The Essential New Office Manager Checklist For Your First 12 Months

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Congratulations! You’ve just been promoted to office manager, hence why you stumbled upon this page in the first place.

Being an office manager means more than getting your own office space or the power to delegate tasks as you wish. Someone needs to be the lighthouse in the storm to prevent others in your team from crashing too hard.

No matter how you managed to nab the position, it now becomes your job to fulfill the responsibility that comes along with the title.

You now have to become a leader, an organizer, and a motivator.

There’s a lot riding on your ability to manage a team. There are skills you need to know and you’re not likely going to know every single one but that’s alright.

The road is a hard one, but no worthwhile position in the realm of business is going to be easy to fulfill.

So get ready, because it’s time to step up your game and own that office manager title.

Questions To Ask Yourself Before Taking On The Office Manager Role

Let’s be cliche for a second and reiterate one of the most famous quotes known to humans:

“With great power comes great responsibility”

And cue the face-palm. OK, cliche quote aside, think about how this can apply to a manager position.

Taking on that manager title means taking on responsibilities that you didn’t have as a general employee. Not everyone is fit for this role and not everyone will enjoy what it means to be a manager.

Before you take on these new-found responsibilities, ask yourself these questions:

Are You Meant To Be A Leader?

eight brown game pieces separated from one black game piece

The definition of a leader is someone who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.  

Fact: A great leader has the ability to become a great manager, but only if they choose to be a great manager.

There’s a very good reason why leadership experience was always at the top of that resume since graduating high school. Leadership skills are in high demand and that’s because great leaders are far and few in business.

According to a Gallup study, the employees most likely to leave your company are those who are the least engaged by leadership.

Suffice to say, being at the forefront of a team to pose as a prime example is something that a great manager must learn to do well.
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Can You Work Well Under Pressure?

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It’s not like everyone is looking at you to resolve all issues, manage employees, plan strategies, and all while juggling 5 sharp daggers.   

Oh wait, but they are!

And if you don’t do well under pressure, then the road to being a good manager may be longer than you intended.

But fear not! IT. IS. POSSIBLE.

Working well under pressure is never easy but there are ways around this minor caveat.

Use high-pressure situations as a way to grow your abilities. Your job can throw whatever curve ball it likes but this is your chance to prove that you’re more than capable of taking on a challenge.

The bestselling book Performing Under Pressure excellently introduces pressure management and how to overcome it.

Best Pressure Management Book

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Can You Communicate Well?

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Think of the game ‘Telephone.’

You say one thing but by the time your message reaches the 10th person, it will be entirely distorted.

That’s because in the game, you’re telling one person something with the expectation that your message will successfully reach the others.

When communicating something important to your team, make sure that you are reaching EVERYONE, not just one person.  

Strictly speaking, as a manager you need to convey what your goals are. What should they be striving to achieve and how should they go about achieving them?

Start off by thinking about how someone might try to convey their goals to you.

The Manager’s Communication Toolkit is a great book about communication in management. It teaches the managers how to deal with different and most difficult employee personalities.

Best Book in Communication in Management

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How To Make The Transition From Employee To Office Manager

Once you’ve got your mindset on becoming a manager, take the front seat and start learning.

Only about 15% of managers get the proper training that they need, so even if you find yourself falling outside that 15%, don’t let a lack of training hold you back.

Guarantee your own success by taking the right steps, setting a solid foundation, and building yourself up through a steady network.

Find A Mentor

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Find your Yoda, find your Gandalf, find that one person who holds the knowledge that you’re trying to gain. Someone you feel you can trust and learn from to understand the best practices in the field.

Reach out to someone you know or even someone you don’t know. When the great oracle, aka Google, fails you, or when you’re at a loss for answers, who can you rely on for help in a tough spot?

Think about that when you’re trying to take a swing at the new job without some go-to assistance.

Set Clear Expectations

Every manager has a higher manager and, if you don’t, then you have other peers that you work with.

Establish expectations early on to avoid any disillusionment in the future.

In other words, talk it out with your peers or upper management to clear up what they expect you to accomplish in your role.

As a manager how are you expected to monitor a group of employees? When should you need to take action for important decisions?

Set Your Own Goals

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This job is nothing but the work that one will put into it.

Make it your own by setting weekly or monthly goals for yourself. But make sure to find that balance between your own goals and those of the company.

