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Office and Administrative Support Supervisors and Managers






Significant Points

  • Most jobs are filled by promoting individuals from within the organization, very often from the ranks of clerks they subsequently supervise.
  • Office automation will cause employment in some office and administrative support occupations to slow or even decline, but supervisors are more likely to retain their jobs because of their relatively higher skills and longer tenure.
  • Applicants for office and administrative support supervisor or manager jobs are likely to encounter keen competition because their number should greatly exceed the number of job openings.

Nature of the Work [About this section]  Index

All organizations need timely and effective office and administrative support to operate efficiently. Office and administrative support supervisors and managers coordinate this support. These workers are employed in virtually every sector of the economy, working in positions as varied as customer services manager, chief telephone operator, and shipping-and-receiving supervisor.

Although specific functions of office and administrative support supervisors and managers vary considerably, they share many common duties. For example, supervisors perform administrative tasks to ensure that their staffs can work efficiently. Equipment and machinery used in their departments must be in good working order. If the computer system goes down or a facsimile machine malfunctions, they must try to correct the problem or alert repair personnel. They also request new equipment or supplies for their department when necessary.

Planning the work of their staff and supervising them is a key function of this job. To do this effectively, the supervisor must know the strengths and weaknesses of each member of the staff, as well as the required level of quality and time allotted to each job. They must make allowances for unexpected absences and other disruptions by adjusting assignments or performing the work themselves if the situation requires it.

After allocating work assignments and issuing deadlines, office and administrative support supervisors oversee the work to ensure that it is proceeding on schedule and meets established quality standards. This may involve reviewing each person’s work on a computer, as in the case of accounting clerks, or, in the case of customer services representatives, listening to how they deal with customers. When supervising long-term projects, the supervisor may meet regularly with staff members to discuss their progress.

Office and administrative support supervisors also evaluate each worker’s performance. If a worker has done a good job, the supervisor records it in the employee’s personnel file and may recommend a promotion or other award. Alternatively, if a worker is performing poorly, the supervisor discusses the problem with the employee to determine the cause and helps the worker improve his or her performance. This might require sending the employee to a training course or arranging personal counseling. If the situation does not improve, the supervisor may recommend a transfer, demotion, or dismissal.

Office and administrative support supervisors usually interview and evaluate prospective clerical employees. When new workers arrive on the job, supervisors greet them and provide orientation to acquaint them with the organization and its operating routines. Some supervisors may be actively involved in recruiting new workers, for example, by making presentations at high schools and business colleges. They may also serve as the primary liaisons between their offices and the general public through direct contact and by preparing promotional information.

Supervisors also help train new employees in organization and office procedures. They may teach new employees how to use the telephone system and operate office equipment. Because much clerical work is computerized, they must also teach new employees to use the organization’s computer system. When new office equipment or updated computer software is introduced, supervisors retrain experienced employees in using it efficiently. If this is not possible, they may arrange for special outside training for their employees.

Office and administrative support supervisors often act as liaisons between the clerical staff and the professional, technical, and managerial staff. This may involve implementing new company policies or restructuring the workflow in their departments. They must also keep their superiors informed of their progress and abreast of any potential problems. Often this communication takes the form of research projects and progress reports. Because they have access to information such as their department’s performance records, they may compile and present these data for use in planning or designing new policies.

Office and administrative support supervisors also may have to resolve interpersonal conflicts among the staff. In organizations covered by union contracts, supervisors must know the provisions of labor-management agreements and run their departments accordingly. They may meet with union representatives to discuss work problems or grievances.

Working Conditions [About this section]  Index

Office and administrative support supervisors and managers are employed in a wide variety of work settings, but most work in clean, well-lit, and usually comfortable offices.

Most work a standard 40-hour week. Because some organizations operate around the clock, office and administrative support supervisors may have to work nights, weekends, and holidays. Sometimes supervisors rotate among the three shifts; in other cases, shifts are assigned on the basis of seniority.

