Pitfalls and Procedures for Administrative Assistants

It’s easy to fall into routines. Here are three routine behaviors that could be hurting you on the job.

Following up

Scenario: There’s been a change to this week’s scheduled meeting. All attendees were cc’d on the email noting the change.

Trap: Everyone involved was cc’d so you assume everyone is aware of the change.

Try this: Emails are overlooked, get lost in spam or are skimmed through all the time. Send out a separate email, noting in the subject line, “CHANGE: Investor Relations Meeting”. Include everyone involved in the meeting. In the body of the email, note the original time of the meeting, location for the meeting and any other specifics related to the meeting, then the change: “The Investor Relations meeting on June 6th at 10AM on the 5th floor of the ABC Building with discussion led by Jane Doe has changed. The Investor Relations meeting will now be held on June 8th at 2PM on the 3rd floor of the ABC Building. John Smith will lead the discussion” and emphasize the changes with bolded, italicized or underlined text.


Scenario: The person you support, let’s say the Head of Investor Relations, wants one of the team members, let’s say an Analyst, to have their report ready by the end of the week as previously requested, but also wants an in-depth analysis of the market, industry projections for the next three years and a similar analysis of a new industry.

Trap: You hear the Head’s requests and promptly begin drafting an email to the Analyst listing the aforementioned requests. You sign off, Sincerely, Suzie Q, Executive Assistant

Try this: It’s your job to maintain a positive view of your boss when you’re the middle man for his interactions within and outside of the company. Analyst, when confronted with your black and white request, inundated with their other duties, could feel underappreciated and overworked. Instead of simply relaying the Head’s request, empathize by starting the body of the email with something like “I understand you have a lot on your plate right now”. Once you’ve noted their new tasks, offer assistance by saying, “if there is anything I can help you with, please do not hesitate to ask,” and mean it.


Scenario: Your boss will be out of the office for the next three weeks.

Trap: You think, finally, a little down time.

Try this: Part of what distinguishes good admins from great ones is the ability to anticipate needs. Tempting and well-deserved as a short break may be, great admins always
expect the unexpected. You never know when another spur-of-the-moment must-get-done-now project will develop. While the cat’s away, finish up smaller tasks like expense reports, restock your office supplies, take inventory, send a couple of thank you notes, anything you tend to put off because it’s “less important” qualifies. It’s always good to keep a mindset of everything is urgent until it’s not.

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