Admin Pro Forum

Share best-practices with your administrative peers. Pose a question, offer advice, or just be a fly on the wall.

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Question: I'm wondering if any of my fellow admins/executive assistants know of a book on business etiquette.

For example:
  • How to introduce someone to the president/CEO when you know only the person's title and first name.
  • How to tell when it's OK/not OK to interrupt your boss in a meeting, and what to say when you do.
  • What does that closed door mean?
  • How to notify your employer (in an emergency) of very delicately personal, family-oriented matters via phone in a discreet, respectful manner when you work in a cubicle setting.
  • When/when not to call your boss from your personal cell phone.
  • Just how many times am I supposed to call to try and relay this message?
  • It's after 5 p.m. and there's something going on at the office the boss HAS to know about.  The boss is holding a party at her house and would be disturbed if I called. Now, what do I say?
  • Oops! I forgot the other exec's name and he's a new business contract contact! What do I say when he comes out to chat with me?
  • My boss went to a meeting and the location has changed, but I can't get through to her cell phone to let her know. This could be a disaster!
  • How do I announce someone's arrival in the front office? To the boss? To other co-workers?
Sort of a "Miss Manners for the Admin Professional." Lots of books are out there on how to write professional business correspondence like this, but I haven't seen much on verbal communication.  Thanks.  -- Sometimes Tongue-Tied, Rochester, N.Y.

Question: I've heard that reading a document aloud helps you catch more errors than reading it to yourself. Anybody out there have any experience with that?  -- Julia

Question: I have a co-worker who wears trashy clothing to work almost every day. Even when she tries her hardest to dress professionally, she still looks horrible because her skirts are too short, her pants are too tight, and most of her shirts show her tattoos.

We work with mostly men, and they all make fun of her behind her back, calling her names and ridiculing her.

Her boss has addressed this issue but it hasn’t seemed to help. I have a pretty descent relationship with her, and everyone in the office knows me as the woman who tells it like it is. Should I tell her she is committing career suicide by dressing the way she dose?

Please help.  -- Mandy

Question: First of all, let me thank all of those who have given me advice in the past. My frustrations have finally been solved. All this time, I thought no one cared how hard I work and I'm awaiting an official promotion to another department.

So, keep up the hard work, everyone. Someone is always paying attention to our dedicated work ethic.

Secondly, my manager wants to boost the employee morale around here and she needs some ideas. We thought some kind of employee get-together may help. Any suggestions?  -- Anonymous

Question: Does anyone have some sort of simple way/spreadsheet to track FMLA leave using the "rolling" 12-month period measured backward?  -- Cindy

Question: I have been tasked with putting together a service awards program for our company. Since the company is not yet 15 years old, we have taken on only 5- and 10-year awards.

But the company has bought some facilities that are much older and have some employees with 30 years of service. Should we honor those employees with an award? If so, how? 

Also: What is the best way to track all of these employees' anniversaries? And what type of gifts are given for 15, 20, 25 and more years of service? We have been giving a gold watch at 5 years and a mantle clock at 10.

Any advice would be welcome. Thank you.  -- CIB

Question: I have been an admin. for about 2 years -- it is my first job out of college -- and I recently had my annual review.  Everything went fine, but one point that I was told I need to work on was bringing information/gossip to my superiors.

I work for a small company and it is typical for me to hear things that are going on. I always felt that unless someone specifically asked me to talk to a superior for them, I should let them address the issues themselves and follow the appropriate chain of command. Apparently, my bosses feel differently. I was told to decide whether the gossip that I hear could be “detrimental or damaging to the company” and then let them know what I had heard and they would never say who they heard it from.

The problem is that I do work in a small company and it wouldn’t take long for people to figure out where the information was coming from. Also, I understand that if there were to be a strike or something catastrophic of that nature, of course I would bring it to their attention. My problem is the “gray” (or “lighter”) matters: hearing people blowing off steam, employees talking to old bosses (who are also competitors), etc.

What are the guidelines for reporting gossip to my bosses?  -- Trying to be Anonymous!

Question: Whenever I talk to my supervisor, she crosses her arms and moves here eyes around the room. I've always heard that this kind of body language indicates mistrust. Any suggestions about what I can do if that's true?  -- Worried

Question: "Help! I use Word and Excel to prepare documents for the same clients annually.  For 2006, I will use the 2005 Word file and save it (using Save As) into a new 2006 file.

"I have many Excel tables linked to my Word documents, so I usually find the first Excel table in the document, double-click on it to open the Excel document, and save the Excel document into the new 2006 file (using Save As). Then, I update that first table, which is now in the 2006 file.

"My problem is that there are many more Excel tables in my document and all the other tables are still linked to the 2005 Excel document. I usually just delete each table (linked to the 2005 file) as I come to it and re-copy & paste (with link) the same table, from the 2006 file.  I know you can break the links or change the source of the links, but I have been able to break only one table's link at a time, which takes as long as cutting, recopying & repasting.

"Is there any way of re-linking the entire Excel document to the new 2006 file? The file is exactly the same as the previous year, except that it now says '2006' instead of '2005,' so each worksheet is the same and has the same name.  Can anyone out there help?"  -- Diana

Question: "Our inner-office setup consists of modular, portable walls that are 6 feet tall, which does little to deflect sound. A co-worker sitting behind me and two desks away is loud and talks constantly. To top that off, she laughs after making 95 percent of her statements.

"It's gratifying to know that she enjoys her co-workers and job, but everything isn't funny!

"I've overheard her refer to the fact that she talks a lot, so she knows it. My supervisor, who is an officer of the company, often must close his door to limit the disruption caused by this individual.

"I'm not the only one complaining about her boisterousness, yet it appears that no one wants to deal with addressing this issue with her. I have no authority over her, and her immediate supervisor is located in a private outer office with a door, so I doubt that he's aware of the disturbance she causes. When other issues have arisen in the past, he hasn't taken any action, so the pattern is set, and we doubt he would deal with this issue, either.

"It's difficult to concentrate and, although I try to tune her out, I'm hardly ever successful.  Some co-workers have taken to wearing a Walkman with ear pieces to drown her out.

"Someone suggested that she might have a hearing problem, which I strongly doubt since she never asks anyone to repeat themselves. The other suggestion was that she could have low self-esteem and she counteracts that by laughing.

"Whatever the cause, I could really use some ideas as to how to address this constant, nagging problem.  Thank you for your time and consideration."  -- Anonymous

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