Arrogant Secretary


The secretary to the president of the company is a very controlling person. Atractive WOMEN cannot talk to her boss, she is jealous, and thinks she is the owner of the company. She is arrogant and dresses like a manager. She supervises all employees when she walks in the corridors and so on. How can I deal with her? I´m the vice-president’s secretary and she makes my life impossible




Dear Impossible:

Impossible to work in the same building? Why? You don’t say what she does to make your life miserable. Rather you describe her as arrogant and controlling. How does that affect you?

The crucial question is not: do you work with a co-worker whom you dislike, but does this individual adversely affect getting the job done for which you have been hired to do? If so, in what ways? Can you list instances when, where, and in what ways? What was it that Ms. Arrogant (Ms. A) did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say and how did you responded and how was your work for your v.p boss and/or workplace made more difficult or ineffective? I have named her Ms. A to symbolize your feelings toward her. Once you have logged in answers to these questions, you are closer to being prepared to deal with Ms. A the next time she attempts to “control” you. Closer, but not quite yet prepared! To be armed, you need ammunition, target practice, and more importantly to think through what options you have and which of these will be most lastingly effective?

I will suggest some of the ammunition and options you might have; however, you know your situation far better than anyone from a distance can. So hopefully, the thoughts I suggest will prompt you to reflect on what is appropriate for you to handle this unhappy working relationship and possibly to find more creative coping mechanisms.

Thinking Through: What is Ms. A’s job description; what is she charged to do and is she doing that well? Are there ways that you can make her job easier or more difficult just as she can do the same for you? Is your working relationship an ego contest to see which of you win favor with your V.P boss and of the President? Are your bosses her and your internal customers? And do you each have other internal and external customers? To think through and prepare a chart of each of your job tasks, how they overlap, and what are your job objectives is a way of getting you past thinking only of Ms. A as someone whom you detest. This is time to review if you have shared your displeasure about Ms. A with others, and if so to stop that. Gossip about others is tempting and natural venting, but it will aggravate rather than resolve conflict. Once you have charted how you see each of your job descriptions, relationship, and who depends on you for the operations of your company or firm, you will now have the data for a constructive confrontation with her and/or the proper authorities (probably your own boss, Human Resources, or even her boss). Not incidentally, this thinking through should get you past petty annoyance about the way she dresses and excludes those who are attractive from contact with her boss. Possibly, you will decide that my label of Ms. A should not be one that you have in mind when thinking of her. Rather it might be better to see her in more positive way and speaking about her and to her using her first name, such as pleasantly greeting and addressing her as Alice or whatever it is.

Moving Beyond Thinking Through: Your first and probably the most important course of coping is to postpone a major confrontation with Alice. That might entail ways to avoid, ignore, and to assertively respond the next time she tries to control, such as “Alice, thank you for your concern. I will consider whatever you have in mind that is good for our company.” Or “Alice, I’m sure you mean well, but is this not something that is mine to decide?” Or “I’ve also been thinking about that Alice. Let’s find a time to talk about how what I do affects or doesn’t your work.” These remarks should be conveyed with a firm and pleasant demeanor if you don’t want to have a war of words. If this the on-the-spot way of coping when Alice behaves in a controlling way fails, your next option is to schedule a time out confrontation with her; one in which you deal with the particular incident and then with the pattern of what you feel is controlling. Do not shy away from this kind of confrontation. It can be professional and need not be angry and hateful. Before you have a knock heads confrontation about controlling behavior, I propose a joining tactic. If your long-range goal is to have a constructive pleasant working relationship, you must be sure to join her rather than to judge her. How? You might suggest and offer one or two small ways that you might make her job easier and more effective. What you suggest should not in any way be critical of how she does her job or of loading yourself up with more work than is reasonable. Nor should it be a way to permit her to be more controlling. Surely, there are things you might propose that are of a professional nature that you can do to make her job more pleasant. Or you might enlist her in ways to beautify your work area; with art objects, décor, and configuration of working space. Or ways to improve the quality of your operations; what if you enlisted her ideas about ways you might cut waste; wasted supplies, duplication, effort and ways to make money for your company. I predict that the join strategy will work.

These are the options, I recommend: 1. On-the-spot, 2. Time out, and/or 3. Join not judge. Should they not work, then your situation is still not impossible because you have the ammunition of all the thinking through and these attempts in your quiver should you elect option 4.To enlist the counsel of your boss, HR. or going higher.

Do these thoughts make sense? Are you willing to give any of them an honest trial period? Or have they prompted you to more creative options? Will you let us know? Not incidentally, you might find other Q&As posted on our site helpful. You will never find any advice better than that given by Tina Lewis Rowe, my associate Workplace Doctor.

Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden