Having worked in office administration for as long as I have (over 20 years), I’ve picked up a few things here and there. That also means I’ve been around the block with managers of all styles – both the good and the bad. I’ve also worked with different personalities of assistants – once again, both the good and the bad. But there are seven things a really great assistant refuses to do…


An assistant is relied on to provide accurate and insightful information. Sometimes this puts the assistant between “a rock and a hard place” when it comes to both upper- and lower-level colleagues. We’re not talking the office snitch here, but we are talking relevant information that a manager should be made aware. The assistant is generally the eyes and ears of the company, interacting with various personnel, and making sure the boss/manager is aware of anything that may be an issue.

This is also a skill. Like I said, it’s not about keeping a list and telling the manager what everyone is doing. You are not the Hallway Monitor. But the manager can count on you to provide accurate and insightful information when asked.

Phone It In

Most managers have just the one assistant that “knows” them. An expectation for dependability and reliability is not unrealistic. An assistant doesn’t “phone it in.” That means both taking unexpected days off or coming to the job and accomplishing the bare minimum. This just will not do.

Great assistants take initiative. This is something the assistant learns over time working with their manager regarding what needs to be brought to the manager’s attention and what is taking up their time and attention unnecessarily. It’s always good to lay a foundation of what is acceptable and what is overstepping bounds. Essentially, getting permissions. It can be a fine line. It’s a tough job assessing these decisions!

Work With a Bad Attitude

The “great” assistants just don’t have that. I mean, there are days, but they keep it in check. They make efforts to see that the people they work around and deal with each day feel comfortable coming to them for requests and even conversation in-confidence.

The best assistants are fun, funny, efficient, and pretty direct. They will respect your time and offer suggestions and alternatives. They are quite resourceful. Great assistants won’t stick around if it is a place that creates an atmosphere that cultivates a bad attitude.


An assistant won’t be caught dead hanging around the water cooler chatting it up. Executive-level assistants tend to be privy to personnel information. So an assistant who likes to hang with a group and gossip will not be seen a a reliable confidant by their manager. In essence, you won’t last long.

I have to admit, working as an administrative assistant can feel a bit lonely at times. So if this is a job you are doing or are interested in, you may find yourself spending most of your lunches on your own. It’s the nature of the beast.

Say, “That’s Not in My Job Description”

We know that there are things that are not in anyone’s job description, so let’s assume here everyone realizes reasonable tasks. Requests that come to the assistant require clarification as to the details and expectations.The great assistant will communicate that they will see what they can do and possibly how much time they will need.

The great assistant loves a challenge!

Show Up Unprepared

The assistant is quite possibly the most organized person in the office. Many the assistant keeps a repository of information in their head – don’t ask me how they do it, but they get asked questions at the drop of a hat all the time by the manager. However, they also keep lists, checklists, information, desk manual, SOPs.

Any job you first start out you are not going to have all the answers and you ask a LOT in the first couple of months. After a while the assistant starts seeking out the people and resources to have the answer. The assistant doesn’t always have the answer in the moment, but you will find they are the ones with the resources to get you an answer in a timely fashion.

Make Excuses

“Great” assistants value communication. Don’t give your assistant a reason to make excuses. Communication  – even if it is email status  – ensures that everyone is informed in the various stages and primarily when issues arise.

I have found the most frustrating job is working with/for the manager that does not communicate with their assistant, respond to emails for confirmations, etc.

Assistants I have worked with or gotten to know within my circles LOVE the job! I mean, really LOVE it! They see themselves as the funnel where everything comes in and they route the demands and tasks seamlessly and efficiently. They are proactive in saving time, money, and alleviating the demands on their manager. The assistant works with more people within a company on all levels of job titles than anybody else in the company.

The assistant is smart, funny, engaging, organized, efficient, respectful, direct, honest, considerate, and can keep their cool when “the house is on fire!” Someone you definitely want on your team!

Not everyone can do the job. It is definitely a job with MANY hats, patience, tolerance. You get it already. 😀

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Founder of Administrative Sparkle at Administrative Sparkle
Layne has worked in the Administration field for over 20+ years and an entrepreneur of Administrative Sparkle, bringing her knowledge and experience to the masses. She loves building relationships with like-minded individuals and an advocate for women's equality.
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