Teamwork Strategies for Administrative and Executive Assistants

For more than two decades I have been teaching assistants about the benefits of working together. While I often hear about the challenges and issues assistants have with their peers, assistants can find strength in community and unity.

When administrative professionals work together . . .

  • There is less duplication resulting in savings to the company and increased productivity.
  • You can learn streamlining techniques from each other.
  • Gain a new perspective. (Provided you keep an open mind.)
  • Add fun to your ho-hum routine.
  • Working together can mean consistency for out-of-office coverage.
  • Expansion of what the team together can accomplish that one person alone cannot do.

So what can you do to promote teamwork and collaboration across your administrative community?

  1. Put the company first. Let co-workers know that your concern is for the success of the company—not just successful fulfillment of your job responsibilities or career goals.
  2. Share your ideas. Make suggestions whenever appropriate.
  3. Welcome input from others. Respect the ideas of others, just as you would like them to respect yours.
  4. Ask for help. If someone in the office is an expert in an area, ask for his or her advice.
  5. Remain committed. Problems and frustrations may arise, but don’t give up. Be supportive of your colleagues—you need them as much as they need you.
  6. Trust your colleagues. You and your co-workers are working toward one common goal—a successful company.
  7. Remember no man is an island. Whether there are two administrative professionals in your office or 200, joining forces with your administrative peers will contribute to greater success for your organization.

What do you or your peers do to create administrative unity and synergy?


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28 thoughts on “Teamwork Strategies for Administrative and Executive Assistants”

  1. I work at the corporate HQ of a Fortune 500, which is spread throughout 16 floors of a large office building in downtown Chicago. The admins here tend to stay forever – decades. We are pleasant to each other, and many of us know each other well. But we also tend to work in silos. Sometimes when we need to reach out to work on scheduling a meeting, we need to introduce ourselves and break the ice. It would be so much nicer if we could interact with each other more. As a mid-tier admin, I’m afraid that if I pull something like this together, I’ll hear snarky comments about what I think makes me a leader for this group. I’m starting off by arranging some large catering tastings for larger groups of admins – most of whom do catering. From there, I intend to ask what they’d like to learn more about or touch base together more on. Get a few ideas.

  2. Our admins where I work can collaborate and work well together, but they can also be extremely territorial. It’s a strange line to walk. It seems like people are afraid they won’t get noticed if they share the “glory” with anyone else, but also cannot deny that working together gets so much more done!

  3. Our AA team meets weekly to discuss upcoming events, planning, and things that we have going on in our individual worlds, which gives us a sense of unity. However, in practice, this is often not the case. We may be a “team” on paper, but we certainly are not a team when not all members pull their own weight. The SAA has occasionally scheduled things outside of work or we’ve taken extended working lunches so that we could get to know each other a little better and increase morale but to no avail. You can’t encourage those who are not naturally team players to become team players. It’s a false sense of trust when you can’t count on someone on your team to do something and has often led to tension in the office.

  4. Like Linda, I tried to form a group about 2 years ago for Admin Week. Suggest we all go out for Lunch and get together monthly to discuss issues we face at work and see how we can assist each other. The Lunch went well but nothing happen after that. I don’t want to step out of bounds so, I just let it go. About 3 years ago I was in another office and the Admin and I supported each other and we communicate well together. We shared books/website that was useful in our professional development and we learn from each other. This group that I am working with now do not work well with each other and it is like crabs in a barrel.

  5. In my previous structure this rang very true but currently, I’m not tied to same group as others and have major restrictions in assisting others that are outside of my group to an extent but I still provide assistance in simple functions or reminders on how to deleting temp files and internet temporary files and cookies.

  6. Victoria Prestia

    My coworker shares his Excel expertise with me and our staff. We help each other with questions and train each other.

  7. Admin teamwork is definitely non-existent in my department, building. The majority of them – through past experiences – have learned to be wary of anything like teamwork. I have tried multiple times to get something-anything going but have been halted in my tracks with suspicion, lack of interest and you just want my job or to get my fired, I finally just moved on to help only a few that appreciated it.

  8. Joan, this is a great blog. In January I organized a monthly Lunch and Learn series with a group of Admins from various departments at my company. We read one chapter from your book, Underneath It All, then we meet for lunch and share our notes and takeaways and experiences. Each month the location and host changes. It has been a great experience, we are learning from the materials, from each other, and collaborating like never before. Thank you!

