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: Our manager consistently underestimates the length of time it will take to complete work. This affects my colleagues and me on a number of levels: 1. The manager is regularly late for meetings, and meetings with the manager generally go much longer. 2. The manager rarely answers questions or completes her own work on time. 3. The manager promises too much to clients and insists that the rest of us in the office stop what we are doing so we can try and meet unrealistic deadlines at the last minute. 4. The manager routinely questions others’ time estimates for both minor tasks and major projects. This has, on occasion, resulted in disputes. Is there any way for an office or an individual to assist someone to become more realistic? One thing I have done in regard to # 4 is outline all the projects, tasks and meetings I have on the docket when I am setting a deadline, so the manager knows what is happening, and we agree on the deadline. This has been somewhat successful, but I find it frustrating. It is also embarrassing, especially in meetings. I also find it difficult to quickly list all my priorities. Thank you for any suggestions you can give me!  -- Discouraged in Vancouver, B.C.

Question: How does a supervisor report staff mistakes without sounding like a whistle blower?

I am an HR and admin support staff member. I am burning out and demotivated!

I supervise the work and check reports of two staff. I have to constantly check and have the reports redone.  If it’s urgent enough, I redo them myself.  I am so tired of this. But if I ever bring it up to my manager that it’s getting increasingly difficult for me to get them to be productive without personally spending time on them, her comments and action on that feedback shows that she either thinks I am undermining them or that I am being overly critical.  I am neither one and, to prove my point and not to seem like I have a personal agenda, I decided to forward the reports directly to my manager for her to get a realistic idea of these staff and weigh their feasibility.  I wanted her to see that the time and effort I was spending on these employees was taking away my time and the quality of my work.

Overall, she is a very friendly and helpful person, and I suspect that her handling of the situation is due to the different cultures we come from. But I do need to understand how to approach and resolve this.

When I started, I was also a fresher to this field. But I got some brief training and I grew into the job without much trouble or supervision. One of these staff has already been here more than 6 months and the other around 5.  I think that is more than a fair period for their training.  I went all out to give them more of a long leash to get the hang of things without blowing my top, although I got very frustrated often.  I even covered a few mistakes for them so they wouldn't lose nerve. I allowed them freedom to try their own hands in a few tasks, instead of insisting on following the existing procedures, AND have been encouraging and appreciative of even the smallest accomplishment.

In the first few weeks/month of their appointment, during a discussion when my manager was wavering on her decision to keep them, I was the one urging her to give them a little more time to get thorough!  Looks to me like I am playing by every rule in the book but I am getting a raw deal!

Earlier, I handled all their jobs single-handedly and welcomed them and went all out to get them going, thinking they would be a help.  But it has turned out to be much, much more stressful this way.

With other staff, I come across several employee issues/suggestions, which I consider my duty to report to the management for solutions and improvements.  These are genuine employee concerns that I refer to.  Since I am very approachable, people who wouldn't normally complain find it easy to confide in me.  I am able to feel the pulse, so to speak, and can make a whole lot of things better … IF my manager would take me seriously.  Right now, she cross-checks my feedback, which is fair enough.  The problem is that she communicates with certain staff who are very good at misconstruing the facts.  She believes them, since they are both senior to me and are smooth talkers, and my point is weakened.

Should I just clam up and keep with me all that I see and hear?  Am I overplaying my role?   I am so committed to making a difference that being quiet about things like this is not easy!  -- Anonymous

Question: Anyone doing something special for Bosses Day? Last year, we had a potluck and put together a game and a slideshow about the bosses, but we're having trouble coming up with new ideas for this year. (Oct. 16 is Bosses Day, but we'll celebrate it on either the 14th or the 17th.)  -- Evelyn

Best admin tips

by on September 23, 2005 5:30am
in Admin Pro Forum

Question: I'd like to ask other admins to share their very best tips about how to do their jobs effectively — whether it's something about organizing their workspace, managing time, file management, working with bosses or other co-workers, etc.

Thank you!  -- Lisa, Tacoma, Wash

Proofreading tips

by on September 23, 2005 5:30am
in Admin Pro Forum

Question: I am a fast reader, which is an advantage in many areas, but proofreading is not one of them! I have no problem with grammar and punctuation rules, but I seem to miss at least one typo in every document! Thanks for any tips anyone can share.  -- Marilyn, St. Louis

Proper filing

by on September 23, 2005 5:30am
in Admin Pro Forum

Question: I work for a real estate company that manages apartment buildings. Problem: Proper filing as it pertains to our building names. Each apartment building we manage has a name, i.e., The Residences at Morgan Falls.

