What’s the best way to start new job on the right foot?

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Question: "I am starting a new job next week as an executive assistant.  My first job will be to organize my boss who is the president of the company. Where do I start?  Also, do I get him his morning coffee?"  —EA-to-be

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Debra September 20, 2011 at 2:15 pm

I have been the EA (and Office Manager) to the president of my company for a little over a year. He has never had an assistant so it took us both some getting used to, with my being proactive and forward thinking and he being extremely low maintenance and self-sufficient. At first, I brought him a cup of coffee every morning – never knowing that he actually prefers to get his own, as a form of exercise and “touching base” with co-workers. I finally asked him if he wanted me to get him coffee in the morning and he said only if I ask.

We sat down and I just asked him what he expected and how I could make his work life easier and we’ve come up with some strategies that work for the both of us. Now we go to the kitchen together most days and he gets his own coffee and we do a quick run down of what’s going on and what needs to happen…

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Sherry September 19, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I see my job as being a proactive assistant who will do what it takes to create time for my manager. He is a very busy executive and he puts in many hours of work traveling, attending meetings, creating and giving presentations …..If me getting him coffee allows a little extra time for him to get something else accomplished I am there to assist him. For me it is all about assisting my manager, efficient use of time and making him look good. I wish you luck and a good relationship with your new manager.

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Jayne September 12, 2011 at 11:57 am

I agree with everyone else in that you should sit down with your boss and find out what he expects from you. I had a new boss who came in and he even wrote down his “idiosyncracies” which included hating small paper clips. I am supposed to use large paper clips on his papers. And I was glad he did that instead of just being irritated when he got small clips. As for coffee, I would offer to get him some if I knew he was extremely busy, or if I was going for some for myself. If he expects you to get it for him, what’s the big deal? Anything to make his life go smoother will make my life easier. My boss wouldn’t dream of asking me to get his coffee. Going for coffee (which he gave up) or water gives him the chance to get out and talk to his employees casually which he likes doing. In fact, if he’s heading toward the kitchen, he will ask if he can get me anything. In your case, I would not ask him directly if he expects you to get his coffee. See how it plays out. And good luck.

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SMC September 12, 2011 at 10:42 am

Good morning and congratulations on your new job!
But i don’t agree with the opinion of serving coffee to the boss. if you were a men would you be asking this question?
No, do not serve coffee to your boss, unless he is disable and not even then. Remember, you are an assitant to his job or his duties. Be efficient, reliable, loyal to your job, he would be more grateful for that than you serving him coffee. Wishing you the best in you new job!

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Tammy September 9, 2011 at 9:05 pm

I work very closely with my boss, a Fire Chief. There is also a Deputy Chief and a Battalion Chief in our office. All four of us drink coffee. In the morning whoever happens to get to the coffee pot first makes it. I will often fix his coffee simply because I’m there fixing my own.

If he has a morning meeting with an outside guest, I will offer both coffee or hot te. It is good manners and makes boss look good. Late in the afternoon we may have a soda which the boss will usually go upstairs to get one for each of us. Sometime one of us will say to the other, “I’ll buy if you fly.” This means whoever pays the others goes to get it. It works out very well.

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Mark September 9, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I would sit down with him on the first day to go over his expectations. Every person is different, with different expectations and different preferences. I wouldn’t assume anything. I’d even check on expectations regarding hours. Some bosses expect you to work late if they work late, others don’t. Regarding the coffee, I personally would stay away from that topic, but if he brings it up and asks you to get it, I don’t think that’s unreasonable. With this unemployment rate, I would do anything reasonable that my boss asked me to do; getting coffee would not be demeaning to me whatsoever.

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Chandra September 9, 2011 at 4:02 pm

CONGRATS!!!

I agree with the others here, First thing to do is sit down and determine what is expected and what you feel you should do. It’s all in the ground work.

