I received an interesting email this week regarding Office Managers. It seems this particular reader has been working in the field for years, has a masters degree yet there seems to be a lack of appreciation and perhaps respect for the position as Office Manager.
I was asked in particular, more about the career path of an Office Manager. The email stated many think this is a secretarial position, so I would like to address these issues. Depending upon the size of business, an Office Manager could be one who wears many hats. In larger companies, there typically is an Office Manager in charge of other employees. Most often, in either one of these scenarios, the position is a salaried one.
Additionally, larger companies tend to have separate Accountants and Office Managers whereas smaller companies sometimes have the Office Manager handling bookkeeping as well as secretarial tasks.
I believe Office Managers who are not receiving adequate support from upper-management staff need to step up as leaders and voice their concerns. Particularly, where Office Managers are in charge of other employees, it is important that boundaries are set in terms of respect for this position. It is equally important for the Office Manager to understand boundaries with their employees.
I have worked with companies where Office Managers have been fired for boundary issues. They become “friends” with other employees and then do not know how to handle situations as they arise with employees who are then perceived as friends. Gossip tends to be an issue as well. Office Managers are in a position of confidence and I have seen too many situations where these managers have shared private information with other employees.
Office Managers have an opportunity to make themselves extremely valuable to a company in terms of not only money, but organization, time-management, building confidence with other employees, etc. Ultimately, your position is in place to take the burden of day-to-day functions off the hands of upper management, who are there to bring in business to the company.
Office Managers should have certain authorities to hire/fire, reprimand, document, set up office procedures, supervise employees, etc. If you do not have this authority, I would highly suggest that if you have the qualifications, you discuss this with management. There is nothing worse than to be placed over employees and then have absolutely no authority to make decisions.
Join support groups. I know in the legal field, there is the Association of Legal Administrators. There is probably one in every field. Take some time to research and join a group. They usually meet once a month for lunch but the information you receive in these meetings is invaluable.