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How Do I Tactfully Voice My Concern? – Ask an Admin

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Executive Assistants and Administrative Assistants have to deal with a lot. Whether that is working remotely, working with several managers or executives, and sometimes supporting an entire floor of employees! Usually, these difficult situations bring up situations that leave them asking, “how do I tactfully voice my concern?”

Heather D. asks us:

I am a Certified Executive Administrative Professional and have been an Executive Assistant (EA) for the last 15 years to a VP of my former employer where we had a very good Business Partner relationship. I have since been forced to leave that employer almost 2 years ago now due to downsizing and am in a different EA role with a quickly growing company reporting to both the CEO and CFO.

The role posted was framed up that I would be supporting them in the day to day activities much like an EA role does however since the day I was hired I have simply been a  “taskmaster/office manager” doing miscellaneous office/employee relations type tasks with very little interaction with either the CEO or CFO including my mid-year and end of the year evaluations. Both senior leaders have grown with the company for the last 28+ years and have never had what we know to be a true EA and aren’t interested in my role evolving to that at all. They did, however, hire a VP of Sales this past July that I was told I would be supporting as well and that he is being groomed to replace the CEO within the next 1-2  yrs. As part of this VP’s onboarding, I got to know him well and he had a true EA in the last 15 years with his former employer and would like to have one here.

The CEO, CFO and this new VP of Sales all agreed that most of my time should be supporting him and that the VP of Sales was given the go-ahead to rewrite my job description however I don’t report to him or sit near him and both of those are necessary, in my opinion, to do this EA role the most efficiently and effectively (not to mention an accurate job description). The problem is that this company is moving and growing so quickly with “multiple hot irons in the fire” all the time that neither the CEO or the VP of Sales has had any time to see this transition through and it has been about 2 months since they last told me this transition was happening.

My question is should I be approaching my direct leader (who I have no interaction with), the CEO or the new VP of Sales (which is who I have been working 50-75% of the time for in the last 6 months)? How do I approach this respectfully and voice my concerns in a firm manner around the current reporting/relationship structure?

Well that is actually a very tough question! How do you tactfully voice your concern as an administrative professional without causing trouble?


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8 thoughts on “How Do I Tactfully Voice My Concern? – Ask an Admin”

  1. Thank you all for taking a moment to share your thoughts and recommendations. It is always nice to be reminded and reaffirmed by peers who understand the role and the challenges we face with C-Suite executives. I will take the suggestions you shared and start to form what that conversation will be I just need to watch for “the right timing” very soon so it’s not pushed under the rug again due to another competing priority.
    The challenge I think I will face is figuring out how I share my concern with my immediate leader so he hears it directly from me and not from one of his peers. If you have any recommendations about how to approach that I would be welcome to them.

  2. Seems like the VP of Sales needs to speak with the person you report to and request that your workstation be relocated to be near him. I don’t think you’ll get very far yourself in talking to these people since it sounds like you aren’t even on their radar. I wish I had some great suggestion based on experience, but I am also “invisible” to the CIO that I support (term used loosely” and report to. My EA job is mostly ordering supplies, cleaning the pantry and keeping the office running smoothly, not what I expected when I accepted the position. If this VP of Sales wants you to be a “true” EA for him, then he should speak up and have you moved. I get that he’s busy, but he likely meets regularly with the other leaders and you can be an agenda item in one of those meetings.

  3. I’d like to hear this too! My team expanded to almost 50 from 30, and we went from two admins down to just me.

  4. Hi Heather – If I am reading this correctly all of the players have agreed upon your role. I’ve worked with the C-Suite for years and when you support them, my experience is that they like to make decisions and let you carry them out. So get moving and carry it out.

    I would put together the transition plan that I (me personally) would want to set myself up for success. I would plan on where we should sit, what resources I would need in proximity, and base it on my future (with the new VP of Sales). I would outline how you envision continuing to support the outgoing leaders (doing their tasks) and dig in deep to start weaving your work life together with the anticipated leader.

    If all have agreed – then it is up to you to be the leader for your position and take charge and get it done. Personally, I would not even stop to ask permission or for input. I would, however, communicate freely with plans (example: to make this transition, I will be moving to X cubical/office next week. Are there any plans I’m unaware of that will prevent this?)

    The future is yours and you have this excellent opportunity to frame it and build it due to this upcoming transition. You know the outgoing are simply using you for tasks, which are easy to complete. The new leader wants a partner, so now is the time to build that partnership and to set yourself up with everything the two of you will need to lead your organization.

    All the best to you from New Orleans.

    1. This is so how I would handle this! I would also have a re-written job description, outlining your newly defined activities, available for their approval. Act as if and it shall be 🙂

  5. You need to be assertive, not aggressive. This is your career and no one will look after it with the same investment as you should. If you don’t make yourself a priority, no one else will either. You have the right to know what is going on with this. I know of few other roles that would be content to just sit back and wait for their jobs to be aligned without being involved in the process.

    Book yourself a 15 minute meeting with the VP Sales and ask for an update, see if there anything you can do to move the process along. Take some time before the meeting to solidify your questions and your concerns, and also to come up some solutions that you can do to assist.

    My policy is to never bring a problem unless I have at least one solution. Can you take a stab at writing the job description for the VP’s review? are there forms you can complete to move the process along? Can you come up with a way that you can move closer to the VP? Price out any costs and be prepared with the information. Take charge of your career.

    If you don’t ask, they will always assume everything is fine and you will never get resolution.

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