It takes a person of strong character to be the front line of defense.
At least a three dozen times in my career I’ve had to politely change the direction of a conversation. Or, not so politely but definitely directly.
Here are some prime examples:
“I need to see the (other) department’s projections so I can adjust my numbers”
“Did you ever have an issue with so-and –so? I had no idea there was an issue.
When a management team member is offsite for private meetings
“Do you know who they’re meeting with?”
“Do you know what meeting they’re at?”
When personnel changes start at the top
“What’s going on?”
“Are we being bought out?”
“Are other people leaving?”
“Do you know if they’ve hired the new (fill in position name here)?”
People can be downright sneaky and manipulative trying to get information from assistants under the guise of helping or speeding up the process. Sometimes it is just someone making ‘small talk’.
Usually these false entreaties are reflective of fear or lack of control over a perceived situation. The person or persons may think, sometimes incorrectly, that the assistant is in the know.
Slay the Office Phisher with these words
“I don’t know.”
Say it pleasantly. Say it with a smile. Be calm in your tone. Sometimes we have to repeat frequently. Stating it patiently over and over. Other assistants I’ve known will use, “Let me get back to you” but then somehow forget to do so.
At a previous job I had a mid-level manager hassle me for a solid fifteen minutes. I finally put my hand up and said, “You know I’m not at liberty to comment on any of your questions, so please stop.” The phisher was quite startled—enough so to mumble an apology and walk away.
Your reputation for being able to keep discreet information locked away is superbly valuable. It is important to employ these powerful words consistently and wisely