Public Administration Project Topics

Survey of Occupational Challenges Facing Secretaries

Survey of Occupational Challenges Facing Secretaries


Survey of Occupational Challenges Facing Secretaries project material PDF document download start from the abstract to chapters 1 to 5

Content Structure of Survey of Occupational Challenges Facing Secretaries

  • The abstract contains the research problem, the objectives, methodology, results, and recommendations
  • Chapter one of this thesis or project materials contains the background to the study, the research problem, the research questions, research objectives, research hypotheses, significance of the study, the scope of the study, organization of the study, and the operational definition of terms.
  • Chapter two contains relevant literature on the issue under investigation. The chapter is divided into five parts which are the conceptual review, theoretical review, empirical review, conceptual framework, and gaps in research
  • Chapter three contains the research design, study area, population, sample size and sampling technique, validity, reliability, source of data, operationalization of variables, research models, and data analysis method
  • Chapter four contains the data analysis and the discussion of the findings
  • Chapter five contains the summary of findings, conclusions, recommendations, contributions to knowledge, and recommendations for further studies.
  • References: The references are in APA
  • Questionnaire

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Our focus in this chapter is to critically examine relevant literatures that would assist in explaining the research problem and furthermore recognize the efforts of scholars who had previously contributed immensely to similar research. The chapter intends to deepen the understanding of the study and close the perceived gaps.


Precisely, the chapter will be considered in three sub-headings:

  • Conceptual Framework
  • Theoretical Framework



In the view of Ensel and Vaughn (2012), a secretary is a person who is employed to help in an office,and also help the people in charge of the office do their job. By definition, the main task of a secretary is to keep organized paper and electronic files for the business, school, hospital or government agency they work for (Neil, 2013). Clement (2010) pointed out that it is not easy to cover all the duties of a secretary which are numerous, but should be efficient at these duties; type material to be published, minutes of meeting

and other document; prepare agenda and notice, convening meetings and send copies to members including co-opted members; file documents so that they can be found; answer telephone and makes outgoing calls; compose letters; keep financial records and handle impress accounts; make appointment for the boss; supervise other employees and act as office management and serve as the go between, that is between the boss and other members of staff. Greg (2012), noted that the standard of work done by a secretary in an organization is affected, to a great extent, by the way in which the executive undertakes his or her duties and makes use of the services a secretary can provide. These duties pose their challenge to women secretaries most, who have to combine them with the responsibilities as mothers, wives and nurtures; also this age of computer further complicates the duties of a secretary. Work overload is one major variable of occupational stress. Andre (2008) view work overload as total energy output of a system, particularly of a person performing strenuous task overtime. Work overload is to be considered a primary source of resource depletion and also defined as the proportion of the capacity an operator spends on tasks performance. Snow (2012) opined that work overload and meeting on deadlines in organization are demanding at all levels which invariably lead to so many mistakes, and induces stress on secretaries when there are so many service delivery with urgency that the secretaries need to comply with. Fritz (2011) averred that work overload is when the amount of work to be done exceeds what one is

humanly capable of accomplishing in a given time. And since the load increases but time is short, secretaries are sometimes forced to stay late in the office, accumulating overtime to overcome the disproportionate amount of work required. The author also stressed that work overload often leads to secretaries absenteeism due to the numerous tasks they have to carry out. Skill gap is also considered as a variable of occupational stress in this study. The fact that many secretaries occupying administrative positions in organisations are not very familiar with some of the technologies used in the offices today cannot be over emphasized. Skill gap occurs when a person lack the training, education, skills or experience to accomplish a job. Skill gap can be referred to as observable difference between the skill competencies requires for performing certain role, and the level of skill possessed and exhibited by a person employed to fill the vacancy (Baron & Greenberg,

  • . Odu and Vito (2017) asserted that secretaries that do not have the required skills and experience to use some of the technologies are induced with stress at workplace. Hence, leads to ineffectiveness of information dissemination. Also, fast changing of new technologies and more sophisticated digital devices flowing into the market on daily basis induces stress on secretaries, which places a serious and incessant demand of adequate skills of those secretaries, as they are expected to update their skills and knowledge up to the latest technologies in used. Clark and Cooper (2013) also contended that changes in technologies has caused so many secretaries to be stressed up as lack of skills to the operation of new office machines have made secretaries sick and tired of the job. This is because secretaries are expected to use these gadgets in the production of their jobs thereby making the expectations of secretaries in organization high.

