Tuesday, April 20, 2010

To Serve and Assist

Magnet # 221:  Jenna Fischer as Pam Beesly Photo

Material:  Plastic

Purchased By:  Me

Here's a heads up to all of the bosses out there - tomorrow is Administrative Professionals Day. So if you haven't gotten a gift for your secretary, receptionist, or other assorted administrative employee, this would be a good time to go ahead and do so. Of course, if you don't want to buy flowers, candy, lunch or what have you for your assistant, you can always give them something technically free that should be appreciated - extra time off. There are few professionals who wouldn't enjoy an afternoon off, and many of them would probably pay their bosses back with extra productivity and loyalty. See, it's a win-win! So let those people go - for just half a day or so.

This observance has its origin in Administrative Professionals Week, which was first held in 1952. After World War II, there was an increased necessity to bring skilled professionals into the American workplace. And Harry F. Klemfuss, a publicist in New York, thought up the celebration to bring attention to the situation. He recognized the valuable contribution all of these women were making in the workplace (yep, they were pretty much all women back then) and thought it would be nice to acknowledge them and encourage others to join them in the office. With his public relations skills, he promoted the holiday, bringing the spotlight to both it and secretary's contributions. It's been held ever since and has come to be scheduled on the Wednesday of the second to last full week in April. A considerable amount of men have entered the field, making the male secretary a sought after status symbol in certain markets. And over the years, the amount of administrative professionals has only increased, as there are now over 4 million of them. So I guess there should be plenty of orders for flowers tomorrow, right?

The theme for this year's Administrative Professionals Day is "Power of Commitment." I'm not sure exactly what that is supposed to mean. Frankly, it sounds like the nutty sort of slogan that The Office's Michael Scott might dream up. And pictured on this magnet is his long-suffering receptionist Pam Beesley, portrayed by Jenna Fischer. Although it's been a challenge with her inept, offensive boss, she's managed to keep her cool, do her job, and even marry and start a family with her co-worker, Jim Halpert. Yep, Pam has definitely risen in the ranks to one of the best television administrative assistants. And she is definitely in good company. In the classic days of television, there were such competent, dedicated assistants as The Beverly Hillbillies' Jane Hathaway and Perry Mason's Della Street. Loni Anderson's talent at playing Jennifer Marlowe on WKRP in Cincinnati in the seventies made her a household name, although she didn't seem to do much work around the office. And even if they weren't on television, in the eighties, the office ladies of the hit film Nine to Five were an inspiration to women everywhere, as was Melanie Griffith when she played Tess McGill in Working Girl. Later, the disturbingly devoted Waylon Smithers, assistant to the insidious Mr. Burns on The Simpsons became a fan favorite. And more recently, assistants such as the snarky Lloyd on Entourage, the likeable lead of Ugly Betty, and the unforgettable Mad Men's Joan Holloway have become popular with television viewers. Of course, not every television office assitant has been a good one. Way back when, the not-so-motivated Lucy Carmichael of The Lucy Show, played by the great Lucille Ball, drove her boss to fire her every so often. Though she meant well, Moonlighing's Agnes DiPesto often caused more work for her bosses to fix her screw-ups. And who can forget the flat-out evil Mimi Bobeck of The Drew Carey Show, who spent more time tormenting others than anything else at work? I haven't manged to yet, but that hasn't stopped me from trying. Yep, television and the movies sure have provided us with plenty of memorable administrative assistants - it's a true lineup of the good, the bad, and the ugly (yes, Mimi - I'm talking about you).

So even if you aren't an office assistant, or don't have one to recognize tomorrow, there are still plenty of ways to join in the fun by watching one on the small screen. And if there is one at your office, don't forget to wish her (or him) a happy day. Not only is that polite, it's also smart. Secretaries and receptionists often see and hear plenty that other office denizens don't, and keeping yourself in their good graces could help you at your company. So get out there, find an administrative assistant or two, and treat them right - chances are, they've earned some recognition over the past year.

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