Whether their title is administrative assistant, office manager, or secretary, the people who fulfill the position of service assistant to the other people in their office are often overlooked, overburdened, or otherwise mistreated. If you are looking to make a friend in a new office, or hope to improve your relationships within an office, discovering those things which make the assistant’s job easier can be one of the best steps you can take.
Get to know the assistant.
Office assistants are people too, and they appreciate it when their co-workers take the time to acknowledge that fact. Depending upon the specific office environment, the level of your interaction may vary, but at the bare minimum, saying good morning to the assistant every day is a good start. A brief chat about the weather or current events could be another way to approach the topic, and it’s even better if you get to know a little bit about them – their hobbies, interests, etc. – and tailor your conversation in an appropriate direction. This doesn’t need to be a long and drawn out conversation, and it probably shouldn’t be, since everyone has work to do, but taking a minute or two to make some polite chit chat will go a long way toward letting the assistant know that you care.
Let the assistant know when you use the last of something.
This may just be a personal pet peeve of mine, but as the person responsible for ordering supplies for our office, I really dislike finding out that we have completely run out of a necessary supply. Sometimes I discover this when I would give my kingdom for a box of paperclips; other times it comes to my attention when a co-worker is upset by the fact that what they need is not in the office. Generally speaking, office assistants are the ones who have the responsibility for keeping supplies stocked, but it puts an extra burden on them to have to check up on the supplies periodically, to make sure that no one has used the last box of kleenex, for example. By letting the office assistant know when supplies are running low, or when you have taken the last item of a certain type, you will make this aspect of his or her job easier.
Realize that most assistants receive requests from multiple people, all of whom think that their request is the most important.
Unless you are the only person in your office who utilizes the help of a particular office assistant, you can assume that this will be true. I work in a very small office by most standards, and there are occasionally up to three people making concurrent requests of me. In many cases, there is a sort of “chain of command” within the office. If someone higher on the “chain” has made a request of the office assistant, even if said request comes in after yours, the office assistant may have to prioritize the higher ranking employee’s request, regardless of your perceived importance of your request. Realize that even the most skilled multitasker may not be able to complete several detailed tasks all at once, and learn to accept your place in the official or unofficial pecking order.
Accept the fact that assistants are only human.
Growing up, we are often told that we all make mistakes. It’s a good thing to remember later in life too, particularly that it applies to everyone, not just yourself. Even the most talented office assistant will make an occasional mistake, have an occasional lapse in his or her memory, or otherwise be slightly imperfect. When such an event occurs, it is best to take a deep breath, remember that you have made mistakes as well, and try to work with the assistant to correct whatever mistake was made. Assistants will appreciate those co-workers who are more tolerant and understanding of mistakes, as opposed to those who berate them for any errors. Staying on the office assistant’s good side will always work out well for you in the end.