The Origin Of Secretarial Profession

Just when secretaries originated no one knows exactly. The role arose out of the natural need for a prominent person to whom confidential matters could be entrusted and who could act as an assistant for a principal. It is known that secretaries existed in Rome prior to the establishment of the empire. They were usually educated men who took dictation as “scribes,” and oftentimes acted as trusted advisors. Before the invention of parchment and reed pens, tools of the trade for scribes ranged from chisels used upon stone to styluses used on clay, wood, or wax tablets. Shorthand became part of the preparation and training of secretaries (and emperors as well, including Julius Caesar and Augustus). In early modern times, members of the nobility had secretaries, who functioned quite similarly to those of the present day. They were always men; most had command of several languages, including Latin, and were required to have what we would consider today as a broad generalized education. As commerce and trade expanded, people of wealth and power needed secretaries (confidants and trusted agents) to handle correspondence on private or confidential matters, most particularly matter of state. Following the Renaissance, men continued to dominate clerical and secretarial roles. They maintained account books, in addition to performing stenographic duties, and were known for their exemplary penmanship skills. Many labored long hours, with their “secretary” desks serving as their files and workstations. As world trade expanded in the 15th and 16th centuries, secretaries often attained an elevated status and held prominent positions. Secretarial status titles frequently included “personal” or “private.Men continued to dominate the secretarial field until the late 1800s. With the invention of the writing machine, many women entered the office workforce in various clerical roles. During the industrial expansion at the turn of the century, business offices faced a paperwork crisis. Women solved the crisis by adapting well to new technologies such as the adding and calculating machine, telephone, and typewriter. Many women held, or aspired to hold, positions as secretaries. They attended secretarial schools and worked to attain superior skills. The demand for secretaries was so great that it outpaced supply. In the 1930s, the number of men with the title secretary dwindled. Women dominated the office workforce. Some were promoted from steno pools, some were graduates of business colleges or secretarial schools, but all were seeking the professional status and pay previously enjoyed by their male counterparts. Recognizing that continuing education was imperative to career success, a group of secretaries in American’s heartland became the nucleus of an organization that would help to professionalize the occupation. In 1942, the National Secretaries Association (NSA) was formed (now known as the International Association of Administrative Professionals). NSA first administered the Certified Professional Secretaries Examination, a standard of excellence for the profession, in 1951. Today, secretaries (also known as administrative assistants, office coordinators, executive assistants, office managers, et al) are using computers, the Internet, and other advanced office technologies to perform vital “information management” functions in the modern office. Secretaries no longer “simply” type correspondences for “the boss.” Now, they often write that correspondence – as well as plan meetings, organize data using spreadsheet and database management software, interact with clients, vendors, and the general public, supervise the office and other staff, handle purchasing, and even train other workers. Trends identified by IAAP™ and staffing industry research include:

  • Administrative professionals are becoming researchers and interpreters, not just disseminators of information.
  • Work teams are becoming more prevalent.
  • Job description are expanding and new titles are being created, such as “office administrator,” “business coordinator,” and “information manager.”
  • Employees are paying more for specialized skills such as desktop publishing and database management.

In addition, many companies are providing performance based bonuses to outstanding administrative support professionals to help acknowledge their contributions. The future is bright for computer-literate, well-educated, customer service-savvy administrative professionals.


Over the years, secretaries have received their training either in high school, post-secondary institutions or private training institutes. In the past, because many students had little or no hope of continuing their education beyond Grade 12, students were prepared for the secretarial work force while in high school. Private business schools recruited students who had completed only eight grades of schooling.

Traditional Skills

The skills required of a “good” secretary were the ability to take dictation using shorthand, type a business letter and answer the telephone. 

