Wednesday, April 27, 2016 is Administrative Professionals Day. Because I believe “support staff” are the backbone and often the brains of business, I’ve been reflecting on this role and its day of observance. To help me collect my thoughts on this topic, I reviewed several articles and opinion pieces on the history and current practices associated with this day. My readings left me better informed as well as a bit unsettled. I knew there was some debate over the appropriateness of a “secretaries day,” but what I read revealed more criticism, cynicism, anti-consumerism, and suspicion than expected. Just what are we doing with Administrative Professionals Day? Are we expressing appreciation for valuable contributions to business or are we belittling some portion of our workforce?
To launch my comments on attitude vs. gratitude, here’s some background information from Wikipedia:
• The day is an observance; not a public holiday.
• Similar observances exist in Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia.
• The official period of celebration was first recognized in 1952 as National Secretaries Week.
• The week of observance was June 1–7 with Wednesday, June 4 as National Secretaries Day.
• The first Secretaries Day was sponsored by the National Secretaries Association.
• Respon sibilities and job titles of administrative support staff evolved over time and in 2000 the title became Administrative Professionals Week.
• Some critics take an “anti-consumerist stance” and wrongly accuse the flower, card, and candy industries of creating the holiday to drive product sales.
•Critics also note that promoting flowers and cards as part of the observance associates the administrative role as “gendered” since these are typically feminine gifts.
What’s with the attitude?
Given our human frailties and imperfections, the potentially good deed of appreciation will not go unpunished. Identifying and praising a specific group of employees is bound to provoke questions and criticism. One point noted is that Administrative Professionals Day is patronizing and demeaning because it sets these staff members aside as “different.” Though “different” does not necessarily equate with “bad” or “good,” I do understand how setting a group apart can lead to this kind of judgement.
In fact, there are specific days, weeks, and months designated for the observation of particular industries and careers: accountants, architects, barbers, chefs, engineers, farmers, garbage men and women, lawyers, letter carriers, nurses, teachers, veterinarians, project managers and many more.
There is even a Boss’s Day though it’s easy to reply “Isn’t every day Boss’s Day?”
So, is the point that we not have this (or any job, industry, etc.) observance?
Why not focus on the gratitude?
Maybe the issue is not that the day exists but with what we do (or not) on that day and most other days. In our business and in our workplace, who do we acknowledge on a regular basis? What actions and results are publicly appreciated? Who does the acknowledging and in what way?
I do not currently employ administrative professionals, secretaries, or executive assistants so I do not face a direct challenge with any observance days. But I do want to appreciate those who work with me and help my business succeed. And you? Who do you appreciate and how do you make that known? To get your thoughts on track, consider how to:
• Acknowledge and appreciate all roles and all who contribute. Doing so should be a regular part of each day.
• Be an example for others. No matter what your role in the business, you can express your appreciation.
• Get creative; do not be compelled or limited by what the rest of the world is doing. Find your own ways to recognize individual and team accomplishments and contributions.
Still not sure what to do? Start with “thank you.” Go from there.