Boss says, “Don’t hitch your cart to my horse.” So, now what? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Boss says, “Don’t hitch your cart to my horse.” So, now what?

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Question: “I am the type of Admin who wants to find a great boss/career to stick with by following the boss as he gets promoted. I thought I had finally found a boss to lead my career path. We had a very good relationship in the beginning, and I enjoy working with him. But when I mentioned I wanted to follow him as he gets promoted, his response was, "Don't hitch your cart to my horse!" So now I wonder if he even wants me as his assistant. He constantly tells me to keep my eye out for something better and don't let him stop me from moving forward. I have received multiple 'above average' evaluations, so it's not anything I'm doing wrong. Others say he’s the type of manager who looks out only for himself. How should I handle this? Should I start looking for something else in hopes of landing the right, understanding boss? I don't want to work with a new boss all over again. I'm ready to settle down.  –Following the wrong lead

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Admin 123 November 11, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Funny, early in my career I had a boss that sent the same message, but not in those exact words. I used to feel hurt thinking he wanted to get rid of me, but now alot older and wiser, I realize he was just looking out for my best interest. In today’s corporate world, there is alot of organizational changes, you’re not gauranteed to stick with one boss. There is not always a promotion involved so you’ll be stuck either with a demoted frustrated boss or one that decides to move on in his own career maybe in another city or country with another company that may already have someone in your support role. It’s not personal, look out for you and your family and it will all work out well.

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Angela November 10, 2011 at 1:28 pm

I think you may be looking at this all wrong. Maybe he wants you to find your own path, instead of riding on his. Your coworkers may be right about how he just wants to look out for himself, but look at the bright side…would you want to “follow” someone who only looks out for himself.

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Dee November 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm

I agree that your boss is just looking out for you. Due to labor laws, it’s difficult to “bring someone with you” as someone usually is already occupying the supporting role you’d be in. It’s no longer standard practice to “take your admin” with you.

Be confident and keep climbing on your own. The satisfaction and the intrinsic reward will be much sweeter than following someone else’s cart. :)

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Sandi November 8, 2011 at 12:39 pm

I think he’s telling you you can do better and you don’t need him to do it.

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OMM... November 7, 2011 at 8:53 am

He may have some integrity or other issues that have not been revealed to you & he realizes that you think more highly of him than he deserves. Been there, done that. By the way, you can have a great career on your own merit rather than by “following” someone else’s.

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What Is Strategic Management November 7, 2011 at 8:05 am

This issue sounds a bit confusing. And you have every right to be concerned indeed.

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THANKS! November 5, 2011 at 2:09 pm

These are fantastic responses!!! I now look at his comment in a new way. I was taking it personal and shouldn’t have. These comments have really helped change the way I think of him. Just today he asked me why I do not put in for the VP assistant position that just came open in our area…he is looking out for my best interest, and now I see that.

I cannot thank you enough!

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Tammy Short November 5, 2011 at 8:38 am

I completely understand wanting to continue a work relationship with your boss if the boss is a great boss. Yet it is presumptious to “expect” them to automatically take you with them. It also puts unfair pressure on them. It would be more appropriate to just to let your boss know that you enjoy and appreciate being able to work with them. You can add that, if given the opportunity, you would be willing to do so again. Who knows, just because they get promoted doesn’t mean that they will do well in that role and stay there. If things turned sour for them, that could leave you in an unstable situation.

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Diane J-H November 4, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I agree with Gloria. In my 20+ years of experience, I have never seen an admin/assistant promoted because the manager was promoted. I have seen the admin/assistant of the newly promoted manager apply to become the admin/assistant to the newly promoted manager in his/her new role and get the job. But to have that happen, you have to make sure that you are a good fit for the role you are applying for. The rave reviews you are receiving are a big help. Good luck!

