Being Left in Charge

There can be days where the managers and more senior people around your office have to go offsite for a meeting or some training event and suddenly you realize that you have been left “in charge.”

First of all, take that as a compliment. It’s not an accident if it happens because managers and other leaders are very conscious of the impression their organization might make when they’re out of the office.

What does being left “in charge” mean? What are you expected to do?

First: slow down, take a breath, relax. You won’t be expected to make massive decisions that affect the fate of the company. Usually. The senior person left on duty is usually expected to be able to answer questions if a customer or another department calls and has a question about a specific task your organization is doing. To be the one left to mind the store means your leader believes that you are mature enough and know enough about the organization to:

  • Answer basic questions about what you do
  • Know what tasks the organization is working on and the status of them
  • Direct someone to the right person if they have a specific question
  • Make a good decision without the manager present–even if the decision is to wait until the manager returns
  • Act diplomatically in the event of a conflict or demand for instant response even if the manager is not present and you are not delegated to make that decision
  • Get the manager back up to speed on what s/he missed while gone

Mobile phones have made reaching the boss, even in a “closed” meeting, much easier than it used to be even five years ago. However, there are still times when you will be left behind as “officer of the day” or “officer on deck” (as my military friends would call it). The best way to ensure that situation happens is to keep learning as much about your organization as you can. Those left-in-charge moments are tests to see if you can handle leadership situations. How you fare can affect future raises, promotions, or career opportunities.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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