Unit 1 - Role of the Administrative Assistant.


An important element of the administrative assistant’s success and value to executive lies in skill and dealing with people, and in creating an impression which will enhance the organisation’s reputation. The responsibilities are enormous, for the administrative assistant is the executive’s personal organizer, generally deciding whom they see and to whom they speak, what matters receive their urgent personal attention, and what can be redirected to others.

The administrative assistant should provide a vital link between the executive and their various contacts, ensuring that communication is effective and that the required action is taken. The administrative assistant is the executive’s personal representative and in this key role should be relied upon to create a favourable impression with contacts within and outside the organisation. Administrative assistants cannot play a full part unless they are given a full and clear understanding of their executive’s role and objectives and the part these play in the organisation as a whole. In addition, administrative assistants need to know clearly what is expected of them in assisting the executive to achieve his or her objectives. The role of the executive administrative assistant has been defined in the brochure of the European Association of Professional Administrative assistants as one who has sufficient knowledge of their executive’s activities and the sphere of work to be able to have a considerable amount delegated to them. They are able to make decisions, give instructions and represent the executive on business occasions.

The role of the administrative assistant has changed with the advent of technology and the increased production which results from these developments. However sophisticated machines may become, they will never succeed in replacing the competent administrative assistant who can use initiative, co-ordinate the activities of an office, and carry out what is, in effect, a public relations and human relations role both within and outside the organisation.


The qualities of a private administrative assistant can be divided into two categories: business attributes and personal attributes.

Business attributes

· Secretarial skills

· Organising skills

· Efficiency

· Reliability

· Responsibility

· Discretion

· Initiative

· Tact and diplomacy

· Punctuality

· Loyalty, commitment to the job

· Anticipation

Personal attributes

· Appearance

· Personality

· Adaptable, willing

· Desire to add to knowledge of job

· Interest in business

· Courtesy


When the executive is away, the administrative assistant is the ‘guardian’ of the office, responsible for the administration of such matters as the mail (internal and external), the telephone calls and the visitors. In this capacity the administrative assistant has to decide what matters are urgent and important and should be dealt with by the executive’s deputy; what matters can be dealt with personally as approved by the executive; and what matters should await the return of the executive. These are the decisions which the administrative assistant must learn to make wisely, and under no circumstances should the administrative assistant attempt to act as the executive’s deputy.

If the administrative assistant is in doubt concerning the action to take, the executive’s deputy should be consulted. The administrative assistant has an important part to play in supplying information concerning the executive’s current business matters, bearing in mind the need for confidentiality and security. The administrative assistant also knows where and how to contact the executive if the need arises. If the executive telephone the office, the administrative assistant is there to supply information or to implement any action which is required to be taken. When the executive returns, the administrative assistant is expected to brief him/her on all of the important developments which have occurred during the absence, and it is usual for these to be typed in summary form. Copies of important correspondence written either by the executive’s deputy or by the administrative assistant should also be retained in a folder for the executive to see.


An example of a job description is given below:


Job title: Private Administrative assistant to Marketing Manager

Department: Marketing

Accountable to: Marketing Manager

Accountable for: Marketing Department’s junior secretarial staff (3)

Overall objectives: 1. To promote the marketing function of the company by providing an efficient and effective secretarial support service to the Marketing Manager.

2. To ensure a satisfactory secretarial service for the second line Marketing Department Manager by the supervision and co- ordination of junior administrative assistants.

Main responsibilities: 1.Type and compose correspondence. Send emails.

2. Receive and prepare incoming mail and, at the end of the day, deal with the Marketing Manager’s outgoing mail.

3. Receive and entertain visitors

4. Manage telephone calls and transmit messages by fax or email

5. Keep the Marketing Manager’s diary; arrange his appointments and engagements; assist him in planning his day to ensure the most effective use of his time.

6. Make the Marketing Manager’s travel arrangements

7. Ensure that all correspondence and enquiries have been processed and that all records are filed accurately for speedy retrieval. Administer an effective follow-up system.

8. Organise and attend meetings

9. Organise the Marketing Manager’s office, maintaining wall-charts and statistical data.

10. Supply information, using the internet and reference books; circulate information as directed by the Marketing Manager.

11. Control the Marketing Manager’s petty cash, bank transaction and expense claim forms.

12. Supervise junior secretarial staff and administer their induction training, job allocation, appraisal, disciplinary and complaint procedures.

13. Organise conferences and special events, as required

14. Control stationery and office materials for the Marketing Manager’s Office

15. Comply with the company’s health, safety and security regulations


The administrative assistant’s day seldom follows a set pattern and no two administrative posts are alike, but the following list of activities is representative of a typical day in the life of an administrative assistant.

At the beginning of the day

· Collect the executive’s mail from the mailroom, open and date, stamp it, and attach it to the relevant files

· Refer to your diary to ascertain your executive’s and your own engagements for the day; locate relevant files and papers in connection with these and bring forward any files requiring action.

· Place all incoming mail and files (brought forward) in your executive’s ‘in-tray’.

· Draw the attention of your executive to any urgent items in the mail or in the day’s activities

· Check that the entries in your diary correspond with those in your executive’s diary

· Update calendars, visual control boards, computer data, etc.

· Read journals, reports, etc, and mark any item which will be of interest to your executive.

