"Jean" had been battling with an executive secretary at admin meetings but felt ambushed the morning she was accused of timecard fraud.
After Jean questioned changes the executive secretary ordered for admin staff members not directly under her authority, her adversary recruited another secretary to track when Jean arrived at her desk each day. After two months, Jean was accused of clocking in earlier than she actually arrived at the office.
Although Jean proved that she was working elsewhere by referring to a meetings calendar and deadlines, her next raise didn't come close to what she'd been promised. Eventually, Jean accepted a promotion outside the organization, and the executive secretary's reputation cost her the respect of others.
Here's what Jean learned from the experience:
Pick your battles. As one of the more experienced admins, Jean felt a duty to speak out against changes she saw as senseless or that would be difficult for other admins to implement.
"Rather than taking exception to every pointless policy change, I could have picked just one or two," Jean says. And she probably could have ignored some orders without the executive secretary's ever knowing.
Keep the boss in the loop. Jean told her manager about her troubles with the senior admin, but she never asked him to intervene.
"By keeping him informed of the issues without asking for his involvement, I gained his confidence," she said. "When things did get rough, my manager knew why it was coming and supported me 100 percent."
Note what you do. After the ambush, Jean began jotting her arrival time "to the minute" on her desk calendar and keeping copies of e-mail and handwritten notes to document her actions. If another accusation had come, she would've been prepared.
Defend yourself calmly. "When my boss had to back me, my calmness gave him encouragement. We were both angry, but I didn't pitch a fit at the office."
Other lessons she has learned on the way to becoming a senior administrative assistant:
• Difficult people are easiest to work with when you've taken the time to figure out what makes them difficult. It's rarely personal.
• Defend yourself when the issues directly affect you and/or your job; otherwise, let it go.
• Situations pass (some sooner than others), but your actions are remembered long afterward.
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