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How’s your office’s relationship with the monster in the corner?

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Question: “I’ve always wanted to send out a meeting invitation to our whole office to give some informal hands-on training on our copiers, since I see no reason that everyone should be so helpless when it comes to clearing jams, changing toner, and knowing their way around the screens. But my boss is against it; he sees all of that as the admins’ job, even though we waste a lot of time dealing with these very easy-to-fix problems. Am I the only one who thinks it’s necessary to train everyone on this, not just the admins?” – Sharon, Senior Assistant

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Charissa July 2, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Create a set of instructions for troubleshooting all office copiers, printers and faxes in your office manual, include information on where paper can be located, toner, etc. the serial numbers and phone numbers and POC of the manufactures and let everyone in the office know where it is located. That way if you are out of the office for any reason they will be able to handle it with ease (hopefully) Keep your master manual the one with account and credit card numbers, doctors phone numbers and other of your executives information under lock and key.


Carol June 27, 2013 at 4:48 pm

I personnally don’t want anyone touch my machine, that’s right, it’s MY RESPONSIBILITY, therefore it’s my machine. Something BAD always happens to any of MY MACHINES whenever someone trys to be helpful and then disaster ensues and it become MY PROBLEM. I would rather do it myself. Last time someone tried to be helpful, they jammed the coffee machine and I had to call the company to get someone out here. Can you imagine, the beginning of the day and the coffee machine is down for the count. And guess what, it became MY PROBLEM!!!!!!! Carol


J June 27, 2013 at 9:17 am

While it’s always a nice idea to offer to help, I’m afraid this is something that is “the admins’ job” and will stay that way. I will offer to teach people one-on-one when it happens, but most people have the attitude of “just take care of it.”

I wrote in to Ask A Manager about teaching people in my office to do basic things. I was coming from the angle of “What if I am not here one day? Isn’t it courteous to offer to teach people?” Her response and the comments on that letter are really interesting and really mixed.

The spirit behind the offer doesn’t matter: Some people will always see it as us not wanting to do our jobs.


Kristin June 25, 2013 at 12:59 pm

I’ve tried that but it doesn’t work. I purposedly didn’t change the toner for one week on one of our copiers to see if someone would do it; they didn’t, they just went to another copier. smh


Kristin June 25, 2013 at 12:56 pm

No one wants to take the time to clear the jam; they always call me over and I then proceed to show them step-by-step on how to clear the jam. Most of the times they just walk away because they know eventually I will see it and fix it. Everyone figures it’s part of our job since we “take care” of the office.


Cathy June 24, 2013 at 4:33 pm

I’m an Admin Assistant to 30 plus technical staff and Executive Assistant to one of the owners. All employees are trained to use the copier machine but I (or one of the other 2 Admin Assistants) do most of the “maintenance” on the three copiers we have in the office. It’s not that anyone’s time is more important than anyone’s else here but we believe that our jobs are to help make the technical staff’s jobs easier, so the 3 of us take care of the copiers & the printers, usually laughing as we do so because it’s not all that complicated or time consuming.


Susie J June 24, 2013 at 11:10 am

I have had several different positions over the years and have developed my own view on copiers, phone issues, computer problems, received from other employees. Regardless of the position that I am working, I think of myself as a business, with one employee, me. I am the owner of the business and each decision and action reflects on my business and I want that business to be successfull!
When it comes time for my annual evaluation I have some great references and examples to use under the catagories for “teamwork”, “customer service” and my supervisor can talk with these same folks as well.
Got to go, I can hear someone slamming the paper drawer…build your business!


Delia Barret June 21, 2013 at 7:23 pm

I’m in the same situation as Christine. Our office HAS been trained. And they DO try. And then they call me.


Lauren June 21, 2013 at 7:55 am

I don’t believe a training meeting is necessary as much as hands on in the moment training. I would try to encourage them to fix the machine under your watchful eye. I also agree with a lot of the other admins that when it comes down to it, its best that we are considered the “expert” to prevent further damage to the machine. I don’t know how many times an inexperienced person has tried to remove a jam and ended up tearing off that tiny tiny piece that gets suck in those gears that ends up shutting down the whole machine requiring a service call resulting in hours of productivity loss.


Patti June 20, 2013 at 8:20 pm

While it does sound like a good idea, I would be hesitant to allow everyone to become involved in the problems of the copier. There are only a few of us that are comfortable enough in clearing jams, and others who will just walk away and let someone else “fix” it. Our IT department is responsible for replace toner and maintenance. And for us, this is preferable.


Jackqueline June 20, 2013 at 7:18 pm

I am the Admin Officer to various Professors, Quality Officers, Senior Research Fellows and Education Consultants in a team of nine.

They are all very open to being taught to do the simple office jobs, however I have learnt that they might want to it just doesn’t mean they CAN.

I am happy to show, but would rather look after these type of jobs myself, we can’t live without the document centre when they ‘fix’ it.


Jackqueline June 20, 2013 at 7:13 pm

I laughed so hard at work when I read your comment Christine; I had everyone asking me to share the joke. My work place is the exact opposite of you and the same all at the same time.

We are a team of nine and with only one male. I am the Admin Officer to Professors, Quality Officers, Senior Research Fellows and Education Consultants and no one but Moi can read the screen and carry out those same simple tasks. You should see my team try to bind anything. I know I will never be out of work, because no one else wants my job!

I read them you comments, they didn’t get the joke LOL :)


Christine June 20, 2013 at 5:48 pm

I end up taking care of the copy machine in my office. I am the only woman and the only one with common sense it seems. The copier shows a diagram or says it is out of paper and when my guys try to fix it themselves several people end up at the copy machine “helping” them. Inevitably I come in and fix it so they can all go back to work. Nothing like watching guys who make 1 and 1/2 times more than me get confused on something so simple.


