Spontaneous Exclamations: In defense of praise and scratch-off lottery tickets

Adam Katz is a senior associate at Harrison & Held LLP.  He concentrates his practice on federal & state tax matters, mergers & acquisitions, entity structure and formation, commercial finance, and non-profit law.  Adam can be reached at (312) 753-6110 or akatz@harrisonheld.com.  Comments on all posts are welcome!

One of the easiest ways to completely reduce yourself to rubble is also one of the easiest things to avoid.  Your administrative assistants are your livelihood.  With their help, you can cram 20 hours of work into 12 and keep your working life in order.  Admins can make or break your deals or cases, and ensure you don’t double-book that important client dinner.  You’re in this thing together so forget the coffee gift card and the cheap scarf on the holidays.

In other words, your administrative assistants can be your best friends and make life easy.  Take note on those days you’re able to make it out of the office while it’s still light outside—your admin’s preparation of those court filings or update to that blacklined agreement probably had something to do with it.  I’m always flabbergasted whenever I hear a story about somebody in any industry abusing the hell out of their admins.  Happy co-workers will always perform better than those who feel like they are working on the crater of a volcano moments from eruption.

For those of you interested in maintaining a cheerful office ambiance, and for those of you who forgot the manners your mamas taught you, below are some simple things you can remember to do:

1.   Celebrate Those Birthdays

No, no, I’m not referring to those awkward monthly 7-minute birthday gatherings in the kitchen area with the slightly soupy vanilla ice cream and bland carrot cake.  Arriving at the office on your administrative assistant’s birthday with a personal card and a reasonably priced gift that they actually appreciate goes a long way.  Showing some true admiration for your co-workers will certainly keep morale running high.  Like I said before, forget the coffee gift card. For some, scratch-off lottery tickets can be a fun gift.  A few years ago, I bought my administrative assistant a ticket and she won $100!

2.  Invest Yourself in the Relationship

When you are working with someone day in and day out, you should stop and consider what makes them tick.  Besides maintaining friendly working relationship, developing a positive rapport can be an incredible efficiency builder. In the mornings on your way in, take some time to stop by their desk and chat or have lunch together.  Once the relationship develops, communications frequently become more open as well.  This means that on those difficult busy days, a swamped admin will be more inclined to reach out and let you know that they won’t hit a deadline and need help.  Conversely, the admin will likely be more inclined to stay until midnight with you and then laugh about it the next day when you both have hefty bags under your eyes.

3.  Praise, Praise, Praise, when Praise is Due

The single most important thing you can do is give positive feedback when you receive a good work product.  Often, feedback is overlooked in the law office due to time constraints or just plain old poor management.  Letting someone know they did well once in a while can swiftly turn an office mate’s average day into a beautiful one.  Furthermore, proper praise can transform a developing star into a brilliant superstar when, with you pointing the way, they know the right track to get on.  How do you feel when you receive a well-deserved kudos?

These three tips are so utterly simple.  They require little time and energy, but more importantly, they are examples of sheer decency.  The next time you are in the position, remember: do the right thing.


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