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Top 5 Qualities of a Good Secretary

25 August 2012

1. Confidentiality and Privilege

Confidentiality is the main quality expected of a good secretary. During the course a secretary’s work, the secretary will undoubtedly manage a wide range of information that is private and privileged to the employer and the employer’s clientele. Your boss needs to be able to trust that the work he gives you is treated and carried out with the utmost confidence, as without this trust your boss will lose confidence in you, no matter how fantastic your typing skills are. It takes years of experience working as a secretary with each employer to be able to distinguish what is confidential and what is not, and in fact you can never really be sure of this. Even something which appears to you to be inconsequential and common knowledge may not in fact be so, the divulging of which could create a catastrophe with dastardly results, not only to your employer and your employer’s business but also to yourself. Therefore treat all material as confidential and in the strictest confidence.

From personal experience, I have come across extremely efficient secretaries who are very eager to please and be helpful that they go the extra mile. I recall one occasion in particular where a secretary takes a phonecall for her boss. The caller asked for some information from a client’s file which the secretary eagerly provided to the caller, thinking she was saving the boss some time. Needless to say, this resulted in dire consequences. So don’t try to be “too helpful” in a situation like this as whether or not a caller is known to you or not, you do not have your boss’s experience to judge what information can be released and to whom. It is all good and well to want to go the extra mile for your boss, but this should be ‘offered’ to your boss, and not just ‘assume’ that it is warranted.

Also, you will have heard the saying that ‘curiosity killed the cat’. It is human nature to be curious, and being curious is not a bad thing. But as a secretary there is a fine line between just being curious and being so exuberant that you want to tell everybody about it, either inside the office or outside. Don’t. Don’t even reveal anything you handle for your employer with your nearest and dearest, and this also applies to your boss’ movements and personal life, no matter how very interesting it is to you or how excited you are about it.

2. Honesty and Integrity

Honesty and Integrity go hand in hand. You cannot be honest if you have no personal integrity, and a person that is not honest has no integrity. Everyone thinks they are honest in the broad sense of the word, however taking even a paperclip or a postage stamp from the office without official permission is really stealing. Even if you think your employer can afford it and will not miss it, it is the employer that has paid for it and not you, so it is their property and not yours. Likewise, making personal phonecalls and having personal phone or mobile phone conversations or text messaging on your employer’s premises during the hours that you are paid to work, is theft of the employer’s time.

3. Professionalism

A good secretary presents herself and behaves in a professional manner with a good attitude. There are many books that tell you how to "dress for success" and control your body language, but keeping on top of your personal traits is only part of the story in managing your professional image. There is no way around the fact that people judge you by your personal appearance, so a well groomed look will show that you care about yourself as a person and therefore have the capacity to care about others. A little attention to how you look goes a long way to display your professionalism. People are constantly observing your behaviour and forming theories about your competence, character, and commitment, so present and conduct yourself in a respectable manner appropriate to the organisation that you serve and show a willingness to help other professionals.

4. Knowledge and Skills

In the Desiderata it says, “Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. And this is never more important now than ever before, as the times they are a-changing – and ferociously rapidly too in this day and age. So, continue to accumulate knowledge and obtain new skills, especially in technology, as this can improve the quality of your work, and believe you me, exercising your brain will also help you stay young, and prepare you for any ‘greener pastures” in your future such as a promotion, advancing your career or even a change in career path.

5. A Sense of Humour

Developing a sense of humour is important in work life. You do not need to be a clown but a sense of humour can help you deal with criticism and with difficult people, and to gracefully handle mistakes without snapping people's heads off when things get stressful. It is professional to be able to take criticism lightly to deflate personal attacks.

A survey found that of 737 CEOs surveyed, 98 percent preferred job candidates with a sense of humor to those without. Another survey indicated that 84 percent of the executives thought that employees with a sense of humor do a better job than people with little or no sense of humor. A study discovered that people who have fun on the job are more creative, more productive, better decision-makers, and get along better with co-workers, and also had fewer absentee, late, and sick days than people who weren't having fun.

Working together as a team can also be fun and productive. However, fun and humour in the workplace must be appropriate in nature, and not be offensive to the ordinary or reasonable person, but encourage people to see the absurdity of a situation and also be a useful tool to help people lighten up and not take things so seriously and, properly used, can effectively reduce the intensity of conflicts or even avert them.

Author: Marie Ribeiro
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Top 5 Qualities of a Good Secretary