Secretary as the Image Maker of a Business Organization

Secretary as the Image Maker of a Business Organization. (A Case Study of Nigerian Breweries Plc Onitsha and Our Lady’s Industries Nkpor-Agu Anambra State

Literature Review

This chapter presents an over view of the secretary as an image-maker of business organization.

The chapter is treated under the following

Who is a secretary

The qualified secretary

Typist vs secretary

Image making functions

Business attributes

Personal attributes

Summary of literature review


The NATIONAL Secretaries Association (International) N.S.A define secretary as “An Executive Assistant, who possesses a mastery of office skills, who demonstrates the ability to assume responsibility without direct supervision, who makes decision within the scope of assigned authority.“

Nwigwe (1995) said that, “secretaries are the protective walls and agate along eh corridors and within the secret chambers of power. Secretaries constitute a power-nexus, hardly heard but always seen and act as sieves, shields and wind breaks to the proceedings, decisions and the personalized instruments and agents of policy within the cocoon of their operational space. She employ all in their armory of psychology, politeness, humility and disarming dialogue to ensure that “the divinity that dot hedge a king” remains inviolable, immutable and often times, sacrosanct.

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The secretary is a much more important person nowadays than she was in 1887. She is an administrative officer of the company. As regards matters concerning administration, in judgment, the secretary has ostensible authority to sign contracts on behalf of the company. Based on the interplay of management and professional skills the secretary guards the overall objectives of her establishment and with due consultations and meetings, develop deadlines and resolves conflicts that may arise from time to time. Apart from monitory and co-ordinating the functions of other arms, she interprets policy in the spirit of established objectives and produces reports, bulletins, data, and statistics that regulate the conduct and performance of, as well as provide information on the organization. She analyses results and identifies areas of need for purposes of development planning and cost rationalization as stated by Anyatonwu (1979).

Defining a secretary, Lee and Brower (pg 2-3), asserts that the real definition of what a secretary is becomes evident at the point where the worker can assume responsibility, make decision and work independently. The went further to explain that “secretaries develop a sound knowledge of the business and how it operates so that they can draw on it to make decision. As secretaries grow on the job, hey advance to the point where they can act largely on their own, whereas stenographers or clerks work under close supervision and carry out primary routine assignments. The chief functions of a secretary is to think with and sometimes ahead of the boss so that the work of the office flows smoothly and the boss does not have to worry about the details of its operation. It is often said that “secretaries work with their bosses rather than for them. In so doing secretaries can take pride in the fact that they are professional people who contribute substantially to heir bosses’ success and success of the company.”

Evelyn Austin, in her book senior secretarial duties and office organization (1979) defined a secretary as a person who has acquired the basic secretarial skills of shorthand and typewriting plus enough knowledge and practical experiences of office work to be able to cope with filing, simple office machinery and reception duties.

In her effort to describe who a “perfect secretary” is, she said that “A” good secretary needs also to have accumulated enough knowledge about business/commercial work in general and office organization in particular to be able to run her own office and to organize as much of her chief’s work as he will let her. She must be able to exercise initiative and diplomacy, she must be able to keep her eyes open and her month shut. She becomes the perfect secretary when in addition to the forgoing list of attributes she is able to add an interest in and knowledge of her chief’s particular line of business enough experiences in her chief’s employ to be able to anticipate his requirements and absolute loyalty to her chief.

According to S. T. stand well and J. Shaw, the extracts from some of the replies received from leading businessmen and women on “what do you expect of your secretary? Shows that Eric Webster and John Murray in their book “how to win the business battle” (1964) defined a secretary thus:

A good secretary can think for your, act for you, anticipate your every whim, and increase your output phenomenally. By her charm and the reverence with which she speaks you name, she can spread a favourable image of you through a boss dictates, the concern is for the content of the message. If any mistakes are made in English usage, the secretary must catch them. Hen too, secretaries need to be confident to their knowledge of English because they do a considerable amount of writing on their own. So they went to be certain that any written material they produce is as accurate as it can be.