Abuse Of Secretarial Profession

When thinking about secretaries, most of the time outdated ideas of what it means to be a company secretary pops up in peoples mind. However, the reality is that the role of the secretary has evolved. The word “secretary” itself has largely been replaced by more appropriate job titles such as “personal assistant”, “executive secretary” or “management assistant”. There are a lot of challenges faced by secretaries at work.Company secretaries are “the eyes” of the company, working around the clock, often in the background. They serve the needs not only of the management board, but also the employees and the customer equally. Without their commitment and support, the smooth functioning of the business would probably be jeopardized. Fly Aeolus has compiled a list of the 5 most common challenges faced by secretaries at work. We will give tips and tricks to empower the executive secretary through their workday.

Understanding the business

the company you work for is most crucial for being an effective company secretary. Before focusing on any technology and software, a secretary should focus on the basic business skills and understand the bigger picture. He or she must be able to give valuable advice at all times. Whether it has to do with company management, finance or operations. Access to and working with the company’s management is essential to develop a good understanding of the business.

As secretaries serve as an information hub, even though that they are not participating in all meetings and conference calls, they would know more than the typical employee. This is because they have mastered the act of eaves dropping, asking the right questions and piecing bits of information together to obtain the right answers.

Dealing with difficult personalities

Secretaries are the first person to whom managers, employees, suppliers, customers, board members and visitors are most likely to come when they require something for their job. In general, these people will be pleasant. Unfortunately in some cases, secretaries will have to work with people who are more difficult to deal with. These people may consider you to be less important than other employees or they may see you as a person on whom they can unleash their compressed anger. Most management boards have a multitude of personalities which sometimes do not get along with each other. Dealing with these different personalities secretaries must have a certain charm. You can help overheated persons to calm down, regain confidence in the company by instilling confidence and assure that everything will be resolved as quickly as possible. It is clear that you, as a company secretary, must be aware of the different roles and personalities in order to identify any potential conflicts.

Adaptability: Going with the changes

Companies are subject to constant change in today’s digital age. A lack of transformation ability, growing competitive pressure and the inability to react quickly and agile to this, brings many companies to their knees. Extensive cultural changes are also influencing many industries. Think about sustainability reporting requirements, the ME Too movement and evolving notions of diversity among executive and board members. All of which culminate in an even stronger cultural trend. It is not only just a question of the amount of changes companies are seeing, but also the speed at which these movements come to exist. Companies therefore continuously need to be on top of these emerging trends so to implement any actions required. As a consequence board members and executives demand higher quality information, in greater quantity and faster than ever before. To stay ahead of the curve, secretaries should take time to educate themselves. For example, by expanding your professional interests in order to become more flexible and agile in your role adapting yourself towards these changes. You can take a course in a field that has nothing to do with your area of expertise which challenges your thinking and broadens your mindset. On a personal level: schedule once per week 2 hours to network and make contacts with colleagues throughout the industry you are working in. Everyone faces the same challenges, share experiences, share insights and advise each other on these challenges.

Read Too:  The Role of Non-governmental Organizations in the Development of Rural Areas

Being blamed for everything that goes wrong

Secretaries may not be the decision-makers but when things go wrong, all fingers mostly point to them. Not necessarily being the source of the problem it is though their responsibility to solve the problem or challenge. To avoid being accused or blamed, you should keep detailed records of your working day. Write everything down and create a systematic documentation for yourself which covers your work schedule from start to finish, just in case issues might arise unexpectedly. 

Time management

Especially if secretaries support more than one executive, managing the workload might be one of the biggest challenges. Secretaries are responsible for coordinating meetings, making appointments, arranging travel and scheduling other activities. Scheduling conflicting priorities among executives and last-minute changes make a good time management and other organizational skills essential for a good secretary.

Secretaries are often expected to be available 24/7 as most of the management executives are working long days. The latter often leads to a struggle with the work-life-balance of many secretaries. Knowing when to draw the line is half the battle, some employees can make a situation sound more urgent than it really is. Secretaries should learn to assess the situation and make decisions accordingly. It is often a challenge for a company secretary to find a suitable flight in line with the managing director’s schedule. Due to the fixed schedules of commercial airlines and the lack of direct connections to specific destinations, it is often a tedious search. Changing vehicles and changing planes make the travel time for the manager quiet often much longer than necessary. Business trips like these require the manager to block multiple days in their agenda. Going to the airport chances are high your manager ends up in a traffic jam. And once arrived at the airport, he faces long queues at check-in, security checks and customs.


