My dad called me up last week in a near panic. He had a question and he needed my “expertise”. Was he wondering about the upcoming NBA playoffs? Maybe he had a question about blackjack strategy or the best way to get a red wine stain out of . . . but no, he was pressed for time and blurted out his question.
A quick Google search revealed the easy part of the answer — Secretary’s Day is celebrated on the last Wednesday in the last week of April. This year, it happens to fall on April 22. My dad’s a busy guy, and I’m sure he was in a hurry to pick up something nice for his secretary, so the call ended pretty quickly.
I wanted to know more.
Administrative Professional’s Day
For starters, let’s get the terminology right. Political correctness has turned what was once known as Secretary’s Day into “Administrative Professional’s Day”. I’m not against this — I fully understand the baggage associated with the word “Secretary”, and besides, the jobs that office workers do these days are much more varied, and do not really fit the bill of “Secretary”. Jobs celebrated on Administrative Professional’s Day include receptionists, administrative assistants, actual “secretaries”, and other professional office assistants.
How Secretary’s Day Began
What we now call Administrative Professional’s Day began its life as “Secretary’s Day” back in 1952 as a way for bosses to show their appreciation for the work of their secretaries. Back then, almost 60 years ago, the role of “secretary” was quite different from what we know today. Mostly women, these employees did the work of several people. Part receptionist, part “administrative assistant”, and often highly involved in the day to day operation of their respective businesses, secretaries were an integral part of any business. A businessman named Harry F. Klemfuss (of the consulting firm Young & Rubicam) worked with the National Secretaries Association (now known as the International Association of Administrative Professionals) to create a nationally recognized time to honor the work of secretaries.
Harry Klemfuss’ goal was to encourage young people to consider careers in the secretarial or administrative support field. Recognizing how important the secretaries in his office were, Klemfuss believed that honoring their work would not only attract more people to the position, but would be a perfect way to show support and solidarity with secretaries and office assistants. With a background in public relations, Klemfuss easily promoted the importance of the job of administrative assistants and their value to an office environment. In promoting the work of secretaries, he created the holiday we now know as Administrative Professional’s Day, in recognition of the importance of administrative assistants.
The official period of appreciation/celebration was first proclaimed by then United States Secretary of Commerce Charles Sawyer as “National Secretaries Week,” which was held June 1-7 in 1952, with Wednesday, June 4, 1952 designated National Secretaries Day. The first Secretaries’ Day was held in that year by the National Secretaries Association, with the support of an variety of other corporate groups.
In 1955, the observance date of National Secretaries Week was moved to the last full week of April. The name was changed to Professional Secretaries Week in 1981, and became Administrative Professionals Week in 2000 to encompass the expanding responsibilities and wide-ranging job titles of administrative support staff.
How to Celebrate Administrative Professional’s Day
So how do you celebrate Administrative Professional’s Day, or Administrative Professional’s Week? There are many options to consider.
Over the past few years, Administrative Professionals Week has grown into the largest single workplace observance — a “holiday” that can be celebrated by anyone, regardless of religion or creed. The event is now celebrated around the world, not just in the US, and brings together millions of people for a wide variety of celebrations. There are community events, corporate gatherings, social activities, and every sort of even you can imagine recognizing a company’s support staff with appreciation and gifts.
The smallest scale celebrations include the giving of gifts or treating a group to lunch. My dad’s office, for instance, likes to bring in a catered lunch, and give small gifts of appreciation, ranging from cards and photos to gift certificates and even cash. Celebrations of Administrative Assistant’s Day can be as complicated as your office situation allows. As a matter of fact, the International Assocation of Administrative Professionals would rather you celebrate Administrative Professional’s Week in a lengthy if not productive manner.
The IAAP, which is the official sponsor of Administrative Professionals Week and Administrative Professionals Day, suggests that employers and bosses show their support for the holiday and their administrative support staff by offering training opportunities and classes for their staff. This does mean a large amount of distraction from the day to day operations of a business, but your staff may really appreciate classes in continuin education, seminars, or even time for self study. I have worked in an office setting where Administrative Professional’s Week was filled with classes in Beginning Spanish for Business — an often necessary tool in the United States. And remember, Administrative Assistant’s Day is not just for “secretaries” or receptionists — the IAAP also wants you to recognize the work efforts of those on your staff who serve in human resources or any professional development staff position. While this kind of activity may not be as instantly enjoyable as a box of candy and a nice lunch, your staff may appreciate the self improvement time more in the future, when they can use the courses they took (or started) as a bargaining tool for a raise or a new position.
My dad’s advice to me before I started my professional life was to always “get in good” with secretaries. They were the ones who ran the office, he said, and everyone knows it. The implication was that if you made friends with a secretary, you’d have a better chance at making friends with his or her boss — or at very least, your paperwork and other office needs would be met with a smile, and perhaps pushed through a bit quicker. While “greasing the wheels” may not be the most politically correct sentiment, it is always a good idea to take time and appreciate those employees in your office who otherwise get lost in the shuffle.