When I put names in the database, should I be filing those apartments that have the word "The" in their name under "T"? Example: "The Residences ..." Is that to be filed under "T" or "R"?

When people are looking for the name in the database, some people look under "R" and assume it's not in the database, and some people look under "T" because they are including the word "The" with the name. Which is proper?

When we refer to some of these properties, we call them by name, i.e., The Residences, or The Estates, but I thought I remembered that, a long time ago, there were something called "Proper Filing Rules." That's when the word "the" was part of a name. It would be presented like so: "Residences at Morgan Falls (The)." It showed that the word "The" preceded "Residences" but it allowed the name to be filed under "R".

Help me, please. This is driving me nuts as what to do about filing our property names.

Thanks.  -- Anonymous

Question: I work as an exec. assistant in a medium-sized business.  Given my computer knowledge, I was assigned the responsibility of helping to maintain our company's ever-expanding Web site, which details our company's history, current events, newsletter, etc.  We began this project 3 years into my employment with the company and at that time, hired an outside consultant who runs her own Web site-development company here in town to help me.

She and I grew close, and I considered her a co-worker in all aspects of the word, even though she worked in a consultant role for my bosses and wasn't technically an onsite employee.  We e-mailed back and forth every so often every week for several years, and the site grew to be the best it had been in a long time.  Her areas of expertise lay in the artistic-design area of Web site design, and any technical issues were passed on to her Web site admin host, who was usually very quick to resolve any issues at all.  I usually don't cross ANY line between work and personal life, but in many ways, I felt like we knew one another as co-workers more than my OWN co-workers.  I invited her to my wedding; she came and gave me a lovely gift and we were able to chat that day and say hello.

With the sudden onslaught of spam on the Net about a year to two years ago, her Web site admin had technical issues of his own and we suddenly started experiencing an onslaught of spam e-mails.  Things got really, really bad for a period of time during which we experienced lost e-mail and problems with being able to retrieve and send e-mail.  Each time, I worked with this woman and she told me the same thing: It's a technical issue; it's out of their hands. This is an overall problem affecting everyone online these days. There's nothing they can do about this right now. Keep deleting it.

My bosses finally got fed up and, because of this very issue, "fired" her by literally telling her that we would not be renewing her contract.  I can't say I blame them from a business standpoint: It was really wreaking a lot of havoc, AND there are such things as spam blocker programs out now that work!!.  My bosses didn't tell her specifically WHY they were doing this, just THAT they were doing it, and kept me out of the loop.

The problem is this:  I have been too embarrassed to keep in touch.  I don't want to bring up what happened and I know it is probably a sore point because we were, at that point, her most long-term client.  It isn't anything personal against her that we had to end this business relationship, but I feel the loss of our contact.

Unbeknownst to my co-workers, my boss and this woman, I am currently considering a lateral job move to another company for personal and health reasons.  I need all the local references I can get, and I would love to use her as a reference but don't want to open up a nasty can of worms.   

Do I just keep quiet and not contact this person and chalk this up to "This is why you don't develop friendships with co-workers outside of business hours"?  Or do I shoot myself in the foot by not using this valuable contact?

Any suggestions?  What would you do?

Thanks.  -- Confused N.Y. State Admin

Question: We have an office of about 70 employees, about 55 of whom have face-to-face contact with the public. The owner would like all patients welcomed with friendly faces. Not all the employees are this friendly. They aren’t rude, but are very cold. They do their work correctly.

How do you make people smile without making them more unfriendly?  If they don't fit into the atmosphere we are trying to create, would that be crazy to let them go?  -- Anonymous

For busy professionals, every minute you have in the morning is precious, and getting out the door on time is priceless. (That goes double if you have a family to hustle out the door, as well.) What sorts of tricks do you use to make a fast exit and get to work on time? Email the editor your solutions at alice.b@earthlink.net and see them in an upcoming issue of "Personal Report for the Administrative Professional."


Question: Recently, the president of our company asked me to buy self-help and instructional CDs, along with several iPods, the purpose being to download materials from the CDs to the iPods and distribute them with our marketing materials to trainees who pay for training at our for-profit institute. I explained to my direct supervisor, who is the COO, that this may constitute copyright infringement, and therefore, could be an illegal activity.  She relayed this to the president of our company, who did not seemed concerned and, in essence, ordered me to copy these materials.  My question: If I do not copy the materials, am I being insubordinate?  -- Anonymous

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