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15 Challenges Only Secretaries Can Handle

15 Challenges Only Secretaries Can Handle

You’d be surprised to know that the most popular profession for women in 1950s and today is the same—secretary. About 4 million girls employed in the US fell into the category of “secretaries and administrative assistants” and I believe it is a job you can be proud of.

Being an executive secretary, personal assistant, legal, medical or a school secretary means dealing with a lot of ongoing tasks at once, mastering time-management and keeping razor sharp attention to details. No matter what they may say, it’s an important and rewarding job to take. Just think of the next 15 challenges we can handle with ease and grace as part of our profession!

1. You can smile and stay friendly even if you are not in the mood.

No matter what’s boggling your mind right now or tears your heart apart, you are a true professional and will always greet your boss’s clients with a bright smile and warm notes in your voice. You are particularly good at separating you work and emotions as you are the person who makes the first impression for the company you work for.

2. You can keep any secrets.

As a secretary you often deal with a lot of sensitive data and private information. The saying “curiosity killed the cat” has a sacred meaning for you. Yes being curios is part of the human nature; however, there’s a fine line between wanting to know more and and being so exuberant that you want to tell everybody what you have just learned.

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You are proud to say that you are someone your employer can wholeheartedly trust and stay sure nothing will ever leak, even the most hilarious or obscure things your boss does. Besides, you are perfectly aware of the difference between being helpful and being too bubbly. The latter includes spilling out information from a client’s file to a caller who barely introduced himself or going into too much details of what exactly your boss is now up to.

3. You can DIY basically anything.

All sort of emergencies happen in the office. Most probably you are the person to deal with them. So now you happen to know a lot of handy hacks from how to DIY last minute business invitation and business cards to creative ways to clean up wine spills fast and even making a lip scrub  (true story). Everyone in the office know you can figure things out and propose an unconventional solution to any problem out there. Surely, you feel really proud of that, but sometimes constantly feeling challenged is a bit overwhelming as well.

4. You can taking notes really fast.

Your typing speed is somewhere close to the speed of light, but you also know that taking longhand notes can be even more effective when there’s a lot of information to digest.  During the past few years you’ve mastered shorthand, developed your own writing system and bought at least 4 new notebooks. Also, you had to master calligraphy as you are the person asked to write some beautiful text on those last minute invitations.

5. You can always stay organized.

You just cannot let yourself zone out, daydream or be a tiny bit absent-minded. Even if you are woken up at 3 a.m. in the morning, you can fire out your boss’s daily schedule for the next month. You have a few to-do list apps in your phone, a corporate Google calendar sync with all your devices, numerous reminders on your desktop and colorful stickers everywhere with the most important tasks to handle.

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6. You are a planner.

As you spend most of your days coordinating events, scheduling company meetings and making all sort of other arrangements from travel to catering, in your daily life, you have become an absolute planner as well. The world “spontaneous” makes you cringe and think of how bad will those unplanned things turn out, even if it’s just a weekend getaway to the countryside with your SO. Your have a strict daily routine and you start slightly panicking when something intervenes and you need to make changes. Some of your friends say you are a bit boring, but you just love to keep everything well-planned and organized.

7. You need to care a lot about your appearance.

Part of your profession is to look and dress well and appropriate. You carefully plan your outfit, accessories and shoes in the morning, watch for new business fashion trends and even secretly flip those “dress for success books.” You frequently visit your hairstylist (sometimes more frequent that your wallet would want to), nail salon and other beauty parlors to look groomed. You wish you could wear anything to work and stop applying makeup in the morning, but sadly there is no way around the fact that people judge you and the company you work for by your personal appearance.

8. You are in constant search of new ways to become even more productive.

Typically, you have a lot of work at hand and loads of tasks to juggle at once. So you spend most of your evenings testing yet another time-management app, reading all about the new productivity trends and hacks out there. The truth is, sometimes you get so engaged that you actually procrastinate by trying to become even more productive instead of getting things done.

9. You can be very flexible.

That means you come early in the morning and stay out til late if that’s absolutely needed. You are okay with flexible working hours that often get sporadic and can easily adjust to nearly any schedule or working environment. However, that means you can’t maintain proper work-life balance and oftentimes sacrifice your personal time for the sake of work.

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10. You can deal with any type of person.

Obviously, you don’t work in a vacuum and apart from dealing with your boss, you also happen have a sort of interactions with vendors, clients, board members, other employees and all sort of other folks out there. Yes, most of people you interact with are genuinely pleasant, but you often get face to face with “difficult people” as well.  You are forced to exercises all your patients and professionals to keep the communication smooth and polite. In real life you’ve probably said the f-word already at least twice, but at work you can’t let your emotions dominate.

Apart from that you are sometimes bullied by those who see you as a subordinate. It’s another unpleasant situation you have to tactfully deal with and communicate assertively while keeping good work relationships.

11. You can always learn something.

Now you can master any new accounting software in about 15 min, set up any email client, deal with different models of printers, scanner and VoIP phones without calling the IT guys. You learn new things every day and master new skills depending on the task you are supposed to handle. However, being a Renaissance man sometimes gets tiring.

12. You can never be late.

Actually, being late is your worst nightmare. So you always set two alarm clocks in the morning, especially if you have an important meeting. You leave home well in advance to have some extra time in case you get stuck in a traffic jam or something else turns out.

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13. You can never throw papers away.

During your first month you were kind of afraid to throw any paper away as it might later turn out as important. Now, you need one quick glance to identify which pile the paper should go to trash; to add to the folder as it might be needed some day; important and “never through that away under any circumstances.”  The problem is: you’ve stopped throwing away papers at home to and keep them neatly organized in folders just in case it’s ever needed.

14. You are very attentive to details

As you deal with a lot of paper work and important data, one small typo can not only cost you a job, but get your whole company in serious trouble. Say, typing $600.000 instead of $60.000 in a vendor contract. Your job made you manically attentive to all the details, you triple check everything you send to other people. Also, you are probably a grammar nazi and can help telling your friend that he misspelled something on Facebook or didn’t use the correct tense.

15. You can always crack a good joke.

As a recent survey found, 98% of CEOs prefer candidates with good sense of humor. Yes, you are a true professional, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun at the same time. People like you because you can give a witty remark or make a good joke even when things get really intense. Your sense of humor is among the things that help you handle even the most daunting challenges with ease!

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Elena Prokopets

Elena is a passionate blogger who shares about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

Reference

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