Friday, July 06, 2012

Good Thing #20: Administrative Assistants and Custodians

It's a Good Thing 2 for 1 special today, because I couldn't find a concise way of saying, "The people who matter a lot more than most people realize."

If there's a word of advice I'd give to young people starting out on their careers, it's, "Suck up to the boss, but make friends with the administrative assistants and the custodians." The first part is obvious, and many people stop there in their relentless pursuit to get to the top. These people typically make more than me, so maybe you should pay attention to them. However, I think I've had a more enjoyable life by paying attention to the second part.

Custodians and administrative assistants tend to know a whole lot more about what's going on in any organization than most people realize. For a lot of people, since they're not going to help you "get ahead" they're invisible unless they're needed to staple something or clean up a mess. And so people are a lot freer with their information around them. Custodians also know what people are throwing away. Administrative assistants handle the flow of information across their bosses' desks. So they're often plugged in in ways that people don't realize. Administrative assistants sometimes have magic powers they can use in your favor if they like you. They might be able to enter hours you were out sick as hours you were working in payroll, for example.

In my experience, I've found that custodians and administrative assistants are there for you in ways that upper-level employees can't or won't be. They've got your back and will put a good word for you in the right ear if they can. They'll also help you jump your car if your battery is dead. If you drop your security pass they'll get it back to you instead of giving it to security like they should, saving so much hassle.

The catch is, my advice said make friends with them. You can suck up to the boss and it's socially acceptable for this to be completely superficial because you're only doing it to get ahead. It's not OK to do that with a custodian or administrative assistant. They'll know. Instead you're going to have to do things the old fashioned way. Get to know them by name. If they need help with something, give it to them. If you need something done, ask nicely, saying "please" and "thank you" even if according to company hierarchy they're your subordinate. Don't leave messy, sloppy stuff in your waste basket that's going to be a pain for somebody to clean up. Be a friend and you'll make a friend.

So anyway, thanks to all the custodians and administrative assistants who've been so helpful to me all these years. You are truly appreciated.

No comments: