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Mary Ellen Slayter

When you’re com­­­­mu­­ni­­cat­­ing with your colleagues, man­­agers or clients, it’s important to keep these four modes—conceptual, analytical, social and structural—in mind and tailor your message to reach each one of them.

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Question: “Last week a group of people our admin team has never worked with made a request of us, and from the reaction of a couple of my co-workers, you would have thought it came from space aliens. We just don’t know what some of the departments in our company are really about because we barely interact, so when we do, sadly our first thought is, ‘Who are these people to make this request of us?’ As the team leader, I want to start making everyone familiar and comfortable with every department here, but how do I do that?” – Hanna, Administrative Supervisor

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Question: “I’m wondering how many admins out there use Salesforce on a regular basis. In my office, we’re looking for a tool to wrangle all our sales leads, but we’re not sure what else it can do, or how widespread its use really is. Anyone have experience using this software and can clue me in?” – Gil, Admin Trainer

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Question: “In the space of six weeks, our admin team lost two consecutive new hires—they left very quickly. Here’s what I think the problem was: They were totally overwhelmed. We have a million things going on, we’re understaffed, and we can’t take the time to bring people along slowly. A new person has to face a ton of work from day one and there’s no way around it. So how do we somehow hold onto the next admin who gets hired?” – Nadia, San Antonio

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Question: “Not that I want to be out of work, but it seems to me that technology has now given my boss plenty of tools to fend for himself in a lot of areas. Outlook does pretty much everything I can in the scheduling department, and it just takes a few clicks to book a flight or rent a car these days. Is anyone else worried that there’s less and less that we admins seem absolutely necessary for?” – Vicki, Executive Assistant

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Question: “My company has asked me to put together an instructional packet as part of an anti-gossip measure. People across all departments pretty much agree it leads to a lot of negativity here, so I have to assemble policies and articles and even scripts into something downloadable. I’ll gladly do it, but I’ve accidentally started a debate within my team with my opinion that there’s nothing we can do about gossip—it’s natural and unstoppable and just has to run its course. I think this attempt to stifle it is a little silly. It’s like trying to control the weather! What do others think?” – Kim, IT traffic assistant

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Question: “Every year our boss wants our admin team to host some sort of game at our holiday party before it really gets going, and every year people suffer through it for 20 minutes when all they really want to do is eat and chat. You can sense their boredom; these are just not ‘activity’ folks. Can anyone help with a suggestion for something that might actually intrigue people?” – Susanne, Customer Care Representative

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Question: “I’m starting to read that in addition to having a good résumé when you’re looking for a job, it’s becoming important to have a solid ‘social media presence.’ I’m sure that by now hiring managers are taking a look at whatever they can find out about us online—but how do I build this ‘presence’ when I haven’t really had one before and need to start looking for a job in January?” – Eva, Transcription Editor

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Question: “For the last chapter of our company’s style guide, I was asked to compile tips on how to write emails that stay true to your personality. My boss wanted these in there because he said he was amazed at how rude, hostile, impatient or uneducated so many otherwise smart people seemed in emails without realizing they were coming off so poorly. I’d love to hear some fixes for those who accidentally become totally different when writing them.” – Nan, Admin Team Lead

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Question: “There is so much more I can do for my company, but I am never considered for meaningful projects and assignments. I’ve been with my current company as an executive assistant for six years and have over 25 years of experience working at the C-level. Don’t get me wrong; I love what I do and I’m very good at it, but most of the work I’ve been asked to do lately is task-oriented and extremely basic, i.e. making labels, stuffing envelopes, conference room reservations, arranging food orders, etc. Please know that I don’t feel that those tasks are beneath me … I’m always willing to pitch in to help wherever needed. I’ve talked with my boss about my concerns and my eagerness to take on additional responsibilities and new assignments. Unfortunately, that conversation didn’t reveal any answers. I am having a great deal of difficulty understanding why I keep getting overlooked, and my feelings of resentment and frustration are getting harder to hide. Has anyone ever been in a similar situation?”  – Wasting Away

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Question: “I was laid off a month ago and now I spend a couple of hours a day job-searching, and the rest of the time just trying to fill in the day. There must be something productive I could be doing that will look cool on my résumé—but it can’t be too much of a time commitment that will interfere with being able to suddenly go off to an interview, or even start a new job on a moment’s notice. Any suggestions?” – Neil, Woodbury, Minn.

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Question: “My company recently hired an admin who doesn’t quite fit in with the personalities around here. She’s shy and some people think she’s a little odd, but she does her job well enough. I’m worried that after only a month, she seems cut off from the other admins and is being isolated through no real fault of her own. Does anyone have any ideas on how to ‘rescue’ someone like this and make sure she doesn’t become the employee people just don’t care about?” – Livvy, Brokerage Assistant

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Question: “I was an executive admin for nearly 30 years. After I was laid off, I thought it would be easy to find another job—after all, ‘I’m an admin and can do anything.’ I have interviewed almost consistently. I know that I used to interview well; I look good (very professional image), have a solid background, good skills, fun personality, easy to get along with, great ethic and word mindset, no kids … I can travel, work late, come in early, etc. But I never really learned to ‘market and brand’ myself. So why I am not getting the jobs?” – Sheryl, Executive Admin

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Question: “I’m tempted to spruce up a PowerPoint presentation by adding some video. Before I try to learn the actual steps of how to do it, I’d like to know what other admins’ experiences have been with trying this—is it going to be too much headache for too little payoff, or is it easier than I think?” – Michelle, Administrative Assistant III

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Question: “I’ve noticed recently that one of the managers here seems to be trying to use me as a window into my boss’s habits and decisions. He’s always politely prying for a little more information about what she’s thinking than I’m comfortable giving, but at the same time, he’s even higher up the ladder than my boss is, so I don’t want to offend him. What should I do about this?” – Caitlyn, Events Assistant

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Question: “Our company has performance plans based on the expectation that we’ll always be moving up the ladder—or at least trying to. I can tell my boss thinks it’s odd that I’m having trouble with this. The fact is, I’ve been an admin for four great years and I just don’t want to be promoted! How do I convince him that I’m genuinely happy where I am without sounding like I’m scared to take on higher responsibility?” – Fran, Marketing Admin

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Question: “There are a lot of snazzy decorative templates, images, borders, fonts, etc. in the recent versions of Word—so many that I don’t even know where to begin. It seems like I could scroll through the options all day! If I want to quickly spruce up a boring report to the managers summarizing the projects our admin group has completed, what are some favorite bells and whistles that would do the job?” – Nora, Hotel Bookings Assistant

See comments below, and send your own question to Admin-Pro@nibm.net.

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Question: “I had an idea that I would set myself a target date for becoming the manager of my department exactly five years from now, and work to make that goal happen as hard as I can. I definitely have a few promotion levels to achieve before I get there, so do you think it’s wise to set such an ambitious goal with such a specific timeline, or am I setting myself up for a possible disappointment that might be even tougher to recover from if I don’t make it?” – Mel, Property Processing Clerk

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Question: “My admin team is getting overly competitive since we can now log in to our system after normal work hours. I know that at least two of the people I work with put in an extra four or five unpaid hours every week at home, in order to get ahead. I can’t help but feel they have an unfair advantage—they’re getting more done than me because I don’t want work to follow me home, yet I can’t realistically tattle on them for the unauthorized hours. Is the only solution here to just let them be seen as miracle workers who are more efficient than I am?” – Betty, Financial Services

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Question: “How do I ask and answer questions at an interview?” – Lydia

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