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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Business Etiquette Lessons for the Female Secretary of 1944

Worried about losing your job because you don't get along very well with your boss? Here are some of the business etiquette lessons that helped female secretaries in 1944 keep their jobs.

In today's uncertain economy I do not doubt that there are many of you out there that are concerned about losing your job. Not getting along with your boss can be the deciding factor as to whether you or another employee gets the axe. I thought I would share some words of wisdom about how to get along with your boss summarized from a business etiquette book published in 1944, written for the female secretary in the business world. Perhaps it will spark some inspiration about how you, too, in today's uncertain job market can keep your employer happy, and thereby save that crucial job. (Or at least give you a bit of a chuckle during these depressing economic times!)

Spend some time studying your boss and learn to understand his personality and disposition. If you put in the necessary time to understand what makes the man tick, you will have a much better chance of making the necessary personal adjustments in responses to his moods and figuring out what makes him happy. Expect to do all the changing and that your boss will never change.

Do what you can to keep your boss comfortable by guarding his time and privacy. Make sure only the necessary and important calls get through on the phone and screen all other calls and impositions on his time appropriately. Unnecessary interruptions make most bosses cranky.

Take on extra, unpaid work from the boss's wife with cheerful, discrete willingness. If your boss' wife asks you to pick up her new dress from the cleaners or to address all her Christmas letters be sure to do so most willingly and by all means do not let the boss know that his wife is imposing on you in such a way. If you have to do these extra errands after work or during your lunch hour, for no additional pay, well that's just part of being a good employee and you shouldn't raise a stink.

Make 'Tact' your middle name when dealing with a difficult boss. If you need the job, then you had best learn how to suffer in silence and with grace when your boss throws tantrums or treats you disrespectfully. Even if he yells and swears at you, just smile and be respectful and get the work done. According to this woman's words of wisdom "Being tactful includes doing what one is told to do promptly and pleasantly even when the orders are given without ordinary courtesy."

Accept with grace if you become the office scapegoat and are blamed for others mistakes. Because the reputation of the business or firm is more important than your own personal reputation outside the office, don't get upset if your boss claims that an executive error was your fault. For example, when one is courting a new client, which promotes future relations with that client better: "I, the head of the company, completely spaced that we were to meet today" or "My stupid secretary forgot to put the meeting on my calendar." With the second, the boss can save face, while only you receive a reputation of incompetence outside the firm. A wise employee sees how having such an office scapegoat is a valuable asset.

Don't waste time flattering your boss. Even the most obtuse of bosses will realize when you are smothering him with hot air, so don't waste time on empty flattery. Your boss wants to see you cheerfully working and capable in your work. Your job is to make him think you are indispensable, not someone of little substance.

The reader will have undoubtedly noted that I updated some of the language to include more modern metaphors. I will let the reader decide which of the above advice for female secretaries in 1944 is actually appropriate for today's average employee.