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Dear Marguerite:

I would be grateful if you would address a pet peeve of mine namely, surly administrative assistants. Marguerite, I have the misfortune of having to regularly interact with two administrative assistants at my work place, who for some reason tend to act in a hostile manner towards me. I cannot recall having ever done anything to either individual that might be considered offensive, yet whenever I go to their offices, my greetings are more often ignored. Any request for help that I make is met with a curt, "That's not my job." I have tried to stay out of the way of these persons, but there are times when I cannot avoid being around them.

I know that I am not the only person who has had unfortunate experiences with these three. Other colleagues have shared horror stories as well as clients who come to their office. Reports have been made to the supervisor, especially since we work in an environment that calls for customer service. Would you be so kind as to write a profile about what makes a good administrative assistant? Thank you so much, and continue fighting the good fight.

"Peeved with three surly Admin Assistants"

Dear "Peeved with three surly Admin Assistants:"

Apologies for only now answering you. I so agree with your "pet peeve". Why does anyone have to be so surly when interacting with other people and the word "hostile" and inimical to others comes immediately to mind, when reading your e-mail. This takes me to my own horror story that I experienced on Halloween that I wrote about last week. A young, rude and dangerous driver who should not be let loose on the road. She was not - and probably - is still not in the "state of mind" to be behind a wheel of a car. A car is a dangerous weapon. That particular young woman is armed and dangerous.

Now, the three admin assistants are not armed, but being surly can be dangerous for an organisation that must give professional customer service. You have not told me what position you hold in your office so I can only surmise that not having an admin assistant of your own; you have been told that you can draw support from the "pool" of the three admin assistants. Now the problem could be in the general administration of your office and the efficacy of the top people in your organisation because have the three "surly ones" been told that they are supposed to support you? The supervisor also would seem to be lost and probably has not been empowered to act and (seemingly) not having too much of a spine is just lying low.

The infamous words "that's not my job" unfortunately reverberates throughout many companies and organizations in the Caribbean, young people especially enter jobs with blinkers on, they do not look to their right or left, only with head straight ahead. In other words, they have tunnel vision. They then wonder why they are passed over for promotion and grumble about favouritism. So what makes a Professional Administrative Assistant?

First and foremost it is the ability to understand the word "professional". This word can be used as a noun or an adjective. As a noun, one of the meanings is… doing a specific job for which one gets paid. As an adjective some of the meanings are: businesslike, trained and polished.

So she or he – yes, of course some may be male- though at this time approximately 95 per cent are female:

1. Must get along with ALL different levels of the organisation in which she is lucky enough to be working.

2. She must be efficient in all aspects of her technical knowledge and this includes speaking and writing proper English.

3. She must have a pleasant personality, have extremely good manners and be knowledgeable about all aspects of protocol, business and social etiquette and have impeccable grooming.

4. She must be enthusiastic about her job and eager to help others.

5. She must be confidential and self-confident but not overly so.

I am now looking back at my last three words "not overly so". Could it be that these three ladies are so sure of their "power" that they know no complaints - from whomsoever - about them can remove them from their positions? Disturbing thought. Are they members of the family in charge?

If the organisation you work for is a family-owned business and there are family members or friends scattered throughout, sometimes, sometimes supervisors and staff can feel as though they are just drifting!

You just keep being polite, but you also need to ask the Supervisor to accompany you as you now intend to complain to the top person in the company about the situation.

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