Mary Ellen Slayter

Question: “My boss is definitely a forward-thinking person, and now she’s really stirred up the pot where I work by suggesting we ban the word ‘assistant.’ She thinks it makes people see one worker as less important than another, and this becomes a stigma. She doesn’t want to change job functions, just the way people perceive them. Does anyone have any good ideas for a better word for what people like me do to help a superior in her job?”  – Kelvin, Support Assistant

{ 61 comments }

Question: “My current job, which I’ve had for nine months, is going sour fast and I don’t think I can go on. Here’s the real problem: If I leave, I don’t trust anyone here to give me a good recommendation, and I wouldn’t know how to explain to an interviewer that I have no references from my most recent position. But if I don’t list this job at all on my résumé, it creates a mysterious recent gap in my work experience. Is there any way out of a dilemma like this?” – Nate, Contract Administrator

{ 11 comments }

Question: “Someone in my office is considering having a little minor cosmetic surgery done—solely because, she says, she thinks there’s a little age discrimination always going on among co-workers, not just in hiring. She made such good points that I’m at least thinking of dressing ‘younger’ and getting my hair dyed. Am I going too far to fight ageism? (And would I actually be part of the problem at that point?)” – Penny, Facilities Planner

{ 21 comments }

Question: “How do you become a virtual assistant? I am very interested.” – Leslie, Marketing Coordinator

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Question: “I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but I’m still not really sure about the very best techniques to try when using a search engine. I have to Google things all the time but tend to wind up with way too many irrelevant results, or I can’t quite find what I’m looking for. What are the little techniques I’m missing when it comes to precise and complete web-searching?” – Sally, Medical Coder

{ 5 comments }

Question: “The whole he/she issue when writing something that doesn’t apply to a named person still confuses me. Some people get irritated when you choose one gender over the other even when you’re just writing about a hypothetical situation, but the phrase ‘he or she’ sounds silly and awkward when it has to be used too often. What’s the best way to get around this problem?” —Eric, Admissions Advisor

{ 9 comments }

Question: “How do I deal with someone who constantly name-drops and only wants to deal and work with upper management? This person will not discuss issues with other employees or ask for their input or concerns, making individuals feel they don’t matter. I understand that things will get done quicker when issues are brought directly to upper management, but blowing right past other employees hurts the work environment. What to do?” – Marianne, Office Manager

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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

{ 13 comments }

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

{ 6 comments }

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