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PA boundaries and 'admin support'

(206 Posts)
stressedoutpa Tue 20-Feb-18 21:31:51

I started a new job before Christmas as PA to three directors. It's early days and I am still finding my feet but since starting I have found out that I am also expected to provide admin support to the three teams.

Without going into much detail, I am already busy with the three and various events/exhibitions and I am also being asked to complete random unrelated tasks for the teams which are often last minute; flights, hotels, car hire, taxis, po requests, couriers, post, etc. etc.

I could honestly scream..... I feel so frustrated. I left a 1:2 PA role for this job but this is more 1:25.

Clearly, I need to discuss this with my line manager but having spoken to one of the other directors and one of the PAs, the expectation is that you need to do what ever is asked.

At which point did five people's jobs become one PA job?

Tanfastic Tue 20-Feb-18 21:37:14

I sympathise, I recently started a job in a similar capacity to you and my role was explained at the interview but since I've started it's become clear that I'm expected to do far more than what I was expecting including covering the day off of another member of staff who works four days. Because it's become apparent since I started that I'm "capable", I've also found that other duties have been slotted in. My job description is very generic and basically says they can give me to do whatever etc. Up there is only so many hours in the day!

I sympathise....I'm looking elsewhere. Sorry no practical advice.

otherdoor Tue 20-Feb-18 21:40:08

What industry do you work in?

In my organisation there have been a lot of cuts so everyone is constantly being asked to take on more. You have to be assertive and prioritise your time accordingly. So you do what is needed for the directors first. Then if you have time you will support the next most senior group (deputy directors?) It's unlikely you'll have time for the next on the ladder but you can try, no promises though. Stay polite and clear and honest about what is realistic in the time you have available.

I say this as someone who is not assertive at all...but the really efficient people I work with are the ones who prioritise like this. And strangely they're more respected than the ones who run themselves into the ground trying to do everything for everybody.

stressedoutpa Tue 20-Feb-18 21:44:50

Thanks tanfastic

I'm so disappointed. They're a really nice team but I've had this problem previously and ended up leaving.

Bit fed up of having to pick up everyone's admin shit at this stage of my career. sad

stressedoutpa Tue 20-Feb-18 21:48:42

otherdoor, that's the approach that I've been taking. I am also very assertive but I sometimes wonder if I am living in a parallel universe to everyone else.

Tanfastic Tue 20-Feb-18 21:50:30

Me too op - on the till at Sainsbury's is starting to look quite appealing....

DailyMailDontStealMyThread Tue 20-Feb-18 21:53:15

Welcome to the club grin PA 1:72 here, 4 being Directors, and then their teams.

I also blagged the role at interview and had no idea what I was letting myself in for!

Firstly, figure out which Director you can click with quickest and get working on that. Then work out who in each team each Director works well with and work on your relationship with them - this gives you a back up for later on and keep working your way through the teams figuring out who is who - an organisational chart helps here.

Be friends with everyone especially the reception and admin team. It’s taken a while but our receptionist does LOADS of things for me that I was just expected to do alongside tight deadlines, meetings, organising events. Heck I even have one lovely lady in accounts that now does some rota’s for me after admiting she gets bored.

I luckily had full support of my Directors (two very full on the other two not so much unless deadlines approach) I need to be able to cope with the big stuff and if that means someone else orders the stationery but I authorise it and someone else opens the post then...

Good luck

mumsypig14 Tue 20-Feb-18 21:57:42

I think the 1:1 / 1:2 roles are rapidly discreasing.

Technology (self check in via apps, i-watches buzzing to remind them of meetings) mean traditional PA duties are less needed so the roles are expanding to support teams.

That's my experience over the past 10 years in my industry anyway!!

stressedoutpa Tue 20-Feb-18 22:00:00

DailyMail, you've got some really good suggestions but none of that would work. This is a big company and I can't explain as I would out myself. In effect, I am the 'Admin Team' and there is no one for me to delegate to (not even a Receptionist).

Every PA job I do seems to just get bigger and more complicated with little reward/promotion prospects no matter how hard you work.

Yes, the checkout is looking very appealing!

mimibunz Tue 20-Feb-18 22:00:00

I think this is happening more and more these days as employers want to squeeze everything out of their PAs. The biggest problem seems to be that they don’t understand what a PA does or is supposed to do. And of course no one likes a PA who sets boundaries! Grrrr....

stressedoutpa Tue 20-Feb-18 22:09:43

No understanding how long things take either, mimi.

