Admin Pro Forum — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Page 81
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Admin Pro Forum

Share best-practices with your administrative peers. Pose a question, offer advice, or just be a fly on the wall.

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Question: I work in an office of about 25 people. I am in charge of HR responsibilities and other duties. A question came to me regarding paid time for people to smoke. Right now, we have 4 or 5 smokers in our office and they have normally taken two smoking breaks during the course of the day. Each break is for 15 minutes. While our policy manual does not specifically state that employees are allowed to smoke, it refers to brief coffee breaks. Are we required to pay our employees while they are outside smoking? I am afraid our non-smoking employees will say they are being discriminated against because they work a full 8 hours and the smokers are only working 7.5. Can we change this situation in the middle of the year or do we have to revise our policy manual and wait until the beginning of a new year? Can anyone give me some suggestions on how they handle this in their office or how their policies read regarding smoking?  -- Anonymous

Question: Three years ago, I joined my company as a receptionist. Having worked previously in management positions for several years, this was my “foot in the door” position with a well-respected company. After less than a year, I was promoted to an assistant position.

For two years, I've been extremely successful in my position. I've trained new staff that was considered upper management and have filled in when we lacked employees. I'm now in a position that I got by default when a co-worker left, and I am miserable sorting through papers and numbers.

I have continuously been told that I am great at my job and my boss can’t afford to lose me in this position. My interests lie in a more hands-on management-type position, and I'm becoming extremely frustrated that I'm not being transferred because I excel at my current job. To make matters even more complicated, I am the youngest person in the office and have been told to “be patient.”

There are also conflicts with some of the older women in the office, to the point that they've tried to have me fired. (My boss supported me 100 percent.)

I work in a male-dominated field and get along great with most of the people in my company. How do I make my manager understand that I want more responsibilities? How do I reconcile with the older women and make my managers forget the past?  -- Anonymous

Question: My company has recently gone through a series of “reorganization” changes. In the past year, we have seen at least four massive cuts in staff. The goal is to decrease size and increase productivity. After the most recent episode, we were told that there will be no more cuts. Because of the stress these cutbacks have created, morale is now extremely low. If anyone has any advice on how to deal with this or how our company can lift morale, I would love to hear it.  -- Survivor

Question: I am a recent graduate of an admin. assistant program and am at my first job. I have responsibility for 10 people.

I have a boss who gives instructions, policy changes and training orally. I understand why he/she doesn't have time or desire to write things down.

Is there a program or a way in Outlook so that I can make notes that will be permanent? The information he provides will go into a training brochure for new staff.

Any suggestions will be appreciated.  -- KJ

Question: I work in the audit department of an accounting firm. We've recently undergone many changes, and now I'm responsible for all aspects of audit administration, from typing to copying, binding, invoicing, shipping and keeping track of audit status on all audit clients.

Since we didn't have someone already doing everything, I have no set procedures in place on how to do things. I like to be organized and efficient, and I'm trying to create a tracking system to keep track of all audit clients, from engagement letter to completion. Could anyone help me with these three things?

  1. General procedures for audit administration or audit secretary.
  2. Audit-tracking system or template.
  3. Contacts for assistance, such as Web sites, books, seminars, training, etc.

-- Diana

Question: I have two concerns and I'm hoping for some advice on either how you've handled it or what you think I ought to do in these situations:

Situation 1

The receptionist at the company where I am executive assistant, although relatively friendly and engaging with co-workers, is rather cold and unprofessional on the phone. Instead of saying “May I ask you to hold while I transfer you?” she says either “Hold on a moment” or “Just a moment.”

I once said in a somewhat jovial manner: “You sure sound happy about answering the phone!” She jovially replied that I should go back to my desk and handle my job and let her handle hers. I'm not her supervisor, although typically, I should/would be. Instead, HR supervises her.

The HR administrator and I have gotten into small, uncomfortable situations because the boss will tell me to handle something, and HR will have a cow thinking it’s their project or should be their responsibility.

