An office manager’s job responsibilities are ever-changing. The work they do varies day-to-day and looks different from company-to-company. Because an office manager’s job is so diverse, it’s often misunderstood or regarded simply as clerical. In reality, the work office operations professionals do is incredibly important to the health and culture of a business: they build bridges, teach others, encourage teams, and balance the excitement of a future vision—all while keeping the lights on.
Success in such a nebulous, people-facing role requires what are commonly (and sometimes reductively) referred to as “soft skills.” These include empathy, ability to listen, upholding values, improving morale, etc. Interestingly, when you consider those same skills through the lens of say, a CEO, they’re suddenly elevated to “leadership qualities.”
While their work is often done “behind-the-scenes,” office and administrative professionals deserve more acknowledgement than they receive. Great office managers, it turns out, possess a lot of the same qualities as great leaders.
Here are the five qualities that make an accomplished and successful office manager
1. Culture and Values
Embodies the company values and champions culture
A company’s culture and values serve as the foundation of its business. Culture communicates a company’s identity, while its values guide decision making, metrics, and even brand guidelines. Office managers uphold both of these vital aspects of a business by understanding and addressing both the intangible and physical needs of the office. This type of work requires an incredible amount of emotional labor, especially at a startup where the makeup of a company, the core product, and the number of employees can change quickly. In other words, they’re integral to what many companies today would identify as their market differentiator and what attracts and retains talent—their culture.
2. Employee advocate
Improves morale, listens, and thinks of others
Office managers constantly field employee requests and are often the gatekeepers of employees’ wishes, thoughts, and feelings. Being the person everyone confides in gives the office manager the opportunity to actively listen and design events and cultural initiatives based on their needs. This requires a high level of selflessness and empathy that informs their decisions. They ultimately choose people over process—a concept that can take leaders of the highest calibre their whole lives to learn and implement.
Problem-solves with integrity and decisiveness
An office manager’s day is rooted in the unknown. Plans get changed or cancelled as unforeseen problems inevitably crop up: lunch delivery is late, the AC stops working, and the wifi is down all at the same time. Office managers have to know how to prioritize accordingly—and communicate that prioritization to their coworkers too. They hold inside their heads a ton of valuable information about tools relevant and useful to their coworkers. Knowing how and when to share their wisdom, and doing so generously and equally, is incredibly important for their success.
Continuously goes above and beyond
Office managers possess a penchant for learning and a do-anything, figure-out-everything mentality. They’re always on the alert for how and what can make the office run better. That means they need to constantly be learning things like new office technology and software, best practices for organization, and where to find nearby vegan tacos. As designers of company experiences, office managers ensure no birthday goes uncelebrated, the office plants are thriving, and the whole company volunteered this year. They are always looking for new ways, both big and small, to make improvements.
Thinks big and demonstrates creativity
Workplace operations and administrative positions don’t always have clear role responsibilities. Management may not have the time or the holistic understanding of what an office manager does to provide useful guidelines. In this way, office managers have an incredible amount of autonomy to build whatever they want or they feel their team needs. They must think conceptually about their business and its culture, formulate ideas, and make them come to life. They must also be open and receptive to feedback, as so much of their job is about collaborating with others and addressing their needs. Accepting criticism and creatively turning it into opportunity is difficult and complex, and it’s a core part of being an office manager.
Office and administrative professionals inherently embody their company values and culture, listen, problem solve with integrity, improve morale, and go above and beyond. These are qualities that any successful member of an executive team should possess to motivate their team and achieve their company vision.
Your office manager and workplace operations team do so much every day to make your life at work better. With Administrative Professionals Day this week, now is the time to ask yourself: when was the last time I thanked my office manager?