• Who do I serve?

    I recently read an article on another website that played out some scenarios and how to deal with them.

    One scenario talked about being the “go to” person in an organisation.  Yes that’s great I thought, but when I read on, particularly at the four choices the blogger offered as possible responses to a question I was aghast!

    So a rundown of the scenario – a staff member calls you up (you being the Admin Professional aka the “go to” person), to tell you that the light over his desk has blown.  The four options provided range from tell him to call the property team himself, through you calling property and getting them to come to you, calling property and getting them to go to him or asking your colleague what he wants you to do about it.

    The blog suggests that the “correct” answer is calling property and getting them to come to you so that you can go with them to help sort out the problem.  If you had called property and asked them to follow up directly then you would get another call from your colleague wanting to know what was going on.  The scenario suggests that the colleague called wanting you to take care of the situation, and by ringing property and going with them to sort it out you are exceeding your colleague’s expectation and got the job done efficiently.  The main point of this scenario was that you wouldn’t want your colleague getting distracted from his work!

    So my response to the scenario was to point the colleague in the right direction, that is call the property team and ask them to come and sort it out.  Again, if it was my CE who called from his office that his light had blown, then I would call the property team and get them to come to the office – although, knowing my CE he’d have called them himself anyway!  The thing that made my blood boil in the blog was that you wouldn’t want your colleague getting distracted from his work!  The inference that I took from this is that it doesn’t matter that my work is being interrupted to organise something being fixed which isn’t my job.  I am more than happy to show a colleague how to copy a booklet or to mailmerge, but if I continue to do these things for them instead of sharing my knowledge and skills then I am doing my colleague and myself a huge disservice.

    I have seen similar expectations in workplaces where admin teams will always, without fail, interrupt what they are working on to respond to a query/question/request from colleagues.  This has created a tension between EAs and other Admin team members in the way that requests are responded to.

    I understand the service ethic, they view the rest of the staff as their customers, but I am not sure that creating expectations within the staff that we, as administrative staff, are only there to serve their needs at the drop of a hat – with the exception of course of management as that is my job after all – is productive or wise.  It goes against everything I have ever been taught about time management and productivity.  Why is it ok for someone to interrupt what I am working on?  I will always assist people when they ask for help but it does not mean I will do it right there and then if I have something that I am working on particularly if what I am working on is urgent.

    There will always be an element of reactivity in any administrative professionals role, but until we are able to say to our colleagues “I have a deadline right now, shall we make a time later today/tomorrow to have a look at that?” or “I am busy right now, let’s make a time for me to show you how to do that” we are going to be in a self-fulfilling prophecy about the value placed on administration roles.

    So my question is – do we, as Administrative Professionals, value our OWN work when we drop everything to do tasks for others, are we “enabling” behaviours and perpetuating the perception of administration roles as “less important”?

    December 7, 2015 / Sherie Pointon / 0

    Categories: Admin Musings

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