Who is a professional secretary by dr. gambari, a. i.
Dr. Gambari, A. Isiaka
THE PROFESSION OF A SECRETARY,
RECORDS AND INFORMATION
A Paper Presented at a 3-Day Workshop on Productivity
Enhancement For Secretaries, Held at Edgedrive Hotels,
Lokoja, Kogi State.
28th October – 1st November, 2013
At the end of this presentation, you should be able
Determine who is a Professional Secretary;
Describe the duties of a Professional Secretary;
Differentiate between Ethical and Unethical
Identify some skills required at modern offices
Discuss human relations skills expected of a
Who is a Professional Secretary?
The Professional Secretaries
International (PSI) defines a
secretary as an executive
who has mastery of office skills,
demonstrates the ability to
assume responsibility without
exercises initiative and
makes decisions within the
scope of assigned authority.
A Professional Secretary coordinates the daily
routines of an office and organizes the office
schedules and paper work.
A secretary’s duties require analysis of the
situation, judgment, technical knowledge and
The number and type of activities secretaries are
assigned depend on whether they are generalists
(multifunctional secretaries) or specialists (such as
legal or word processing secretaries). Secretaries
use many different talents and work with many
Modern Professional Secretaries
Modern professional secretaries are now
referred to as office managers by some
people because of their activities,
education, skill acquisition, knowledge
and even expectations from their bosses,
customers, clients and even the general
Whether called a secretary, a manager or a
personal assistant, a professional secretary is
no more the man or woman sitting behind the
typewriter, taking shorthand dictations and
attending to visitors.
Office management is now more concerned
with office occupations or the exhibition or use
of skills, aptitudes, attitudes and knowledge for
carrying out successfully the functions of the
office (Ohakwe, 2001).
ESSENTIAL DUTIES OF PROFESSIONAL
Phone Calls and Visitors
Acts as a gateway between visitors, callers and other
workers in the office.
Knows enough about the office he or she works in to
answer inquiries about the specifics of the office.
He or she screens visitors and phone calls and
arranges callbacks or appointments.
Prepare his or her boss to talk about different issues
with different people.
Prepare a meeting area for visitors and take care of
any requested amenities.
Responsible for conducting phone surveys or inquiring
A PS must handle written communications and the
mail, as well as inter-office communications.
A PS generally sorts the mail for the boss or the
office, prioritizing it and throwing out junk mail.
Sometimes he or she will be responsible for
replying to the banal correspondence by
preparing responses for the boss’s signature.
A PS also prioritizes work based on deadlines and
communication with others in the office.
Appointments and Meetings
A PS not only maintains a boss’s schedule, but also
prepares the boss for meetings and appointments.
He keeps a calendar of the boss’s appointments
as well as all meetings within the office and
determines what events the boss needs to attend.
Arranges his or her employer’s commitments to
avoid overlaps and to make sure that the boss has
enough time to prepare for such commitments.
Prepares an agenda for meetings, arranges for the
facilities and amenities and records the discourse
in the meeting.
Other responsibilities of a Professional Secretary may
Supervising other clerical staff
Keeping an updated mail and phone directory
Ordering office supplies when neede
Organizing files and other data
Some of the ethical demands on the PS
(1). Flexibility and Adaptability: A good
secretary must be able to work in any
organization by adapting to the situation he
(2). Poise: The Professional Secretary should
be calm and poised always.
(3). Intuitiveness: The ability to develop one’s
mind to visualize and sense things. He should
develop a keen eye for error detection in his
work and draw the attention of his boss to it.
(4). Tact: You need tact in what you do
or say so that you do not offend your
boss, co-workers and customers. The
Secretary should be able to
communicate with all people and
should be able to keep the
organization’s secrets secret.
(5). Punctuality: A good Secretary should
be regular and punctual at work.
(6). Courtesy: The Secretary should observe
the basic codes of human relations such as
‘Good morning’, Good day’, ‘Please’, ‘Thank
(7). Due Diligence: Means avoidance of
mistakes or typographical errors and paying
attention to details. This is an important asset of
a secretary in order to produce mailable
(8). Being proactive: Should be able to take necessary
prior action to forestall its happening. The secretary
should use her initiative and discretion in doing the job
without waiting for the boss. She should always think of
improving herself and her job.
(9). Self-confidence: Fear causes tensions and affects
our emotional stability negatively as well as our selfconfidence. You should learn to control your emotions
and develop your self-confidence.
(10). Good Telephone Personality: Telephone
communication requires good voice, pleasant
manner and friendly attitude.
(11). Appearance: The secretary should be neat
and decently dressed always.
(12). Organizational skills: These skills are required
in order to achieve organizational objectives.
(13). Confidentiality: The security of the office and
equipment falls within the ‘corporate schedule’ of
the secretary. Consequently, one of the ethical
core values which facilitate the success of the
professional secretary is confidentiality.
(14). Leadership: The leadership competence of
the secretary is usually required for the effective
management of co-workers and observance of
decorum in the office.
(15). Capacity-building: Through peer-review
mechanisms, attendance at professional
workshops and conferences, and membership of
(16). Computer Competencies: Your knowledge of
computer will not be an asset to your organization,
until it adds value, hence the secretary needs to
more from the level of computer appreciation to
1. Passion for excellence is lacking
2. Communication deficiencies, usually
as a result of the porous basic
foundation in English usage.
