What kind of relationship do you have with your secretary?
It is quite normal to relate or equate relationships we have outside of the home with the ones that we have in our primary sociological institution which is the home and family. This is why people talk of a fatherly lecturer, a brotherly colleague at work or a friend just like a sister or brother. In like manner, if you were to evaluate and equate your relationship to your secretary what would you say? Is it like a father-daughter relationship? A brother-sister relationship? A mother-son? Or is it more of a husband – wife relationship the Romeo and Juliet kinda relationship?
Where does your boss-secretary relationship stand? Is it proper?
It cannot be denied that secretaries and/or personal assistants have crucial significance in the workplace. Just like with any other job, if carried out diligently, earnestly and professionally, this job and role can be quite a pillar in the company and the individual becomes indispensable. But how are these boss-secretary relationships playing out in our workplaces out there? Is your boss-secretary relationship above-board?
I know quite a few women personally who are honestly holding their own and earnestly scaling professional heights in this profession with dignity. I am sure there are many of these relationships that are appropriate and innocent but thing is are they all? Question is: what about you, gentle reader? Can your boss-secretary relationship stand the scrutiny of media and pass? If your relationship is above board, then no worries. But umm-m, just in case there are some Julietly tendencies and Romeo-like characteristics in your office, let’s read on.
To begin with, what exactly does the job description of your secretary say?
Planning meetings and taking care of boss’ diary? Check!
Organizing conferences? Check!
Documents filing and maintainance? Check!
Other routinely administrative tasks to professionally support boss? Check!
Boss’ dry-cleaning? Ping!
Playing host to boss’ relatives at the office? Ping
Organizing maintainance tasks at boss’ house?
Organizing boss’ daughters wedding? At wife’s request? Or whose? On the company clock? And company pay-roll? Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping!
When the secretary attends to the dry-cleaning of the boss’ suits is that part of her job description? And when she takes care of the arrangements for a funeral at your house is she being humanely? Neighbourly? Sisterly? Or is she doing it Julietly? Are these some of the tasks that fall under “any other duties as assigned”?
When the secretary “lies” that the boss is not in to people looking for him, does she do that under his orders? For him or for herself? To possessively screen and keep away competition? Or to genuinely give him time to cover ground on paper work in the office?
When a boss cannot make a decision without consulting his secretary – is this sisterly? Motherly? In this respect she is like his right hand, okay? More so than his deputy or vice? What about when the boss is out of the office for a few days and then one finds the secretary also out? Coincidence? Does the secretary take the chance to take days off when the boss is away, so she is on her own leave or is there a slim chance, not in all secretaries’ cases but in a few cases, is there a slim – a very slim chance that they could be away together? Is that at all possible? When he goes away in China for business, does he have to go with her? All the time? Some of the time?
So she is his right hand, they work well together, complimenting each other granted. But so much so that she gets power of attorney and sign checks on his behalf? Get money out of the bank on his behalf? Standard procedure?
And when she has some matrimonial problems on her home front – how much does she disclose to the boss? All the gory details, minute and all? Teary discounts? Crying on the shoulder? On the desk? How exactly? How much does he have to know? Does he have to know? Does the knight-in-shining-armour rescuing the-damsel-in-distress syndrome kick in? Up to what point? If the boss were a woman – same sex as the secretary – would the comforting be similar?
Come Valentine’s Day or Secretary Day like it was last week, a secretary gets a gift. Flowers? Chocolates? Perfume? Those romantic gifts, feminine gifts? Are these gifts a tad suggestive? Is there anything wrong at all with such type of gifts? Would a pen, fancy if it should be, be a better, more innocent option? A notebook, or some nice folder be more in line with the work she renders for him? Or is this too dry? Not romantic enough? Did I say romantic? So she gets those Valentine’s Day flowers, which is well and good, but are they the same as those for the madam at home? If the madam even got some? Would the madam at home like that? Or does it not matter what she likes or doesn’t? Where is she in all of this? Does she even factor at all? Or is it one of those “out of sight out of mind” situations. Do I hear you say, this is not the wife’s domain? Hers is at home? Okay fine, but in that home is she as much of a right hand? Or is the work right hand missed even at home? One of those if so and so was here she would have efficiently taken care of this? Not this dowdy dreary wife?
Do some men make better bosses than they are husbands? Or are some wives failing to hold a candle to the secretaries? Losing ten –nought? Need to up their game; we live in world of competition and all that jazz?
Back to job description? How far, how wide? Are secretaries being abused, used, over-used, over-extended? Do some of them feel like they have no choice? Or are they willing participants aiding and abetting?
And in the off chance that she is physically irrestistible – can’t-be-helped-irresistible – what happens then? Anything goes? Are there secretaries that come on too strong to the boss he has no choice but to oblige? Is there such a thing? Are some male bosses so irresistible – looking so distinguished and successful in those suits with all those expensive deos and colognes that fill the whole corridor – you just can’t help but…? Or are we finding male bosses that assume that a secretary is a company wife? We hear of some bosses that sleep with every secretary or p.a. that ever works for them? Is it time to call in the police or is it willing seller-wiling buyer situations? But we also hear of the fatherly ones that seek to professionally mentor their secretaries and grow them to be professionals of note. Are secretaries victims or are they villains? Or do we have a bit of both?
And dress code? Is it strictly professional? Or drop dead enticing? Too sensual to ignore? Distractingly low necklines? Second skin skirts and barely-there tops? Can it be helped? Is a woman’s dressing ever her problem or the man’s?
After all is said and done and all manner of questions are asked and exhausted – it is important to bear in mind that for a secretary or p.a. to be treated with respect and seriousness, she has to earn it for herself. You can’t expect others to respect you when you don’t do yourself the favour. You are very critical in your job sister, earn respect on your two feet. You cover more professional distance vertically than horizontally!
Maggie Mzumara is an internationally-recognised media, communication and development consultant. She is also a motivational speaker and seasoned MC. She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org. For more, visit www.maggiemzumara.com
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