Presenting a professional image, both in person and on the telephone, is very important in the Office Skills profession. Taking care of your customers over the telephone and making them feel well informed and appreciated is essential. The customer who contacts your company is going to base his perception of your company on the attention he gets from speaking with you. Therefore, answering phone calls and greeting customers professionally is very important. Whether you are the front office receptionist or an executive Establish a Good First Impression

Exhibiting excellent phone etiquette is extremely important in establishing a good first impression of your company. It all starts with some basic knowledge:

Know your company phone system. Don’t practice on the caller. Answer the call promptly and enthusiastically, preferably within 3 rings. Don’t forget to smile before you answer the phone as this will be reflected in your tone of voice and will be great for maintaining a positive attitude, not only during the call, but through-out the whole day.

  • Speak clearly. A picture paints a thousand words but the caller on the other end of the phone can only hear you. They cannot see your face or body language. Therefore, taking the time to speak clearly, slowly and in a cheerful, professional voice is very important.
  • Use your normal tone of voice when answering a call. If you have a tendency to speak loud or shout, avoid doing so on the telephone.
  • Do not eat or drink while you are on telephone duty. Only eat or drink during your coffee break or lunch break.
  • Do not use slang words or poor language. Respond clearly with “yes” or “no” when speaking. Never use swear words.secretary.
  • Answering the Company Telephone – Your Company Greeting
  • Many experts agree that the following initial greeting will make your customers feel welcome and appreciated.
  • Greet the caller in a friendly and enthusiastic manner such as “good morning” or” good afternoon.”
  • State your company name. For example, “ABC Cloud Computing”.
  • Introduce yourself to the caller. For example, “This is Molly”
  • Offer your help. For example, “How may I help you?”.

If answering the call as quickly as possible is the goal, then a three part greeting may suffice. You could say “Good morning, ABC Cloud Computing. This is Molly.” Be sure to say your name in a clear, upbeat and enthusiastic way as this will help to get the call off to a great start.


According to Henderson, (1999) secretary provides administrative support to senior level professionals. Commonly called an executive assistant, this individual performs a variety of clerical, operational and, sometimes, personal tasks aimed at ensuring that his employer’s business and personal lives function as efficiently as possible. Although this has been traditionally viewed as an entry-level occupation, the role of executive secretary is extremely challenging

Effective Communication Perhaps the biggest challenge facing an executive secretary is the constant need to communicate effectively with individuals of all professional levels. Throughout the course of a day, an executive secretary wears many hats. She is a gatekeeper, a confidant, a gofer, a record keeper and a manager. Her tone and demeanor must change based upon the task that she is performing.

For example, when answering her boss’ telephone, she must be stern yet professional when speaking with a cold calling salesman. Alternatively, when taking dictation for her supervisor, she must be the diligent subordinate. Likewise, when speaking with her manager’s spouse, she must be cordial and friendly. Maintaining each of these various personas is a skill that she must continually hone.

Technical Proficiency, The need to be technically proficient is a challenge imposed on an executive secretary. He must know how to use various computer programs, such as those used for word processing, financial spreadsheet maintenance and presentation creation. In addition, he must be able to properly use a host of office machinery, including photocopiers, fax machines and multiline telephones. On top of all of that, he must also serve as the information technology help desk for his boss, troubleshooting his office equipment as requested. If an executive secretary is not electronically inclined by nature, mastering this equipment may prove difficult.

Organization Skills, An executive secretary serves as the central nervous system of his boss’ office. All correspondence and communication goes through him. In addition, he is also often the clearing house through which the various projects undertaken by the business are processed. As a result, the challenge of staying organized and on top of everything is requested of him every day. If he were to drop the proverbial ball, business may slow down, if not come to a complete halt all together.


