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Mary Ellen Slayter

Question: “We’re getting concerned where I work that the overwhelming amount of documents and data that we generate every day aren’t being safely stored and tracked. We have no one person whose job it is to make sure that important files, customer records, financial statements, logbooks, correspondence, social media content, even security tapes and cellphone records are properly handled and archived—it’s way too much for HR when every employee is churning out so much stuff on their own. Does anyone out there actually have a system in place to get a handle on all of this, or are most companies like us, just letting everything stack up in cabinets and fill up the computer network and hoping nothing vital gets lost along the way?” — Geena, Delivery Services Coordinator

{ 6 comments }

Question: “I could have many more opportunities, and higher pay, if I learned French and could reply to emails from our French customers. At 38, though, I wonder if I really have the capacity to learn a different language just by taking a class three times a week—the local community college has a program. What’s the toughest thing people had to learn for their jobs long after they left school? I’m looking for inspiration!” — Erin, Imports Staffer

{ 15 comments }

Question: “I take some criticism in the office because I’m a stickler for good grammar. So much of what we write to each other comes off as unprofessional that I think there does need to be one person who points out these little communication breakdowns. It’s my way of trying to stop bad grammar from creeping over into the materials our clients and customers see. Am I right to keep standing up for the rules, or am I playing office politics incorrectly?” – Glenn, Film Librarian

{ 18 comments }

Question: “I need to up my game with PowerPoint and Excel. Can anyone recommend online classes for this?”  – Kathleen, Assistant to VP

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Question: “I wear a hearing aid, but still I often have the need to ask co-workers to repeat things. They all know about my handicap but naturally they don’t always remember to speak a little louder until I ask them to. I sense that a lot of them find it very aggravating to have to repeat sentences when they talk to me, and sometimes I get a polite ‘Oh, never mind, it’s not that important,’ which is very frustrating. I wonder why people don’t have a little more patience with this disability, and what I can do to adapt and not get on their nerves.” – Miranda, Digital Archivist

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Question: One thing that’s rarely taught when you start out as an admin is how to seamlessly flow with the executive you support on both a professional and personal level—stepping in and out of their world every day, helping without obstructing, getting your own work done while some of theirs is taken care of too. Our question this week is: Would you say that you’ve actually developed a real bond with your boss, and that you feel more like an ally than an underling? And if so, do you have any words of wisdom you can share on how to make this happen?  – the editors of Administrative Professional Today

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Question: “I’ve been a temporary admin in many different offices since 2009, and I really haven’t noticed the slightest reduction in the amount of paper all over people’s desks, brought out in meetings, and in use all over the office. My boss just mentioned that he’s thinking about starting a ‘paperless office’ initiative, but to me it doesn’t seem necessary or even desired. I think we’ve all underestimated how comfortable people feel with paper and how much we still want it. Isn’t a project like this just going to wind up being totally fruitless?” – Maeve, Accounts Payable

{ 9 comments }

Question: “We have an admin on the team who is far past retirement age but shows no interest in retiring—which is great, except he’s slowed down and become inefficient to the point where he may be creating more work than he’s doing. He’s not really eager or able to learn advanced new skills, either. Our boss is a very sympathetic person and feels stuck while he sees our productivity suffer. What would you do?” – Aaron, E-marketing Assistant

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Question: “My company is gearing up to get into social media. They seem pretty open to creativity, so I’d like to know if anyone’s noticed any companies out there that really seem to know how to get people’s attention on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. I’d like to start following and befriending them to learn the tricks of the trade.” – Everett, Admin Team Lead

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Question: “I am currently working in Word 2007 and we are getting ready to update to Word 2010. Will there be a lot of changes to get used to?”  – Sharon, Office Manager / Financial Secretary

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Question: “I was placed on a performance improvement plan at work. I really think it’s a way to slowly fire me, and it’s such a morale killer to be under this kind of watch that I don’t have much enthusiasm left for the job. Does anyone ever come back from being on probation like this to do really well with their company and leave the black mark totally behind? I sure can’t think of an example.” – Violet, Insurance Researcher

{ 34 comments }

Question: “Do you find that the position of administrative assistant is becoming a thing of the past? I am retiring next month and they’re not replacing my position.”  – Sally, Admin

{ 16 comments }

Question: “My boss is notorious for running late for meetings, being out of touch when he’s supposedly working at home, forgetting about appointments … I’m often the only one who knows the real reasons for these problems, and they’re rarely good ones, so it falls to me sometimes to make an excuse. I sense that people see through me when I do. What can I possibly say in these situations when I’m a lousy liar but I don’t want to make my otherwise good boss seem like a mess?” – Frazzled, San Mateo, Ca.

{ 9 comments }

Question: “I recently had a performance review in which a couple of the things that were said about me were simply untrue. These comments took me completely by surprise, and I realize that in defending myself I probably came off as whiny and was very ineffective. Only now that a week has gone by do I realize exactly what I should have said, and how I should have said it. I got my raise and a decent overall mark, so is it just too late now to state my case? In going back over old ground, would I only make myself look worse no matter if the facts are on my side?” – May, Clerical Trainer

{ 16 comments }

It’s hard enough to pass off a task without being physically disconnected from someone. But in the modern age, you don’t always get to delegate face to face.

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Question: “Sometimes our boss gives everyone on our admin team $100 to spend on things we can use to improve our skills. This quarter, that $100 can go toward whatever I can think of that might help me become a better writer. Does anyone have suggestions on what books or software I should order? It’s a case of use it or lose it!” – Clara, Vendor Relations

{ 5 comments }

April is National Stress Awareness Month, making it a good time to take stock of how you feel at work and figure out if you’re dealing with stress properly so you don’t burn out or wear yourself down.

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Question: “Any tips on how to organize my day to be most effective? Also, how do you keep abreast of new changes in the admin world—concerning tasks like how to fold letters for envelopes or how to place your initials on correspondence; the kinds of general administrative duties we all have?” – Angela, Administrative Assistant to an Associate Dean for Academics and Student Service Specialist

{ 6 comments }

Question: “Last week at my new job I made an oversight when putting together a package of materials for my boss. It was the worst possible mistake to make and led to a ruined presentation, which in the end lost us some good business. I felt so miserable, I could barely get out of bed the next day. I think it will take me months to win back any kind of trust (my boss is not the most forgiving person). Is it ever better to just start over somewhere else rather than try to slowly erase a track record that’s gone wrong so soon?” – Cass, Documents Specialist

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Question: “My company doesn’t have a dedicated receptionist. Instead the six members of our admin team are on a rotating schedule to cover the front desk. To me it’s always felt like a lost few hours. Things are usually pretty quiet at the desk, but I just can’t be nearly as productive—or as comfortable—when I’m answering phones and handling the other duties of a receptionist. Our boss seems to think we really shouldn’t miss a beat. Has anyone figured out a way to make this work?” – Nancy, Word Processing Specialist

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