Mary Ellen Slayter

Question: “Do you find that the position of administrative assistant is becoming a thing of the past? I am retiring next month and they’re not replacing my position.”  – Sally, Admin


Question: “My boss is notorious for running late for meetings, being out of touch when he’s supposedly working at home, forgetting about appointments … I’m often the only one who knows the real reasons for these problems, and they’re rarely good ones, so it falls to me sometimes to make an excuse. I sense that people see through me when I do. What can I possibly say in these situations when I’m a lousy liar but I don’t want to make my otherwise good boss seem like a mess?” – Frazzled, San Mateo, Ca.


Question: “I recently had a performance review in which a couple of the things that were said about me were simply untrue. These comments took me completely by surprise, and I realize that in defending myself I probably came off as whiny and was very ineffective. Only now that a week has gone by do I realize exactly what I should have said, and how I should have said it. I got my raise and a decent overall mark, so is it just too late now to state my case? In going back over old ground, would I only make myself look worse no matter if the facts are on my side?” – May, Clerical Trainer


It’s hard enough to pass off a task without being physically disconnected from someone. But in the modern age, you don’t always get to delegate face to face.


Question: “Sometimes our boss gives everyone on our admin team $100 to spend on things we can use to improve our skills. This quarter, that $100 can go toward whatever I can think of that might help me become a better writer. Does anyone have suggestions on what books or software I should order? It’s a case of use it or lose it!” – Clara, Vendor Relations


April is National Stress Awareness Month, making it a good time to take stock of how you feel at work and figure out if you’re dealing with stress properly so you don’t burn out or wear yourself down.


Question: “Any tips on how to organize my day to be most effective? Also, how do you keep abreast of new changes in the admin world—concerning tasks like how to fold letters for envelopes or how to place your initials on correspondence; the kinds of general administrative duties we all have?” – Angela, Administrative Assistant to an Associate Dean for Academics and Student Service Specialist


Question: “Last week at my new job I made an oversight when putting together a package of materials for my boss. It was the worst possible mistake to make and led to a ruined presentation, which in the end lost us some good business. I felt so miserable, I could barely get out of bed the next day. I think it will take me months to win back any kind of trust (my boss is not the most forgiving person). Is it ever better to just start over somewhere else rather than try to slowly erase a track record that’s gone wrong so soon?” – Cass, Documents Specialist


Question: “My company doesn’t have a dedicated receptionist. Instead the six members of our admin team are on a rotating schedule to cover the front desk. To me it’s always felt like a lost few hours. Things are usually pretty quiet at the desk, but I just can’t be nearly as productive—or as comfortable—when I’m answering phones and handling the other duties of a receptionist. Our boss seems to think we really shouldn’t miss a beat. Has anyone figured out a way to make this work?” – Nancy, Word Processing Specialist


When you’re com­­­­mu­­ni­­cat­­ing with your colleagues, man­­agers or clients, it’s important to keep these four modes—conceptual, analytical, social and structural—in mind and tailor your message to reach each one of them.


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