In many offices this month, there’s a bit of extra recognition going around for admin. professionals. Many European counterparts mark Management Assistants’ (MA’s) Day, while Administrative Professionals (am aching to toss in an apostrophe, but it’s not part of the formal name) Day 2017 will be marked in a number of countries on April 26.
I’ve written before that I find myself in the ambivalent camp on such celebrations. As time goes on, that ambivalence is fading, and I know that my views aren’t shared by all. I’d love to know what you think but, before I pose my questions, let’s consider the celebration from some different viewpoints.
I know some executives and principals who genuinely want to express appreciation for the skills and dedication assistants bring to the role, and like to mark the occasion. Some make a gesture (be it professional development or something more traditional, such as a card, flowers, chocolates or lunch) that they know will be appreciated by the admin. professional with whom they work.
Others, equally well intended, will turn to their Admin. Assistant, EA (Executive Assistant), MA (Management Assistant) or PA (Personal Assistant) and ask that person for ideas on how to mark the occasion. Yet others will turn to that same admin. professional and ask her or him to organise a gesture of appreciation for the admin. staff.
I also know some executives who dislike being told when or how to express their appreciation for a job well done. One CEO, whom I first met when he was working his way up the executive ladder, was consistently respectful of his EA and they had a great working relationship. He felt no need of a special nudge to let her know he valued her, and he actively avoided joining the crowd to buy flowers or lunches on this April occasion. Instead, he routinely showed his appreciation in his own way and time, without the calendar dictating that he do so.
Then there’s at least one more camp, composed of bosses who simply treat the event as they would any other work day.
Greeting Card Companies’ Perspectives
For starters, we’re apparently all female – or so it would seem from most of the cards out there. Perhaps Victoria Darragh and EPAA could help enlighten these folks with the results of their 2017 campaign and survey results. Really, folks: if you want to make money, you might want to consider becoming customer centric.
If you have a look at some of the cards and online images, the messaging runs the gamut from simply sincere to sincerely stupid. Then there’s the imagery: some cards depict rational, professional looking individuals, while others present caricatures of crazed or overwhelmed women surrounded by heaps of paper and coffee. You’ll also still find contemporary visual variations of the Indian goddess Kali.
Here are just a few of the greeting card companies’ takes on the roles admin. professionals fill, and our mentalities … along with the reaction I might have at being the beneficiary of such messages. Even when viewing these with a sense of humour, some of these messages are long past their best before dates.
- “She was comforted by the knowledge that they were helpless without her” Oh, please. This is an artificial theme that implies admin. professionals work with a bunch of incompetents – and it leans toward the parochial in the suggestion that admin. professionals need such stroking.
- “The-only-one-around-here-who-knows-what-the-*’s-going-on-Day!” My response? Same as above, except that this one is crass.
- “Admins. are part super, part crazy, 100% the glue of the office” Flattering, yes?
- “You’re the glue that keeps this place together” This bit about glue is another recurring theme. Is it only me, or has this dead horse (pun intended) not been flogged enough already? Any time I see this message, it evokes an image of a poor, worn out nag being taken out of harness and hauled off to the glue factory. Let’s hope people don’t start incorporating similar messages in retirement cards!
- “Happy Administrative Professionals Day, now get me a * cup of coffee” No comment.
- “Give your secretary a hug!” I suspect that this one was crafted without any input from HR professionals or those with an eye on risk management.
- “Behind every successful team there is an efficient Administrative Professional …” Hmm. Behind the team? Not part of the team?
- “Can’t imagine how messy things would become without your support – thank you for each small supportive thing you do” Each small, insignificant-in-comparison-to-what-the-real-contributors-on-the-team-do-thing!
- “The candy bowl on your desk is the only reason I come to work” Right; now we’re getting to the crux of an admin. professional’s role!
… and so it goes, with recognition that the general sense is one of fun or goodwill. While generally not humourless, and with realisation that I’m sounding like a curmudgeonly Canadian cousin of Andy Rooney here, I invite you to pause a minute. I ask you: Can you imagine yourself extending a variation of the above messages to your boss or to another professional with whom you interact? Without benefit of a few too many beverages? Here are some newer online congratulatory messages, with kudos to at least a couple of them for depicting the admin. professional as a male.
- “Happy Administrative Professionals Day to someone almost as effective as Siri”
- “Wishing myself a happy Administrative Professionals’ Day … Because if I don’t, no one else will”
- “Happy Administrative Professionals Day to someone about to graduate with a liberal arts degree” Ouch!
- “Happy Administrative Professionals Day to the most unprofessional admin I know”
- “Happy Administrative Professionals Day to someone who doesn’t think they’re an Administrative Professional”
- “Happy Administrative Professionals Day to someone who primarily uses the office to work on personal projects”
- “If the Admin Assistant ain’t happy, ain’t NOBODY happy!”
The Origins and Future of this Celebration
The celebrations this month stem from the 1952 establishment (by what was then known as the National Secretaries Association) of National Secretaries Week, undertaken in part to attract people to such careers. Take a minute to do an online search for national days marking careers in accounting, health care and so on. You’ll typically find a focus on professional development, and not imagery or advertising for chocolates, cards and flowers – however appealing they may be.
The National Secretaries Association has long since evolved into the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), an international body to which many of my readers belong. The IAAP is among a number of bodies and individuals who advocate recognition of Admin. Professionals Day and Week through provision of professional development.
Might all be better served by a shift from the very well intended but sometimes patronising greeting card mentality to one that reflects the evolution of this career into a profession? Are you pleased with flowers and greeting cards, or would you prefer to increasingly direct focus to advocacy and professional development?
This leads us to the focus of this Weekend Poll:
What Do You Think of the Recognition Given to Admin. Professionals Each April?
Please take a couple of minutes to complete the poll below. As always, I look forward to hearing what you have to say and will publish results on Tuesday. This builds on my 2016 Weekend Poll on the same topic, and I’ll provide year-over-year comparisons in the results.