Mark June 20, 2013 at 5:32 pm

I guess it is just a difference of corporate, or at least supervisor, philosophy. I agree with you. Here, if ANYONE were to go to someone and say “The toner needs to be changed”, the response would be, “Then change it.” Every single person is responsible for dealing with any issue that might arise with the copier except for true maintenance, but even then, every person is responsible for contacting the repair firm when needed.


Susan June 20, 2013 at 5:29 pm

We have floor coordinators, of which I am one of two, who people can “go to” if there is a problem.
We expect people to load their own paper if the printer is out of paper, and try to figure out paper jams. But when it comes to changing toner, or error messages, or something more complex, I or my counterpart on the other side of the floor (we have two copy rooms on each floor), would prefer if you left the more technical jobs to us. If we can’t figure it out, we call the I.T. department or the printer/copier company to come out and fix it.
The machines are expensive and we don’t want to risk having an amateur “fix” something and possibly cause other problems.
I have to admit, these problems are few and far between.


Theresa June 20, 2013 at 4:54 pm

I think it’s a good idea that more than just you know how to unjam the copier and do basic “upkeep” on the copier (like added paper, changing toner, etc. — BTW how ancient are these people that can’t add paper? That smacks of laziness.)

So I think your best options are to do one or more of these:
1. Create a simple guide for unjamming the most common types of jams, replacing paper and toner (It should also have the information needed if a service order needs to be called in — machine #, account information, number to call, etc.)
2. Have back ups — perhaps your boss would agree to having 1-2 other people be trained at this so they can step in if you are unavailable. (Perhaps there are people who use the machine a lot.) Have they’re names and yours listed on the guides to fix the machine or on a sign by the machine.
3. Make a laminated sign for the machine that says “Machine out of order; Service has been called” to put on the machine when it’s out, so people don’t repeatedly tell you there’s an issue with the machine. (I made such a sign for our copiers when I worked at a large company — it saved everyone a lot time.)
4. This is the one we as admins tend to not like — you are most likely the lowest paid employee in the office. Your boss probably doesn’t view unjamming the copier as a productive use of the time of a person making $80+/hour.


Leah June 20, 2013 at 4:52 pm

It absolutely would save everybody time if they were more comfortable with performing those kinds of simple tasks as needed. Unfortunately, I have worked with many over the years who have felt it was beneath them to do so. I can understand when it is a very difficult breakdown that their time would be better spent elsewhere but so many times I will walk into the printer/copier room and someone has left a jam and hasn’t even told me or one of the other admins that there is a problem which results in many people being frustrated because there jobs are backed up. I do agree with Antoninette’s and Camille’s suggestions of putting some kind of instructional sheet on the wall. Most machines have diagrams that pinpoint specific locations of jams now, but I think people would be more likely to remember the pictures on the wall before they would look there.


Debra Barrow June 20, 2013 at 4:48 pm

had to chuckle as we commonly see the same thing…not just the copier but plotters, printers, etc as well – even forbit that someone might have to either read the screen that says what is wrong or pull out the users manual that has step by step instructiono n how to fix the problem.

It gets bad when you have engineers who can sucessfully debug a 5 million dollar piece of machinery but can’t work their way thru how to do a two sided copy on the copier. :-)


Yetunde June 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm

I agree with the ideas posted to post signs with instructions for troubleshooting basic copier issues. To convince your boss, you might try tracking how much time each day is spent fixing copier problems. Your boss might be surprised how many hours per week is actually spent on the copier.

Best wishes!


Sandra June 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm

I’m all for autonomy and saving time. Heaven forbid you’re out sick for a week or on vacation. If training the whole office is an issue, maybe a select few would be more acceptable. Every Admin needs a backup.


Anne F. June 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Good luck with that training. Managers seem to have a mental block when wanting to have anything to do with a copier issue. This is just one of those “pick your battles” kind of things I’m afraid!


Dana June 20, 2013 at 4:31 pm

I had some supervisors balk at me giving instructions regarding replacing toner or filling paper trays as well as simple paper jams. I reminded them, nicely, that people work when I am not working and asked what would happen if the copier needed toner or jammed and I wasn’t around. This always brought a light in their eyes and they agreed everyone, including them, should know the basics.


LaTasha June 20, 2013 at 4:30 pm

I think it’s a good idea for everyone to be trained on tasks like that but my boss wouldn’t like it either. It’s not because she thinks the copier is the administrator’s burden, it’s because the more hands that touch it, the more likely it is that something will be broken and the repair will cost the company money. Her preference is to keep things like that to a minimum.


J June 27, 2013 at 9:18 am

That makes a lot of sense.


Camille June 20, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Like Antoinette suggsted, since your boss is against formal training, I suggest you create a series of laminated posters on how to do certain functions on the copier and post those posters next to the copiers in the office. You should also print posters for the printers in your office.


Rita, Executive Assistant June 20, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Sharon, I agree with you 100%. There are people in my office who can’t seem to manage a paper jam, or refill the staple cartridges either. I believe everyone should know how to do these small things because in the long run, it saves time. They don’t have to take the time to come find you to go back to the copier, fix the jam, or whatever the problem is, then go back to your work. It’s time lost for both of you, when, if he/she knew how to handle these issues, it could be accomplished in half the time with less lost productivity.


Antoinette June 20, 2013 at 4:12 pm

I would ask if you can post a short “get out of jam” instructional sheet on the wall by the copier. I bet your co-workers would thank you for it.


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