Mary Ellen Slayter

Question: “Since layoffs hit our office, people have been understandably down. Now my boss has asked me for ideas about a possible good will gesture toward all employees. The problem, of course, is that we can spend virtually no money! Does anyone have any budget-conscious notions that might restore a little trust in management?”  – Danny, Point of Rocks, Md.

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Question: “I’m about to put a friend of mine forward as a job candidate with my firm, but despite my confidence in her, I wonder if the downside of recommending someone I know is too great. Sometimes people don’t work out, and this could reflect on me. Am I being selfish, or am I justified in hesitating to commit myself to her cause?” – Jen, Email Marketing Representative

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Question: “I’ve heard the phrase ‘assertiveness training’ quite a bit over the years, but only recently did I become aware of the program’s use by admins to kickstart their confidence level at work. What does this regimen consist of, and does it get results?”  — Cora, Court Transcriber

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Question: “I’m completely maxed out in my job and don’t have a minute to spare for additional tasks—but try explaining that to my rather demanding manager, who tends to see even the shortest break as productive time lost. What’s the best way to diplomatically tell her I absolutely can’t take on any more work?” — Clare, Medical Office Receptionist

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Question: “I was promoted at work eight months ago, but last month I was put back into my old job, not having met expectations. I understand why I was demoted, but now I just feel embarrassed when I go into the office, knowing that I have this black mark on my record and maybe a reputation for not being able to handle a higher position. Can someone come through with words of inspiration to get past this awful feeling?”   – Todd K., Provost’s Assistant

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Question: “I’ve just landed a job with a big international marketing firm, and even though I’ll be working from the states, I get a little nervous when they tell me about all the different clients and projects involving so many different countries. What do I most need to be prepared for as an admin who’s suddenly dealing with international cultures, people, and ways of doing things?” – Mary, Long Island, N.Y.

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Question: “I seem to be alone in my office in thinking that PowerPoint deflates many presentations with visuals for concepts that don’t need them, slides that simply re-state what is being said, frustrating tech glitches, and a habit of drawing attention away from the presenter, who must struggle to maintain important eye contact. Does anyone else feel the same way? Is it really considered terribly ‘old school’ to dispense with PowerPoint for a big meeting?” – Carol, Personal Assistant

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Question: “Sometimes I like to work on projects at home, away from the pressure of the cubicle, but I don’t want to spend money on Microsoft Office or other expensive software if I don’t have to. I’ve heard that open source software is getting more and more capable of handling all the usual tasks a typical admin faces on the job. What are the best free or very inexpensive offerings out there today?” — Kathleen, University Teaching Assistant

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Question: “Our HR department is thinking of levying a policy that would discipline an employee for ‘raising his or her voice in anger’ when involved in a verbal exchange inside the office. Some here say it’s high time that hotheads learn to debate respectfully so as not to poison the atmosphere, but this seems to reach too far to control worker behavior. I’d love to know what others think before I vote on the policy!” — Cassandra, Accounts Payable Specialist

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Question: “I think I’ve got a good handle on what to include in my résumé; my concern right now is being behind the times and possibly making a subtle layout, content, or phrasing mistake that may immediately red-flag me. What are the current trends in what hiring managers do not want to see?”  - Anita, Oakland, Ca.

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