Question: “I’ve been my boss’s secretary for more than five years, even changing companies with him. He recently hired another secretary to help with my workload. The problem is that she shares all my responsibilities and seems to have most of the work. It feels as though she has become my replacement. How do I approach my boss about this without sounding like I’m whining?” — Feeling Useless
Marie's Answer: The boss/secretary relationship is usually quite close, so sharing that role could be difficult. People seldom leave their emotions at home when they go to the office, so let’s try to separate feelings from facts:
• The key question is whether you actually are being replaced or just feel that way. If the newcomer’s qualifications greatly outshine yours, that could be cause for concern. However, your long tenure makes that unlikely. Odds are that your boss views this change as a benefit to you.
• When discussing the problem with him, stay focused on the work. Example: “I believe our division of responsibilities may be overloading Mary because she’s really busy, while I have extra time.” Then propose a more equitable distribution of duties.
• If you are interested in new challenges, offer to expand your role: “Now that Mary has assumed some of my tasks, I have time to take on additional responsibilities. I could help you prepare for presentations or act as a liaison with marketing.”
Regardless of your feelings, you need to get along well with your new colleague. If the two of you become rivals, then everybody loses.
For tips on how to succeed in an assistant role, see How to Shine as an Administrative Assistant.