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On Administrative Professionals Day, Let's Give Them the Gift of Respect

News flash: today is National Administrative Professionals Day, the day when we honor all the hard-working employees who answer phones, file paperwork, schedule meetings and babysit their co-workers' children.


Sure, there are many gifts managers could buy for the administrative assistant, from food to flowers to Friday off. But forget flowers; what the average administrative assistant really wants is more respect from their colleagues! So let's treat our administrative assistants like the smart, talented, team-oriented employees they are, only we can do it every day of the year. Here are ten tips for giving the hard-working administrative assistant the respect they deserve all year round:

1. Don't interrupt them on the phone. You need the admin's attention right now, but you can hold on a minute while they put somebody on hold or transfer a call. Don't wave your arms frantically to get their attention, don't mouth your words, and never talk with your fingers. You look silly, and you're highly distracting. You can always send the administrative assistant an email or text instead. In fact, that would probably work best.

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2. Don't talk down to them. Administrative assistants are incredibly talented, intelligent employees who are holding down the fort -- and in some cases, holding up the entire company. They are on the front lines, which means they have to be quick-witted, charming, decisive, strong and always a step ahead of everyone else. They probably know how many eyelashes you have, and they know that you've been late to work three times this week. Never, ever treat them like they're dumb, because they will remember it when you need something.

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3. Don't treat their desk like your own. You need to use a keyboard stat, and so you reach for the administrative assistant's keyboard. Without asking first. Memo: please ask for permission before using or taking anything from the administrative assistant's work area, because she is very tired of tracking down her stapler all the time. If you have a cold, then do not even ask to use the admin's stuff. Thank you.

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4. Don't treat them like your personal assistant. The administrative assistant either serves a particular manager or the entire staff. He or she is not at your personal beck and call. Sure, they know where the paper towels are stored and will kindly tell you where they are, but they will not get the paper towels for you. There is a boundary here. Please learn it, and always say "thank you."

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5. Don't make them watch your kids. Do you know that 40% of administrative assistants are regularly babysitting their co-workers' children during the work day? The administrative assistant is trying to help Emily play Minecraft and Kayden find Waldo while they're trying to do their real job. If they do volunteer to watch your children while you are in a meeting, then you should say "thank you" in the form of a $25 gift card (minimum, per hour) for their time and trouble each time they watch your child.

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6. Don't forget they are the gatekeeper. One of the main roles of the administrative assistant is that of gatekeeper -- e.g., deciding who gets access to staff, or to a particular manager. Gatekeeper is an incredibly important, and under-appreciated, role in a company. A talented admin assistant saves other employees tons of time over the course of a year by sending calls to voice mail, or re-directing the caller somewhere else. Protip: Always be nice to the administrative assistant, because they can open (or close) doors.

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7. Don't put them in awkward situations. An employee is running late to work, so they call the administrative assistant and ask him or her to log in for them. Just, no. Do not present the administrative assistant with unethical dilemmas. It's not very nice, and they don't appreciate it.

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8. Don't leave your crap all over their work area. See Tip #3. If you're going to use the administrative assistant's work area, then make sure you leave it like you found it. No crumbs, no coffee stains, no stray papers, no energy bar wrappers, no empty soda cans. Ew. If you want to be a real sweetie, you can wipe the seatie. The office chair, that is.

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9. Don't waste their time. The administrative assistant, no matter how friendly, doesn't have a lot of free time. So when you talk to them, just get straight to the point, will you? I need so-and-so copied on this in the next 45 minutes, thanks. Whoomp, there it is. Whenever you have a work-related request, aim to say it in as few words as possible to get your point across. Think of it as word economy in action.

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10. Don't blame them for things that are somebody else's fault. It's all too easy when things go wrong to blame the administrative assistant who is right there on the front lines. You know, when documents arrive late or haven't been delivered, and so on. Make sure the blame lands right where it belongs: on so-and-so in logistics who never placed the order in the first place!

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So instead of flowers or candy, let's go with basic rules of respect all year long. The administrative assistant will notice it and appreciate it. Gift cards still work, too.

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