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What's a mentor to do?

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Question: I work in an office where I am the senior administrative assistant to the senior vice president of our company. Five other administrative assistants in the office report to various directors and managers.

The senior vice president would like for me to mentor the five other administrative assistants. The other directors and managers see mentoring as my overseeing their work, which ultimately means that I am responsible for their work.

How do other offices handle this type of reporting structure? Does a 50/50 supervisory role over these admins really work? Or should the directors and managers take over seeing there admins and I am really only there to guide in general administrative questions?

I also see value in having the six of us meet on a monthly basis to go over what is happening in the office and what role they play (such as general administrative tasks). Will that just confuse them on whom they report to?  -- Jackie Smith


Jackie, Good News! As a mentor you are there to show the way and share your experience. The definition of mentor is: "a trusted friend, counselor or teacher, usually a more experienced person." So relax.... the other AAs do not report to you; however you may want to confirm this with your boss.

My thought were on the same line as Betty. Define mentor and stick with that, but confirm this definition with the Senior VP so that you all are on the same page. As far as meeting on a regular basis, it sounds like a great idea because you all can then exchange ideas and all would benefit from that.

I agree with the other two about defining what "mentor" means for you. On the issue of a meeting - my office has 8 admins. I am the chair of the monthly admin meeting we hold. I put together the agenda, distribute minutes, lead the meeting, etc. It is good experience and it gives us admins a chance to talk and share - business and personal. We work on things that affect each of our areas, like purchasing procedures. We also go out for lunch as a group once in a while. We are going to work on creating a master administrative assistant manual that includes all tasks that we all do. I think it would be great for your admin group to meet monthly as well. We each report to a different manager, but these meetings work well.

The Senior VP obviously believes you are experienced and have good skills or he would not want you to mentor others. I have seen this done in larger companies where one person oversees all of the admins. even though they report to various departments and/or executives. You can carve out a real nice position for yourself if that is what you want to do. Share your years of experience with these junior admins. Obviously those you are being asked to mentor need some spit and polish or this wouldn't have come up. It sounds like a great opportunity and I would be highly flattered if this were asked of me.

In the company where I saw this modeled, the senior admin. took the others out to lunch periodically on the company and arranged something special for them for Admin. Professional's Day. She acted as their advocate with management when new office equipment was needed, and other people in the company came to her when they needed some sort of secretarial project done and she would find someone to do it.

How ever you decide to structure this, make sure you keep good notes on your progress and be sure to report your accomplishments to the Senior VP. Eventually, it may lead to a different title and pay grade for you. Good luck!

You should be pleased to be asked to mentor the other admins. Your VP should send an announcement to his staff and the admins specifying exactly what your role/responsibilities will be. In my workplace the senior admin meets regularly (usually quarterly) with the admins who support the managers who report to her boss. We discuss issues of mutual concern & have guest speakers from other departments to give us a better understanding of other areas of the workplace. We also have an online office practices manual which serves as an electronic "desk book". I think the process works very well and it makes all the admins feel that they are valued contributors.

I am the executive assistant to a Vice President and am the leader for the admins who support the managers who report to my VP, 10 in all. I like the term mentor, but definitely not supervisor because they don't need 'supervision'. I hold quarterly meetings with them (the first of their kind at my company), have a quarterly award that they vote amongst themselves for the winner and have one-on-one's with them to support their growth, development and career pathing. I work closely with their direct manager in their development. It seems to work very well for everyone.

Jackie, I may not have a solution but I do have a suggestion. Let them know you would be happy to mentoring the five (5) Administrative Assistants (Admin.), however let them know that you would like to have your Job title changed to reflect Supervisor or Manager with the power to mentor/supervise exclusively. It is not fair that you have the added responsibilities without compensation. Management/mentoring/training is very time consuming and expensive, so why should you not be compensated for your services. The office that I work in has 5 departments and there is 1 Admin in every department. Each one reports to the Department Head of that department. This means that the department head is responsible for their own Admin. They can't have it both ways, which is what I am assuming that the directors in your office want.

Again, mentoring and being responsible for another persons work is quite time consuming! Therefore, my question is, "does the Senior Vice President still expect you to give him 100% of your time, or is he willing to let this be your full-time job?"

In addition, I am in full agreement with you that a monthly meeting with all Admin Staff is of great value to all. Not only is this a great quality strategy but it is a great way to get together and compare skills. It is my opinion that everyone brings something unique to the table. Every admin in my office has a special skill that only they know. It makes up work better as a team.

Good Luck!

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