Look at any job description for Assistants, and you will see the word discretion. It is a crucial skill for Assistants and something that we have to practice on a daily basis. One slip and you are at risk of jeopardising your reputation and all the hard work you have put into building the relationship with your Executive. So with that being said let’s have a look at discretion at work for Assistants and how we can display trust in every aspect of their role.
Discretion at work for Assistants
People want to know what you know
This is important to understand. In any form of business, information is currency and people want to be in the loop. Every single one of your colleagues will know that you are privy to information that they do not have and in some cases, they will try to get that information from you. It is your job to be discreet and keep your Executive’s confidence so how do you go about doing that?
Lead by example
This is an excellent place to start. If your colleagues are sharing office gossip work out very quickly if it is harmless or if it should be avoided. Here is something I wrote on this subject a few years ago:
It can be difficult not to get involved in gossip and general office banter, it is fun, and it makes the day go quickly. I think some gossip can be harmless and I wouldn’t for a moment suggest that you shy away from joining in. What I would suggest is that you identify harmless gossip, such as what happened in the pub after work or sharing in a joke about a member of the team. Once you have defined the general good-natured discussions, you can quickly see when the banter turns into gossip that you should well avoid. For example, this could be people discussing other members of staff that aren’t there to answer for themselves, or events that are taking place in the company that influence jobs and or pay. If you make a conscious choice not to get involved in these types of conversations, your colleagues will notice and probably avoid discussing it with you further. Another suggestion is not to start any of this type of gossip, no matter how harmless you think it might be. If you initiate anything, people will assume you are happy to part with other possibly more sensitive information at a later point.
Use your judgement
We are privy to so much detail, and information about the business and everyone that works with us and, in many cases, Executive’s rely on their Assistants to disseminate this information using their judgement. To do this effectively, firstly you have to know the business inside and out. You have to understand what is happening, who it is going to affect and how your Executive would want you to deal with the detail. If you do not feel comfortable sharing some aspects but not others or you are not quite sure of the tone you should take then do not say anything. Wait until your Executive is available for you to find out what messages you can share with your colleagues. Otherwise, use your judgement. Your Executive trusts you to act on their behalf, do so wisely.
We are becoming more transparent at work
And that is a good thing; it is great to work in an environment where you feel like your colleagues are your friends, you know your Executive’s family and what they like to do outside of work. We spend so much time at work it is fantastic when you feel supported and at ease. But, here comes the but! As an Assistant, you really should not be an open book. Yes, for sure, share your personal life, but also you do need to maintain a level of professionalism that comes with the position that you have. You are privileged to have access to so much information, and the only way you are going to excel in the role is to keep all of that detail private and confidential.