Once you’ve been in the administrative support profession for a while, our world can become a battleground between listening and discovering yourself and society’s expectations of us. In this phase of our profession, finding ourselves and our voice is paramount to our success. Let’s jump right in talk about what I wish I knew when I was growing as an admin.
How to Speak Up
Finding your voice in an administrative support role can be really hard. A lot of times it depends on your work environment and your history.
Regardless, it is critical you find your voice. It’s more than ok to speak up, you don’t have to always be angry or feel slighted in order to do so. You just have to feel comfortable in speaking when the need arises. Using your voice to say positive things is just as important as disagreeing with thing.
The stereotype of administrative support professionals is that they’re not important or shouldn’t be seen or heard. But in reality, we’re often set up to fail from the beginning. Let me explain.If you look at a lot of job descriptions, you’re than likely to find employers asking for elements that require you to give opinions, suggestions, or input. They are asking for your thoughts. However, in my experience, they sometimes only want your opinion if it fits their beliefs. I have also found employers that seem eager to hear new input at first, but then reject ideas just because they simply want to keep and admin “in their place.” Whatever that means.
If you look at a lot of job descriptions, you’re than likely to find employers asking for elements that require you to give opinions, suggestions, or input. They are asking for your thoughts. However, in my experience, they sometimes only want your opinion if it fits their beliefs. I have also found employers that seem eager to hear new input at first, but then reject ideas just because they simply want to keep and admin “in their place.” Whatever that means.
Taking the time to figure out how you want to speak up is crucial to your personal and professional happiness. I wish I understood its importance earlier. For a long time, I just assumed I shouldn’t say anything because “that’s just want an admin does.”
But the reality is we are all human, and no one is better than the other. The role of an admin is to support and organize. In order to do that well, we have to fully immerse ourselves in all aspects of the purpose and mission of the organization. Therefore, as an admin, you have a unique inside perspective on how decisions might affect each other.
Creating an Administrative System
Creating an administrative system is by far one of the best things I could have done for myself when I was growing as an admin. Your administrative system is unique to you, and it gives you a steady foundation upon which to build your workflow and process.
I wasted so many years with restarting my organizational process every time I changed jobs or started new projects. Even though I’m almost ashamed to admit it, I’m not here to lie to you all. I am here to share my truth.
Okay, what do I mean by the administrative system?
Well, let me start with some questions. How do you label your electronic files? In what order to do you organize your electronic file folders? Where do papers go that make it to your desk? How do you find the information you’ve jotted down? Is this always consistent?
Well, that’s what I mean to by creating your administrative system. When you set up an administrative system, you’ll be able to answer those questions immediately. Need a better example?
In my administrative system, I’ll answer the question “How do you label your electronic files?”
I always try to label my expenses files with the date, the purpose/vendor, and the amount.
That way I know, by just glancing, what these expenses were, how much they were, and why we made the purchase.
This labeling system might not work for you, and that’s perfectly fine. Remember, every system is unique, made just for you. So, do whatever you need to do in order for your electronic filing system to be simple and reliable.
Before I started this system, my filing system wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t reliable and took longer to work with.
For example, have you ever looked in a folder and had to go through each file to know what each file is? I hated that, but now, I rarely have to do that.
Learn to Say No
Once you’ve found your voice. It’s important to figure out how to say no. This goal I found to be pretty hard.
Most of the time, we’re not “asked” to tasks but told with no sign you have the option to refuse. They assume our compliance. So if we say no, then that could become a problem or considered insubordination.
Managers and organizations do not expect that admins can refuse a request of a superior or anyone, unless their manager gave them permission to refuse. It’s bizarre when you think really about it.
To say “no” can come with so many assumptions and implications for us in these admin positions. Saying no feels like we’re immediately labeled as a “troublesome” or “disagreeable” employee. I wish I would have known and practiced how to say “no” earlier.
While you may be finding your voice and the ability to say “no,” I’ll share how I do it.
I’ve never been able to say “No.” I instead deny by stating why I’m declining.
For example, if I thought something was wrong, I would say, “I’m sorry, but I do not feel comfortable doing that.”
If a new task seemed unfair or outside of my pay range and I didn’t want to use the organization as a guinea pig, then I’d say, “I’m sorry, but I do not believe I can accomplish this task, especially at the level you’re needing.”
Having been in the administrative support world for so long, things would have been so different had I known those phrases. For years, I said “yes,” because I didn’t know how to say no.
Ask for Yourself
In the same vein, I wish I knew how to ask for what I want.
I spent an unbelievable amount of time thinking that if I was an amazing admin, my manager would see my awesomeness and reward me accordingly for my work.
Now this may be true for some people, but in my experience, it just never happened.
You have to ask.
Turns out, managers and organizations are not typically actively looking to reward employees for their efforts and hard work.
Like the silent assumption that we can’t say no to tasks, is the blind assumption that our hard work will get noticed and rewarded. In my experience, even if we might get recognized, it will not extend to monetary rewards.
Let’s think about asking this way. Wouldn’t you want to know if your organization will never give you the raise you need or the promotion you’ve been working towards?
The more you are aware of your reality, the more control you have to do something about it.
Be kind to yourself and remember that finding and establishing your voice at work is not as easy for people. All you ever have to be is your best.
One day, a colleague of mine told me, “Progress isn’t linear.” I think that’s true for everyone.
There are some things I said that you might feel more confident doing and other things that make you cringe. It’s different for everyone, so be kind to yourself.
I’m giving you my examples to help kick start your journey or affirm that you’re not alone if you feel or ever felt this way. Find your own way to find your voice.
Take some to observe how your work environment supports or doesn’t support you, and figure out how you can feel at your best.
That process might take a while to find the sweet spot, but you are learning with every experience and attempt.
You can do it!