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: 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

Question: “I need help writing an Excel formula that counts information from two columns. I want the result to be the total number of items that meet two conditions.

Example: Imagine a spreadsheet where Column A records location and Column B records a number. I want to calculate how many entries for Location Such-and-Such also have a number in Column B that is less than 15 [=COUNTIF(B1:B25,”<15”]. How would I write that formula?”  -- Valerie

Question: “I don’t want to be the office computer expert for the nonprofit organization where I work. I’m tired of helping people who don’t have computer skills. This is a small office, and none of the people asking for help is in my department or in any way associated with what I do. “Most of the time the questions aren’t related to work. They want me to show them how to download pictures of their grandchild from an e-mail or how to rotate an image. They also want me to show them the advanced features of Word, such as mail merge. “I’ve paid my own money to take computer classes. I also obtained an office automation certificate while I was unemployed. I buy books on computer topics and read several magazines. These people don’t do any of these things. “Since I won’t share my computer skills, they’ve tried a slow down. If I need something, they delay or try to ignore my request. What should I do?” -- Anonymous

Question: “I would like to implement a suggestion-box system in our department. So far, I’ve come up with these steps:

1. Create a form that employees can slip into a manager’s mailbox to make suggestions and comments.

2. The form will include spaces for the employee’s name, suggestion, whether the idea will save the company money and the employee’s contact information.

3. If the employee wishes to be anonymous, management will not need to respond.

“Do you have any other ideas for this system?”  -- Cynthia Sheeks, Akron, Ohio

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