Monday, April 12, 2010

The Value of Good Administrative Staff

I come from Administrative Staff stock.  By this I mean, my career dates back to a secretarial position.  I have truly climbed the ladder rung by rung at my firm.

Because of this, I have a healthy admiration for the Administrative Professionals (Assistants, Clerical, Reception, Reproduction, etc.) and the importance of good staff in these positions.  I also recognize that they will forever be the lowest paid position in the company.  Only by dint of will and longevity have the administrative assistants in our company climbed out of entry-level pay scales.  And by then, most are so beaten down that it no longer feels warranted, but it definitely feels earned.

I try to be smart enough to take advantage of a good administrative assistant, without taking them for granted.  I often find myself apologizing when I need to ask them to set up a meeting, order food, or take care of some of the millions of menial tasks that are required to get the work done.  I actively look for more interesting things for them to do to balance out the shit work.  I also try to roll up my sleeves and pitch in side by side when the shit work is overwhelmingly ... well ...shitty.  All of this has to be done in delicate balance.  In point of fact, my time is "more valuable" and while I can pitch in to do their work, there are no board room meetings they can attend in my place.  I can order a mean lunch, but sadly, they can't create a strategy presentation. 

When in a meeting room, I used to bristle when the men would look to me (typically the only woman in the room) to manage the coffee and the note-taking.  I do respect the person who is in charge of this, so I don't find it appropriate to act like it is beneath me, I just wondered why they thought it was my job?  I finally developed a deflection technique where I would declare (truthfully) that I don't drink coffee but I could point them to the coffee machine (which I don't know how to operate, because, as I said, I don't drink coffee) and as far as notes, I offer to share the notes I am taking, but declare that if they want an accurate record of the meeting we should get a professional admin to handle that.

This month, April 21st is Administrative Professionals Day.  I already have the card for our group admin, and I'm planning the lunch - one meal she doesn't need to schedule.  If you are a working stiff of the female persuasion, I encourage you to think hard about this day. 
  • If you are an admin, consider that the people who push things "down" to you really need you and they know it, even if they don't always show it well.
  • If you are a staffer, you can learn a lot from those admins in your team - organization, prioritization, tact, and managing up!  Respect their talents on the team.
  • If you are a manager, take a moment to remember what it was like when you were on the lower organizational rungs and remind your admin that every little task is critical to the end result.  And when people try to make you feel like an admin, don't take it as a slight, but rather defer to the admin, as you would with ANY OTHER EXPERT RESOURCE. 

    Because they truly are.


Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

You are such a wise businesswoman--and a kind one as well!

Kate Hanley said...

Such a great post. I worked as an Admin Asst for years while I was trying not to do theater. And I will say that my skills as a Stage Manager are most like those needed to be a good secretary. It does take a talent to be well-organized and be able to multi-task all while smiling! It's so great that you recognize this and I hope the Admin Assts have a great lunch!

mkosboth said...

I wish I had an admin to appreciate. I have two professional staff members and work study students. No administrative staff. I make my own coffee, take my own notes, answer my own phone. Maybe I will buy myself lunch on the 21st.