During the day

· Arrange for composing, typing and copying of documents to be undertaken as required by your executive

· File yesterday’s correspondence

· Receive and make telephone calls

· Receive and entertain visitors

· Use the computer for sending messages to staff, including dates of meetings.

· Arrange appointments and enter them in both diaries; make any necessary travel arrangements

· Make arrangements for meetings and, if required attend them in the capacity of administrative assistant, taking the minutes

· Organise and undertake work as required by your executive

· Deal with bank transactions and draw cash, as required, for purchases.

· Complete expenses forms from receipt and vouchers.

· Deal with any tasks allocated (in your diary) for today.

At the end of the day

· Refer to your diary and notify reception of any visitors expected tomorrow.

· If your executive has to be away from the office early in the morning, supply any itinerary required and relevant papers.

· Ensure that all correspondence has been signed, enclosures attached and the envelopes prepared for dispatch.

· If your executive intends to work late, make sure that he/she has all the information required.

· Clear your desks and lock up all pending files and papers


The qualities that make the ideal relationship between the executive and administrative assistant are:

· The administrative assistant must be able to deal diplomatically with any telephone inquiries, and the executive must be able to trust the administrative assistant to treat all matters in the office as confidential.

· The administrative assistant must be able to convey the essential facts contained in reports and journals, so that the executive does not have to study them personally in details.

· The administrative assistant should understand that it may be necessary to stay late if there is an urgent job to be done; nevertheless, the executive should not always expect the administrative assistant to be in the office after hours when the work is not of an urgent nature.

· There must be a clear understanding about the scope of the work the administrative assistant should undertake in the executive’s absence and the administrative assistant should be perfectly satisfied that the administrative assistant could cope with the work which may arise when the executive is not there.

· The administrative assistant should be kept fully informed of all that the executive is doing so that the administrative assistant can be useful to the executive.

· Executives should appreciate that they may cause some errors and should apologise if they are in the wrong

· The executive must be able to rely on the administrative assistant’s punctuality in attending the office, meeting and other functions

· There should be a sense of humour on both sides.

· The administrative assistant should set a high standard of conduct and efficiency for the rest of the office staff. Being always neat and tidy in appearance will enhance the reputation of the organisation.


Administrative assistants have a special relationship with their immediate executives because they work closely together in a ‘partnership’ to achieve the objectives required of the executive’s position. These may be several executives in the organisation and there may be more senior executives or directors to whom the administrative assistant’s executive is answerable. While the administrative assistant has a loyalty to his/her executive, he/she must also have a loyalty to the organisation, and the organisation in this context is the whole of the executive staff. The administrative assistant should, therefore, seek to serve the organisation to the best of his/her ability. The executive is a member of the management team and his/her administrative assistant has an important part to play in the successful operation of the team. The administrative assistant must understand and appreciate the role of each executive and play his/her part in contributing towards the overall efficiency and smooth working of the orgainsation. Co- operation and respect are important in establishing a successful relationship between administrative assistants and their seniors.

Good relation with the other members of the secretarial staff is also crucial in creating a happy and trouble free environment. As a administrative assistant, much of your communication is with other administrative assistants, e.g. you may have to cancel or change an appointment or request urgent information or documents and there is no doubt that cordial and friendly relationships contribute to the successful outcome of such contacts. It is in your relationship with colleagues that you must guard against divulging confidential information. In your conversation with staff of all levels you should refrain from entering into gossip and wasting valuable time in the office. When meeting executives or other members of the staff for social activities, you should not be tempted to enter into conversations about your work as it is a wise rule to isolate business activities from social or personal activities. If for example, your executive hears that a business matter has been divulged by you at an activity outside the office, there would be a loss of confidence in your ability to be discreet and the relationship would suffer as a result.

If administrative assistants have a personal grievance they should follow the procedures laid down in their contract or employment, which will probably mean discussing it with their immediate superior. It is unlikely to help the administrative assistant solve the problem if he/she chooses to air his/her dissatisfaction with colleagues or with other executives and it may create other problems by affecting the relationship with theexecutive.

Juniors are influenced by the standards set and the attitudes of their senior and all the administrative assistants have a responsibility to set a good example which the juniors in the department will wish to emulate.

A good working relationship is a contributory factor in gaining the full support and co-operation of the junior staff. In this relationship the administrative assistant may be working in the capacity of a supervisor and it is important to be explicit when allocating task and to be clear about the standards and productions times expected. The administrative assistant should encourage the junior by praising his/her work when it is good. On the other hand, if the work is not up to the standard expected point this out to the junior and help the junior to improve his/her performance. The ideal relationship is one in which the junior staff work harmoniously with the administrative assistant and have no inhibitions about seeking help and discussing their problems.

The administrative assistant must appreciate that, however well-qualified the juniors are, they will be inexperienced and will take time to acquire proficiency in the task allocated to them, especially under pressure. The new entrants require a thorough induction so that they are made aware of the functions of the firm.; its structure and organisation; its lines of communication; office rules and security regulations; welfare, medical and first-aid facilities and amenities; grievance procedure and arrangements for consultation; conditions of service; training, further education and career development. A tour of the organisation will usually be included in the induction programme. An induction programme enables new recruits to understand the conditions and purpose of their job in relation with colleagues and seniors. It also enables them to settle into the new environment quickly and become more effective in their work.