30 December 2007

E-mail Etiquette: A Poem by Lynn Crosbie

I received an e-mail from a colleague of mine
It was set in a background of yellow and lime
The font it was blue, almost impossible to see
And it was all in caps…was she yelling at me?

She had quite a few mistakes in that message as well
It got me to wondering if she could even spell
Covered with smiley’s and little pictures too
Not too professional, is the impression I drew

Most backgrounds are busy and take up lots of space
And not really appropriate for the workplace
Spell-check should be used – yes, you should take the time
And organize your e-mail regularly, so you don't get behind

If you’re angry write it down, but wait, don't mail
Relax and take some time; let your better judgment prevail
Save the smiley’s, jokes and pictures for use at home
And if you have bad news…best to use the phone

Simple rules to follow; common sense things to do
Just remember, your organization is being represented by you

Lynn Crosbie writes office etiquette poems in Ottawa, Canada. She has been an Administrative Assistant for over 25 years. You can contact her through this blogspot or by emailing me at pattyannrobb@rogers.com.

Using Slang

As a Canadian I am told I say “eh” a lot. I deny it emphatically until I am in another country for a period of time, then even I start to hear myself say it and I have to agree I do say "eh" a lot.

My son-in-law is from Newfoundland, Canada. Newfoundlanders are known for their slang language, but he is noticing our Ottawa Valley slang. He has pointed out that we say "Yepper" as a definitive way of saying "yes". We say "give er" and "get er done" when encouraging someone to do a good job or finish a task. And of course we use the greeting "Gi’day" and we tell folks we were "out and about" when referring to some gallivanting that we’ve been doing around town?

I tend to speak more Ottawa Valley when I am at home and in a relaxed setting with family and friends. I am sure after this time of being out and about at family gatherings when I go back to work on January 2nd I will have to polish up my language and start to speak more professionally, but until then, "Gi’day from the Ottawa Valley my friends! For the New Year my advice would be to give er all you’ve got and try to get er done as best you can".

All the best in 2008.

A Group Called Skeleton Staff (and more...)

I was part of the “skeleton staff” in my office between Christmas and New Year’s so I have not had a continuous break, but came in the few working days last week.

We are a very interesting group of people us “skeleton staffers”. We wore jeans! Don’t tell anyone as that is not allowed on any day other than Friday. We are obedient in this rule at every other time of the year, but at this in-between time we are emboldened because we are the “skeletons” and we know we can get away with it.

At one place I worked they even provided pizza and pop to reward us for this sacrifice we were making so everyone else could take the time off. Yes, we are a very humble group of volunteers! You should consider joining us next year. Of course if you do then we will probably stay home so you will be better able to appreciate this special role you can play in your office.

A New Year and Lots of Work

As we begin this New Year there is a lot of work for the administrative assistant. We need to open new administrative files for 2008. We have to finish off any year-end expense reports and any other accounting that needs to be entered to close off 2007, and we have to do our regular work. It will be a busy week when we get back to work in 2008.

Performance Appraisals and the New Year

Something we should start thinking about as we start this New Year is our next performance review.

I don't look forward to filling out my performance appraisal form. Especially the self evaluation part. My mind seems to go completely blank when it comes to things I have achieved and what goals I want to accomplish. It reminds me of when I was pregnant and I went to a doctor’s appointment. The doctor would ask me if I had any questions, and I knew I did, but just when he asked me my mind went blank. All the books I had read recommended that you write your questions down and bring them with you. Simple, but effective.

I read of a similar idea in regards to the performance review in an article entitled, "The Performance Review: An Opportunity in Disguise" (Domeyer, Diane, OfficePro, November/December, p. 5).

The author recommends one way to prepare in advance of a performance review would be to keep a folder with emails, notes and reminders of your accomplishments throughout the year.

