My favorite college professor, after hearing me speaking one day, said, “Anieka, you’re a misanthrope.” I stared at him, and, after many seconds of silence, said, “What the hell is that?!” Haha. After googling it, I found it meant “hater of mankind.” I turned to him and said, “Well, we suck.”
On that optimistic note, I bring you, “What I realized after years of being an administrative support professional.”
People Can Be Terrible
It’s true. That is human. It’s like the most human thing. We can’t help it. Being terrible can happen for any reason and at any time.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to just bash all of humankind and be super negative. I’m just bashing the jerks. You know who I’m talking about, plus a few additional randos in the mix.
WITH that knowledge, when people are assholes to you. Remember “people can be terrible.” How you choose to handle yourself and respond to these wastes of- *ahem* these people is up to you.
My response is, “That’s got nothing to do with me.”
If they are jerks, I might address the behavior and try to avoid the “why” conversation. What I know is they were behaving terribly. That’s all I need to know. There’s no reason to get worked up. I didn’t do anything. “It’s got nothing to do with me.”
At work, I pick the people I want to know better. I’m not for everyone, and everyone is not for me, and that is okay. I realized after years of being an administrative support professional that other people’s terribleness:
- Is in everyone
- Has nothing to do with me
- Is not my responsibility to fix
- Doesn’t justify bad behavior
- Shouldn’t affect my response. It’s okay to not be everyone’s favorite, but treat everyone as you wish to be treated – with respect.
Another thing I realized after years of being an administrative support professional about mf-ing HR.
In case you’re wondering, they are not your friends.
HR exists solely to protect the organization, not the employee. They ask you to talk to them, not so much to help you, but to ensure that you can’t sue the organization.
The department is there to help organizations look less racist, sexist, and all the other “-ists.” Just to be clear, I’m not knocking actual employees within the HR department, I’m criticizing the department itself. So don’t start giving HR people a hard time.
My partner once said, “There’s no reason to talk to the cops alone – ever. It’s never to help you, it’s helping them figure out if you’re guilty. Always ask for a lawyer.” At first, I thought he was just trying to be difficult because I always wanted to believe I could trust the police. But he’s right, and that’s sad.
In my mind, that’s how I see HR. There’s no reason to talk to them or cooperate with them, as they are not looking to protect the employees. Organizations only have an HR department to protect the organization. Be careful.
If you feel you have a legitimate case, check with a lawyer. Organizations train HR personnel to speak to employees who don’t understand as much (or anything) as they do about the law and their rights.
And lawyers trained to talk to them.
Here is a comic I drew years ago about one of my earlier experiences with HR.
Find a Hobby
In our field, especially because it’s difficult to identify and quantify success, it’s hard sometimes to recognize the importance of our daily contributions. In fact, some might say the true sign of a skilled administrative professional is making the job look simple and easy.
A sign of our success is having no tangible, verifiable sign of our success.
As you might remember, I recently took up knitting as a hobby and have worn my creations to work! I make mistakes and regularly, but no one else can even see them. It’s just me being my own biggest critic.
I’m so proud of everything I’ve made, and I find it rewarding to produce an actual, tangible product when my administrative work rarely gives me that opportunity.
Hobbies can help us keep an open mind about failure and growth. If you’re a perfectionist like me, then failing at something you worked hard on might get you down, regardless of how gracefully you handled yourself. It still sucks.
Having a hobby or learning a new hobby can help you remember that you’re human. It’s a reminder that it’s okay, and be fun and refreshing to make mistakes. The stakes aren’t high. Nothing depends on you doing well in this hobby to live. It’s a low stakes goal.
Hobbies also help us remember that our world isn’t the only one to consider. There are other opinions, thoughts, and perspectives out there and it could be a wonderful opportunity to experiment with trying new solutions to an old problem or process.
In our profession, having something else that excites us and gives us a sense of accomplishment outside of work can help keep us motivated, engaged, and fulfilled at work.
Don’t let anyone determine your worth.
I’ve said many times, people rarely understand what administrative support professionals do. Every admin job is unique. I love all things admin, and even I couldn’t tell you everything (or anything) about your job. That’s part of the beauty.
People might want to “keep you in your place” or “remind you of your place,” or make you feel like your best isn’t good enough.
Don’t listen to them.
They have no idea what it’s like to be you. They have no right to tell you what “your place” is. After all, it’s your place – you get to determine what that is.
If a manager tries to tell you what you deserve and that’s not what you believe is true, believe in yourself. There are people who will try to push employees to give as much as they can for as little cost as possible. Use your best judgement.
You are within your right to ask for what you believe your work is worth – always. If you don’t believe you’re being paid, treated, or respected as you ought to be, then look for other opportunities where you will be.
Don’t let fear hold you back from making a decision that feels right to you. Even if that means finding a new job.
After years of being an administrative support professional, the lessons seem to be more internal. For me, it was about being aware and understanding the reality I’m in and how it fit with my personality.
Take a proper look at your work and its quality and assess whether you feel happy about it.
It’s important to remember that your needs and happiness are important. It is normal to feel like your experience and knowledge should count because it should!
While you might not be a misanthrope like me, the lesson is to remember that other people might simply be a jerk. It probably has nothing to do with you and even less that it’s your fault. Those moments are hard, and no one wishes to have bad interactions, but how you conduct yourself afterward is entirely within your control.
You all lovely amazing admins! I hope you have an AMAZINGLY happy Administrative Professional’s Week and Day! You deserve it! Thank you all, team, for all your hard work, your indestructible tenacity, and your passion.