Ask any experienced EA or administrative professional, and they’ll tell you what the most effective and productive workplace relationships are built on: clarity and transparency. So if the key to a better administrative support relationship is candid conversations, how can you overcome the initial awkwardness?
There’s a difference between being candid and being rude. The former communicates information effectively, while the latter carries a tone of being demeaning. An executive needs to have an “open door” mentality and allow any and all questions from assistants in order to have open communication. Read further to learn about how to overcome awkwardness with your AP or EA.
How to Know if Things are Awkward Between Executive and Assistant
For most of us, it’s fairly easy to feel an aura of tension between relationships – executive and assistant included.
Here are some ways to know if things are awkward between you and your assistant:
- Less Communication: If your assistant used to chat regularly but has become noticeably quieter, it could be a sign of discomfort. Sudden changes in communication style can often indicate that something's amiss.
- Body Language: Non-verbal cues can be a big sign of discomfort. If your assistant seems uneasy, avoids eye contact, or shows closed body language (like crossed arms), they may feel awkward.
- Avoidance: If your assistant seems to be avoiding you, constantly rearranging meetings or frequently not being in the same room with you, it might signal that something is awkward.
- Lack of Initiative: If your assistant used to take initiative but has stopped or slowed down considerably, it could be a sign of a problem.
- Reduced Productivity: If you notice a significant drop in your assistant's productivity, or if tasks are consistently late or not done as well as they used to be, it could indicate a problem.
- Change in Tone: If you notice a change in the tone of your assistant's emails, messages or spoken communication, this might be a sign of discomfort. For instance, a previously friendly and casual tone becoming suddenly formal could suggest something is off.
How to Overcome Awkwardness Between Executive and Assistant
So you realize things are awkward between you and your assistant. Now what? How do you overcome this dynamic? Here are a few suggestions:
- Open the Dialogue: Ask for a private meeting to discuss the issue. Ensure you frame the conversation in a way that's non-confrontational and open. Make it clear that your intention is to improve the working relationship.
- Express Your Observations: Start by explaining what you've noticed, using specific examples if possible. Remember to use "I" statements to avoid sounding accusatory ("I noticed that...," or "I feel that...").
- Listen to Their Perspective: Give your assistant the chance to express their feelings and perspective. There might be misunderstandings or miscommunications that you weren't aware of. Be open and receptive to their input.
- Empathize: Show empathy and understanding toward their feelings and concerns. This will help them feel heard and valued, which can significantly improve the relationship.
- Offer and Ask for Solutions: Work together to find solutions to the issues that have been raised. This could be about improving communication, clarifying expectations, providing more feedback, etc. Ask them how you can support them better in their role.
- Apologize if Necessary: If it turns out that your actions inadvertently caused discomfort or awkwardness, be ready to apologize. An honest apology can go a long way in repairing a strained relationship.
- Follow Up: After your discussion, ensure you follow up on the points discussed and implement the agreed-upon changes. This shows commitment and sincerity on your part.
- Regular Check-ins: Regularly check in with each other to see how things are going. This can help avoid future misunderstandings and helps maintain an open line of communication.
Building a Strong Relationship with Your Assistant
“A lot of people aren't used to being candid. They're apologetic,” says Kenzie Biggins, Founder of Worxbee. “Our Admin Roadmap helps open that door.”
“When you talk to our business development team, you’ll have a conversation to kind of get the juices flowing around what you need or what you think you might need. Then, when you start the Admin Roadmap process, your consultant is really digging additional things out as far as where you need help, and why—ultimately presenting a report back to you.”
It’s these initial conversations that are designed to break the ice—and level-set the room and the team, so to speak—that set the tone for and encourage more candid discussions to come.
“After the Roadmap, once you sign up and start the pairing process, we revisit what your most important concerns are again because those are what we're pairing on. Even when you’re interviewing your AP, the AP is asking those big questions,” adds Biggins, who makes it clear that this level of transparency is critical to building a long-lasting, more productive relationship.
RELATED: Worxbee Insights: The Future of Work
Worxbee Matches You with an Assistant
Once you’re matched with a Worxbee Administrative Professional, creating that level of day-to-day comfort can still take time—don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen right away.
“APs aren’t mind readers, but they become very intuitive,” says Biggins. “Your Administrative Professional is usually your closest relationship in your life, outside of your significant other, because they are the most involved in your life. But the same way that it took time to get to know your significant other—unless you were friends long before—it will be the same with your AP. You've gone through a precise pairing process to get to your person, but you still are building a relationship, learning each other’s nuances and what really drives you.”
In fact, the majority of businesses that engage Worxbee talent are smaller businesses—but more and more major organizations are coming on board every day.
Set up a discovery call and see how Worxbee is different.
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