No one ever said the role of an administrative assistant was easy.
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Short deadlines, demanding supervisors, and full inboxes can challenge the patience of even the most competent administrative professionals. But with a little understanding, it is possible to create a work environment that everyone can live with.
Beneath every complaint, there is usually an elephant in the room, an unspoken issue that needs to be addressed. By identifying the issues lingering beneath the most common administrative assistant complaints, assistants and supervisors can begin a dialogue that may ultimately lead to a more efficient workplace.
"I don't have time to do everything that needs to be done."
Time is a factor in any workplace. Administrative assistants often feel pressured to accomplish the seemingly impossible within the confines of a normal workday. The result is that workload complaints are the most common administrative grievance in most small businesses. However, the real issue is one of priorities. In some cases, assistants have not adequately prioritized their workload while in others, supervisors have overburdened their assistants by making every task a top-level priority. The solution is for the supervisor and assistant to synchronize their priorities through regular – even daily – communication regarding project progress and deadlines.
"My supervisor always changes the plan. Why can't he make up his mind?"
Change and small business go hand in hand. Although administrative assistants experience frustration when a project changes midstream, the reality is that last minute changes are sometimes unavoidable. The vast majority of administrative professionals are more than willing to roll with the punches as long as they understand why the changes are necessary. When supervisors go the extra step of involving their assistants in the process rather than matter-of-factly dictating last minute changes, assistants typically respond positively and go the extra mile to see the job through to its completion.
"I feel very unappreciated."
It's not hard to understand why many administrative assistants feel under-appreciated. A lot of their efforts take place behind the scenes and under the radar. When a project is successful, kudos are usually given to the executive, even though the assistant may also have played an important role. However, there is also a more subtle reason why assistants suffer from a lack of appreciation. Much of an administrative professional's job involves creating a buffer between the supervisor and everyday nuisances. Consequently, the assistant bears the brunt of criticisms that are actually directed toward the boss. Although effective administrative assistants need to have a thick skin, supervisors can mitigate the impact difficult people have on their assistants by demonstrating a willingness to intervene when the line between criticism and abuse is crossed.
"I don't get paid enough for this."
When a supervisor and assistant work closely on a project, the assistant may start to question the pay differential, especially if both individuals are performing similar tasks. Supervisors need to make sure that they are not requiring the assistant to perform functions outside of their job description, even when they are up against a tight deadline. However, assistants also need to keep in mind that at the end of the day, the supervisor is paid to ensure that the company meets its goals. If the project is unsuccessful, the supervisor will have to answer to the CEO, while the assistant simply moves on to the next assignment.