You know the type. They hold court at their desk and guard their areas of responsibility like the Crown Jewels. The second they perceive a threat to the status quo, that threat is shut down either by direct force or covert manipulation. If you ask them to help with a task, even if said task is well within their purview, they will look at you and sigh hugely as if you’ve just suggested they lead a desert hike without water.
Sometimes, this person has been in their job so long and is so secure and complacent that they’ve lost all perspective on what it means to work in a role that involves other people. Although any admin can fall prey to a bad attitude, it happens to “career admins” more often because they are set in their ways. And of course, they are dreaded by everyone and avoided whenever possible.
Some admins think it’s enough to muster smiles and “no problems” to their bosses and give the stink eye to the rest of the office plebeians. Unfortunately, people talk, and even if those admins manage to keep their jobs, their reputations will suffer. The key to being a successful admin is a single trait: equal opportunity enthusiasm. No matter whom you’re dealing with or what they want, you must come across as a cheerful, “can do” individual who loves your company and your work.
What does this involve? Simply put, if someone on your team asks you to help with a task, be accommodating if at all possible. The words “I don’t have time” should never escape your lips. Instead, your mentality should be: “I’m resourceful, so even if this is difficult or inconvenient or not the way I’ve done things in the past, I will go out of my way to be flexible and solve the problem.” If you know something in your group needs to be done, volunteer and then own the assignment without prodding. Your team members will see you as a huge asset and as someone they can count on.
Equal opportunity enthusiasm also involves basic friendliness. Encourage your team members to genuinely like you. If they express an outrageous political opinion or offer unsolicited advice about your personal life, nod and smile. You don’t have to agree, but you don’t have to actively disagree either. Protect your team members’ feelings, compliment them out their outfits or work product, and thank them generously for any efforts on your behalf. Even if a particular team member isn’t someone you’d choose as a friend, focus on the things about them you do like, and do your best to establish a positive working relationship.
Before we close, I wouldn’t be a responsible career advice author if I didn’t mention this caveat to the equal opportunity enthusiasm mantra. There is a fine line between being a hard worker and letting people take advantage of you. Some managers and team members expect their admins to be gofers to the tune of “Do this, do that, get me this, get me that, tell this person ABC, and get an answer from that person on XYZ.” As an admin, some silly errands and tasks may be part of your job description, but others may not, and it’s easy to spend so much time running around that you don’t get more important work done. You can maintain your aura of enthusiasm simply by telling victims of gofer syndrome that you’re happy to make five thousand copies of their agenda if they get permission from your boss to de-prioritize the CEO report. In this way, you protect your time but never stop smiling.
What are some of your experiences with admins in your workplace? Share in the comments below!