There is a popular saying, which states, “When you assume you make a fool of yourself and me.” The job of a secretary/administrative assistant is often assumed to be an easy job that allows the person a lot of freedom but let’s look at what it entails and decide if the job of being an Administrative Assistant is in fact ‘easy’.
An administrative assistant (AA) has several responsibilities that are not only time consuming but is also frustrating at times. In business places where there is a lot of processing of information, meetings and other important appointments then there is literally no time to be idle. There are responsibilities such as typing daily reports, ordering supplies, updating information, making travel plans (when required), planning budgets, ensuring that the communication channels are clear and that deadlines are kept, delegating responsibilities for menial tasks to junior/clerical staff, keeping all paper work safe and confidential and being responsible for the general overseeing of all office procedures among other things. In addition to this, a good secretary is one who is congenial, does not take things personally and should be able to account for all that happens in the office space and other areas under his/her management.
Having a good personality is crucial as you have to interact with persons from varying backgrounds who at times can be abusive (verbally and otherwise) when things go wrong. It is expected that all tasks should be carried out intelligently, discreetly (when required) and efficiently. So being able to manage time effectively is a plus for an Administrative Assistant.
Truly not everyone can manage the job of an Administrative Assistant. You have to have team spirit and be an effective manager who does not sit around waiting to be told what to do. Some of the attributes that an Administrative Assistant should include having good oral and verbal communication skills, manage time effectively, maturity, professionalism, dress appropriately and be confidential.
There are times in which some managers step outside the boundaries of proper ethics and try to engage their assistants in activities that are somewhat demeaning or uncomfortable. In celebrating the great work of Administrative Assistants, it is only fair that some light be cast on some of these issues to make us more aware of what we do and say and how we conduct our affairs. The following are issues that some of us may take for granted as managers. You may want to think about the following for future reference:
Be mindful that your Administrative Assistant has a specific job description and although he/she may go beyond the call of duty at times, telling him/her “get me some coffee” can be demeaning. If you have an office attendant then delegate that responsibility to that person. If not make a cup of coffee for yourself. It’s easier because you know exactly how you like it.
It certainly is not amusing to order your Administrative Assistant to get your dry cleaning done or to pick up your children. These are your personal affairs and you should make outside arrangement for such. Delegating this responsibility can put your Administrative Assistant in an uncomfortable position and could backfire on you as things can become too personal.
Another personal issue that you should avoid is having your AA send gifts to both your wife and other significant other. This is distasteful and could force your AA into lying to cover for you. This type of inappropriate situation also leaves you vulnerable for demands to be made on you because your AA knows too much about your personal relationships. In essence, many AA’s would prefer to stick to their jobs and not involve themselves with your personal issues.
Try not to make condescending remarks to your Administrative Assistant. No one likes being taken for granted or ‘talked down’ to. This could create a strain in the work relationship and when you really need him/her to cover for you he/she may not feel inclined to go the extra mile based on the treatments received.
The most inappropriate and uncomfortable issue is that of ‘sexual advances’. It is true that a few AA’s might aspire to be a personal assistant but most do not. Making sexual advances on your AA is punishable by law but not everyone will go through the rigors of the justice system and so some managers take advantage of this. So please don’t make it uncomfortable for them. Try to practice professionalism and maintain the respect of your staff. Remember that respect should be garnered and not forced.
In conclusion, our Administrative Assistants are the ones who hold the business together. They know overall day-to-day ‘running’ of your business. Their job is quite important. Show them the respect that they deserve. After all you don’t have the time to do all the reports, budgets, ordering of supplies and all the other meaningful responsibilities that they carry out so well everyday. Now you decide, is it easy or not?