Taking the Guesswork out of Gift Giving on Administrative Professionals Day

iStock_000004151367XSmall_1_.jpgby Liz O’Donnell (Boston)

Few holidays cause as much gift-giving angst for bosses as Administrative Professionals Day, which falls on Wednesday, April 22nd this year. In an effort to remove the guesswork, American Express surveyed members of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) on their experiences and opinions about this day of recognition. Of the 400 administrative professionals who answered the survey, 79 percent would prefer $25 to spend any way they want over a $40 floral arrangement (19 percent) or $30 worth of chocolates (one percent). Further evidence that cash is king: 48 percent of those surveyed ranked money as their first choice gift over lunch with their coworkers (38 percent), flowers (9 percent) or a trinket for their desk (3 percent).

“Flowers, a card, candy, and a lovely lunch are all terrific-and I would never, ever discourage a boss from doing these kinds of things in honor of Administrative Professionals Day. However, these are not the things that admins want most,” says Janet Smith, an employee morale consultant. “What they really want-and what will make them feel extremely valued and appreciated-are opportunities for professional development and career growth.” Offering career advancement and professional learning opportunities sends the message that the administrative staff is making a valuable contribution, according to Jennifer Bergeron, Human Resources, Training Specialist for Summit County Government in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Career advancement and education lets them know that they’re part of the team, not an outsider,” says Bergeron. “It’s so important to know you’re making a contribution. It’s always a lovely gesture to give anyone you work with a gift like flowers, a nice card, taking them out to lunch. But they don’t necessarily say you really make a difference.” One reason training and professional growth opportunities are appropriate “gifts” is because they help administrative professional realize their career goals. Bergeron points out that because good administrative professionals are so hard to find, many executives like keep them in the same position instead of promoting them.

“They take the ladder away from good admins,” says Bergeron. Another reason to offer training is because administrative professionals often want to be recognized for their contribution to an organization’s success beyond their administrative skills.

“Speaking as a professional past administrative assistant, I actually felt demoted when recognized for the day,” says Bergeron. “I’ve worked in small offices, and served more as a marketing assistant, event director, and public relations specialist, so when flowers appeared on my desk to note my admin skills, I tried to be happy about it on the outside, but inside I wondered if that’s how I was truly seen.”

Smith recommends asking employees how they like to be recognized. That will truly take the guess work out of gift-giving. She says to ask them, “What is significant to you in terms of being shown appreciation?” She recommends not to do it right before the holiday though.

Although opinions vary on the value of cash, flowers or training opportunities, most people agree that it is important is to demonstrate appreciation on the holiday in some way. Of those surveyed, 72 percent said that their office or someone they’ve worked with has neglected to observe Administrative Professionals Day in the past. So, at a minimum, don’t forget to give your assistant a card letting him or her know that you couldn’t do what you do as well as you do without his or her contribution. Remember – a happy team means a more productive boss!