The ethics of a Secretary and Office Professional are moral principles relating to the job that you will be bound by.  These requirements are automatically taken on board when you accept any position as a Secretary or Office Professional and you will be expected to uphold them at all times.  You really do take the Secretarial Oath when you become a Secretary (Onifade, 2010)


Always keep information private and confidential about the firm you work for and its clients.  Never repeat sensitive information even if you are in a discussion where everyone is wondering what is happening and you know.  Always be trusted. 


do not take the credit for something you did not do and do not let someone else enjoy the credit for something you did do!  Always tell the truth.  Trust me, you will be more credible with both your boss and fellow workers.


always be loyal to your boss and company.  Never sell them out at any cost.  However, having said this, your boss also has to prove to you he/she is worthy of your loyalty. Do not get caught up in the office gossip.  If you display your loyalty you will receive the same in return.


show you are reliable.  Be punctual for work and meetings at all times, and remember, always take the relevant documentation with you to the meetings. Do not abuse the ‘sickie’.  You just never know what your future holds in relation to your health. Ensure every task you are given is completed on time and to the best of your ability.


Prove you are responsible by setting priorities and carrying out tasks in a timely manner.  Always meet deadlines when they are given.  Your boss puts his/her confidence in you. Write yourself a ‘to do’ list – even if its priority changes 10 times a day. Do not delegate if the job cannot be done as efficiently and accurately as you would have done it.  If you do delegate, always check that the project is on track time wise.  Do not just forget about it because someone else is doing it.

Work unsupervised, Always keep your work up to date and be productive.  Meet deadlines. priorities, and priorities. Every day write up a list of the tasks you need to undertake to ensure none are overlooked and have them in priority order.  

Be Co-operative

always assist and share your expertise with your colleagues wherever it is possible.  Always be happy to carry out duties asked of you, but also know when to say ‘No’ (gently) and explain why you can not do the task asked of you.  Do not overload yourself.  It is becoming more popular in the workplace these days for Secretaries to take on the training role within their organization.


If its 5.00pm and your boss needs an important report typed and faxed immediately – do it!  The best jobs are where you have a ‘give and take’ arrangement.  You just never know when you may want an hour off at a minute’s notice to attend an emergency.

Multi-Skilling –

Learn as much as possible about computer programs and other positions in the organization.  You just may need this knowledge when you apply for advancement within the firm.  This is also particularly useful as you are usually the one who has to show the boss how to use some of the computer programs.  The trend these days is for the boss to have more ‘hands on’ with software e.g. e-mail, spread sheeting.  Like I said above, you could be asked to take on training too if you were familiar with the programs.


Do not be tempted to accept gifts or favors from internal or external clients just in case there’s an underlying reason.  Always follow your Company’s procedures and policies. TVery rarely you will ever get something for nothing – there is usually always a trade-off. You may end up paying the ultimate price – your job! 

Incorporate the above ethics in your role and you will find both your boss and your work colleagues will respect you as a person and your position as a secretary


Reinforcement Theory:

Reinforcement theory which was propounded by skinner, individuals can actually be motivated by their work environment when it is properly developed. Hence, rather than considering internal factors such as attitudes, feelings, impressions and other congruities behavior, employers should keep on making positive changes in the external environment of the organization. It emphasizes the importance of person’s actual experience of a reward and the implication of this for compensation management is that high employee by a monetary reward will make future high performance move likely.

Herzberg’s theory: 

Herzberg’s (1959) proposed the motivator hygiene, to determine those job related factors that cause them to be satisfied or dissatisfied. The theory states that in contemporary society, the lower level needs describe by Maslow have generally been satisfied where they are not satisfied, jobs dissatisfaction is the result. However, the fulfillment of those lower level needs alone does not provide job satisfaction; Herzberg cells those motivator factors because they motivate the worker to the highest possible level of performance. The factors that cause dissatisfaction are the hygiene or maintenance factor, which includes the following compensation, working conditions, relationship with peers, company policy, and pay/salary.

Factors that motivate include: recognition, advancement, work itself, achievement and responsibility.

Extrinsic Motivation Theory:   

Extrinsic says that depends on rewards such as pay and benefits which are controlled by an external source whereas intrinsic motivation depends on rewards that flow naturally from work it self. Therefore, while it is important to keep in mind that money is not the only effective way to motivate behavior legally required benefits programs includes social security, workers compensation while discretional programs includes health benefits, pension plans, paid time off, tuition reimbursement, recognition awards, foreign services, premiums, responsibility allowance, child care on campus accommodation, promotion, annual increment and a host of others.

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