The Changing Boss-Secretary Relationship

Andrew E. Schwartz

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THE CHANGING BOSS-SECRETARY RELATIONSHIP: Imagine a partnership at work. One member is outlining the agenda for the annual stockholders’ meeting, the other is managing the logistics. The last decade has brought many changes to the traditional boss/secretary relationship. We now see powers and responsibilities delegated to “executive assistants” that only ten years ago would have been the sole province of the boss. And there has been a corresponding rise in the prestige and influence of those secretaries chosen to fill such positions. The fact is that fewer women are willing to be career secretaries.

QUALIFIED SECRETARIES: Qualified secretaries are hard to find and even harder to keep satisfied for any appreciable period of time. The most talented and enterprising are voicing the same concerns as a burgeoning number of their fellow employees: “What are the opportunities for growth and advancement?” That has become a popular question. Women who were secretaries in the 1960’s are now managers and vice presidents who function as role models for the current group of secretaries. On the other hand, some corporations continue notoriously resistant to employee advancement from clerical positions, leading to frustration and lowered incentive for people in these posts.

VALUING THE SECRETARY: Ideally, the secretary should be acknowledged as an integral part of the management team. When the boss drafts a letter, it is the secretary who checks it for spelling, correct grammar and punctuation and types it up accurately and neatly to present a professional and appropriate image. He or she must also make sure of details such as researching to whom the letter should be directed for maximum effect and assuring its timeliness. Boss and secretary are responsible for different parts of the same project—a team effort, a partnership. In this case, the boss initiates the action and the secretary follows it through—both acts are essential to success.

BOSS-SECRETARY RELATIONSHIP: In a true working partnership, both individuals feel confident of the talents contributed, and both feel respected and appreciated. It is a given that the secretary views the boss this way or at least acts in a way that implies it. To reap the potential benefits of a boss-secretary partnership, it is becoming more important that the boss cultivate ways of showing the secretary that the road travels both ways. Higher wages, of course, are the most immediate incentive in attracting and motivating a skilled secretary, but it is not by any means the only factor. In the case of clerical work, some relief from routine may be as great an incentive as a pay increase. For example, more interesting and decision-oriented types of work could be delegated to those secretaries who have shown themselves capable of handling it. Many employees are interested in the acknowledgment of their contributions and visible enhancement of their prestige in the corporate structure.

Copyright AE Schwartz & Associates All rights reserved. For additional presentation materials and resources: ReadySetPresent and for a Free listing as a Trainer, Consultant, Speaker, Vendor/Organization: TrainingConsortium

CEO, A. E. Schwartz & Associates, Boston, MA. , a comprehensive organization which offers over 40 skills based management training programs. Mr. Schwartz conducts over 150 programs annually for clients in industry, research, technology, government, Fortune 100/500 companies, and nonprofit organizations worldwide. He is often found at conferences as a key note presenter and/or facilitator. His style is fast-paced, participatory, practical, and humorous. He has authored over 65 books and products, and taught/lectured at over a dozen colleges and universities throughout the United States.


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