Mary Ellen Slayter

Question: “My boss normally gives out little goodie bags to the staff on February 14, but this year he also had us order Valentine’s Day treats for several top clients—tiny teddy bears included! To me, this doesn’t seem appropriate or very dignified. Is there a rule of thumb about how many gifts is too many to offer your customers, when we should and should not give them, and what kind we should always stick with?” – Tara, Executive Assistant

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Question: “Our HR department asked our team to write confidentially about ethical or interpersonal ‘tight spots’ we’ve found ourselves in, and how we reacted to them. It got me wondering about the ways that others have worked through no-win situations—because at work, they seem to happen to everyone all the time! Does anyone have any stories about really difficult decisions they’ve had to make as an admin?” – Rachel, Document Archives Registrar

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Question: “Help! My company, which sells insurance for small businesses, wants to establish a Twitter feed, and I’m going to be in charge of it. It’s a nice opportunity, but what sorts of messages can I put out there that will generate any attention when what we do isn’t exactly fascinating to most people?”  – Ellen, Assistant Office Manager

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Question: “The reports we generate at work look as boring as can be, mostly because no one wants to take the time to spruce them up. What are some very fast, very simple ways to tweak a Word document so its appearance commands attention?” — Lydon, Inventory Manager

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Question: “Where I work, the concept of a deadline has become a bit of a joke. We have a deadline for everything, but if one is missed, it’s simply extended until the work gets done. This creates conflicting expectations and aggravation, especially for the admin staff, which is always waiting for the bosses to finish what they need to. What are the best ways to make deadlines respected when we admins don’t really have the power to discipline?” – Jan, Staff Assistant

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Question: “I know I’m supposed to send a thank-you email after I go in for a job interview, but I’m not sure of exactly when to send it. An hour afterward? A day? And what exactly does this note need to contain for me to stick in the mind of the person who might hire me?” – Blake, Hospice Coordinator

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Question: “I always quietly fix my boss’s grammar errors in print documents, but that doesn’t seem to help his speech much, and he often commits very basic mistakes that make him sound unprofessional. If I dare to correct the way he talks, even in subtle ways, is he likely to take it as a personal judgment and resent me?”  – Caitlin, Grand Island, Ne.

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Question: “For the company policy guide, our team is submitting a set of three rules—just three—that administrative assistants should keep in mind as they go about their work in order to be the best they can be. Does anyone have any good ones that we should make sure to include?” – Toby, Receptionist

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Question: “I’ve been given an interesting assignment—my boss wants to start an ‘alumni club’ for ex-employees as part of a program to improve our office culture. His idea is that the club will make everyone seem more like a part of a family, and be useful in keeping contact with people who might again be valuable. To me, this seems like a lot of effort for little payoff when management is busy trying to keep everyone here happy so they won’t leave. What do you think?” – Sinead, Client Services Assistant

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Question: “Every time I try to teach someone a new admin process at work, they seem to struggle with it and have many more questions than I anticipated. Now I’ve noticed that people seem to be going elsewhere to learn what I used to explain. I thought I was an effective trainer, but what does it really take to be a good one?” – Samantha, Concessions Supervisor

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