3. Low confidence level.
4. Poor organizational ability.
5. Unlawful trading in offices during
6. Improper delineation of hierarchy and
command structure that often create conflicts
between the professional secretary and other
support staff like: secretarial assistants, clerical
8. Gossip/Rumour mongering.
9. Lateness/Absenteeism (A.W.O.L).
10. Erroneous notion of the professional secretary’s
career as being meant solely for females.
11. Promotion above level of competence (Peter’s
12. Poor human relations.
14. Un-ending discussion.
15. Improper dressing.
16. Poor listening technique.
17. Poor leadership and followership styles.
SUCCEEDING AT MODERN OFFICES
Brent D. Ruben and Jogelyn De Anglis listed out
the following as competencies and skills needed
by secretaries in workplace:
Human Relations Competencies
Self Motivation: Self motivation refers to an internal
drive to get things done.
Flexibility and Adaptability.
Integrity: Honesty, especially as it applies to
Problem Solving: identify solutions to problems.
Decision Making Ability: Fact-based decision
Analytic/Cognitive Ability: The skill to thinking
GPA/Academic Achievement: Grade point
averages (GPA) refer to the overall grade point,
with the higher the GPA being more desirable.
Loyalty: Commitment to the job and organization.
Communication, Written and Oral
Social Skills: Getting along with others,
Organization Skills: Managing tasks and projects,
and files well.
Leadership/Management Skills: Skills to manage
other people to get results and taking the
Meeting Skills: The skill to successfully run
meetings and participate in meetings
Economics/Statistics: Business courses in
economics and/or statistics.
Quality Approach Knowledge: The understanding
of work as a process.
Customer Orientation: The skill related to both
social skills and problem solving ability.
International Knowledge: A basic understanding of
international business workings.
Second Language: Some employers are seeking
candidates with skills in other languages.
(International) Management: Business course in
management or international management.
(International) Marketing: Business course in
marketing or international marketing.
(International) Trade Theory: Business course in trade
theory or international trade theory.
(International) Human Resources: Business course in
human resources or international human resources.
Basic Business Courses
Domain Knowledge: Domain knowledge is the
one area of concentrated skills/ability gained
through college education.
Accounting: Business or management course in
Human Relation Skills (competencies)
The secretary as a ‘public figure’ must endeavour
to show good working relationship with other
members of staff irrespective of their position or
It is largely viewed that human relations should be
two-way affairs, but to a large extent the secretary
has the major role to play. This is because human
beings are unique in nature and are difficult to
In order for the secretary to maneuver she needs
to display different skills as the need arises.
The Secretary and Total Environment
(Internal Human Relations)
Understanding the co-workers and having a keen
interest in them.
Always put up a smiling face even when things
are not moving on fine to avoid being
In addition, when junior staff are respected,
recognized or sympathized with as well as not
getting involved in office gossips/belonging to any
clique, they see the person as a close confidant
and a mentor.
The Secretary and Her Boss
Understand your boss as
much as possible
Win your boss’s
confidence as regards to
office work and other
Loyal to your boss & do
not gossip him.
Reconcile or Talk-it-over
In case of unpleasant mood, create an entire
peaceful atmosphere that would enable him get
back to good mood, by:
avoiding anything that hurts his feelings
answering him with due respect,
never argue with him or encounter in hot
You should be sympathetic and always shows the
boss that you are willing to see him through his
Always sees him as the Boss & do not claim that
you know more than him
Do not get irritated when your advice is not taken
but feel satisfied that she has been requested to
contribute to an issue.
Always be considerate
Always remain calm in all situation
Display the matured spirit and always follow the
hierarchy or channel of communication or chain
of command when dealing with anyone.
Be Accurate so that the boss is relieved of the
burden of examining every document
Be caring to show the boss that you cares about
everything that concerns him
Un-equal relationship, understand that the
relationship between her and the boss is that of
the secretary and the boss and not that of equals.
On no account should she sit on the boss’s chair
Do not open his locker to search for things that are
External Human Relations
Receive visitors with smiles and politeness
In answering calls, you should be creative,
imaginative, human and ready to offer assistance
irrespective of person involved.
Visitors to the office should not be made to wait
Speak to visitor in a chanting way that would
make them forget the length of time they have
The Secretary and other Executives
Do not see your boss as the only person that
deserves to be accorded respect.
Hatred and envy by others
Victimization after been transferred
The Secretary and Her Colleagues
be able to harness the efforts of other colleagues
to the greater glory of the organization
Should based your discussion on how to solve
help those who have problem s with their boss or
Help his colleagues who have problem in
handling a particular aspect of the secretary job
Help those who run out of the materials because
someday you would need help
The Secretary and Junior Workers
Understand the nature of junior workers therefore
be courteous, polite, sympathetic, tolerant, tactful,
cheerful, cooperative and calm when dealing
Gives them the impression that they are
recognized as human beings
Give corrections to offences committed by any
junior staff in a way that is satisfying
Never discuss all the wrong doings of the junior
workers with the boss so as to avoid loss of
confidence and to prevent the office from
do not frown or become unfriendly if he enters the
office and fails to greet cheerfully or fails to go on
an errand immediately
Satisfy the junior workers and speak politely to
Understand their problems and talks to them at the
The Secretary as a Supervisor
Give Workers Equal Treatment: No preferential
treatment should be allowed.
Help to understand your juniors problems:
(i) show them love,
(ii) interested in their welfare,
(iii) listen to their grievance and handle them without
(iv) Offer a genuine advice and settle dispute
without hurting anyone.
Recognize excellent performance and
Maintaining a suitable Working
Make sure that each worker is comfortable e.g.
the seating position,
the recreational facilities,
the medical facilities, etc.
Avoid anything that would create suspicion in the