Friday, 26 August 2011

Group Secretary

An old curmudgeon who opens the mail, mans the phone and sorts out your entertainment and travel expenses? Oh, no.

The romantic view is that the Group Secretary is like Joan Harris from Mad Men: almost superhuman in aspect and outsized in most characteristics: a contrappostally engorged giantess, midway between a gorgon and a siren, by turns brutal, maternal and licentious, yielding quarter to no man under fifty, and certainly not to any star trader or young hotshot.

But Joan Harris is a neatly constructed archetype: each of her aspects, and what aspects they are, is recognisable in any good Group Secretary, but you'll never get them all at once, and the particular combinations you see will generally leave something to be desired. One constant is a dark and visceral loathing of young smart-arses who think they own the place.

Another is the wherewithal to act on that suppurating contempt.

For Group Secretaries, inevitably, have the unqualified and blind support of someone far more important than you. Politically, they are untouchable. It is never wise to cross them, question them, doubt them, banter with them, raise so much as a bemused eyebrow in their direction, or labour in any way under an impression that you are anything other than utterly at the mercy of their every whim. You are food; you are not their friend.

Don't make the mistake of thinking yours might be weak here: a Group Secretary can only develop to a maturity with such a sponsor. Speak softly, and carry a big stick.

The Group Secretary fears no-one other than the Chief Operating Officer, but even then only in concept, because the two will usually be fast friends and allies: a more fearsome bloc can scarcely be proposed.