How Administrative Assistants are perceived by their boss and co-workers plays a huge role in their jobs, like it or not. An admin can have the best software knowledge, be the most organized person in the office, and coordinate meetings like there is no tomorrow. None of that matters if the admin can't get along with anyone.
What exactly does it mean to have 'Interpersonal Skills'?
It simply means how one interacts socially with others. In other words, managers want their assistants to be able to get along with everyone, (and place the emphasis on everyone!). It sounds like a tall order, but it is definitely doable. Administrative Assistants with the right attitude and personality find it downright easy.
Assistants are the people that everyone in the office depend on to solve their problems. That means that administrative assistants must be able to handle all types of personalities, and handle them well. Here are some quick ways to develop or improve interpersonal skills:
Listen. All administrative assistants have been in a situation where a co-worker or boss comes to them for help, and it turns out all they really need is an ear or an opportunity to vent. Sit back, listen, and solve their work problem if possible. If the problem is too personal or uncomfortable, just gently and kindly inform them that their problem is not your area of expertise and maybe someone more professional can help them.
Smile! It's amazing what a smile can do to make life easier for both the admin and their coworkers or boss. Administrative Assistants who are approachable will gain much more respect and confidence from their managers, not to mention a reputation for being friendly and flexible. Office gossip is unavoidable; you might as well gain a good reputation! And besides, smiling is just a good idea in general. It makes people feel good and makes a 9 to 5 job more bearable.
Remember your manners. Politeness goes a long way too. In the South, it is still very common to hear adults refer to each other as 'Sir' and 'Ma'am' as a sign of respect. Say 'yes' instead of 'yeah'. Remember your pleases and thank yous. Don't interrupt when someone is talking to you. And always be sincere.
Practice empathy. Administrative Assistants can sometimes get frustrated with some of the asinine requests they get, and most of the time they are entitled to that frustration. But they need to remember to put themselves in their boss' or coworkers shoes. Yes, you are looking at the exact same paper jam in the copier that your boss sees, so why can't he fix it? Perhaps he has to present in front of the CEO in an hour and he's focused and stressed about that task, and he's not concentrating on how to remove the jam, so he goes to his admin for help. That is what the assistant is there for (among other things, of course!) And keep in mind that the assistant usually ends up the hero for being a problem solver.
Have a good sense of humor. An administrative assistant who has a good sense of humor can become indispensable. Most assistants set the tone for the whole office since they are usually the central figure after the boss. Keeping that sense of humor makes tasks much easier and interactions with others more pleasant. Let's face it, most day to day operations in an office don't need to be taken so seriously.
More than any other position in today's corporate environment, the Administrative Assistant must possess exceptional interpersonal skills in order to be successful. Keep in mind and practice these tips on a daily basis, and life at work will be easier and more enjoyable. Not to mention a great performance review!