Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Administrative Professionals' Day

Wednesday, April 23 is officially Administrative Professionals Day - the holiday formerly known as Secretaries Day.

This is a little new to me. I've had a long career doing all kinds of peculiar things for a paycheck, but my current job is the only one where we've celebrated Administrative Professionals Day.

Where I work, the traditional holiday is observed by taking the entire office staff out to lunch. As a middle manager, I figured that I should pay for the folks who report directly to me, but last year my own boss one-upped me and picked up the tab for us all.

While I am delighted to buy my co-workers lunch, it's the "holiday" itself that seems odd to me.

Other than lunching, what else could you do to celebrate Administrative Professionals? Have songs celebrating the joys of the copymachine, special food treats (marshmallows shaped like pencil erasers, maybe?), games like typing competitions or Trivial Pursuit featuring Windows keyboard shortcuts? Gift-giving traditions, like leaving anonymous treats in peoples' In Boxes, wrapped in InterOffice Mail envelopes?

What is it about secretaries (or administrative professionals) that inspired such a holiday to begin with?

I know it's about gratitude for services provided, but why are office workers any different than other workers who provide service? I imagine it's because of the relationship - office workers see enough of their bosses in stressful situations to be familiar with their moments of weakness as well as their strengths. I'm wondering if secretly there's not a bit of guilt involved in celebrating the "holiday", some way for bosses to mollify workers for the year's worth of resentment serving them.

Only once in my life have I worked as a secretary, but it gave me a clear understanding how annoying it is to serve and support someone who, simply by virtue of having a secretary, is deemed too good to do his or her own administrative work. I lasted less than three months.

In a two-person office, only one of us - me - was expected to put paper in the printer tray, change the cartridges, pick up the newspaper and sort the mail. Both of us drank coffee - but only one of us washed cups.

Some people are suited for such personal service jobs, and some aren't. I clearly belong in the latter group. I tend to take care of myself, and expect most people to do the same.

But Los Angeles teems with those who require personal service, and equally with those eager to provide it. My boss - a woman earning over $100,000 a year - had a well developed sense of her entitlement - it was as strong as her computer skills were weak.

There's nothing more annoying than trying to explain to a Power-Suited Diva how to "tab" through an online entry form, and discover that she isn't familiar with the Tab Key.

But where was I? I was appreciating the people I work with now. Yes, You Guys.

Thank you, M_____ for your careful proofreading that catches those 2007's where I meant to type 2008. Thank you, S_____ for reminding me of the task due today that slipped off my radar screen. Thank you, R_____ for your encyclopedic knowledge of what those flashing symbols mean when the printer/copier jams. And thank you all, for being kind enough not to roll your eyes TOO dramatically when I ask a stupid question. You are all jewels.

I'm grateful for your kindness and forbearance. And I promise you will never have to wash my coffee cup.

1 comment:

maiac said...

"What is it about secretaries (or administrative professionals) that inspired such a holiday to begin with?"

All too often, secretaries are taken for granted the other 364/5 days of the year. Giving them a holiday reminds the people for whom they do so much to say "Thank you."