Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Helpful List (On Office Protocol)

Everyone has a worst coworker ever list (even the worst coworker ever: #1 - Colleagues with expectations). For most people, it's probably just a mental tally, and not an all-out color-coded spreadsheet posted in the breakroom, like mine. (Is she joking? She's got to be. I'm so glad I don't work with her...)

So instead of sharing that list, I'd like to share a very useful list I put together for offices everywhere (no doubt easily adapted for all work environments with a loosely-defined "assistant" position).

Please note that reading this list is an implied non-disclosure agreement to not blow my cover as the quiet robot secretary.

Another note, I refer to the admin as a "she". Yes, I know there are guys who work in admin. But gender inclusive language is really annoying to read.

Best Times To Ask The Administrative Assistant To Do Something For You*

Don't Even Bother:

1. Is it the end of the month?

2. Is it the beginning of the month?

3. Is she on her way to another colleague's office?

4. Would it take you less time to do it yourself than to ask her to do it?

5. Is she eating her lunch?

6. What if she's already doing something work-related while eating her lunch?

7. But what if she's almost done with her lunch?

8. Is it after 4:59 PM, does it need to be completed that day, and will you be dropping it on her desk as you leave the office?

Give It A Try (if you can answer each set of questions in the affirmative): 

1. Do you need it done within the next 15 minutes? Have you known about it less than 2 hours?

2. Are you sure it needs to be done? Will you actually notice that it is done? Is the probability absolutely zero that after she completes it you'll realize that it didn't need to be done?

3. Did she make a mistake that needs to be corrected? Check again. Are you sure she made the mistake?

4. Is what you're about to ask her to do someone else's job? Are they suffering a major illness, or did a close friend or family member die? 

5. Will she make it home in time for dinner with her family? Did you consider rush hour traffic for a commute to the suburbs, past LBJ construction? Have you ever made a hungry two-year-old wait on dinner at the end of the day?

Ask Her Anything, Any Time:

1. Do you sign her pay check?

Secrets to Beat the System:

1. Drop off chocolates or wine, either with each request or in bulk at the beginning of each week. (True story: I received a bottle of wine for printing a coworker's business cards and letterhead. When they were delayed in completion, a second bottle of wine moved his request to the top of my list!)

2. Make it an obscure enough request that she has to do it right away.** (True story: I received a phone call from a colleague needing me to find a pirate treasure store on the East Coast and get the owner's personal contact information. I didn't even know what to put in the note to future-me on my To-Do list, so I just did it.)

3. Appeal to her out-of-control OCD impulses.** (True story: I'm a total nerd about spreadsheets. Multiplenitude of data entry? Load me up! And they do.)

4. Make it interesting. (True story: Print a topographical map of Southeast Africa, and find out how to pronounce this name: Nyerere. Thank you, YouTube.)

5. Ask her about her weekend (and then don't walk away before she replies).
*Please note each of these are contingent upon the admin's current workload, and less predictably, her mood.

**Use sparingly.


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