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What to Get Your Assistant for Administrative Professionals’ Day

what to get your assistant for administrative assistants' day 2017PSA: Administrative Professionals’ Day is April 26, 2017 — what are you getting your assistant? 

In the past, we’ve taken polls on administrative professionals’ day gifts before, talked about how and what to delegate to your assistant, and swapped stories of amazing assistants — our roundup of gifts for your assistant (or how to buy jewelry for your assistant) may also be of help to you.  Comments on this thread had some great ideas for what to get male assistants.

If time allows this year, and your assistant is always freezing, you may want to consider a gift from Barefoot Dreams — this poncho avoids the “will it fit” question, and allows easy typing and more.  It’s $88 at Nordstrom.

Of course, you can always go with my friend’s system of flowers and cash — as she explained it, she got the floweres so everyone in the office knows you appreciate your assistant, and cash to keep the assistant happy.

Ladies, let’s talk: do you work with an administrative professional? Are you getting him or her a gift this year? (Does anyone have any good tips on how to avoid the “office housework” issue of the junior woman often being the one saddled with organizing a group gift to a shared assistant?)

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what to get your assistant for administrative assistants' daySocial media picture credit: Deposit photos / © belchonock.

Comments

  1. Cash is king. And flowers.

    The two ponchos that have been gifted to me have mysteriously disappeared…to the consignment shop (there was no way to return or decline, given some family politics). My 36HH chest make any poncho look like a br-a$tfeeding cape. No thanks ;-)

    • +1 to cash and flowers. If cash is a no-no for your office, go with a gift card (all-purpose ones like Amazon are great for this). Also, consider putting forth a little extra effort to make their life easier that day. A bouquet of flowers just seems sadly ironic if you follow it by dumping your backlog of expense reports on their desk.

  2. 1) Give cash, your secretary doesn’t want a physical gift.

    2) My office custom is that the most junior person on the secretary’s desk is responsible for organizing gifts.

  3. Nothing. Gifts are for people who make my life better. My assistant is lazy, incompetent, rude, and it takes her twice or three times as long as it does me to do anything because she doesn’t listen, interrupts me, and doesn’t read or can’t follow my explicitly clear instructions. And management has told her she’ll never be fired.

    I’d LOVE to get something for the two other wonderful assistants I’ve been told I can use because mine is never there and doesn’t do anything when she is, but she’d probably try to actively sabotage me if I did that. Like faking my signature on a pleading, which she did to another attorney one time.

    • Um, why is this person still working there? Sounds like management needs to take care of that ish.

    • So, IANAA, but how on Earth did she not get fired for that last one? It’s mind-blowing that your management doesn’t seem to care about the liability her disregard for ethics and the law exposes them to.

    • The rumor at the office is that whenever anyone dares complain about her or to her, she runs over to management and tells them she’s being “discriminated against.” So, to make sure she doesn’t file a discrimination claim, our godda*n management team told her she’ll never be fired.

      The attorney got sanctioned for the pleading, by the way. And yet, my dumb*ss assistant is still here, chatting on her phone and taking a day or two of vacation per week (often announced the morning of!). I just pretend like I don’t have an assistant and do almost everything myself unless it’s so shockingly simple a high-school intern could do it (and probably do it better). Even then, she needs written out instructions- for things like how to fax, scan, combine PDFs, etc. She’s not new to our office. She’s been here for 12 years.

      I was out sick and one of the other attorneys was getting a continuance for me. She texted me midway through the week to ask if I thought my legal assistant actually tries to make attorneys’ lives harder. YES.

      • It sounds like the office management team cares more about keeping this woman happy about some non-existent (and easily disproven) claim of discrimination than protecting its attorneys and allowing them to do their jobs without fear.

        You’re looking for another job, right?

        • True. That being said, I can’t job search in earnest for another 18 months (term-contracted position right now), and I love the work I do and wouldn’t be able to do it elsewhere in my city- extremely niche area that only one firm does, and not interested in moving. I’ll likely leave at the end of my contract, but I’m relatively happy where I am now. Except for her, who tests my patience daily.

    • Until I saw your reply below, I would have asked if you worked at my firm. I am the most senior associate and end up doing most of my admin work myself because my assistant literally can’t do anything beyond the most basic faxing, copying, mailing etc.

      And even then, if it’s simple (i.e. like printing off multiple copies), I do it myself because it’s much easier than having to listen to her interrupt me and tell me she’s too busy (and yet she walks around talking to everyone and watering plants multiple times a week…)

      • I work at this firm too! They have made the assistants have a pool system so now these lazy incompetent rude people ignore everyone except the senior partners. Lovely.

  4. What App do you use to organize podcasts on your android device? Need to load something on my father’s device that is easy/safe/free.

    Thanks!

  5. shortperson :

    i got my past two assistants gift cards to sephora. one was really into fancy perfumes and really appreciated the “permission” to buy something for herself. i also got her cashmere sweaters like the ones i wear and she loved for christmas. have i mentioned that she was amazing? the other wore a lot of nice makeup. this year my new assistant does not wear makeup but likes to read on her kindle so i’m just going for an amazon gift card. but i took a risk and got her a spa package for christmas and she was crying when she thanked me saying she hadnt done that in over a decade. so yeah, cash is great but i try to do a little better.

