Dr. Paul Marciano is author of Carrots and Stick Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT. We spoke to him about how to build a successful career as an admin and the power of respect in the workplace.
APT: What is the most important factor for career success for administrative professionals today?
Marciano: Successful administrative professionals have three primary skills. First, they are adroit gatekeepers that “protect” their executives by screening emails and phone calls, and maintaining a schedule that optimizes the executives’ time.
Second, when asked, they offer valued input based on their unique perspective and experience.
Third, they are highly efficient. In my experience, efficiency is an area in which many administrative assistants can improve and add greater value. This is especially true when it comes to using various software programs, e.g., Word, Outlook, PowerPoint; most people—not just administrative professionals—have no idea how to fully take advantage of the software and are woefully inefficient.
APT: You’re big on the power of respect in the workplace. What does that mean in the context of the modern admin’s role?
Marciano: “I only wish that my boss would say ‘good morning’ when she walks by my desk. The only time I hear from her is when she needs something.” Sadly, this is the experience of many administrative assistants. Many executives miss out on the significant benefits of having a respectful relationship with their administrative assistant. I fear that many administrative assistants are treated disrespectfully, given the immense level of stress that many executives are under.
While it has always been the case that administrative assistants are expected to maintain the most professional and respectful of demeanors, executives must understand their role in making respect a core part of the culture of the office. You cannot treat your staff with disrespect and expect them to treat your clients with respect.
APT: As you note, admins often feel like they aren’t respected for what they contribute at work. What’s your advice for changing that dynamic?
Marciano: I think that feeling underappreciated and undervalued is actually the norm today. My advice to anyone is to be their own best advocate. Don’t be shy about pointing out your accomplishments—of course in an appropriate manner! (A good way to get recognition is to ask for feedback on a task that you know you’ve done a great job on.)
The biggest mistake I see is when people feel as though they are taken for granted that they take themselves “out of the game”—and in so doing actually do make themselves less valuable. Just because your boss doesn’t respect you as much as you would like doesn’t mean that your talent isn’t recognized—if not by your boss then maybe by someone else who might want you on his team.
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