Nosy, Proactive, Too Quiet!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about two bosses: My question mainly is VP-A being nosy and needing every single bit of information on tasks–the who, what, why, when and how.

I’m an Executive Assistant to two VP-level bosses above me. One VP (VP-A) is my primary boss, while the other VP (VP-B) is secondary and on an “as needed” basis, inclusive of the VP-B going to VP-A for approval on tasks I need to do for VP-B. When VP-B needs me, it is a definite need and takes a few weeks and overtime. VP-A understands and can let me focus on VP-B’s tasks. However, there is still VP-A’s tasks to do, which leads me feeling overwhelmed–but that’s my issue and comes with the territory.

My question mainly is VP-A being nosy and needing every single bit of information on tasks–the who, what, why, when and how; the “why didn’t you tell me you were going to do that?” “Who explained that to you?” “What is it that you are working on?” “When are coming back from lunch?” “How did this happen without my knowledge?” “Who was that on the phone? I’m left to answer these questions, thinking any answer can lead VP-A to go ballistic. Hence, I try to be proactive with the calendar, reports, meetings, etc.

I am left at the mercy of VP-A needing to know everything I do. The office is so quiet, if I am on, say a call, and a word is spoken from me that may be what VP-A thinks is work, they will ask “who was that?” after I hang up the phone. The BBM’s start asking, “Where are you?” when I could be sitting on the toilet handling my business.I also don’t like that 80% of the department arrives to work around 10-30 minutes after work-start time, and I’m left running into the office breaking my neck being here on time. If I am 5-10 minutes late (I live in NYC), I hear, “why were you late?” While others, walk in freely and calm entering their office space happy and calm. I have a radio to make things a bit more fun with music, but it is so low that even on my desk I can hardly here it. Why? Because VP-A has asked me to turn in out.

Typing this question – has already led to a “why are you typing so much?” “What are you typing out there?”I have talked to VP-A during my review last year and I have had one thing go good–the multi-tasking. Yet when I am working, during any moment, VP-A can ask for something and that throws me off my rail because priorities have now shifted so much. But 30 minutes later while focusing on the new priority, the old priority is being asked of me. Anyway, just wondering, is being nosy, too nosy? Is there something I can say during my next review? Thanks. Wondering why so many questions?

Signed, Assistant to Two VPs in NYC

Dear Assistant to Two VPs in NYC:

You are expected to multitask; to respond to two VPs and to shift from one thing to another at a moment’s notice and to keep micro-managing VP-A abreast of everything you do. I may have left out the emotional sweat you suffer, but have I summed up you job? It is rarely easy to work for two bosses; and it is therefore, natural that you wonder how to cope with these two VPs? But you also ask: “Anyway, just wondering, is being nosy, too nosy? Is there something I can say during my next review?”

Other than biting your tongue and coming to hate your job, you have two overlapping options:

· Toughen up. Think of your job as jumping every time you hear, either VP-A or VP-B say, “Jump”. That is what you are hired to do. So do what you can reasonably do. Get done what you can. Leave the rest to be done when and if time permits. If that causes some not to be done, tell you bosses that you are only one person.

· Take time-out to talk about talk. You don’t have to wait until a review to do this. Think of a time-out time as you might if you were in a game and needed to confer with the coach about what was happening and how you might play more effectively. Unfortunately, too many bosses assume they know how to manage and they simply have not learned how. They never will unless and until those they manage “teach” them how. How might you do this? Think through how you want to be managed and that entails how you want your VP-A & VP-B to make assignments, consult you about them, check and not check on their status, question you about what you’re doing, etc. and how you want to talk to them.

What you need to do is to create a list of dos and don’t about boss/bossed communication. One of those rules should be: Do talk about talk–It is ok and important to talk about how we might communicate more effectively. Once you have created your list of dos and don’ts, it is time to request a time-out skull session with VP-A and VP-B, either separately or as a three-some. This session is a way of educating each other about what is important, what and when some tasks must be dropped, what disrupts, how each other feels about what is expected, and most of all about how to think and work as partners; partners committed to making each others’ jobs more efficient, effective and easier. One session is not enough. You need to agree to meet after a week or so to review the dos and don’ts; to see how they are working.Do these two things and you will have an answer to your question “Is being nosy, too nosy?” Apparently you and your bosses haven’t spelled out what helps and what frustrates.

Now is it past time that that should have been done; however, it isn’t too late. Just as top executives of organizations know getting organized is an on-going process, so must the boss/bossed see their working together as an ongoing process of adjusting and adapting. That is the meaning of my signature sentence: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden