There are 4 million administrative professionals in the workplace, according to a 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics report. 97% are women. In 2015, the Bureau identified office and administrative support as the largest occupational group, making up nearly 16 percent of total U.S. employment.
Recent years have seen a massive effort to change the limited perception of the role of the assistant, particularly the role of the executive assistant, to more accurately reflect the nature of the projects they undertake as deputies and ambassadors for their executive. According to Jan Jones, in her book "The CEO's Secret Weapon: How Great Leaders and Their Assistants Maximize Productivity and Effectiveness," exceptional executive assistants are solution-oriented, applying their business smarts through strategic thinking skills, anticipation, resourcefulness and clear communication to operate as "a seamless extension" of the executives they support. No mean feat for the assistants of some of the executives she interviewed in her book, including current U.S. President Donald J. Trump, Steve Forbes, Richard Branson, Mitt Romney, Cisco Systems' John Chambers, who wrote the foreword to the book, and a host of other successful business executives. Jan herself served as a top executive assistant for almost 20 years, including as executive assistant to personal development guru, Tony Robbins.
Statistics show that there are more job seekers for the role of administrative professional than there are jobs, so one would expect the marketplace would be flooded with top talent for employers to have their pick. The exception to this is the job of high-level executive assistant, that highly-specialized individual who can make the executive more effective by expertly managing all their day-to-day affairs, freeing them up to focus on strategic activities essential to the success of the business. The best of this breed understands the business and the executive's role so thoroughly, they are that "seamless extension," acting as a "gateway" to the executive, facilitating communication and access for anyone who requires legitimate business access to their boss. This is the particular individual Donald Trump was referencing in his book, "How to Get Rich," when he commented: "Ask God for a great assistant. A great one can make your life a whole lot easier – or, in my case, almost manageable."
There is debate within the profession about whether Administrative Professionals Day is still relevant, or if reserving a special day for assistants is demeaning. But we have a Boss' Day (October 16, 2017) to thank bosses for being fair and good supervisors, so why not thank assistants? Not unexpectedly, "Boss' Day" was introduced by a secretary in 1958. Many assistants say that in preference to flowers and candy, something longer lasting, such as attending a professional development course ,would be welcomed, and would benefit their executive long term as well. It's not too late to offer your assistant attendance at a future professional course of their choice, but many assistants say they appreciate the thought that comes with the flowers and candy as a nice way to say "thank you."
|Photo By Master Sgt. Michael Smith|
Leaders met administrative professionals outside, front and center
LOUISVILLE, Tenn. – The I.G. Brown Training and Education Center’s administrative professionals were called outside with the organization’s leadership here this week for a token of their importance: a group photo.
Mrs. Sabrina Tullock, Assistant to the Commandant, Chief Master Sergeant Paul H. Lankford EPME Center, and Ms. Karen Jonasson, Executive Assistant, TEC, were photographed with the Commander, Col. Kevin Donovan; the Deputy Commander, Lt. Col. David Meece; and the Commandant/Senior Enlisted Advisor, Chief Master Sgt. Edward Walden Sr., April 24, 2017, in front of the Minuteman statue outside the Patriot Hall building on McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in east Tennessee.
The photo helped to honor their service for Administrative Professionals Day, a national observance April 26, where staff appreciates those key administrators who support an organization’s success.
Mrs. Tullock began serving with the TEC in 1997 as an Airman, then served with the National Guard Bureau, returned, and then retired from uniformed service five years ago to continue service in the civilian workforce.
Ms. Jonasson joined the TEC four years ago from the Air Reserve Personnel Center where she served in a senior retirement technician position. She has 28 years’ service in the civilian workforce.
With so many behind the scenes administrative duties that help make TEC function, they said that they work well together.
“Karen writes amazing, and she says that I have computer skills, so we call on each other,” said Tullock.
Ms. Jonasson agreed.
“We assist each other with the talents that we have,” said Jonasson.
Resembling their importance, esteem and comradery, Mrs. Tullock likened administrative professionals to the supports for a bridge.
"Without those supports, a bridge will fail," said Tullock.
Biglaw Firms Offer Second-Class Benefits To Staff
It’s Administrative Professionals Day today — not that this matters anymore, since somewhere along the line this occasion of gratitude got expanded to Administrative Professionals Week. Seriously, how did that happen and Love Your Lawyer Day is still only 24 hours long? Who do the admins have lobbying for them? I need someone with unparalleled government insight to help us get to the bottom of this spectacular instance of holiday mission creep!
But I digress.
We continue to honor the law firm staff members who keep firms rolling in the face of the psychotic breakdowns of attorneys working on their last frayed nerve after pulling their fourth consecutive 20-hour day. Earlier this week, we noted that Fried Frank offered its staff a little mid-year bonus on top of their annual discretionary bonus. We’ve not heard of many other firms joining suit, but we’d like to think someone out there is stepping up to the plate.
However, lower pay and missing bonuses aren’t the only way that law firms relegate their staff to the have-nots. No one expects staff to be paid the same as attorneys — they don’t have the intensive, costly degrees, and on balance (though there are certainly exceptions), they work fewer hours under less stress than lawyers. Which is why the more serious site of staff disregard comes in the form of benefits.
Because everyone needs benefits, now more than ever assuming the current government follows through on its pledge to erode the paltry protections guaranteed today, and yet your firm may well be stiffing the staff on benefits. It’s more common than you’d think and in every case we’ve heard, attorneys don’t even know it’s happening.
How many weeks of maternity or paternity leave would one enjoy as an attorney? At several Biglaw firms it’s more than a staff member would under the same circumstances. We’ve heard tell of a Biglaw giant that offered up to 18 weeks for associates and 6 weeks for staff. That’s one hell of a discrepancy.
No one expects attorneys to take all their vacation time — unless you work at Bartlit Beck or something — but attorneys still likely collect more vacation time every year. And in a system that pays lawyers for unused vacation days, they may not extend the same courtesy to the staff.
The argument for this sort of imbalance is that the market for high-caliber attorneys requires offering a Cadillac package. No firm can afford to slip behind the firm next door or risk losing some precious Law Review all-star. That’s certainly a good argument on paper. But with salaries starting at $180K, law school graduates aren’t fretting about their benefits. Most attorneys don’t even know the outer bounds of their benefits until they have to call up HR to use them. MoneyLaw scale and a history of market bonuses are all a firm needs to lock down the top recruits. Firms could offer back-alley cholesterol screenings for all the associates care. Dollar dollar bills, y’all.
Paid maternity leave too short? A lawyer could happily take an extra two weeks unpaid. They have that luxury. Staff don’t generally. And yet the benefits regime tends to privilege the parent who needs the benefit the least.
Look, no amount of corporate motivational speaking bulldink about “teamwork” is going to change the fact that law firms are hierarchical. Firms may be the most hierarchical working environments that don’t involve Apache helicopters. But do we really have to exacerbate these gaps by creating second-class citizens when it comes to benefits?
We’ve heard about some of a number of discrepancies from tipsters over the years, but we want more feedback. If your firm is shortchanging the staff on benefits, let us know! Leave a tip — we’ll keep you anonymous — by emailing us (subject line: “[Firm Name] Benefits”).