After reading the article I just happened to get a nice email from a client and thought that this email was something that I should keep for appraisal time. What I have decided to do to keep track of these types of emails is to open a subfolder in Outlook called Performance Review. In the future I will drag and drop these into this folder as a reminder of comments people have made about my performance and also some of my accomplishments. For instance, if I arrange a successful conference or if I'm involved in a project that I am proud of, I will send myself a short reminder email detailing that, which I can then drag and drop into my Performance Review subfolder. This will be a reminder system for me and when it comes time for my next review then I can read over these emails and remind myself of some of my accomplishments so I will be better equipped to fill out a more thorough and well thought out self evaluation.

If you get a chance to read the article, I would recommend it.1

Resolutions and Reflection!

I also received a Get Organized Now e-Newsletter and I thought I would pass an article from it on to you at this time of resolutions and reflection. Maria Garcia has written 11 tips in her article "Your Life...Simplified". Please click here to read the article on her website (you need to scroll down just a bit to see the article).

I thought it was an appropriate check list as we start this New Year to reflect and think about our work and home lives and how we can better organize and de-stress our lives.

Happy New Year everyone and remember to date all your letters and documents "2008". I find the first few weeks of the New Year will be the time I will forget. A good suggestion would be to write "2008" on a yellow sticky and stick it on your computer where you can see it as a reminder.

If you are interested in subscribing to the Get Organized Now e-Newsletter, please click here.

1 Domeyer, Diane, ``The Performance Review: An Opportunity in Disguise``, OfficePro Magazine, November/December, p. 5, A publication of IAAP
2 Garcia, Maria, "Your Life...Simplified", Get Organized Now e-Newsletter (accessed December 30, 2007)

13 December 2007

Magazines for the Administrative Assistant

I just got my new issue of OfficePro (the IAAP magazine for office professionals) and it was a great read on the bus the last few mornings.

Some highlights are: Corporate Gift Giving, which is a good article for this time of year with some excellent information on this topic. There is an article on Organizational Churn, which is an article about going through changes in your organization. Another interesting article is Stress: As Common and Contagious as a Cold which offers some real life examples of different things people do during their off times to help relieve the stress of their busy careers. There was also an interesting editorial called The Social Side of Business which looks at nurturing business relationships and an article called The Performance Review: An Opportunity in Disguise. And more...

The last two topics have been on my mind lately and I had wanted to write in the blog about them so it was interesting to read these articles.

If you are interested and want to subscribe to OfficePro click here. You might want to pass the link to your HR manager or office manager as IAAP offers corporate subscriptions as well as individual subscriptions and they may agree to pay for this work-related subscription for your office. It doesn't hurt to ask. If you are already a member of IAAP the magazine comes as part of your membership. If you are not a member and would like to look into becoming a member click here.

Another magazine that I would recommend for the Administrative Assistant is AdminAdvantage. In their recent issue they have articles on:

• Top Ten Christmas Stocking Stuffers for the Whole Family • Ten Career Skills to Keep You Employable in the 21st Century • The International World of the Administrative Professional: What is Indonesia's ISI • How to Read Your Boss's Mind

You can subscribe to AdminAdvantage online at http://us.deskdemon.com/pages/us/indexus. You will see at the top a red bar that indicates "Free Subscription". Type your Name, Email address, select your country (if other than the UK or US choose Other), check the box for AdminAvantage and then click Submit. This magazine is in electronic form and will be delivered to your email address.

Both of these magazines have archived copies that you can browse through online. OfficePro's archives can be found here and AdminAdvantage's archives can be found here.

These are the only professional magazines for Administrative Assistants that I am aware of. If you know of others and want to pass them along to our readers, just leave a comment to this post with the name of the magazine and the link to get more information.

7 December 2007

Working in the Mailroom

An email comes around from the Mailroom staff, "Would the person who put an unaddressed envelope in the outgoing mail please let us know who this should be addressed to".

Working in a service area of an organization can be a challenge, but in particular in the Mailroom. We try to courier packages to post office boxes. We leave incomplete instructions on the photocopy request forms and then wonder why it was done wrong. We put our registered mail in with the regular mail and then are upset because it didn’t get registered. If a courier package does not make it to its destination, we are quick to make the Mailroom staff feel that it is somehow their fault. But most importantly, when we need something done we need it done NOW!

How can the assistant and the Mailroom staff work more effectively together?


If you know of a big photocopying job that you will need done, let your Mailroom staff know so they can prepare for it and adjust their schedules to accommodate your requests.

Is it really that urgent?

Be honest! Do you really need that job done in the next 30 minutes. Be realistic in your expectations. Is there a possibility you have the time to do the job yourself? It may be quicker and less stressful for everyone to do it yourself if you see the Mailroom staff are particularly busy.

Who took the last yellow sticky?

If you take the last item in the supply area of your Mailroom or notice that there are only a few items left, let someone know so more can be ordered.

It has to go out when??

If you are working on an urgent document that needs to be couriered out and it is getting close to the end of the day, let the Mailroom staff be aware of that so they will know that you will be rushing in with your courier package at the last minute. A good suggestion would be to give them the address or addresses you will be sending the package(s) to so they can prepare the courier slips ahead of time. They will appreciate it.

The busiest time in the Mailroom can be at the end of the day when all the courier companies are arriving for their last pick up and we are all arriving wanting to get our package in that last courier run.

We are a Team

Working together as a team will make our work lives easier! If you are fortunate enough in your organization to have team meetings, invite a member of the Mailroom staff to participate. Communicate to them big jobs that are coming up or problems that need resolution. Having your Mailroom prepared ahead of time with this information will make everyone’s job less stressful.

The Mailroom is the final checkpoint before a document leaves your organization. Appreciate that! They can pick up on errors before the envelope leaves the door.

Bottom Line

Communicate with each other! Show respect for each other! Assist when necessary! Appreciate each other’s deadlines and schedules. And realize we are all working towards a common goal to do the best job possible.

How Important is it to Keep an Accurate Contact List?

As I collected my mail the other night I see that one of the letters in my mailbox is addressed to my brother who lives in the same building as I do. The postal worker had put it in the wrong mailbox, which is understandable as we do have the same last name. I noticed that the envelope is addressed to Mr. and Mrs., but he is not married. I called my brother and told him about the letter and he asked me to open it to let him know what it was. I am shocked as I read, “I would like to extend my sympathy to you on the loss of your loved one...” We did not have a recent death in our family! I read on, “Would I be able to offer my assistance to you at this time in the choosing of a memorial stone?”

Aside from the fact that this mailing was in very poor taste, this definitely was an example of someone not keeping accurate contact information.

Now think about at your office. You are doing a mass mailing, sending invitations for a conference or seminar, or you are sending sales brochures or company information, hoping to get new business and you address it to a CEO who was fired from that company, or to a President, but you have spelt his name wrong, or the company changed their name or address, etc. There can be a number of reasons for a change, including the recipient has passed away, but if the recipient passed away five years ago and you are still sending things to that address, someone is not keeping their records up to date.

In many cases, especially when a company is moving or changing their name, they will send notices advising of the change of information. When you get it – make sure to change your contact cards and notify anyone else in your company who might need to know about this change (for example your Accounting Department and if you work in a large organization, your Marketing Department).

Sometimes a mistake like this can mean loss of business for your company. In my example, you can be sure I will not be going to this company if I ever need to purchase a memorial stone as this error has left a bad impression of what might be a perfectly good company who made a bad marketing decision and didn’t have the correct contact information.

1 December 2007

Tabbing Within a Table in Word

Tabbing within a table works great! Pressing the tab key will take you from one cell to the next, and if you are at the end of your table it will automatically create another row. But what if you want to tab within a cell? Ctrl Tab will let you tab within a cell, without going to the next cell.

Me and my Quick Keys Again...

Here are some others I like:

Ctrl End to get to the end of a document
Ctrl Home to get to the top of a document
Ctrl Shift End will highlight everything from that point down to the end of the document
Ctrl Shift Home will highlight everything from that point up to the top of the document
Ctrl a to highlight the whole document