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Angela November 4, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Speaking from personal experience, I have been promoted twice within my company from AA, to EA, to Sr EA, and each time it was because my manager left the company and I applied to work for a more senior person. I was never promoted because my boss was promoted. Once executives get to a certain level within the company, it’s often very difficult or takes a long time for them to get promoted. I like to think that your boss is looking out for you and wants you to succeed quicker than you would if you waiting for him to be promoted.

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Anne November 4, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Unfortunately nothing is guaranteed when you are an admin assistant, or any other type of worker for that matter. Managers come and go – and whether or not you follow a promoted manager or not, varies greatly from situation to situation. The problem with being an admin assistant is there will always be someone you will be hitching your cart to – that is the nature of this kind of work and that someone is usually a great deal of your own identity in your workplace. Doing a great job and being flexible are key ingredients to staying on top of this game.

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Sally November 4, 2011 at 2:55 pm

I’d be hurt too, but he gets points for honesty. From his POV, it does seem like an executive who gets promoted can gain a lot of on-the- job training from the executive assistant who “comes with the position” and already knows the ropes. (i.e., maybe he thinks an EA would serve him better than a newly promoted AA in his new, bigger job?)

So in that sense, he is looking out for himself, not you, but also the company. Two people in 2 new roles at once would need twice the training & orientation to the new job. Maybe he thinks it would be a smoother transition if only one of you were new to that particular executive function/ higher role…

So… why don’t YOU try to go for the EA promotion FIRST? Maybe then you’ll get lucky and he’ll follow you and you can help show him the ropes? He’s already said he won’t stand in your way, so how could it hurt to apply for a better job? Like Amanda said, life is not so predictable. It wouldn’t hurt to interview with other potential bosses, you might get lucky if you find one you like…if not, you’re no worse off than you are right now, plus–to continue the horse/wagon metaphor–you’ll feel empowered that you took control of the reins :)

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Debbie November 4, 2011 at 2:42 pm

I think it is presumptuous to think you would automatically follow your current boss in his promotion. It is something I never would expect. If he feels that the two of you work well together and he doesn’t want another assistant because he is comfortable with you and your work, that’s great but to feel you can look for a job where this will happen automatically is a stretch!

Do the best job you can and even if you are not asked to follow with your current boss, there will be someone who replaces your old boss and will need your guidance and expertise and will appreciate your experience.

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Kathy Hanks November 4, 2011 at 2:41 pm

The most important thing is to set your professional goals. If they align with your current boss – great. If not, keep your eyes open and apply for other positions. Keep doing a great job in your current position and you will go far. That’s what it sounds like your boss has done.

Just remember it’s not personal – it’s business. Take care!

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Gloria November 4, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I don’t know any assistants who go with their managers anymore. It sounds more like he wants you to actively manage your career and do what is best for your advancement. By staying with him and moving up as he moves up sounds more like you’re taking a passive stance and will be benefiting from his rewards. I wouldn’t take it personally. If you have a good relationship, you can continue to learn from him; but, don’t count on tying his success with yours and looking for his promotions to be tied to your. They are 2 different scenarios. Promotions are earned, not granted.

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Amanda November 4, 2011 at 2:36 pm

I agree with Amanda, your boss might think very highly of you but people need to look out for themselves. Its enough to think about getting yourself a promotion, let alone trying to get a promotion for two. Also, maybe your boss is happy where he is & doesnt want you to feel like you can’t promote without him? If you’re the cart, you can only go as fast as the horse & will always be 1 step behind.

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Amanda November 4, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Even if you did find the right boss, there is no guarantee that you can stick with that person. People retire, leave organizations, have life changes, etc. If you like your job and your company, enjoy the ride as long as you can. You can always consider what your back up plan is so you are prepared when you hit a crossroads. I understand wanting to have a plan and not wanting it to change but, unfortunately, life is not so predictable.

I also wouldn’t take it personally that your boss isn’t interested in including you in his plans. He’s focused on his career and his goals, and that doesn’t mean he has to consider you in that.

Good luck!

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