Along with these tools, secretaries must understand how an office operates and must be willing to learn whatever will make them the greatest help to their employers. This includes a detailed knowledge of the organization of the company.

The authors explains further that for one to continue to advance in the secretarial profession, one needs to know about business management, principles of supervision, Economics, the implications of computer science, the interpretation and use of financial data, laws related to business operation and above all the principles of psychology that apply to working productivity with other people, personnel management, office information system etc. In addition, the secretary needs a large supply of just plain common sense”.

According to Evelyn. Austin (1979 pg 364) she said “of course a perfect secretary exists. She is perfect because she suits her particular employer-change the employer, the environment or the employer’s business…” A secretary is a person who has acquired the basic secretarial skills of shorthand and typewriting plus enough knowledge and practical experience in office work.”

Some of the required qualifications should include, show of initiative and ability to be adaptable and unruffled at times of stress and strain.

She should be discreet and tactful in dealing with callers or visitors and colleagues in the organization. With grace and cheerful composure she wades through difficult situations and accommodates irritable and unco-operative colleagues or executive.

She creates a conducive atmosphere from work and higher productivity by her cordial and friendly relationship with all, irrespective of class. By being liberal, accommodating, sympathetic and considerate, without compromising discipline and principle the secretary inculcate in her subordinates a sense of duty, responsibility and directions.

One leading personnel office also has this to say, “A good secretary must be a wizard at shorthand and above average in typewriting and computer operating and must be a good grammarian out your company. By the factual way she conveys your peremptory message she will please your friends and sooth your enemies. By the information she unobtrusively feeds to you and the filing system that she miraculously keeps up to date, she will given the most featherbrained and forgetful employer an image of omniscience that is nothing less than awe-inspiring.  The fading hope can be revived and realized by the acquisition of a good secretary. The breathe of paradise enters the office, routine becomes rhapsody, mountains of work are smoothed by her gentle touch, your temper is smoothed and your ego inflated. You return home relaxed and invigorated, confidence that in this tiresome world there is one harden where your wisdom is not only apparent but unquestioned!

The oxford advanced English learners Dictionary defined a secretary as an employee in the office who deals with correspondence, keeps records, make arrangements and appointments for a particular member of staff.

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According to the new standard encyclopedia Dictionary (1984: 661), A secretary may be defined as the communication centre of any organization. He is the administrative centre of an organization; he is the vehicle for interaction and the image –maker for any organization.


A qualified secretary possesses shorthand and typewriting skills but in addition, she has a wide knowledge on other fields. By the demands of her profession the secretary is a “professional student” reading, searching and learning always to broaden her knowledge and know-how. The idle practitioner who feels bored and lazy to utilize every available opportunity to update her knowledge can never fit in as the “qualified secretary”.

  1. E. Lee and W. A. Brower in their book secretarial procedures (1976) explained secretarial skills thus;

Successful secretaries must have a complete mastery of the basic tools shorthand and typewriting. Mastery of these implies that they can be used effectively under the pressure of all the other duties a secretary must perform and there are hundreds of these. Skills must be good enough to be takes for granted.

Most surveys of business show that secretaries must be able to take shorthand and use transcribing equipment if they are to take advantage of any employment opportunities that may be open.

Of course, good transcribing skills imply a thorough knowledge of English usage executives should be able to rely on their secretaries in this respect when.


There are different categories of typists as used by various authors. They are:

  1. Shorthand typist or stenographer
  2. Audio typist
  3. Copy typist etc

According to T. Stand well and J. Shaw (1974) a shorthand –typist spends the larger part of her time taking dictations, transcribing her shorthand and presenting her working for signature. She may also be expected to answer telephone, deal with mail, receive callers and assist in filing and duplicating – particularly in a small organization.

  1. a) Small organization

While an audio-typist’s duties are much the same as a shorthand typist’s but an audio-typist transcribes recorded dictation whereas a shorthand typist transcribes shorthand.

