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12 Challenges Administrative Assistants Face

12 Challenges Administrative Assistants Face

Administrative assistant positions are found in almost every industry. Whether it’s finance, mining, legal, film, and/or retail, this position can be extremely demanding, and definitely deserves some recognition. Some might believe that being an administrative assistant is easy. That’s not the case, administrative assistants work extremely hard. They are educated individuals, who have charming personalities, and can pretty much do anything.

1. They Can Be Forced To Deal With Difficult Personalities

Most administrative assistants have had to deal with a lot of personalities coming in and out of the office space. Generally, these people will be pleasant, while others will be ticking time-bombs throbbing with compressed anger, ready to unleash on the polite administrative assistant.

When dealing with a difficult personality, admin staff usually have a witty charm about them. They can help the heated individual calm down and gain confidence in the company once again, by providing trust and reassuring the angry individual that all will be resolved as soon as possible.

2. They Can Be Seen As Someone Of Lesser Importance

Somehow, the administrative assistant position has been classified as a starting position for most companies. What most people don’t understand is that being an administrative assistant is a professional career in which people can excel.

Administrative assistants are so proud of their careers, their knowledge, and their humbleness, that it’s easy for them to simply brush off anyone who questions their plan for career advancement. They know how important their role is, and how they bring growth to the company they work for.

3. They Can Be Expected To Clean Up After Everyone

You would think with an office full of grown adults, that people would know how to clean up after themselves. Admin staff know that their job requires many nurturing duties, but they also know that they have a problem, when they start finding banana peels left to decay on the boardroom floor.

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Administrative assistants deal with messy co-workers by simply placing posters and signs reflecting their co-worker`s unethical workplace hygiene. They may not always call out an individual directly, but the message is clear, dirty dishes left on the kitchen counter and candy wrappers on the floor will not be tolerated.

4. They Can Be Expected To Fix Anything And Everything

Did you know that administrative assistants are IT technicians as well? They are expected to fix internet problems, connect employees to network printers, help with software, and then go back to filing paperwork and answering multiple phone lines. Not to mention the amount of times they’ve had to lug leaky garbage bags to the dumpster, change exploding toner bottles in the photo copier, refill empty ink pads and pens, pull old banker boxes from the dusty storage, and more.

Administrative assistants are not certified plumbers, electricians, or technicians of any kind. Yet, they find a way to solve the problem at hand with their amazing problem-solving skills and physical abilities.

5. They Can Be Expected To Know Everything, Even When Not Included In Meetings And Private Conversations

There are meetings and conference calls all day, in which they are not included in. Yet, they are expected to know what’s going on at all times.

Despite their inabilities to make executive decisions, they know more information than the typical employee. They are an information hub. This is because they have mastered the act of ease dropping, asking the right questions, and piecing bits of information together to obtain the right answers. Basically, they are all detectives.

6. They Can Be Blamed For Anything That Goes Wrong

They may not be the decision maker, but when everything goes awry, all fingers point to them as the culprit, or at least it’s their responsibility to solve the issue.

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To avoid being accused or blamed for anything, administrative assistants log their work day. They write everything down and create a systematic paper trail for themselves to cover their schedule from start to end, just in case of an unexpected hiccup.

7. They Can Be Expected To Always Be Available

Sometimes, administrative assistants eat as they work. They can be mid-bite into their lunch when they are approached by a co-worker about an upcoming meeting, broken internet connection, or even a flooded toilet.

Knowing when to draw the line is half the battle, because some co-workers can make a situation sound so much more urgent than it really is. For their own benefit, administrative assistants learn to make judgement calls based on the situation at hand. They will always agree to address the problem, but sometimes they decide that after lunch works best for them.

8. They Can Have Their Desk Used As A Dumping Station

They love the feeling of making a huge dent in their work pile, but if they walk away for just a moment, they are sure to be welcomed back by additional paperwork sitting in their inbox.

To keep up with steady incoming work, they sort and manage everything in categories and then prioritize them. Administrative assistants are extremely organized and know how to keep a productive workflow to handle large loads of labor.

9. They Can Have No Privacy

Being the assistant to pretty much everyone means that their desk is a free for all for those they work with. They are the keeper of keys, passwords, stationary, supplies and the great all might candy drawer.

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To keep their space to themselves, they develop homes for all company property outside of their personal bubble. Anything that is personal is kept far away in an opposing corner such as car keys, wallet, and cell phone.

10. They Can Lack Physical Activity

Someday, there’s too many emails, and too much paperwork piling into their inbox to even walk away. Sometimes, they may even sacrifice taking a break or lunch to complete a job.

Administrative assistants have such a great work ethic: they can easily multitask and work harder to find extra time during their day for a refreshing walk outside.

11. They Can Sometimes Be The Butt Of The Office Jokes

When administrative assistants make a mistake, which can happen, they are sometimes the butt of all jokes for the rest of the day.

To deal with mockery, they just chime in with everyone else and laugh at their own mistakes. They know that being able to admit their flaws and to learn from them is a sign of great leadership.

12. They Can Be Under Paid And Feel Unappreciated

The status of an administrative assistant position is debatable depending on the point of view it’s looked at. With the work-load of a hundred people, they are sometimes paid as if they are at the bottom of the totem pole.

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Sometimes their employers are so busy themselves, that the admin staff need to bring up the fact that a raise should be addressed. Sometimes employers forget how much their administrative assistants have done for the company, and they should be appreciated regularly.

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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

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Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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