That department shows a severe lack of respect for the boss’s wishes. The boss can ask for a roster of folks attending a seminar, and I can ask for it twice in the following three weeks and still, the day of the seminar, there is no roster. HR indicated that it was waiting on two VP’s. But, when VP’s were asked, they indicated that HR was handling it, not them.

HR has translated this sort of behavior to the receptionist, so that when I ask her, for instance, if someone shipped a personal expense on the company DHL account, I’m told: “Don’t worry about it; it’s not your department, and I’m not going to take it up with them.”

Situation 2
I signed off on a work order with the A/C maintenance company, and the repairs took a day longer than they promised and our server room temperatures rose dangerously high.

I talked to the manager at the A/C company and suggested in the future that he at least call to let us know that the repairs would be delayed. He then contacted the receptionist, who comes to me saying she didn’t know why I was going off on him when it wasn’t my place to worry about it, But I SIGNED OFF ON IT. It was my responsibility to see that it was done.

The general attitude from HR/the receptionist is “Stay out of it,” even though the boss has directed me specifically to take responsibility for such things. I happen to know that the receptionist is close to losing her job because of the way she handles the phone and also visitors, whom she handles in much the same manner.

I’m at a loss as to how to handle it. If I go to the boss, he’ll tell me to talk to HR and her and “get her straightened up or shipped out.” If I deal with HR, I'll get a tossed head and rolled eyes and a mutter about people staying out of HR’s business. The receptionist will get yelled at, but nothing will be accomplished because HR simply scolds and doesn’t deliver a change or even a direction to change.  If I talk to the receptionist, she'll dismiss what I say and tell me to go back to my desk. 

How do I handle these situations? I'm normally a people pleaser, but also am very disciplined in what I believe is expected from someone in a professional position ... especially one as high-profile as a receptionist (first impression of the company).

I can’t stand it when people don’t do their jobs right or take pride in even trying. Yet, I do like the receptionist and view her as a “work friend.”  I beg for advice of you wise people! Thank you!  -- Anonymous

Question: My boss is the head of my company and a genius-engineer type. He must have his contacts in a book rather than an electronic format. Currently, I use Outlook 2003 and have created a contact binder with tabs for Home, Personal, Medical, Business, etc.

My boss wants several contacts from the same company to be seen under one company view (one contact name under the other with phone numbers under the master company header), instead of several separate views. He also would like to see the database sorted in different ways, but he wants more configurable views rather than the several choices of view from Outlook.

In relation to this, I have several questions to other admins.

  1. Would a skilled Outlook user be able to change the contact format and contact views into a more easily read format? If so, where could I get the training/knowledge (i.e., training CDs, courseware or live training) to do this?
  2. Does anyone know of any other database program out there for personal contacts that is very detailed, flexible and configurable? (We've already scrapped Access.)

Thanks for any help.

-- Karen Kosmoski

Question: Having been here five years, I'm the newest person in my office. I'm also the youngest admin here by at least 20 years. However, I have 15 years of experience as an administrative assistant/office manager.

Recently, I was given the task of developing some training programs for admins. Can anyone suggest how to begin this sort of program, given the fact that, while I've received many compliments from "higher ups" on my skills and efficiency, some admins think there is nothing more to learn ... and, especially, nothing that I can teach them since I'm the "young thing," as they say.

I don't want to come across as a know-it-all, but at the same time, some people haven't bothered to keep their skills current and there really is room to grow.  -- Ann

Question: How do you not get stressed out working as an assistant to two very powerful personalities? One has the effect of a Mack truck when he approaches me. The other tends to be highly critical and extremely articulate.  -- Carolyn

Question: I'm responsible for planning team-building exercises for a team of eight people. Does anyone have any great ideas of things to go out in the community to do that are fun but also will teach a leadership skill?  -- Bonnie Rohrer
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