According to Okafor (1979), the duties of the typist is to type fair copies of document form typed or hand written manuscripts. She does not need any shorthand skill, as she does not take down dictations. Because of her inability to write and transcribe shorthand or draft routine letters, she is sometimes referred to as ”copy typist”.

Still defining a shorthand typist, Evelyn Austin has this to say the shorthand typists work is of a some what more complicated nature than that of junior for example, instead of filing under supervision it is likely that once she has learnt how the system operates, she will be left to do her own filing. She may supervise some of he junior girls’ work… she takes dictation from her chief, learning the straighten forward copy typing to be done by the junior. The shorthand typist can be of a great assistance to her chief. There is hardly an employer in exitence who will not appreciate a helpful comment form an intelligent stenographer when he hesitates in his dictation searching for he appropriate word. The shorthand typist soon learns his style, is able to supply the word or phrase that is so tevitalisingly on the lip of his tongue.

With the above explanations about typists, the secretary cannot therefore be regarded as a typist because she has a wide knowledge and has more duties to perform in an organization than a typist.

Evelyn Austin (1979) distinguished a secretary from typists thus; with the junior clerks and shorthand-typists taking most of the routine work form the secretary, her working day can be spent doing those tasks which only she can perform with efficiency. Her more intimate knowledge of her chief’s work enables her to a anticipate his requirements, to supervise the work of her juniors (but not do it herself) and indeed to take on as much of her employers own work as he is willing to delegate to her and she is able to cope with she will arrange his appointments, make his travel arrangement, book hostel reservations, remind him of important matters, arrange his meeting, shield him form unwanted visitors and generally deal with the hundred and one items which are necessary to make her chief’s  working day as trouble free as possible.

It takes an accumulation of knowledge and experience gathered over months, even years, and stored meticulously in the secretary’s brain before she can be at her peak of efficiency. Mere high speeds in shorthand and typing indicate worthwhile manual dexterity and brain co-ordination but these skills alone do not make an efficient secretary”.

S.T. Standwell and J. Shaw (1964) said that few employers nowadays make an adequate distinction between shorthand-typist and secretary, so those secretaries who really do carry out the secretarial function have charged their job titles to personal secretaries, private secretaries, personal assistants, top secretaries, senior secretaries, executive secretaries and management aids.

He went further to explain that an executive secretary or personal assistant is a secretary who has sufficient knowledge of her chief’s specialization and the breach of commerce, industry or the profession and the organization in which he is working, will be able to have a considerable amount of work delegated to her. Such as secretary will perform fewer primary functions but more and more secondary functions. She will be able to take decision, give instruction and even represent the boss on business occasion. She will really become the chief’s alter ego and may well be promoted to the executive ranks of the organization.


The secretary is an image-maker in an organization. In doing this, she has the following functions to perform.


The secretary performs the duty of drafting and typing of letters in an organization. Through the performance of this duty, she portrays the image of her firm.

Glshing (1971), has this to say, “if you write a business letter for your firms, you have a great deal of responsibility. The person who receives your letter is going to get his impression of the company form the way the letter is composed, and from the way it is written or typed.

Stan well et al also has this to say, firm’s letters are its ambassador and there is no doubt that the receive of an attractive letter forms a good impression to only of the person who signed the letter but also of his office, his staff, the company he represents and the goods and services marketed by the company.

They also added, …your company’s reputation in the eyes of potentially good customers can be made or ruined forever by the first impact of the image portrayed by he letters you typed.


Most businesses today have been dominated by the use of telephone. The manner in which the secretary handles the telephone calls helps to uphold the reputation of the organization or jeopardizes the image as well.

Onasanya (1990), said that, “A caller may judge an organization by the way a secretary answers a call.” He went further to say that, a secretary is a public relations officer or ambassador who must portray a good image of he organization.

In using the telephone, the voice is an important organization therefore there is the need to tone it in such a way that it sounds friendly and helpful in order to portray a good image of the organization. In this connection, Stan Well et al has this to say, “when speaking on the telephone, the only means you have of communicating your word is your voice. It is essential that your speech be clear (not affected) that you do not speak quickly and loudly. Your voice is also a means of communicating your personality and creating an impression.”

Basse et al approved on this when they say, “As you are not face to face with your listener, the only way you can show interest in telephone conversation is by warm and cordial tone.”

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Fisher (1972), has this to say, whether a secretary to a doctor or dentist, or a business executive, one of the responsible duties of a private secretary is the receiving of telephone calls. The telephone contract is essential in business and the secretary should be careful in handling it in other not to jeopardize the image of her organization. Just as manner it helps to give the caller a favourable impression of a firms, so can the secretary’s manner either destroy impression on the firm or creates a good one. Her manner therefore will not lack dignity, should be pleasant and welcoming and her voice should be warm and friendly”.


In most organizations, the secretary performs the function of receiving visitors.

Harrison (1979) agreed that, “the first impression a visitor gains of an organization is influenced by the manner he is received at the reception office”. All visitors should be received courteously, this creates a good impression.

Stan Well et al also said, great every visitor by manner, so that he feels an individual rather than an unidentified prison. A ready smile will make him feel.

Onasarya (1990) said that, … the secretary is the firs contact with the visitors. The way and manner a secretary receives visitors will create the first impression. To receive visitors, a secretary need to have pleasant knowledge of the organization.

Doris et al also said that “one of the most important aspect of a secretary’s work is the way in which she handles visitors. She sis a reflection not only of the company’s public relations as a receptionist, but of her executive image”.

Visitors who need to wait should be made confortable. And they continued that, when a caller has to wait, ask him to have a seat, indicate a chair, if he has to wait for a length of time, offer him a newspaper or magazine.” Caution should be exercised in handling them.

Onasanya (1990) said that, “A secretary should be tactful in dealing with callers, especially those who are unable to see the executive. She should be able to explain to the caller why the executive is unavailable. The secretary should persuade the caller to accept an appointment for another time and date that will be convenient for both parties”.

Through the performance of the above functions, the secretary portrays the image of her organization. This means that secretary should be mindful in the performance of these duties as any fault will definitely jeopardize the image of her organization.

For the secretary to perform her functions efficiently, she must possess some relevant attributes. These attributes can be divided into business and personal attributes.


This include the following:


These are those skills a secretary must possess in other to carryout her secretarial job effectively.

Okafor (1979), said that a secretary must, “have a good speed in typewriting (50wpm) and shorthand speed of (120wpm). She must be able to handle basic office equipment and machines.”

Helen Harding added that, she must possess knowledge of information processing, secretarial duties and communication skills”.


A secretary should not only possess mastery of secretarial skills but should have a fairly detailed knowledge in Accounts, Economics, Psychology, Sociology, Marketing, Business Administration English language etc.

She must have a general education for better understanding of her environment.


A secretary should be prepared to accept responsibility for tasks delegated to her by her employer. Many of these will be routine task which she is expected to carry out reliably and efficiently.

Lee and Brower (1976) said, “It means that once a secretary has been given a job to do, the boss can consider it done and forget about it. A completely reliable secretary even takes care of necessary details that may not have occurred to the boss… the point is that the reliable secretary assumes the responsibility for having everything in order.

Ezinwa (1981) said that, she should be responsible. A secretary is usually responsible for a certain amount of her boss’s routine work which she should carry out cheerful and efficiently.

Every secretary should have the ability to take some tasks and these should be done reliably and efficiently.


A secretary should be able to give judgments with her own initiative.

According to Harding, he said that, she should be capable of working on her own initiative and using discretion without having to wait for her employer’s instruction.

Lee and Brower (1976) said, “By using initiative, executives mean that secretaries should see what should be done and go ahead and do it without being told to do so.


