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Company Secretary Not a Personal Secretary
posted on Sunday, 19 June 2011 21:36

I have recently joined a listed company as the Company Secretary.  The chairman treats me like a personal secretary.  He asked me to book air tickets, book a table for lunch, type letters.  I think the chairman may misunderstand the job nature of a company secretary.

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Catherine Ng - Career Doctor's picture
Catherine Ng - Career Doctor  
Posted Friday, 18 November 2011 07:07 PM

Dear Mandy

If you believe there is a misunderstanding about the job nature, the best approach would be to address your concerns directly with your manager.

If you haven’t yet had your probationary review, perhaps now is a good time to schedule a chat and seek feedback on your performance. The upcoming year-end performance review can be another opportunity to have a direct dialogue.
You can take the opportunity to voice your concerns about the job duties, discuss areas of focus for the role as well as development opportunities in the future. The dialogue should serve as a good platform for you both to align expectations regarding the role. It will facilitate future discussions if you two write up a proper document about the goals and duties of the role after the discussion.
The key thing to note is that the dialogue should be forward looking and constructive, with the objective of aligning future expectations. Through an open dialogue, you can bring the role back on the right track and enjoy the job you originally desired for.

It is not advisable to steer the conversation down a negative path such as questioning the Chairman about his understanding of the role of a Company Secretary.
It may be your manager’s intention for you to start with simpler tasks, while you are still familiarising yourself with the company’s practices and processes. Again, direct dialogue would help to clarify this.

If the discussion leads nowhere and you are continuing to perform personal secretarial duties, you should consider looking at other options outside the company. After all, it is not your career aspiration.

Kind regards,

Catherine Ng

Anonymous's picture
Posted Thursday, 28 July 2011 05:54 PM

Mandy, me too, acting as a Chief Executive in a professional body, I was requested to shop for conference chairs at Central, and buy the chair by myself. Of course, due to insufficient headcount, sometimes I have to carry heavy folders to seminar venue with my staff. I am upset with all those duties requested by Council members. However, same with you, I have to gain the PRC experience in that crazy organisation therefore, to pay my dignity out for gaining experience. Strive hard and never give up!

Anonymous's picture
Posted Saturday, 09 July 2011 09:16 PM

Thank you, May. In all listed companies, the Company Secretary (HKICS/ICSA)is responsible for dealing with the legal and compliance work, such as liaising with the Stock Exchange, preparing announcements and annual reports as well as organising board and shareholders meeting. The role is quite different from that of secretary or personal assistant.

The Chairman even asked me to carry the suitcases for the managers. I feel so humiliated and upset. He shouted to me in front of the clients and managers, 'let her take the suitcases. She is the office assistant.'

Actually I wish to stay in the company because I can gain the Australian experience that I wish to have. It is a quite rare opportunity in Hong Kong. I accept the job offer due to the same. However, if the company had mentioned that I need to serve the Chairman as personal secretary or in his words 'office assistant', I definitely would not accepted the job offer.

Having worked in the professional context for many years, I lack the experience in dealing with people from other walks of life. Is it worth tolerating assault in exchange for experience?

Anonymous's picture
Posted Saturday, 02 July 2011 10:27 AM

I am not being funny, but a "company secretary" actually does do some of these administrative duties sometimes. You need to speak to your local office admin team, and also finance team too (if you have such teams in your company). Cos the air tickets, table for business lunches will be coming from the company's budget for his position. You need to learn and to know how to submit this kind of financial transaction into the company's financial system, and if indeed this can be done by yourself or if you need to send some memo to another department to do, but you fill in the form on behalf of your chairman! THAT is what a secretary does.

However, if you do not have approval to do these kind of transactions, then do let your chairman know of the company procedures. Cos expense claims have stricter ruling where this is concerned. Yet, I would approach this with diplomacy too.

I have worked in previous company whereby the receptionist deals with airline bookings. However, this was done on someone else's credit card. i.e. the office manager's. This was a period during company growth and designated employee to do this did not exist yet. So overlapping work can indeed happen. You need to check the organisational chart and also ask around the company with other administrative people to check what the formal policies if it exists, or what is the "current temporary" method for now.

You company will have a designated expense policy, and set of suppliers for airlines.... so I would also check before making any bookings so that you do not violate any company policies on spending expenses.

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