Happy Administrative Professionals’ Day! About 10 years ago (WOW – I can’t believe it’s been ten) I got my first job. I was an Admin Assistant for a group of Real Estate professionals at a company in D.C. I loved it. And I have to say, I was a good assistant. And I also want to be clear that all my managers were nice to me. That fact made me want to help their day go smoother in any way I could.
Even though my Admin days are long gone, it still bothers me to hear someone say, blah blah blah he/she’s just an assistant. Just? Umm…FYI, assistants do a lot of the groundwork to make their managers’ day possible. That’s just a fact. I know because I did it. And I have compiled a short list of “Why you should be nice to your Administrative Assistant” in case you need elaboration…and in case anyone wants to share this with his/her boss (You didn’t say it – I did.)
1) You wanna eat lunch? Your assistant will often be the one to coordinate lunch orders for a working meeting that happens at noon. If the meeting is small enough, (s)he might even go pick it up in person. You want your assistant to have every reason to remember your food allergies/preferences, especially if you forget to specify what you want for lunch. (S)he will be more likely to do this if you are a nice person. You will also be happier since you will not have to eat a turkey sandwich you despise 3x+ times a month.
2) Remember who your gatekeeper is. Answering the phone at work was one of the hardest things for me to learn. When it rang I’d jump like it was going to bite me. But after a while I got used to it and I knew how to prioritize certain calls and wait on others. If your assistant answers your phone, (s)he is the first person your clients talk to. Set the tone in the office so it’s natural for your assistant to make a good impression for you. You also want to remember who your gatekeeper is since calls from your spouse/kids will often have to be routed here, first, and you don’t want any delays.
3) Heavy lifting often requires backup. One of my Admin friends told me her boss would occasionally come in with a giant cinnamon bun from the bakery next door, put the paper bag on her desk and say cryptically, “You’re gonna need this today.” It was his way of saying that he’d need her to bring her A-game and go all out because he really wanted to get something done that day. The fact that he communicated this through baked goods was funny and sweet. He acknowledged he needed her help to get some heavy lifting done, and the way he did it was the perfect balance of asking for help, informing her that the day might be rugged, and sweetening the deal.
4) Those pens you like don’t magically appear on your desk (PS. Your desk got moved to the boiler room). Depending on the liberty you have in ordering your own office supplies, your assistant might be in charge of keeping your desk stocked with the pens you like, the folders you favor etc. You want the boxes of pens to just appear – you don’t want the assistant to roll his/her eyes and tell you that using a ballpoint really isn’t that hard. Also, if you have an office move, or at least switch some cubicles around, it’s possible your assistant might have a role in the space planning. If you enjoy natural sunlight in your current location you do NOT want to be moved to the boiler room – minimize the chance of there ever being a debate about this.
5) Stack the cards in favor of you having a great day. I will always be grateful for my time as an Administrative Assistant because it taught me the definition of customer service. My bosses were my customers and I understood I was there because they had clients of their own to serve, and I was going to help them. Some assistants, however, seem to be there so the boss has someone to take his/her feelings out on if (s)he has a bad meeting. It’s natural to have a bad day sometimes, but if this is a pattern the only thing the boss is doing is making the assistant feel sorry for the family the boss goes home to at the end of the day. So don’t make anyone feel sorry for your family. Treat your assistant right so (s)he is more likely to view his/her job as helping to make your day go as smoothly as possible.
This is a fun look into my life as an Admin: