We’ve all been exposed to examples of extreme political correctness. While I believe intentions were initially good, things simply didn’t work out the way most of us would hope.
Still, some types of political correctness are more kind, and perhaps more accurate, in describing work situations in our enlightened age. He’s no longer a garbage man, but a sanitation worker (that’s kind). She’s not a fireman, but a firefighter (that’s accurate). Someone isn’t fired, he or she is dismissed (kind). You’re not unemployed, you’re between jobs (that’s just optimistic).
But, I would argue, other examples of political correctness have either gone too far or had unfortunate consequences. Let’s put the following in one of those categories: Correctional facility client instead of prisoner. Motivationally distressed instead of lazy. Follicularly challenged instead of bald.
And then there’s the reason that’s behind this line of thought… administrative professional instead of secretary.
Now, I’ll admit to being old school, so I know what a secretary’s job involves. If I see a classified ad in the newspaper asking for resumes to fill a secretary’s position, I know what the employer hopes to find in a new hire. However, I’m not so sure I know what tasks an administrative professional might be asked to undertake. Do they – or do they not – coincide with the tasks of a secretary?
I appreciate that “secretary” doesn’t come close to covering the array of responsibilities that a person who holds that job must perform. The skill-set demanded is incredible. He or she must multi-task, know grammar and spelling, meet the public, diffuse anger and anticipate the boss’ next requirement. A fancier title is certainly appropriate, but I’m at a loss to offer one better than administrative professional.
Back “in the day,” it was always gratifying to see so many bosses dining out at lunch with their secretaries on that one day a year set aside as “Secretary’s Day.” A regular old Joe (or Gene) without a secretary who was just showing up alone at a restaurant that day could hardly find a table.
But that was then.
I saw on my calendar that last Wednesday was “Administrative Professionals Day.” I believe this has taken the place of what was once “Secretary’s Day.” I haven’t done the research, but I can tell you that my unofficial polling has detected evidence of an unsettling indifference to this celebration, which I’ve been told has been around since 1952. My conclusion is based on the number of available tables at the restaurant I saw at lunch that day this week. The room wasn’t empty, but it wasn’t the packed house that I had previously encountered on Secretary’s Day.
So, what’s happening? Have bosses decided they don’t have to participate since they hire “secretaries,” and not “administrative professionals”? If so, political correctness has done these workers a disservice. Assuming the pay is the same and the job is comparable, what do you want? A fancy title every day, or a free lunch once a year?
Maybe expense accounts have been sliced so much due to the economy that such luxuries have been dropped from budgets.
Perhaps bosses are showing their appreciation in different ways these days.
Then again, maybe many secretaries would rather be anywhere else than at lunch than with the boss.
However it’s done, though, American business needs to give our nation’s secretaries (administrative professionals, executive assistants or whatever you’d like) their due. It’s not like we don’t also have National Waitresses/Waiters Day, National Public Employees Appreciation Day, Inventors Day, Accountants Day, National Correction Officers Day, and National Third Shift Worker’s Day.
Me? I can’t wait for September, when it’s Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month.
But for all you secretaries, administrative professionals and administrative assistants whose bosses forgot your special day this week, take heart. I suspect they’re as busy as you are with work. Regardless, I have to believe that bosses everywhere are thankful you’re there, always watching their backs as the battles of business are being waged.
Besides, you can always take your revenge on National Bosses Day Oct. 16.
Gene Deason is editor of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Friday. He may be reached by e-mail at gene.