A secretary should be tactful especially as she deals with people and at some dicey situations.  

Onasanya (1990) said that, “a secretary must be tactful in handling dicey situations. Callers whom the executive do not wish to receive must be kept at buy by the secretary using appropriate words spoken in peasant tones”.

A secretary also should have the ability to keep the secrets of her organization.

Lee and Brower (1976) said, “It is probably true that secretaries know more about wheat is giving on in the company then does anyone else except their bosses. Bosses will often use their secretaries as sounding boards when they just want to talk things out, hey can do this only if they know that their secretaries will keep quiet about what is said. Secretaries who talk about what they know of company business can cause in calculable harm to the company and to their bosses. In fact, hey even work against themselves because nobody wants to have a secretary who has not learned to keep confidential matters confidential”.

Ezinwa (1981) said that, “the secretary keeps everything that goes on in her organization to herself. She, not only avoids initiating such conversation with others, but also refrains from joining in comments that others start. The secretary is frequently present when top executives discuss highly confidential matters and must not divulge then or even given the impression that she knows.”

He said that, one way to avoid spillage of information is simple to avoid gossip. The work of sectary ordinarily means “keeper of secrets”. A secretary should avoid imparting her organization secret as it jeopardizes the image of the organization. She should be diplomatic in her dealings with people.


A secretary should be prompt at her work place and in whatever she does.

Harding has this to say, “the employer expects the secretary to be punctual and this implies punctuality to the submission of work, the arrangement of appointments and attendance at meetings”.

Ezinwa (1981) said that, “she should be punctual and always available when needed by her boss.’


In most cases, the secretary has to do the employers job when he is not on seat. Any bad decision takes by the secretary is not in the best interest of the organization.

Wardfries ahs this to say in this, “employer cannot always be present when a decision has to be made. So, they rely on the secretaries to use commonsense and wisdom in acting for them”.

Ezinwa (1981) added that, “poor judgment on the part of the secretary can cause serious losses. Good judgment hinges on the collection and careful study of facts and taking decision on what line of action that will promote the best interest of the firm”.


A secretary is employed by somebody and she should therefore, endeavour to be loyal to the employer and the organization.

According to Onasanya (1990), “A god secretary must be loyal to the executive whilst loyalty to the executive is important, the over riding loyalty should go to the organization”.

This ensures for the good and smooth running of the organization.

Lee and Brower (1976) said that, “when business people say that they value the loyalty of secretaries, they mean that secretaries should always represent their bosses and their companies in their best possible light to anyone with whom they come in contact. Loyalty also means that secretaries act as though they really belie in their companies. They become good advertisements for their organizations and a big help in creating a positive image.

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According to Lee and Brower (1976), “part of the secretary’s reliable performance is the ability to organize work for one’s employers, for oneself and sometimes for others. Implied is the recognition of priorities and follow through on all work in process. The alert secretary sees to it that his or her desk does not become a dam for the paper work that must flow across it.



The first thing that strikes the visitor to any organization is the secretary having regard to the secretary’s strategic position as the gateway to the chief executive.

The secretary’s attire to the office should be neat and freshly ironed, smart, simple, well-trimmed and made to allow for easy, brisk movement that will enable her to carry her duties effectively. Her make up should be simile, soft and civil, perfumery should be mild. Contrary to the notion of many, particularly the new entrants into service, the office is not a boutique-a beauty shop where one goes to contest or exhibit the latest in fashion. The office is a business house, a workshop with a set pattern of fashion, compartment, standard and decorum, tailored to meet the objectives of the establishment. Action, it is said speaks louder then words, but in the context of the office, appearance speaks loudest”.

To crown all these, the secretary must wear a lingering smile and welcoming disposition.

On this, Ezinwa (1981) said that, the secretary is a reflection of the organization and is therefore seen as an image-maker. To be able to fulfill the public relations functions, the secretary must be a neat, suitably dressed worker.”