DailyMailDontStealMyThread Tue 20-Feb-18 22:21:01

It’s a shame you can’t thing a way around it. We are also a big company with us being just 17 individual dealerships each with their own departments spread from Essex to Birmingham and all over (only UK thankfully)

I’m the only administrator/PA/Office (s) Manager/go to but there are other admin roles within departments I lean on, purchase admin, graduates, work experience, assistant accountants. It’s taken a while which is why I offered the suggestion of looking outside of your role for the help you need.

Last option would be to ask a director for help in sorting out your duties as they may have previous experience.

I also have my work emails on laptop, ipad and phone. I can catch up and keep up on the go and it banks a bit of lieu time when I need it.

stressedoutpa Tue 20-Feb-18 23:00:25

Head Office of a very large company. I am at the bottom of the food chain in our office so there is no other admin support to help me.

I'm probably doing two hours a day extra. I monitor emails on my phone but don't answer as I don't want to set an expectation and there is no chance of banking time in lieu. Also, some people are on email 24/7.

DailyMailDontStealMyThread Tue 20-Feb-18 23:18:48

I’m answering emails now whilst on here and watching tv.

Do you have reviews?

I’m really only trying to help you out here. If you are in head office and PA to the Directors you are very far from the bottom of the food chain, or you should be.

Our head office houses HR, Payroll, Directors, HOB meetings, Executive meetings plus Marketing.

You are very new in the role so I still suggest befriending every manager on site plus those in their teams, keep records of contacts for flights, hotels and meetings so things get easier over time.

I always said I wish I cou”d give everyone who is new a year in pill to take the new starter feel away and give them all that knowledge, I wish I’d had one, I cried every evening for the first few months but got there in the end and I now love it.

Lieu time comes over time (excuse the pun) I don’t record it but it’s there if needed.

Give it time and work on building relationships, especially with your directors

stressedoutpa Wed 21-Feb-18 18:41:03

DailyMail, I do understand what you are saying. I'm mid forties and have been a PA since I was 27. I have worked in every permutation of PA role you can imagine up to Group Chief Executive level. I know my stuff and I've contracted A LOT so I am used to different industries and very fast moving environments.

My point is, what the hell has happened to the role. I have no intention of sitting here answering work emails at 11pm. Funnily enough, I have a life.

stressedoutpa Wed 21-Feb-18 18:45:40

Also, If didn't 'blag' this role. I was approached by one of the directors as I had worked for him previously. I'm not an 'unknown quantity' to the company.

Ask anyone and they'll probably say I'm doing great because I know how get on but secretly I'm bloody seething. I feel I've been sold a lemon.

eurochick Wed 21-Feb-18 18:50:04

Hmm. I agree with others on the thread that PA roles are changing. I'm in my 40s. I've been working in offices since my 20s. What is expected of our PAs has completely changed. They work for much larger teams and the fee earners are expected to do lots for themselves that the PAs used to do. I think you might struggle to find the kind of role you talk about. But if you have too much work for your working hours that is an issue that can be addressed.

OhHolyJesus Wed 21-Feb-18 18:56:04

I had something similar a few years back, have been a SAHM for two years, I can see that nothing has changed! Good to have this as a reminder as I consider my return. I'm also in my forties and consider myself a seasoned PA.

All I can suggest is you are clear with your priorities when being asked to complete 'extra tasks' and resident where possible. Ultimately I was fired from the role which sounds similar as I didn't agree to help all and sundry and take receipt of everyone's amazon parcels every five minutes around Christmas time (this involved going to reception 5 floors down each time and I was furthest away from this point in the office)!

Polarbearflavour Wed 21-Feb-18 19:08:36

I started a PA job once which was meant to be a 1:1 role and then ended up having two other people as well! Another manager who wasn’t entitled to PA support kept asking me to get her lunch and clear up her spilt tea until I got my boss to tell her that wasn’t my job! Argh!

Roles in the City are only 1:1 now if you work for someone really senior. It’s all 2, 3 or 4 managers now. Or team secretary/admin dogsbody roles working for teams of 50 odd people.

I started a role as an EA in the Civil Service. It was meant to be 1:1 but then I got another one and then the other EA left so I was left with 4 of them! On top of that, another woman kept asking me to get train tickets for her. And they wanted to me to sort out printers/IT issues and do the stationery which involves lugging boxes of printer paper around. I can be quite bolshy so I just said no I was too busy and refused to lift any paper! That’s probably easier to do in the Civil Service as they are generally quite gormless and hate confrontation.