For me, coffee is a Personal Assistant job and I am an Executive Assistant. However, I have an amazing relationship with my boss that started out amazing. The first time we met, we clicked really well. When I told him I don’t do coffee and I followed it with an explanation… Coffee is available in the Lunchroom, if he gets it than it is an opportunity to get out of his office and see the world. However, if I am out and about and stop at the local coffee stand, I will call and ask if he wants anything.

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Anita September 9, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Congratulations on your new job! I would begin by sitting with the new boss and try to get a “feel” of her/his personality and also find out what she/he expects of my role. It has to be an ongoing ritual so you stay in tune with your boss. Because we teach our bosses how to treat us, I would only offer coffee if my offer began with “I’m getting some coffee, would you like some?”. I worked with a CFO and he expected home cooked meals because his previous assitant would cook and bring him food. There were days he would go hungry but I couldn’t afford to feed him. The point is to respectfully teach your boss how you expect to be treated. Wish you the best and I hope your boss is a good to you.

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Lori September 9, 2011 at 2:49 pm

First-Congratulations on your new job! Now about the ‘where to start’ part. You make a list of questions you have for your new boss, including the part about coffee, and you set up a time to meet with him/her. It’s important for both of you to get off on the right foot, and that means that neither one of you should be tip-toeing around wondering how to work with each other. This will give you both peace of mind (trust me, they are wondering similar questions about YOU) and it will show your new boss that you are a straight-forward, no-holds-barred Executive Assistant. I’ve done this with all of my bosses and it works great. Oh, I won’t lie – you’ll be scared to death walking in that office asking seemingly silly questions, but you’ll leave in a much more relaxed frame of mind. I’ve had bosses who appreciated me having their morning coffee ready and doing other various tasks and others who’d rather do for themselves. There have also been days where the boss is eerily quiet and I’ve been so bold as to ask them in private if he’s feeling okay/just stressed out/ticked off about something and if there was anything I could do to turn his day around. And this works both ways, my dear. Go into his/her office with your expectations too. I’ve laid out my expectations for them (tactfully, of course!) right from the beginning, and it has worked out wonderfully. For instance, I need to know where my boss is at all times and if he leaves the building I need to know, even if it’s just via a sticky note on my desk. And if he needs time alone to accomplish a task, I need to know that too so I can hold his calls and visits.
Another thing you can do is research. If you can talk to the previous Exec Assistant, ask him/her what the bosses preferences are, or talk to other staff he works with.

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Kristie Lee September 9, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Congratulations on the new job! and Good Luck on the organization portion! I’d start by meeting with your boss and figure out how he thinks – how he likes to have things prepared, organized, etc… Each person is different and you can’t come in with the attitude that one method is going to work for everyone – because that simply isn’t the case. As far as the morning coffee – I offer to get coffee for all my office guests – and I offer to bring my boss (I work for the VP here) quite often. Sometimes they accept and other times they decline… just depends on their mood for the day – however, I do know they appreciate it. I’m sure others will disagree though. I’ve just figured that I’d rather offer to do something – then be ‘told’ to do it later on. I’d suggest offering the first few days – I’m sure your boss will let you know if its needed or not.
Again, good luck on the new job!!!

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Patty Buckner September 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm

As the president, he probably has some specific things that he would like you to organize for him. Schedule yourself a meeting with him on the first day (if time allows), or as soon after that as possible and just lay it out on the table. Be prepared with your questions, and make sure you have a notebook to take down all of his comments and instructions.

You want him to know that you want to develop a working partnership with him where communication is always at the forefront and there are no surprises. He will appreciate your openness.

The first thing I did as an EA when I had a new boss several years ago that had come from a different company (and another city) was to contact his former assistant and find out all I could from her. She gave me great tips such as how to organize his e-mail and Outlook Calendar. She also gave me his preferences for out-of-town stays, type of car he liked to rent, and so on. Then she told me that I would be the happiest assistant in the world, and she was right! Unfortunately, he has moved on.

And, if he is a coffee drinker and wants you to get it for him, why not? I hope you and your new boss have a long and successful relationship as boss and EA. Make him shine!

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