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Mary Ellen Slayter

Question: “I’ve slowly realized that I’m the person everyone comes to when they want to talk about life outside the office, their personal problems, their traffic woes, their relationship headaches … I don’t mind, but I think I’d like to very slowly give up that role. Does anyone have any tips on how I might do that without shutting anyone down directly? These are all nice people and I like them a lot; I just want to focus on myself and the job more.” – Cassidy, Test Prep Assistant

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Question: “I’m starting to feel a little natural pressure to eat lunch at my desk—not because I’m so busy, and not because anyone’s recommended it, but just because there are so many people around me who do it, and I get the feeling that when I leave the building for lunch, there’s the perception that I’m not quite as dedicated as others are. Simply staying in my cubicle seems to give off the impression that I’ve never broken stride, even though I’m simply eating and browsing the web. Has anyone else felt this way? Do you think you gain points somehow when you stay deskbound (but idle) at lunch as opposed to heading out?” – Maeve, Publishing Admin

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Question: “There’s a member of our four-person admin team who does everything well and is very nice, but she is just never at work on time. Five minutes here, ten minutes there, occasionally fifteen … maybe it’s not a big deal because it’s not difficult to catch up over the course of an eight-hour day. But I worry about the example this sets, and I get irritated when I have a question and need to wait for an answer. Do you think this behavior is too minor to risk alienating someone who does a good job by mentioning it? I’m not her supervisor, just a colleague.” – Susan, Reservations Agent

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Question: “I think I’m in need of some sort of training that will teach me to turn down tasks and projects that gobble up too much time, or that I just don’t want to get involved in. I fear that as an admin for 15 years, I’ve been conditioned to say ‘Yes’ to whatever comes my way. Has anyone out there made a conscious effort to break from the agree-then-regret trap? How did you go about it?” – Monica, Email Marketing Account Coordinator

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Question: “I’m surprised at how much of my new job is about ordering food for meetings—I’m responsible for four or five a day sometimes, anything from a basket of muffins for a team huddle to a 40-seat luncheon. Has anyone learned any catering ‘cheats’ that will save money, move lines along faster or just make me look like I really know what I’m doing?” – Becky, Assistant to Investing Services

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Question: “We’ve been asked to train new hires through writing careful processes, but it’s also been suggested we mix in some short videos of our own making too. Does anyone have opinions on which types of tasks it’s easier to learn through video than through reading the steps of a process? I’m particularly curious about which method we should use to teach computer software. I know I’m mostly a text-learner … am I becoming a rare breed?” – Nathan, Administrative Support

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Question: “As Assistant Secretary to our not-for-profit board, we have the discussion constantly about the best/easiest way to share materials. We have a SharePoint platform forum; however, members say there are too many clicks to get what they need. Additionally, firewalls become an obstacle, plus the size of files, the time it takes to download large ones, etc. Any suggestions on sharing documents would be greatly appreciated.” – Theresa, Assistant Corporate Secretary

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Question: “Do you have a favorite movie or TV show about the working life of an admin? Is there any scene that has ever made you think, ‘This is totally what it’s like to be me at work’ or even ‘This is so not the way it is’?” – the editors of Administrative Professional Today

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Question: “I’m wondering what admins do to track phone messages for their exec? I’ve used a phone log right in Microsoft Outlook, but it doesn’t work in Microsoft 2016 so I’ve just been using an Excel spreadsheet.” – Kathy, Admin

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Question: “It’s been said that many of us are losing our face-to-face people skills because of computers, email, texting, telecommuting, etc. Since it’s easier than ever to get our work done in an impersonal way, without connecting in person as often, employees are getting cozy on their own little ‘work islands’ and may be forgetting the basics (and advantages) of constant human interaction. But do you think this is actually true—and if so, how is it making your job more difficult?” – the editors of Administrative Professional Today

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