I’m in a project co-ordinator role now instead. My last EA role was walking around finding meeting rooms, booking train travel and hotels, printing packs and booking in meetings. Not exactly stimulating or interesting.

A good PA/EA can be really good. A bad one is crap. The Civil Service didn’t give me a Blackberry so I could leave work and forget about it. In the City I had a Blackberry and would only look at it on my commute.

MaverickSnoopy Wed 21-Feb-18 19:12:06

I've been in a similar circumstance where I was offered the job primarily to look after 1 director but also 5 of their direct reports. When I started it became apparent that the entire department thought I would provide admin support (this was circa 25 people), because my predecessor had been a team secretary rather than dedicated PA. My approach was to be nice to everyone and do the work of those who my job description specified. I did undertake some other tasks but made sure I kept a proper record to show how much time they took and detracted from my main duties. After a month I doing this I went through it with my line manager and the extra duties were removed.

A couple of years later my role changed and I ended up PA to 1 board level director and 8 other directors. That was fun! I was always polite and when pushed for time I always said I have xyz to do, where does your task fit and put the onus on them.

I think first of all you should clarify your job description with your manager. Then you keep track of how everything fits into your time. Be polite but firm.

MaverickSnoopy Wed 21-Feb-18 19:12:06

I've been in a similar circumstance where I was offered the job primarily to look after 1 director but also 5 of their direct reports. When I started it became apparent that the entire department thought I would provide admin support (this was circa 25 people), because my predecessor had been a team secretary rather than dedicated PA. My approach was to be nice to everyone and do the work of those who my job description specified. I did undertake some other tasks but made sure I kept a proper record to show how much time they took and detracted from my main duties. After a month I doing this I went through it with my line manager and the extra duties were removed.

A couple of years later my role changed and I ended up PA to 1 board level director and 8 other directors. That was fun! I was always polite and when pushed for time I always said I have xyz to do, where does your task fit and put the onus on them.

I think first of all you should clarify your job description with your manager. Then you keep track of how everything fits into your time. Be polite but firm.

stressedoutpa Wed 21-Feb-18 19:28:06

Thanks everyone, you have confirmed I am not going mad.

Yes, the emphasis is on supporting lots of people but in reality that just means mountains of the mundane tasks of printing, binding, booking flights, arranging lunches, etc. It also means re-doing things over and over again because the office halfwits give you duff information when asking you to do stuff. At least with the directors, I can see the bigger picture of how it all fits together and know when to plan their travel because I know what meetings they need to be at.

I had this conversation with DH last night and used the analogy that you wouldn't pay a highly qualified IT professional to sit on IT Helpdesk for the majority of the day. Reason being, it is a waste of their skills and experience and they will get pissed off pretty quickly!

DailyMailDontStealMyThread Wed 21-Feb-18 21:15:53

I did indeed miss your point entirely. It’s always been this way for me so I was inoccently giving someone with way more experience than me helpful coping tips blush grin

It’s normal for me, to be able to balance work, childcare and having a life by firing off emails from my sofa late in to the evening and didn’t think anything of it.

But I can now see why you would be so frustrated especially with how much it has changed and not for a good reason by the sounds of it. Certainly opened my eyes reading this thread.

<pondering not spending my evening emailing and having a long hot bath instead>

stressedoutpa Wed 21-Feb-18 22:30:25

DailyMail, if the emailing late at night works for you then go for it but I can pretty much guarantee you are making a rod for your own back. There is a huge grey area around PA/admin roles which acts as a net for all the jobs that no one wants to do. Be careful in your efficiency or you will end up doing everything.

Might change the job title on my email signature to 'Admin Monkey to Everyone'. It would be a far more accurate description! grin

DailyMailDontStealMyThread Wed 21-Feb-18 23:06:44

Hi Stressed,

Sorry for the delay in replying, I was having a leisurely bath

Kind regards
Admin Monkey to Everyone

I do everything, literally everything, I’ve been wondering today if I had another 5 years under my belt whether I’d still be happy...

Thing is, I love the nature of feeling like I’m needed and valued, I’m now starting to question whether that’s just a given not a valued position.

Anywhoo, I haven’t answered a single email this evening and I’m now off to bed wishing you and me lots of luck.

flowers - never been sent them as a thank you either!

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