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Mary Ellen Slayter

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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Question: “Everyone seems to have a different way of creating their to-do lists. I’ve always been interested in how they go about it, and what their lists actually look like. Am I the only one who just scrawls things in a big notebook and messily crosses them out? How many people use Excel, Outlook, sticky notes, legal pads, posters, whiteboards or even emails to themselves? Is there some method that seems to work wonders for admins?” – Joe, Editorial Assistant

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Question: “I have a co-worker who is good at her job but keeps getting in her own way with her many personality quirks. She just comes off as insecure, untrusting, high-maintenance and loud. Little by little the team is abandoning her in subtle ways. I’d like to know if I should help her merely by being patient and loyal, or if it would really be better to explain to her why exactly it is that she has so few allies left. And how would I even do that?” – Morgan, Laboratory Services Specialist

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Question: “I actually stress out a little when my vacation rolls around, because I feel I should work far ahead as a courtesy to the team so they don’t have to do anything for me that I could conceivably do in advance. Without them ever asking me to make that effort, sometimes I wind up working frantically because I don’t want to burden anyone during those two weeks. Am I doing the courteous thing, or am I unnecessarily taking on too much?” – Shayley, Tax Preparation Assistant

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Question: “It looks like my new job is going to require a little more office tech knowledge than I was prepared for. Just today I was asked to do something in Excel I wasn’t sure how to. What do other admins usually do when they get stuck like this and the clock is ticking? What’s their ‘escape route’ for finding a fast solution under deadline pressure?” – Mary, Registrar’s Assistant

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Question: “I’ve been hearing a lot lately about the concept of ‘managing up’ and how I should be more aggressively working with my supervisors, and even leading them toward decisions, so I can get ahead. Do any admins out there have examples of what they’ve done to be more like a manager of the people above them instead of just reacting to their needs? And did get it the result you wanted?” – Martha, Instructors’ Assistant

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Question: “Say your boss came to you tomorrow and said that starting in the new year, one and only one of your admin tasks is going away forever—and you get to pick which it is. What would it be, and what is it about that thing that you just can’t stand?” – the editors of Administrative Professional Today

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Question: “Before our holiday lunch this week, each member of the admin team is supposed to read our personal New Year’s resolutions from last December aloud at the table and tell about our progress on them—or lack thereof. Then it’s time to announce new ones. I’m against this idea because it’s bound to make someone feel a little inadequate and stressed at a time of year when we just don’t need that. It’s meant to be a fun activity, but what do other admins think—am I wrong to feel this is going to needlessly create more stress every year?” – Sasha, Service Desk Coordinator

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Question: “I have an admin friend who tells me that I should be documenting every single task I do in my job daily, with special detail given to any sort of small or large projects, which should have their own separate category. She says it’s the only way come performance review time to truly make a boss see what you do and what you’re capable of—because people tend to overlook so much of what goes into an admin’s job. I think I agree, but I worry it might make me seem a little obsessive and self-absorbed, as if all I care about is my own bubble. What do other admins think of this strategy?” – Gail, membership coordinator

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Question: “Our admin team is planning a little awards ceremony during the holidays. Some of the awards will go to those who have done great work, but others will be more tongue-in-cheek so we can all have some fun. I’m wondering what some good, clever awards categories would be to reflect what admins have to face each day.” – Bonnie, Admin Team Leader

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Question: “I’m a little uncertain about job interview etiquette—more specifically, what comes afterward. How long do I wait to send a thank-you email, and is that a good time to elaborate at length on how I feel about the job, or even try to correct some impression I may have accidentally given? How should I close such an email, and is it even necessary to send one if I’m no longer interested in being hired?” – Kenny, unemployed admin

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Christi Labs is the assistant to the president and CEO of Omaha Public Power District in Omaha, Nebraska, which is one of the largest publicly owned electric utilities in the U.S.

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What guidelines are there for sending email invitations for a formal event?

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Question: “I’ve heard many times from colleagues and people close to me that I’m just not assertive enough to really get ahead and achieve the things I want. But this is the way I’ve been all my life and I’m not sure I can change. Does anyone know of some good first steps to try?” – Mercedes, Fashion Assistant

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Question: “I’ve been at my new admin job for three months now. It’s going fine, except the place where I work has to be the stuffiest, least fun company ever. It’s totally quiet all day with almost no interaction, and there’s no real culture, no fun events to look forward to. If it weren’t for brief friendly words in the kitchen with co-workers now and then, I think I’d go nuts! I don’t expect to be able to change the office’s ways—I’d just like to know how others have managed to stay upbeat and energetic in a sleepy atmosphere like this.” – Madison, Contracts Researcher

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Question: “After two years on the job, I’ve been given permission to come up with my own job title—my boss doesn’t put much stock in them. Right now I’m basically your average administrative assistant, but I wonder if sprucing up my title will look good on a résumé or LinkedIn should I need to look for work somewhere else. Who knows, maybe I could gain more credibility here in the office, too. Should I call myself something a little fancier, or is there a downside to it?” – Melanie, Rehoboth, Del.

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Question: “The company I work for caters every meeting no matter how brief, spends thousands of dollars for a service to keep office plants looking nice, constantly renovates to add TVs nobody watches and parking spaces nobody uses. I guess we can afford it, but I’m considering discussing this with my boss. I’m wondering about other admins’ experiences with bringing up the delicate subject of the company throwing money away on extravagant things. What’s the best way to go about it when I’m not totally sure how else that money should be spent—only that it seems enormously wasteful?” – Annabelle, Transcriber

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Question: “The one thing I don’t like about my new admin job is that we have to rate our co-workers every year! I’m dreading filling out that form. It asks us to rate people on a scale from 1 to 5 in a number of different work categories. The ratings are anonymous, but I’m afraid being really honest will cause resentment and strife if someone receives an accumulation of mediocre ratings. Realistically, wouldn’t it be better to avoid giving 1s and 2s no matter how I feel, and just let our manager deal with visible performance problems?” – Monty, Tech Documentation Specialist

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Question: “I’ve always hated the queasy ‘new job’ feeling that makes the first week at work so uncomfortable and uncertain, and now that I’m settled in as the head of my admin team, I really want to make new hires feel completely at ease from the very first morning they come to work for us. Does anyone have any tricks for getting someone to relax and take the first few days totally in stride?” – Wallace, Lead Admin

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