The Training of a Secretary:
An Ancient Profession
Secretary In Literature
Universality Of The Vocation
Other Duties As May Be Assigned By The Board Of Directors
Taking The Minutes
Preservation Of The Minutes
Minutes, Meetings And Manners
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Other Duties As May Be Assigned By The Board Of Directors
( Originally Published 1922 )
Here we have an infinite variety of responsibilities depending on custom, on the character of the organization, in large degree upon the ability and training of the individual secretary and on the wishes of the governing body. In corporations the secretary usually has charge of the physical condition of the building in which the executive offices are situated, such as a railway terminal or large office building. He is the housekeeper whose business it is to see that the property is maintained in good order.
This practice not only agrees with modern methods but has the sanction of the Old Testament. In II Kings XXII occur the following verses:
And it came to pass in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, the scribe to the house of the Lord, saying,
Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the silver which is brought into the house of the Lord, which the keepers of the door have gathered of the people;
And let them deliver into the hand of the doers of the work, that have the oversight of the house of the Lord; and let them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of the Lord, to repair the breaches of the house,
Unto carpenters, and builders, and masons, and to buy timber and hewn stone to repair the house.
Howbeit there was no reckoning made with them of the money that was delivered into their hand, because they dealt faithfully.
Not only that but to supervise the personnel of his office and perhaps of other offices, engaging the under secretaries, book-keepers, clerks, correspondents, stenographers, typists and other assistants. In small companies the secretary may easily attend to this himself, in larger ones it may be done through an assistant and in very large ones, through an employment bureau. Deference should be paid to the wishes of his fellow officers in assigning these assistants for the sake of both the officers and the employees. The secretary should of course be on cordial terms with all of them.
Reference has already been made in Chapter IV to the Filing Room and the Library which nominally and actually should be under the Secretary's control. They will be spoken of again.
Most organizations are contented, if not satisfied, with one secretary or with a recording and a corresponding secretary; but the Royal Society in London for Promoting Natural Knowledge, familiarly known; as the Royal Society, has several, and the ancient and distinguished American Philosophical Society has four, two of whom are on duty at every meeting of the Society, each with his own assigned duties.
Among the tasks and pleasures to which this chapter refers are the following:
Attending to the countless letters and requests which are received by all organizations and particularly by large corporations, which must be read, digested and answered, no light matter in itself. This correspondence is often extensive and requires judgment, experience and perhaps tact to handle successfully. Even to read the papers consumes a great deal of time. Take, for example, a referendum of a business organization such as a Chamber of Commerce on a question of public interest, clearly and fairly presented and of potential value to a community or a state or to the country; or a questionnaire of a governmental department or the many questionnaires of officially appointed or self-appointed commissions for so-called research work. Many of the last mentioned seem to me utterly useless from any known standpoint and some of them may certainly be dubbed half-baked if not impertinent. But they must be reckoned with. I could mention scores of them.
In some cases the secretary has to prepare or be responsible for the preparation and forwarding of yearly statistical data for City, State and Federal Governments such as Production Reports and those in connection with Workmen's Compensation for accidents.
Vast quantities of letters and pamphlets containing requests for contributions to charities, beneficial associations, social and church organizations and athletic clubs, carnivals, outings on land and water, dog shows and fairs. There is scarcely one of these the object of which is not altruistic, or one which does not make a sentimental or emotional appeal; and there is no question that subscriptions to some of them do redound eventually to the benefit of the corporation to which the appeal is made. Anything is good which adds to the health and happiness of a community, but it is often difficult to trace the connection, and if it cannot be traced, the rather cold fact remains that the officers of a corporation have no moral or legal right to contribute stockholders' money to them. I do not refer to organizations like the Associated Charities of a city or to hospitals, though contributions to the latter are now usually made by the payment of bills for work actually performed by them for employees under the compensation laws of the various states, nor do I refer to certain others.
Letters of inquiry with reference to athletic activities, so-called welfare, medical attention and hygiene and from persons who write articles for the magazines.
It often falls to the lot of the secretary to become a member of business associations such as a Chamber of Commerce, to attend the meetings of these organizations and of their committees and meetings of groups of citizens and of gatherings for specific benevolent purposes in the office of the mayor of a city or governor of a state, or of a national or international society of a business or financial nature, to keep in touch with activities outside of his own company, but related to it; and to report them to his fellow-officers.
Meeting persons with and without experience who have schemes by the score, tried and untried, for the improvement of the company or corporation, and others who have propaganda to promulgate,
To give information cordially to the press. People are naturally interested in their institutions and inclined to be proud of them. To this end it is necessary that they should be familiar with them. It is good policy to be open with the public. I should think that it would be the duty of the president, or someone closely in his confidence—such as the assistant to the president—to deal with the news agencies, but there are many in-stances when the secretary attends to this. I am acquainted with one very large corporation, not my own, where all information for the public is given out by the secretary, who does it so admirably, that his company is known favorably throughout the world; and of course it is so in scientific societies and others of that nature.