannot say no
    My tip is to be extremely organized and try to have a procedure manual for each position.

    I hope this helps someone else that works for many individuals and wears many hats.

  7. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

    I support multiple VP’s. Three work at international locations and the other two at my location. This presents a challenge for me to give the remote VP’s the same amount of attention due to them not being visible on a daily basis. My strategy is to review my projects/tasks at the end of each day and this allows me to balance the workload.

  8. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

    I have an executive and 5 of his directs to support so I always try to prioritize my work around him 1st and then his directs. And at times of course, this changes according to pressing deadlines so priorities can be in flux sometimes, but I always try to center it around my principal executive. Thanks for sharing some solid strategies.

  9. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

    I have been the single administrator to 120 colleagues from Director level down. If you have specific responsibility for support of more than one person, my tip is to schedule regular meetings with everyone you support and update them on where you are with each project. If something needs to be reprioritised, it is easy to get your managers to discuss, in a rational manner, what you should be focusing on if there are conflicts of priority and where they might be able to take back responsibility for an element to get the job done.

  10. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

    Thanks everyone for sharing, I’m pretty new to my current position as an admin, I find it very helpful that most all I support are cooperative and helpful. Especially the partners and my main manager I support. They are always reminding me that if I have any questions that I should never hesitate to ask and they are big on communication and respectful of each other and willing to work out priorities. I know it won’t always be that way everywhere but it’s helpful to have that willingness of communication and partnership.

  11. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

    I support three managers (plus 11 other staff – but mostly indirectly based on company needs). My direct supervisor is well-aware that there is more work to be done than time to do it in, and is helpful with prioritizing (when I remember to ask!).

    For the “floating” tasks that don’t really have a deadline, my mantra is: They might ask me twice, but they shouldn’t have to ask me a third time.

    This really helps me with the overwhelm of all the random little tasks that come up.

  12. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

    Thank you for the tips, Joan. I have a tip I can share with the group from my experience. Regarding “a priority list for all your principal supports to see” – when my managers were located in the same office, I used a whiteboard on my wall to share the major projects (at a high level) that I was working on for them. This visual method included the project’s associated priority level, due date, and a progress indicator for all the managers to see. Maybe a whiteboard can help you and your team?

  13. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

    I too manage multiple bosses and it becomes overwhelming at times. I have learned two very important words that have become my Mantra. I have even posted them up on my desk to remind me with every task to think. The first is “anticipate.” Each and every task, if you anticipate results or outcomes you can creatively discover new ways to accomplish things. The other word is “Consistent.” Being consistent with how you respond to work helps both you and your boss, they learn to trust in your ability because you do it the same way every time, and you can relieve some of the stress because things are familiar. Finally, when things get so overwhelming remember to just BREATHE. It allows that all important oxygen to get to your brain. This will allow you to identify solutions rather than focusing on problems. Keep those bosses organized and on top of their game. Jim

  14. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

    I used to support four physician administrators with completely different missions. Each had a different style. I am now supporting one AVP and her direct reports, much easier to manager, although I still need to prioritize the projects I am doing for the managers. Enjoyed the article, Thank You

  15. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants
    Mary Lou O'Keefe

    Those are great tips! I support 3-4 departments at any given time and have incorporated most of them. Definitely have to do #5 though!

  16. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

    I work for several managers and sometimes it is a challenge but also keeps my work interesting. I try to have them work as uniformly as possible with like procedures but still have to understand and consider that each have their own working style.

    1. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

      Great comment, Mary. Having procedures in place or following a specific protocol can be extremely helpful. Of course each person may have a slightly difference preference and flexibility is a useful skill as an EA or AA.

  17. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

    All excellent suggestions! I support three senior attorneys and agree that open communication is the key to prioritizing projects. We also utilize Outlook reminders for upcoming deadlines to make sure everyone stays on track. Additionally, each administrative assistant in our office maintains a daily log and desk procedure manual so another can step in and assist if necessary.

  18. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

    Great tips! I never thought of giving the managers a weekly list of my projects. Not sure why not – but it is something I will do in future. I have to admit, I have problems saying “No”.

    1. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

      Thanks for your honesty, Janet. I agree, the struggle is real when it comes to saying no. Knowing the priorities and the work load can be helpful when you assess whether a no is in order.

  19. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

    Today is the first full day in my new position (promotion) supporting the CEO, one of the 2 VPs and being involved with the Board of Directors including the board committees. This list will definitely help me get things organized quickly. Thanks for the great info!

  20. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

    I once worked for 3 attorneys. One was the managing partner. I always completed his work first, unless the others had a time deadline. I learned to always ask for a deadline, so that I could prioritize appropriately. When you work for multiple managers you really have to learn how to juggle and also stay calm under stressful situations.

      1. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

        I have got to remember that. In fact, I’m going to put a little sticky note on my computer to remind myself.

  21. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

    These are some great tips! Learning to say “no” is probably my biggest issue. I hate to “disappoint” anyone.

    1. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

      That’s understandable, Jill. There is a book called The Best Yes. The premise of it is that you must make space for your best yes by saying no to some things. This is especially true when it comes to the work you’re really great at. If you say no to all the little things that someone else could potentially be doing you aren’t able to showcase your skillset in areas that would really make you stand out. Just a thought.

        1. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

          The Best Yes is a great book and I highly recommend it. These are all great tips; asking for the deadline is key and let people know when there are conflicts to help determine the priority.

  22. Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

    Thank you for starting with this blog. It is very informative and so true. I support multiple VPs, AVP, managers and teams and have weekly 1/1s with senior managers, daily huddles, if possible, and monthly 1/1s with other managers. It helps build relationships and provides opportunities to learn each manager’s communication styles. It also opens doorways to learn more about your company. Having these 1/1s led to job shadowing and other opportunities for development which is imperative for your performance and developmental plans.

    What has helped me the most, and I am still practicing, is to be more assertive, as needed. This way I make sure to receive and confirm correct deadlines and make time for myself and manager. My mistake, unknowingly, was to think my manager was too busy so I would not interrupt or schedule a few minutes on the calendar. No matter how busy your Executive(s) is/are, make sure you get on their calendar to receive pertinent information and ask questions! It is critical for your success as an administrative assistant.

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