Wean fires (1988) said that, “an attractive appearance and a pleasant manner are attributes of a successful secretary. A secretary therefore should avoid shabby attire and over painting (too much make-up)”.


Good mannerism is a sine-qua-non for every successful secretary. This is because she is the contact between the organization and the outside world. If her manner of approach is poor, then the image of her organization is in jeopardy.

Anyatonwu argued that, “by her appearance, the secretary makes the office a pleasant place for both visitors and colleagues alike. In the process of performing her duties, contacts or communication with others, she meets, challenges like: provocation, difficult and rude callers or visitors. This is a moment that challenges the secretary’s patience or tasks her tact and level of self-control. A courteous application of humour and tact is all hat is required wider such situation.”

He also stated that, “with grace and cheerful composure, the secretary wades through difficult work situations, accommodates irritable and unco-operative colleagues and / or chief executive and earns the respect and confidence of all. As the embodiment of the office, she should retaliate goodness and high degree of integrity.”

Harding, however, added that, “a pleasant and approachable manner both on the telephone and in greeting visitors, as well as having a sense of humour is highly needed.

Anyatonwu also added that the secretary creates a conducive atmosphere for work and higher productivity by her cordial and friendly relationship with all, irrespective of class. By being liberal, accommodating, sympathetic and considerate without compromising discipline and principles the secretary inculcates in her subordinates a sense of duty, responsibility and direction.


An important determinant of the tabts and character of an individual is the way in which she arranges her surroundings and this axiom is particularly relevant to the secretary.

Anyatonwu asserted, “show me the way a particular secretary arranges her table, drawers, dresses, room, equipment, file, etc. under pressure or at leisure and I will tell you what manner of secretary she is.”

He continued, “orderliness in the arrangement of he secretary’s work environment attest to the character, the degree of decency and the private life of that secretary.”


A secretary should possess the ability to related easily with the public in her organization and therefore should be friendly in her dealings wit other people. The competent secretary must be capable of co-operating with colleagues in other to make success of office work.

A friendly disposition makes a visitor feel at home.

Harding is of the vie what, “a courteous and sympathetic manner engenders the approval and co-operation of all whom she comes in contact with.”

The National Secretaries Association (International) summaries the secretary’s attributes in the secretary’s “credo” …the philosophy of the secretarial profession embodies a foundation at logic and learning, ethic and integrity, courtesy and wider standing and desire to be of benefits to others.


A secretary should be willing discharging her duty especially at the peak of her firm’s products when she is expected to put in extra time. She should also be ready to adapt to changing situations in her job.

“A willingness to be helpful at times and especially in time of stress. To be adaptable to changes concerning the nature of her work and the time she needs to spend at the office to keep abreast of new development in her business career”. (Ibid).


The secretary performance many functions in every organization. This is such that her presence is noticed conspicuously right from the time she arrives the office witile she leaves.

Everything that happens in an organization revolves around her thus she is blamed for any fault in her organization.

The words of Jerkins (1980) on the press officer also applied to the secretary. When her said, “the press officer has to be ubiquitous, invisible man at times, the enthusiastic organization hidden on the wings, the one who gets little praise for the miracles but all the blame when the smallest goes wrong”.

This reveals the indispensable nature of a secretary in every organization.

The secretary not only contributes to the efficiency of work in her firm but also contributes largely to the image making of her organization through the functions she performs and the manner in which she perform them.

The action of a secretary can either hamper or promote the image of her organization. She also possesses some relevant attributes that enable her to carry out her functions effectively.

Conclusively, a secretary is very important in every organization, she contributes immensely to the success of the organization.

Sin this instance I can say that as water is essential for human existence, so is a secretary, a life-wire of an organization.

To illustrate the secretary function as a public relations office, Evelyn Austin summarized it thus, using this diagram.

Secretary as the Image Maker of a Business Organization. (A Case Study of Nigerian Breweries Plc Onitsha and Our Lady’s Industries Nkpor-Agu Anambra State


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