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Should Executive Assistants go on Coffee Runs?


Ah, the infamous coffee run.  Some assistants love it; it gives them a momentary respite from the chaos of the office.  Most assistants hate it.  They despise the idea of being demoted to caffeine transporter.  But, all assistants—the good ones, at least—understand that part of being in a support role is doing everything and (almost) anything necessary in order to make their managers’ day-to-day business functions easier.

Before the Seattle Engineering Department New Year's party, December 31, 1957

Assistants’ jobs are not easy.  We no longer live in the age of the secretary where a lot of words per minute and the ability to phone, fax, and file, are the only real qualifications of the role. Assistants perform a wide variety of duties throughout the day, involving numerous skills in order to complete tasks that under other circumstances would be divvied out to various departments. They hone their skills by becoming CAP-OM certified, mastering Microsoft Office, continuing their professional education, attending seminars, and reading blogs such as this one in order to stay ahead of trends and be the best at what they do. A good assistant saves you time and money, making you more efficient, and, in turn, the practices of your business more effective.

It is not impossible to imagine why coffee runs feel diminutive to an assistant.  After all, so much training, so many late nights working to get that last report finalized to meet the deadline, so many extra hours worked to ensure that you boss’s business affairs are in order before the weekend; the pre-dawn calls to rebook a flight, or make last minute changes to an itinerary.  An assistant’s role just feels so much bigger than coffee.

So, should assistants go on coffee runs?

The simple answer: yes.

The truth is, coffee runs are just as important as meticulously screening phone calls, submitting expense reports, drafting correspondence, or preparing a travel itinerary.  Take a moment to think about the details that go into an order: the particulars of an executive’s beverage, the specificities of the type of sweetener they prefer, the difference between the executive who needs 20oz of coffee to get through the day and the executive who can’t drink more than 8oz without jittering uncontrollably through the night; the half-caff-drinker, the tea-with-honey drinker, the two-sugar-in-the-raws-and-a-splenda (for no rational reason) drinker.  Yes, executive assistants should go on coffee runs.  It is not a job for the faint of heart.  Coffee runs are serious business and an error in communication, execution, or distribution of that task could seriously sour circumstances.

I work really hard at trying to see the big picture and not getting stuck in ego. I believe we’re all put on this planet for a purpose and we all have a different purpose… when you connect with that love and that compassion, that’s when everything unfolds.

— Ellen Degeneres

Assistants, do not get stuck in ego.  Instead, as you walk through the double glass doors and into your boss’s meeting carrying a brown paper tray with goblets of sacred, steaming hot, russet nectar, take pride in the complexity of what you’ve accomplished.  Understand that coffee is an important piece of the administrative big picture.  Do not think, for a second, that you’ve been sent on a coffee run because someone feels you are incompetent: next time, if they send the analysts, that’s when you should worry.

Image by Seattle Municipal Archives (Flickr: New Year’s party, 1957) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


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