Personal Assistants

By Henry Bagdasarian

If you employ personal assistants or know someone who does, you probably know how much access they have to their bosses’ business and personal information which presents a risk I would like to discuss, and if you never thought about or really considered this risk, you should read on.

Administrative assistants are often hired to manage emails, meetings, calendars, phone calls, documents, personal and business accounts such as credit cards, travel plans, and other personal matters. There is a good reason why busy professionals hire secretaries and it is because they need help in many areas of their busy lives. Secretaries are often highly trusted because they work very closely with their bosses and handle many tasks which makes their employers’ life easy. Often, some assistants are so involved in the day to day life of their bosses that they become a member of their extended family. Over time, they get to know their family, their friends, and business associates very intimately as well as the way their bosses think, what they do, what they like, what they plan to do, etc. As the relationships grow over time, these extended members of executive families become less suspicious and therefore not monitored. Over time, their tasks grow even more to include very personal matters and access to some information which would be unimaginable for many employees of the company to access.

The last time we celebrated the Administrative Professional’s day or the Secretary Day, I read an article written by Sir Richard Branson for whom I have great admiration. In his article, he praised his personal assistant of many years and stated how much she helps him get through his daily tasks. Mr. Branson is not the only person who employs and appreciates his personal assistant. There are many executives and celebrities who act and feel in similar way including Mr. Wayne Dyer who also indicated employing the same assistant for many years who knows him so well that she can easily read his hand writings for typing his books which he writes by hand.

There is no doubt that administrative assistants offer great help for organizing and managing many day to day tasks, however, individuals who employ them must also recognize that the access their admins have to their business and personal information is often completely out of the reach of many employees for good reasons. For example, other than a few IT folks, only secretaries have access to their bosses emails and calendars which gives them access to many email conversations around business decisions. They might even be present in many meetings for note taking purposes. The points I bring up here are not to suggest that they should not be involved, trusted or have the access that they have but rather highlight a business and personal risk which must be assessed and then accepted or managed based on individual tolerance for risk. Obviously, no one can deny the existence of the risk that anyone with access to so much information will never use the information against their employers for revenge or financial gain one day. That being said, the question is what are employers willing to do with the risk. Are they willing to accept the risk or reduce the risk by limiting certain tasks or access to information and deploying risk based monitoring.

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