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Happy Administrative Professionals Week!

April 20, 2010

When I look at this picture, I see myself–with a fresh dye job, a suitcase of my bosses’ money and valuables, and a plane ticket to Morroco.

Kidding.

Kind of.

So, it’s administrative professionals week. The holiday formerly known as Secretary Day. (In case you don’t know your history, this bullshit holiday was created in 1952 to encourage more young women to become secretaries through an elaborate propaganda campaign that pretended it was a respected and important job).

 I guess that means it’s supposed to be less sexist now, but that doesn’t explain the plethora of crap avaiable for gifting on this occasion that you would never dream of giving a man, like an initialed purse holder or assinine paper weight. (Got to love a gift that literally tells an employee to “give more” and “expect less” –that’s just efficient!)

Generally speaking, I think this kind of forced gift giving is awkward, wasteful, and not likely to make an overworked, underpaid, and poorly treated admin any happier. 

In fact, the high likelihood that a gift would end up being obtruse and inappropriate–ie. bath products or spa packages, ugly and weirdly personal floral arrangements, or my personal favorite, an undercover vibrator.

Perusing my wonderfully tacky Google finds for “administrative professionals day gifts,” I can’t help feeling like this whole holiday is cutesy in a father-daughter or worse, courtship kind of way. Gender neutral gifts are very few and far between, and decidely female targeted ones feel like mother’s day gifts (hand cream… comic strip mugs… ‘warning: overworked-and-cranky’ signs).

Why is that? When I think of the smart, modern women I’ve worked with (many of whom did have to be assistants at one point), I can’t imagine any of them receiving a paper weight with a poem on it as appreciation for their contributions to a company.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s nice that there’s a day for admins. And I think it’s really nice that those 50 and 60 something career assistants do receive some TLC and cookies and inspirational wall hangings, because from the point of view of the world they shaped their professional lives in, that is the reward and they’ve earned it.

But speaking as a 20 something with her eye on a very different kind of career prize, it’s a tone deaf move for a manager or supervisor to do cookies or shower gel on this holiday.

Why not a gift that acknowledges a mental life and some saavyness, like a nice planner or a charging station?

I think a present that acknowledges a certain level of professionalism can only encourage as much–and will do wonders for an employee’s morale, and make them feel like a member of the team.

And rightly so.

Until next time,

Amelia

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