During the last week of April, we honor people charged to carry out administrative responsibilities with a small token of appreciation. If the admins are lucky, it might include lunch. If they’re not lucky, it could still include lunch, but they have to pick it up themselves at a deli. Then it’s back to work. If they’re lucky, they might get an appropriate Hallmark card personally signed by the boss. If they’re not lucky, they have to forge the boss’ signature on their own card.
The day is designated as a time to honor hard-working, dedicated, skilled administrative personnel. It’s the secretaries, receptionists, administrative professionals (often referred to as admins) and other support staff that are under-appreciated the other 51 weeks of the year.
Some bosses are better than others at remembering the holiday (which does not warrant a day off, unfortunately). But my guess is that the majority of bosses need a reminder from their administrative assistants. Sad, but true. What would bosses do without them?
National Administrative Professionals Week used to be National Secretaries Week. It began in 1952 when the president of the National Secretaries Association, the president of Dictaphone Corporation, and public relations execs at Young and Rubicam met to devise a means by which to recognize secretaries…and promote secretarial roles as glamorous. It was basically a ploy to lure more job applicants (mostly women) into the workforce. It’s not surprising PR people were involved.
I’m willing to wager that as soon as the team made a decision on a dedicated holiday, one of them made a covert call to greeting card companies, giving them a heads up about a new opportunity to sell more cards. That’s what PR people do.
This team that proposed designating a national day of recognition for secretaries, petitioned the federal government for a declaration. The U.S. Secretary of Commerce got on board and sanctioned the event with an official registration number and it was a done deal. Once you have a registration number from the Secretary of Commerce, you have an official red letter day on the calendar. And your very own greeting cards to celebrate the event. National Secretaries Day was born.
In the 29 years that followed, culture changed. Americans had been through militarized conflicts in Korea and Viet Nam. We’d survived Sputnik, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy/MLK/Kennedy assassinations, Watergate and (gulp!) disco. Hippies, flower power and the Yugo had come and gone. We lived through Three Mile Island. Women were burning their bras (only to regret it when they turned 60). Rock and Roll had invaded the culture and was here to stay.
By 1981, many support staff took offense at the term secretary as though it put them at the bottom of the corporate food chain. To keep up, the National Secretaries…