Employment [About this section]  Index

Office and administrative support supervisors and managers held over 1.6 million jobs in 1998. Although jobs for office and administrative support supervisors are found in practically every industry, the largest number are found in organizations with a large clerical work force such as banks, wholesalers, government agencies, retail establishments, business service firms, and insurance companies. Due to the need in most organizations for continuity of supervision, few office and administrative support supervisors and managers work on a temporary or part-time basis.

Training, Other Qualifications, & Advancement [About this section]  Index

Most firms fill administrative and office support supervisory and managerial positions by promoting clerical or administrative support workers within their organization. To become eligible for promotion to a supervisory position, clerical or administrative support workers must prove they are capable of handling additional responsibilities. When evaluating candidates, superiors look for strong teamwork, problem solving, leadership, and communication skills, as well as determination, loyalty, poise, and confidence. They also look for more specific supervisory attributes, such as the ability to organize and coordinate work efficiently, set priorities, and motivate others. Increasingly, supervisors need a broad base of office skills coupled with personal flexibility to adapt to changes in organizational structure and move among departments when necessary.

In addition, supervisors must pay close attention to detail in order to identify and correct errors made by the staff they oversee. Good working knowledge of the organization’s computer system is also an advantage. Many employers require postsecondary training—in some cases, an associate’s or even a bachelor’s degree.

A clerk with potential supervisory abilities may be given occasional supervisory assignments. To prepare for full-time supervisory duties, he or she may attend in-house training or take courses in time management or interpersonal relations.

Some office and administrative support supervisor positions are filled with people from outside the organization. These positions may serve as entry-level training for potential higher-level managers. New college graduates may rotate through departments of an organization at this level to learn the work of the organization.

Job Outlook [About this section]  Index

Like other supervisory occupations, applicants for office and administrative support supervisor or manager jobs are likely to encounter keen competition because the number of applicants should greatly exceed the number of job openings. Employment of office and administrative support supervisors and managers is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2008. In addition to the job openings arising from growth, a larger number of openings will stem from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave this large occupation for other reasons.

Employment of office and administrative support supervisors is primarily affected by the demand for clerical workers. Despite an increasing amount of clerical work, the spread of office automation should allow a wider variety of tasks to be performed by fewer office and administrative support workers. This will cause employment in some clerical occupations to slow or even decline, leading supervisors to have smaller staffs and perform more professional tasks. However, office and administrative support managers still will be needed to coordinate the increasing amount of clerical work and make sure the technology is applied and running properly. In addition, organizational restructuring continues to reduce some middle management positions, distributing more responsibility to office and administrative support supervisors. This added responsibility combined with relatively higher skills and longer tenure will place office and administrative support supervisors and managers among the clerical workers most likely to retain their jobs.

Earnings [About this section]  Index

Median annual earnings of full-time office and administrative support supervisors were $31,090 in 1998; the middle 50 percent earned between $23,950 and $40,250. The lowest paid 10 percent earned less than $19,060, while the highest paid 10 percent earned more than $52,570. In 1997, median earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of office and administrative support supervisors were:

Federal government $49,200
Local government, except education and hospitals    30,600
Hospitals    29,700
Offices and clinics of medical doctors    29,200
Commercial banks    27,400

In addition to typical benefits, some office and administrative support supervisors in the private sector may receive additional compensation in the form of bonuses and stock options.

Related Occupations [About this section]  Index

Office and administrative support supervisors and managers must understand and sometimes perform the work of the people whom they oversee, including accounting clerks, cashiers, bank tellers, and telephone operators. Their supervisory and administrative duties are similar to those of other supervisors and managers.

Sources of Additional Information [About this section]  Index

Disclaimer: Links to other Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.

For a wide variety of information related to management occupations, including educational programs, contact:

  • American Management Association, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-7420. Internet: http://www.amanet.org
  • National Management Association, 2210 Arbor Blvd., Dayton, OH 45439. Internet: http://www.nma1.org
O*NET Codes: 51002A & 51002B About the O*NET codes

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