on April 23, 2009
Yesterday was Administrative Professional’s Day. And I’m starting to think that a day singling out secretaries, receptionists, administrative assistants, and other clerical workers may not be the best way to honor these invaluable employees.
I was quoted yesterday in a blog post on The Glass Hammer, an online community for women executives in financial services, law and business. I stand by what I said: “Flowers, a card, candy, and a lovely lunch are all terrific—and I would never, ever discourage a boss from doing these kinds of things in honor of Administrative Professionals Day. However, these are not the things that admins want most. What they really want—and what will make them feel extremely valued and appreciated—are opportunities for professional development and career growth.”
But a comment in the same post from Jennifer Bergeron, Human Resources Training Specialist for Summit County Government in Breckenridge, Colorado, really gave me pause. Jennifer concurred that career advancement and education opportunities for administrative professionals “lets them know that they’re part of the team, not an outsider.” But she also said, “Speaking as a professional past administrative assistant, I actually felt demoted when recognized for the day. I’ve worked in small offices, and served more as a marketing assistant, event director, and public relations specialist, so when flowers appeared on my desk to note my admin skills, I tried to be happy about it on the outside, but inside I wondered if that’s how I was truly seen.”
This annual workplace holiday just may be outdated and irrelevant…and it’s unlikely to be much of a morale-builder. Many factors contribute to high morale, and a big one is when bosses at every level consistently acknowledge, affirm, thank, and show appreciation to every employee, all year around. But since the annual observance isn’t going to go away any time soon, bosses should consider the advice I gave in The Glass Hammer post: Eliminate the guesswork, and ask employees how they like to be recognized and what makes them feel appreciated. And I’ll take that a step further. Right now, with the next Administrative Professionals Day almost a year away, sit down with your clerical and administrative personnel and ask what they honestly think of the day. If they like it, find out how they’d like to be recognized when the day rolls around in 2010. And if they don’t like it, offer to ignore the observance from now on.