  9. Very timely topic. My company is currently updating our admin job descriptions. This is a good opportunity put into writing that one of the requirements is the ability and willingness to work as a team with the other admins. Does anyone have admin teamwork as one of their job requirements (or in their job description)? If so, can you please share the language with me? Thanks.

  10. I lead a group of assistants across the organization and we meet quarterly to share ideas, team building, and a chance to get away from our desks. We are in the process of creating a document that lists what everyone is an “expert” at (i.e. Word, Excel, Payroll, etc) to be used when we run into a problem it provides a quick reference of who we can call for assistance.

  11. Thanks Joan!! I am in a new company and it seems the Admin staff here have their own dynamic and I am the outsider. Trying to work together with them seems to be a bit off at times, and then there are times where I feel we’ve worked together for years. These tips are going to help with strengthening my communication with them so that the feeling of togetherness is present all the time.

  12. I use the voice recorder app on my phone for a quarterly meeting with lots of technical information. In fact, I’m transcribing minutes right now!

  13. I have a great team of admins in my department; however, there seems to be some sort of competitive force that doesn’t allow for collaboration or idea sharing. I’ve asked for assistance and advice from one particular person and it seems he doesn’t want to open up and share his knowledge. I don’t know if it’s fear of revealing his trade secrets, or a fear that I’ll take his job. The other admins behave the same way. We are all on the same team and I don’t know why they don’t want to work as one.

  14. Sometimes people who prefer to work solo have the idea that it is a sign of weakness to ask for help or it is intrusive when offering help. I use a challenging mind game exercise in one of my office procedures classes that starts with teams of two people working together trying to accomplish it and then I continue to merge teams after each short work period until the class is split into two large teams. Each time teams are merged, they are able to fill in more of the answers. It causes them to see that almost everyone can add to the goal or result based on prior knowledge or ideas. Hopefully, they will remember this when working in an office!

  15. The assistants in the company I work for used to get together for a picnic at a local park one day out of the summer. We also did Lunch and Learns a few times a year where we would have someone come in for an hour or so to teach us something new. One time we had a police officer come in and teach a self defense class. We also had an employee from a local hospital that would in and speak about different subjects. All the assistants enjoyed these times and we got to know each other a little better on the personal side. I think that makes it a little easier to go ask someone for help with something when you need it.

  16. Very good article. Makes sense to me. Some prefer if you did not know everything they do so they look better to the company.

    Me? I am willing to help where I can. Breaks up the routine.

  17. I have always worked where admins kept to themselves – teamwork was non-existent, until two years ago. At my current employer, that admin team understands how valuable teamwork can be. A great team can save everyone time and frustration. It took me a while to feel comfortable in this type of environment. I felt that if I didn’t do it myself or figure it out for myself, that I was somehow a failure at my job. Now I know that this wasn’t true at all. Next week I am going on vacation and because I work with such a great group of admins I am confident that the people I support will be well taken care of and that I won’t come back to a list of things that must get done on my first day back. A great admin team is a real blessing!

  18. Linda from St. Louis, MO

    Very nice blog, Joan 🙂 Last year, we formed an administrative group at our place of business. Our purpose of forming the group was to promote professional development and collaboration. We share both hard and soft skills. It’s also a form of mentorship. We meet quarterly. We really enjoy it.

    All the best to everyone!

  19. Sharon Chaplain

    Do you have any suggestions for those whose coworkers and superiors refuse to see the benefits of teamwork? I’ve worked in places where, no matter what, the mentality was “every man/woman for himself”. It’s hard to be a team player in a solo sport.

  20. Awesome advice! My company has downsized the admins globally. Those of us that are left try to work together as much as we can to help each other worth through the barriers of time zones, language, etc.

  21. Very good article. It reminds me when I played sports, it takes everybody pulling together to make it happen. The quarterback is important but everybody makes a contribution. In the end, it is all about the teamwork and I get great satisfaction when we pull together as a team and make it happen or solve a problem with no need to involve the managers.

  22. I could not agree with this more! I have been working towards starting an internal assistant network at my university this year. While I have encountered obstacles from some executives, the assistants are onboard with the idea. I am working to change their opinion of the group but it will take some time. I keep notes on how many other companies and universities use this model so that I can share that information with leadership as often as possible. Thank you for being a voice for the Administrative Professional community. I enjoy your posts in my inbox every time.

  23. Collaboration among admins is non-existent where I work. Not for any particular reason other than no one has initiated it. I’ll be interested to see what everyone else shares in their comments to help me with ideas.

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