Question: We’ve been told recently that we’re not allowed to eat in our work area, and, so far, everybody is following this new rule. Unfortunately, neither of my bosses follows it, though. They both eat at their desks. Please help me either explain this to everyone else or persuade management to follow the rules the same as we’re expected to do. -- A.C., Missouri
Admin Pro Forum
Share best-practices with your administrative peers. Pose a question, offer advice, or just be a fly on the wall.
Question: I work for a government agency as a sole support person for about 25 people. With this many people also comes a wide variety of personalities. A handful of these people tend to take their moods or personal problems out on me when they give me work to do. I have talked to the head of our group about this problem and was told to remain even-keeled and not respond to their rude comments. One such comment: “I don’t want to hear about it; I just want you to do it.”
That came from a stressed-out employee who was demonstrating angry body language. A personal situation was causing the stress, and the employee even called in sick the following day.
If I can’t talk to the person giving me an assignment about the assignment, what am I to do? Things like this happen a couple times a month. When I mentioned that I thought these instances constituted verbal abuse, the head of our group told me that it would have to be witnessed, and the witness and I would have to document it. I’m currently looking for another position and, in the meantime, would like some suggestions on how to deal with these unpleasantries. -- Anonymous, Washington
Question: I've been at my current government position for five years. (Same manager the whole time.) I’ve interviewed for many positions that I’m well qualified for. When they call my manager, he gives me a mediocre reference. (He won't put anything negative in writing.) As he probably couldn’t easily find someone else to do my job, I believe he doesn’t want me to leave. When I spoke with him about the reference, he denied it.
Since I currently perform work for others, too, I offer them as references, too. With my cover letter, application and resume, I include a performance report that my manager has written (saying I'm outstanding and should be promoted to the next level), attached with my rank score. I'm just frustrated that many opportunities have passed me by. I’ve lost respect for him (for being dishonest) and no longer desire to work for him.
What do you recommend I do? -- Anonymous
Question: During my early years as an admin, I thought I wanted to be a legal secretary. I liked the image of the legal profession: the well-tailored suits, square-cornered briefcases, the idea of being involved in court cases, etc. So, I trained and finally became a legal secretary.
After four years in the profession, in two different jobs, I find that it’s not quite what I expected. My work, for the most part, has involved extensive word processing and back-and-forthing with lawyers. I work at a high level of risk and exposure: leaving out a paragraph or missing a lawyer’s correction can lead to disaster. The pressure is extreme.
Now that I’ve worked hard to get here, though, I’m not excited about redirecting my career once again. What if I make another career mistake?
Any and all advice is welcome! -- H.P., Tampa, Fla.
Question: My boss (who isn’t the warmest guy) feels compelled to give me a box of chocolates each year on Valentine’s Day ... even though it clearly makes us both uncomfortable.
Even worse, some customers and clients send inappropriate gifts to my female colleagues.
For those reasons, I think Valentine’s Day should not be celebrated in the office. Do you agree? -- M.G., Scranton, Pa.
Question: "What's your favorite 'cool tool' or gadget that makes work easier?" -- Amy Beth Miller, Editor, Personal Report for the Administrative Professional
Question: “I would be interested in hearing how companies are dealing with workplace bullying, a form of harassment that many employees may not know warrants intervention from immediate supervisors and the human resources department.” -- Jo McMahon, San Francisco
Question: “I started a new job about six months ago as an executive assistant to the CEO of a wealth-advisory corporation. I really like my boss; he’s energetic and pleasant. However, he has some habits and mannerisms that are driving me crazy. While I feel that I can talk to him about his use of curse words in conversations with me, I don’t know how to broach the subject of his ‘distracting mannerisms’ of picking at various body parts in my presence. What can I do? It’s literally making me shudder while we talk.” -- Marilyn, St. Louis
Question: “I answer the phone for a few managers, and if they're on the other line, I'll pick up the call. Sometimes, when I'm speaking to the caller, the manager will come on the line.
“When they begin talking, I just hang up or I say something like, ‘It sounds like So-and-So is on the line now, go right ahead,’ which gets interrupted by the manager or caller anyway. There must be a smoother way to handle this.
“My management and I have a great relationship, so I know that if I come up with a standard way to address the problem, they would be on board with it. Is there any 'best practice' or etiquette rule for this?” -- California
Question: “Each quarter, I send an e-mail to a committee of approximately 60 members, many of whom are upper management/executives. They have a deadline to respond, using voting buttons (so it’s easy for them), and I flag it to remind them a day ahead of time.
“Inevitably, about eight or 10 don’t respond by the deadline, and I send an e-mail asking them to please respond by the end of business that day, reminding them of the reason these messages are being sent.
“I always feel like this separate e-mail is pointing fingers at them, and I don’t want to do that. Because of the size of the committee, I would prefer not to e-mail the entire group with the request to those who haven’t responded.
“Should I address them by blind copy (Bcc field) so no one can see who the e-mail has been sent to? What’s the most professional way to approach this situation?” -- Anonymous