Everything You Need To Know About Administrative Professionals Day in 2018

This post is the second in our 4-part series on how to master gift giving for Administrative Professionals Day. Read part 1 here.

Generally when you’re giving a gift, the “who” is the easy part, but that’s not the case on Administrative Professionals Day. Thankfully, most offices have done away with sexist secretarial stereotypes (Admin Day started in 1952 as “National Secretary’s Day”) but in a modern, technology-assisted work environment it can be difficult to determine who’s considered administrative staff. Unfortunately, that can lead to confusion and hurt feelings when someone isn’t recognized (but felt they should have been), and even greater damage when someone didn’t realize that they were viewed as support staff. A little planning can help you avoid these cringeworthy mistakes and find thoughtful, earnest gifts for admins, office managers, and front desk staff.

The easy stuff: giving Admin Day gifts when the lines are crystal clear

Larger, more structured work environments tend to provide a bit more clarity about who’s who among support staff.

  • If you have someone with the title “executive assistant” or “administrative assistant” working directly for you, you should absolutely recognize them.
  • If you’re supported by shared administrative resources such as front desk staff or other pooled resources, you should recognize them as well.
  • If you’re an HR manager, this is an opportunity to recognize and build engagement with staff and employees at every level of the company.

The harder stuff: deciding who’s an admin in your hip, modern office with flexible roles

In less structured work environments, even senior employees rely less on “admins” and more on technology to do office tasks like manage schedules, communicate with others, and arrange travel. So you’ll need to think more carefully how to recognize employees for Administrative Professionals Day. Here are a few pointers:

  • Don’t be blinded by gender: Outdated stereotypes can sometimes die hard, and embodying sensitivity in the workplace is more important than ever. So no matter how woke you think you are, double-check that your perception of who’s an administrative professional and who’s not hasn’t been subconsciously influenced by gender roles.
  • Treat everyone in the role equally: Two people doing the same job should receive the same level of recognition if you choose to acknowledge Administrative Professionals Day, but this isn’t the time to play favorites or insinuate subtle differences between their roles that haven’t been expressly communicated.
  • Consider whether they see themselves as “administrative”: Their career path can provide clues. For example, an entry-level financial analyst certainly gets asked to perform support tasks for more senior staff.  However, the long-term career path for that analyst leads directly to the boss’s desk, not to positions of advanced office management and administrative support.

When in doubt, give more broadly and think outside the box

As tempting as it might seem to rebuke the event as old-fashioned and skip Administrative Professionals Day altogether, by doing so you’ll have wasted a golden opportunity to build employee engagement and boost morale on your team. Instead, harness it! 

In a truly non-hierarchical office environment, you might even use this occasion as a “celebrating work colleagues” day and take the entire team to lunch, or give everyone a small gift to say “I appreciate you” or “we appreciate each other.”  Especially if you’ve missed the lesser-recognized Employee Appreciation Day celebrated on the first Friday of March, Administrative Professionals Day is an opportunity to bring your office community closer together.

Next in the series: What to give–and what not to give–to employees for Administrative Professionals Day to make the right impression.

If you’re ready to get a head start on finding a great gift for your admin, you can browse our best-selling employee gifts here.