By Tianna Powell
Tianna is a PA to the Head of department within the NHS and team administrator, managing a busy diary schedule and assisting with the coordination of regular external and internal events for health care professionals.
Protecting your boss
It's an assistant's job to protect the boss from the naughty individuals who do not book a meeting but instead come and hover hoping to sneak in or get squeezed in at the last minute. Although it may seem as easy as saying please come back later you will often come across persistent people who require an immediate answer although may not even skim the bottom of your manager’s priority list. Some struggle with the confidence to say NO, or being assertive and reiterating that they will need to follow procedure to book a meeting (without taking no for an answer). Here are some useful tips that I’ve tried to adapt when protecting my boss from interruptions.
As assistants we are ‘gatekeepers’ required to prevent untimely interruptions. There are four levels to disturbances, some necessary and some inappropriate:
1) An issue requiring your manager’s specific contribution. Meaning the world of work will stop until this has been discussed – this qualifies as an appropriate interruption.
2) Yes/no answers - queries that require a simple straightforward answer without much thought or interaction. Usually I would note these down each day and approach my manager at our end of week catch up, though in case of urgency mention one or two to the boss individually throughout the day or list them and raise all issues at once to minimise the distractions.
3) Forward the issue – these can be answered by someone else. If you are certain of the answer, answer it or forward the issue to someone who would know the answer. People often go to the Head of department first and forget they have a helpful support team who is kept in the loop and are there to help. This will educate the individual on the other options to check in the future before approaching the boss.
4) I call number four ‘I've answered this’. Issues which have already been answered, somewhere, whether in an email that wasn’t clearly received or a policy and procedure document… People can tend to be a bit inattentive to detail and think it's easier to ask but these issues are not a good use of the bosses’ time so should not be accepted. For these queries inform the person that your manager is not currently available to deal with the query but if you could have their name and details you will raise the query and get back to them. Also, mentioning that in future that they should approach you first for this to be passed on – if they haven’t booked a meeting. Alternatively, if you are able to, show them where they can find this information – this way they will realise that they were able to figure this out of themselves and have it logged in the future. Therefore saving everyone’s time
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