It’s vital to support the company in its mission but do so in a way that supports your own values as well.  

There’s no room for wishful thinking here so be proactive with your goals and how you plan to achieve them.

The internationally best-selling book The First 90 Days offers a trusted guide for leaders in transition.

Best Book about Work Transition

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Office Manager Lessons To Learn The Easy Way

How does one train a person to be a good manager? Is it something that can be taught or is it better to let a person learn the ropes on their own?

As with any new role that you take on, you’re going to experience new challenges that are going to be difficult to handle.

The qualifications for a manager are always changing which is why there aren’t many set guidelines for managers to standby.

The position requires a different skill set and a different mindset. Make the transition smoother by learning what mistakes to avoid and tips that actually work.

Going At It Alone

hanging business sign that says "ask"

You know you need to seek out help when you’ve spent hours on an assignment and you still have no idea what you’re doing.

It will save you time, not to mention energy, by getting someone else’s help on something you have doubts on. It also can’t hurt to ask for clarification every now and then on the work that you do.

There are several times when you want to bring in the phone a friend card:

  • When you feel like you have too much on your plate
  • When you need a second pair of eyes on your work
  • When you make a mistake
  • When you don’t have the knowledge

If there’s one thing you must know, it’s that you should never try to do anything alone. Save yourself the time and learn to ask for help when you need it.

Focusing On The Process Rather Than The End Goal

This falls in line with micromanagement and creating a laundry list of steps that your team has to follow.

In doing so, the real goal falls to the wayside to accommodate for every minor detail that, in the end, will not matter.

Think of the real goal as the bigger picture. You do want to create an agenda on how to achieve that goal but make every step worthwhile.

Trying To Create An Ideal Image

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By this time you have probably worked under several different managers and management styles.

It’s one thing for other people to inspire your management style but to emulate them is something else entirely.

That said, start to develop your own approach to the job.

Although being a ‘cool’ manager may sound like fun, it’s not sustainable. If getting people to like you is your goal then you’re missing the point of being a manager.

Instead, trust in the golden rule we all learned at age five to respect others as we would ourselves. Others will respect a person who is true to themselves and how they make their own decisions.

Not Following Through With What You Say You’re Going To Do

Always do what you say you’re going to do, and never make promises that you cannot keep.

It’s always best to over-deliver as opposed to under-delivering, that way you avoid any disappointment.

You’re trying to prove you’re capable of accomplishing all these tasks, we get it. But at the same time, if you’re not setting clear objectives then you may be missing key milestones to a successful outcome.

Office Manager Duties

man in formal attire gesticulating at desk

Alright, some of you might still be wondering what it is that you’re getting yourselves into.

By now you know that an office manager has to have impeccable leadership skills, must work well under pressure, and must be true to their word.

But what does being an office manager actually entail? In other words, what are the duties of an office manager?

Being an office manager is not a cookie-cutter position, it will vary from one office to the next. Although there are some common duties that you might want to get well acquainted with.

Keeping the Office Organized

There’s plenty that goes into organizing an office that goes beyond keeping a tidy desk.

Keeping the office organized means ensuring that all the equipment is functioning for example.

More importantly, you are in charge of keeping the office running as efficiently as possible through other means. This means managing schedules, updating upper management, communicating with other departments, and performing other clerical duties.

Employee Supervision

Any kind of supervision over employees will generally fall upon an office manager. They will usually be assigned with overseeing the following in regards to their team:

  • assigning duties to employees
  • conflict resolution
  • managing employee schedules
  • payroll
  • upholding team morale & atmosphere
  • mentoring and/or disciplining employees
  • evaluating employee performance

Implement Policies and Standards

Office managers sometimes have more responsibility when it comes to how the business is run.

Having a level of authority allows office managers to measure the needs of the office and lay down the groundwork to uphold those needs.

Oversee General Office Operations

Now we realize how vague ‘general office operations’ sounds, but that’s why they’re generic.

Though, because an office manager’s duties will vary slightly, not all the following will be applicable to every role.

Here is a list of some possible duties that come with being an office manager:

  • organizing schedules and appointments
  • coordinating with other departments
  • offering support to visitors and clients
  • overseeing special projects
  • ensuring financial objectives are met
  • designing and implementing a filing system
  • preparing official reports for upper management

How to Be a Good Manager

image of a good manager - what does an office manager do

Let’s say you’ve been an office manager for a few months now. You’re doing everything by the books and you are paving your own path towards being a good manager.

