What makes a good office manager? When looking to fill this position, it can be tough to decide what exactly your company needs. Do you need someone hands on? Or, does your workplace function best when a manager takes a more low-key approach?
Ultimately, the kind of person you need is subjective to your company’s needs. Even if your workplace is unique, when it comes down to it there are some qualities that make for objectively fantastic office managers. Here are the top 7:
Though a lot of our communication has been streamlined with Slack, email, and Trello, office managers need to communicate with vendors, custodians, and various people who prefer phone calls or face-to-face conversations. They should have impeccable people skills and be quite charming.
Workplaces can become fairly stressful environments. An office manager doesn’t have to be happy-go-lucky 24/7, but they should know how to ease the tension with a good joke and smile.
Willa Glesener, Executive Assistant at SpareFoot, explains this well. A recent merger for the company kept executives so busy they were barely even eating dinner (only doing so when Willa and her cohort would bring them microwaved meals mid-meeting), leaving Willa to remind them what to focus on and pay attention to.
“I love helping people. I love solving problems. I don’t always come home with a smile––some days are just hard––and that’s the case at any real job. But it’s absolutely worth it.”
This one is absolutely critical. Everyone is tremendously busy. People simply don’t have the time to make sure that the fridge is fully stocked, the copy-machine has paper, and that the kitchen is clean.
An office manager needs to have the ability to stay on top of it. Although everyone has their own organizational style, an office manager shouldn’t be chaotic.
Robert Hightower, the office manager for Lob, knows a thing or two about handling chaotic situations. A huge project he is proud of is when Lob had to move offices. The office was moving down the hall, from 4,200 square feet to 17,850 square feet, and Lob’s employees had to be able to work out of the new office during the transition. The entire move was essentially organized chaos, which required Hightower to tackle unexpected issues, like building codes that wouldn’t allow deliveries after 10am and delayed shipments.
Your company needs someone who already knows what it takes to lead a group of people. Having any form of a managerial or leadership experience on a CV is definitely a plus. Through experience, people tend to learn what works and what doesn’t.
It’s never a good idea to throw someone into an intense position that they aren’t qualified for. And when it comes to being an office manager, it’s preferable that this person already knows how to lead.
Francis Aquino, Director of Workplace and Employee Experience at Honey, reflects on his time as an Office Manager at Nasty Gal when they were growing rapidly. Francis stepped up and assumed full responsibility. From conducting an office buildout and move to hiring and managing a Workplace team of six, it was a dizzying time of personal and professional growth. By the end of his almost four-year tenure at Nasty Gal, Francis became Director of Office Operations.
Office manager jobs are a lot more complex than most people realize. Like Michelle Ekwoge of Rentlytics says, “I think the breadth of responsibilities I have is surprising. I have my hands in a lot of different things. Every day is different. In the morning I might be working on recruiting a Senior Vice President, and in the afternoon I’m organizing snacks in the kitchen.”
It’s important to hire someone with a can-do attitude, who’s willing to roll their sleeves up and get things done. They need to pay attention to detail and get things done on time.
While there’s nothing wrong with someone who is serious and focused, office managers are also responsible for throwing festive events. This is a position that’s suited for someone who can strike that coveted balance of organized and spontaneous.
They will have to be able to think of fun, quirky party ideas and also the skills necessary to execute them. If your workplace chooses someone who is a bit too timid, company culture might take a hit because events will stop being fun and lively.
Additionally, since the job is so varied, it takes creativity to solve the problems that invariably come up. Steven Kopp, the Head of Operations at ActionIQ, leans on his theatre background to handle situations creatively.
As ActionIQ doubled their headcount, Steven jumped in and problem solved quickly to meet the needs of the company. “I’m working with architects and mechanical engineers. We want to remodel the bathroom, and I’ve never done this before so I’m like, this is crazy! But I’m learning something I can really take with me for other future projects.”
An office manager will probably have to deal with people at their worst, most stressed out moods. Hence, it is critical for them to be able to level-headed and patient. Though they should be assertive, they can’t have a short-fuse as the face of your company and should know how to wait without causing unnecessary drama.
Mallory Roberts, the office manager for Shippo, credits her work with children on the autism spectrum in a previous role in building patience.
“I am pretty Zen for the most part but I have been talking about this move as a hair-pulling-out exercise,” she says. “Typically, you have some leeway--a grace period--where you can get into the new space and do a deep clean and set your own stuff up, but our current office’s lease ends the same day that the current occupant lease ends and I have to make magic happen.”
We live in a time where almost every part of the workplace is becoming streamlined and made more efficient. An office manager shouldn’t be fearful of changes but rather have the knowledge and skillset to see them as an opportunity.
For example, Eden has made coordinating with vendors much more convenient. The ideal office manager should be highly adaptable to new technologies and open to introducing new platforms into the workplace.
“We bought these great hanging swings for our new office, but I couldn’t figure out how to hang them with our tall warehouse ceilings. Eden got someone over and they were hung the same day. It was painless and a fraction of what our contractor wanted to charge us,” says Allie Skeik, People Ops Manager at HoneyBook.