Meet the ASPs — Your Workplace Superheroes
#evolve Magazine
April 01, 2021

I get it. It’s likely you’re already in the working world and maybe even established a great name for yourself. But if you’re new (aka, in your first job) or simply interested in learning how to enhance your ability to work smart, I invite you to continue reading the second installment of my working smart series – Meet the administrative services professionals (ASPs) — Your Workplace Superheroes.

While it’s true that working smart often has different meanings in different employers, after 25 years in human resources working for 10 different companies reporting to 17 different managers, I’ve developed a blueprint of working-smart opportunities that reasonably fit in any company. So, let’s learn about your workplace superheroes.

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s an ASP (e.g., receptionists, executive assistants, administrative assistants, etc.)! Huh? You heard me right. Superman has nothing on this powerful group of superheroes! Don’t believe me? I didn’t believe, until my wife said to me early in her teaching career, “When I start working at any new school, the first people I make it a point to meet and get to know are the office staff. Not only because they are generally good people (and you can never have too many friends), but they know the principal inside and out and that will do nothing but help me succeed in my job.”

Thinking about whether my wife’s scenario could play out in the workplace, it dawned on me it could. I was working with real-life superheroes and didn’t even realize it. Here is an excerpt from chapter four of my book, Hello, Career — What You Need to Know to Be Successful in Your First Job — Work Smart in an Office or Remotely, that gives these unsung heroes the credit they deserve:

Because ASPs are always watching, listening and learning, and they often report to senior leadership, it’s not uncommon for them to have the most knowledge of anyone in the workplace. They know when everyone comes and goes, the details of everyone’s calendars, and where everything is, including more coffee cups, important files and phone numbers for copier repair. In fact, if they could see any better, they would have X-ray vision.

Let’s learn how their superpowers can help boost you, your day and even your career.

They Know Where Everything Is and How It Works

Like any good superhero, ASPs have access to and understand the most powerful tools and machinery. If you’re on their good side, they will gladly help you with these often-unforgiving devices. Imagine your panic when the most terrifying villain there is, the copy machine, rears its head in the form of a technological error or a jam — and, of course, this always happens five minutes before an important meeting when you’re making copies of an important document. With advanced knowledge of the workplace’s moving parts, your ASP will save your day. Or what about the constant case of the missing stapler? Have no fear, the ASPs know where to find it — even loaded with staples.

They Can Read People’s Minds

With vast knowledge of the inner workings of your workplace, ASPs give wise advice. Need to know a good holiday gift to get your manager? You’ll learn what treats they can’t get enough of. Are you going into a meeting with people you’ve never met before? You’ll learn if these colleagues have more serious communication styles, or if they prefer lightness and humor.  Is your manager in a bad mood? They will let you know, saving you from feeling the manager’s wrath.

They Carry Powerful Messages

Remember, these superheroes are not just communicating with you. If they like and respect you, their managers (who are sometimes your manager’s manager) will inevitably hear great things about you. Who doesn’t want the important people in the workplace to learn about your own superpowers from an unlikely source? What are the secrets to gaining the respect of your work- place superheroes?

They Simply Appreciate Being Noticed

We all have the instinct to stare in awe whenever we see our superheroes, but, please, for your own benefit, pull yourself together. While their tremendous skills may make them seem superhuman, ASPs are still people, and it’s important to acknowledge them just as you do anyone else. You’d be surprised how something as simple as a “Hello, how is your day?” or a simple two-minute conversation can create a positive impression. In every job I’ve had, I always made it a ritual to stop and ask the ASPs how their days were going, or at least wave if they were on the phone, whenever I took my lunch break. This allowed me to maintain the special relation- ship with them.

Demonstrate Your Superpowers to the ASPs

It’s evident how hard the ASPs work in the workplace. Display your own superpowers by supporting them whenever you can. They will notice and remember, as they don’t get this “support love” from many. One time, while walking from one building to another, I saw one of our ASPs pushing a cart full of break- fast (or more like fighting a breakfast monster). Try as she might, the breakfast monster was winning, as food was on the verge of falling, and we all know how tragic a wasted breakfast is. This super- hero could use some help. Even though I was heading to a meeting, I pulled a few trays off the cart and helped her carry them to her destination, averting disaster. I was happy to help and even happier when I enjoyed a donut that day and a few others, courtesy of the ASP.

Superheroes Have Bosses Too

Not only should you be friendly and support your ASPs as much as you can, make it a point to acknowledge all their hard work, especially as it often goes unmentioned or unrealized. This includes not only continual thank yous, but also showing appreciation of their superpowers to their managers. I send an email at least twice a year to the managers of the ASPs to let them know how much I appreciate the role the ASPs play, as many of us would be absolutely lost without the work they do.

My guess is some of you were already aware of the power of the ASPs and have developed positive working relationships with them. But, if not, make it a point to get to know them. Showing respect and gratitude to those truly running the workplace will pay dividends. You’ll feel great about supporting an often-underappreciated resource and you’ll have a superhero ready, willing and able to make your life easier and more productive. At a minimum, you’ll make a new friend and at a maximum, you’ll now have a red button on your desk that you can push when you need help.

Related WorldatWork Resources
Four-Day Workweek Experiment in UK Shows Positive Early Returns
Moving the Organization Forward with Human-Machine Teaming
Succeeding at the People Side of Sustainability