If you’re still unsure about where you fall when it comes to being a good office manager, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Lead By Example

If there’s one thing to remember about being a good office manager, it’s that you must be able to lead by example.

So, if you hold your employees to certain standards, then you must hold yourself to those standards as well. Otherwise, your employees will find a reason not to abide by said standards.

Be Transparent

This comes back around to upholding excellent communication abilities. As an office manager, if you are honest with your employees they will reciprocate.

If your employees are struggling, you want them to feel comfortable in telling you their issues.

Or, if you expect the next month to be difficult for your team, you want to express this to them so they don’t feel like you’re piling on the work unnecessarily.

Motivate Your Team

A huge part of being a good office manager is learning how to motivate your employees.

Motivation comes in many forms. It can be as simple as expressing employee appreciation with a ‘good job’ or ‘keep up the great work’ every now and then.

Motivation can also come with giving your employees valuable work. Make their work matter so they feel satisfied in their own role.

Be Realistic When Setting Goals

If your goals are not realistic, then don’t expect to achieve them.

For instance, say you set unusually large quotas for your employees, and you notice they are consistently not met.

This means that for some reason or another, your employees are incapable of handling such a high quota. In another instance, you may notice that your evaluation of your employee’s work is not up to par.

This is when you must ask yourself if your standards are reasonable and if not, what can you do to remedy the situation?

Know When and How to Delegate

To be a good office manager, you must have good critical thinking abilities as well as the ability to problem solve.

Being an office manager doesn’t give you a pass to call the shots left and right. It also doesn’t mean you have to take on the responsibility of the office on your own.

Delegating tasks responsibly allows you to share the responsibilities of the office. They allow you to get more accomplished without being overly controlling.

Tips to Success

Use The Feedback That You Receive Wisely

three people holding up blank speech bubbles

It’s always a good idea to keep an open mind while welcoming any questions, comments, or concerns.

But if you receive feedback from one person, out of everyone else that works in your office, is their opinion the only one that’s going to matter?

Of course not!

Take it from Lily Liang, Office Manager at Ubisoft:

“Focus on the entire office as a whole rather than taking in feedback from 1 person and as an accurate representation of it….You are ultimately like a researcher taking in qualitative feedback and trying to quantify it to decide what is worth improving.”

Lily Liang, Office Manager at Ubisoft

She goes on to point out how this feedback will affect you as the decision-maker and other people in the company.

Are you going to choose to give 1 piece of feedback all your attention? How would that affect your agenda?

Something to think about next time you’re unsure what to do with the feedback given to you.  

Stay Optimistic

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Like we mentioned before, think about how your decisions affect not only you, not the company but other people as well.

To keep a healthy and balanced office, practice staying optimistic.

Stressful times occur, and chaos will find its way into the office somehow. When this happens, it’s important to recognize that you’re not going to be in control all the time and that’s OK.

What matters is how you deal with an unexpected situation that some would consider difficult to deal with.

Plan, Evaluate, And Use Your Critical Thinking Skills

Here are some more words of advice from Lily Liang: prioritize your time wisely.

Time is valuable! There never seems to be enough hours in a day to do everything we want.

Whether that’s due to time limits or procrastination is up for debate, but the point is that we ought to use our time carefully.

Gauge your needs based on lasting value. What’s going to meet your long-term needs versus your short-term demands?

Being able to decipher the best course of action to take is all part of critical thinking. Think about how you can analyze your environment with the following skills in mind:

  • Identify how an issue will affect the company
  • Accurately compare and evaluate information
  • Cut out bias from your evaluations
  • Draw conclusions from the information given to you
  • Know how to determine what’s relevant to the company and what is not
  • Always ask questions and don’t take anything at face value

Final Thoughts

As an employee, you’re thinking like an individual most days. You stick to your duties and when the time calls for it you reach out to your other coworkers.

What once was a task to complete is now a puzzle piece in the bigger picture.  As a manager, you’re taking on a greater purpose than minute tasks — you’re setting objectives.  

You acknowledge that your team has strengths but you also realize that there are weaknesses.

Or, if you’re the type of manager that doesn’t manage a team, what are your own weaknesses that stop you from reaching the goals you set?

Starting out can be difficult, but with a little optimism and an open mind, you’ll be able to fill in the role of office manager in no time!

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