    • I think your approach is very sweet, and tailored to the individual recipients. I plan on getting my assistant flowers, a gift card, and a pre-paid ticket to one of those paint night things because she loves going to them. Boss and I are both going in together, since we’re both on her desk.

    • This is very, very sweet- the kind of gifts I love to give, that you know the recipient will love but wouldn’t get for themselves. :)

  6. I’m an assistant and I say nothing. Just be nice to me all year. Not a fan of this ‘holiday’.

    • Serious question, and not meaning to be a troll: why not?

      Boss and I are both nice to our shared assistant. We love her, and she’s worth her weight in gold. We are a small office, and all get along really well. I really want to do something small and extra for the day, since celebration of these things is office culture around here.

      I have worked places (and been an assistant myself in places) where the day and other holidays were the only time assistants were shown appreciation, and that was awful.

      • Because it’s about making the giver feel better and not really about the recipient? Do you think an administrative assistant would prefer a good work environment year-round, or a bouquet of flowers? Which one of those things do you think is easier to give?

    • Senior Attorney :

      Yeah, I was a secretary before I went to law school (back when there was such a thing as a secretary) and we called it Secretaries’ Day and I hated it. Be nice, pay me fairly, and enough with the holiday, which feels so gendered to me with the flowers and cards and all.

      Mercifully it is not a thing in my workplace.

      • It’s not a thing in my workplace either. At most I and the other attorney she helps might take her out to lunch.

      • FormerAdmin :

        I was also an assistant before law school and I hated this day. I knew being an assistant was not my career goal, and I wanted my boss to see me as more than just an admin. One year, my boss gave me a small gift card, but with a note that said something like “I view you as much more than my administrative assistant, but as my right hand woman. You’re not just appreciated today, but every day because you always contribute to our team running smoothly.” That was awesome.

        • Annony Moose :

          In a similar vein, one year when I was in grad school, the head of the department got all the admins in the department office Cross pen and pencil sets, with their initials on. All the admins were thrilled–they saw this as the type of gift a professional would get. Flowers, as one said, are what you send to appease your girlfriend.

    • Anon for this :

      Speaking from my own personal experience, it’s just kind of embarrassing. Especially in an extremely rigidly hierarchical environment like a law firm where you’re supposed to know your place at all times. It’s just awkward and embarrassing to have a day when you are recognized for being a “professional” when the rest of the time the attorneys make a fuss if they are ever asked to associate with you in any way.

    • I felt the same way about it when I worked as an admin for all of the reasons already provided.

  7. I like this poncho (for myself — I don’t have an admin. assistant) but it’s showing up as $110, not $88. Is there a secret Nordstrom sale I can’t see?

  8. I do wine (usually one really nice bottle or two mid-ranges for a total around $75) for my primary assistant with a card that she can put out. That said, I know that she likes wine a lot and appreciates getting bottles nicer than her normal drinking level. I would not gift wine to someone whose taste I did not know well.

    My receptionist will get a $25 gift card to the local coffee shop that I know she likes (she helps me a lot on clerical stuff like retyping, stuffing evelopes, etc.). I probably will get a couple nice cigars for the paralegal who does my time (which also is what he likes).

    My firm will make a week of it — they usually bring in a masseuse for chair massages one day, take the admins and paralegals to lunch one day, bring in ice cream one day, and give each staffer a $50 VISA or AMEX card.

  9. My new commute is killing me. It is at least an hour or more each way including traffic and walking to and from the parking lot so that means I am gone 10 1/2 hours out of each day. How do you all do it? I need to work more than 40 hours but, seriously, even taking reading home in the evening seems like a lot because most of the evening is gone by the time I get home. There is not very much time or energy left for grocery shopping, the gym, or other activities during the week. I have been so stressed and I realized that I never did my paperwork to get reimbursed for medical expenses. Now I have to tell my husband that I threw several hundred dollars down the drain. Just need commiseration.

    • Commuting Is My Nemesis :

      I feel your pain with the commute. I’m lucky that it is the only thing I dislike about my job, but even on days when I don’t work late it is hard to feel like I have time for non-work life. I’ve tried some different things to make my commute better: listening to podcasts and audiobooks, catching up on phone calls with friends and family (via headset). And I don’t know if public transit is an option for you, but I sometimes take the train and then use the time to read or do some work. I’ve also tried incorporating workouts into my commute (biking to work or getting off at earlier train stations and running home). And is there a way you can outsource some of your other activities (ie. Amazon Fresh, Instacart, or other grocery delivery services?) to buy yourself some more free hours?

      I’m always interested to hear what other people do to make their commutes better. So if anybody else has commuting hacks, please share!

    • Squiggles :

      I am gone from the house about 12 hours a day – leave at 6am, catch train, work from whenever I get in until 4:45, catch the train and home around 6pm. Barring injury recovery like I am doing now, I will normally take the bus to the train station in the morning and walk home in the evening (exercise!) as long as it is good weather (aka not icy, rainy) and is daylight (some people do not really pay attention).

      Regardless of the above, I will normally drive to the station 1 day a week. That is the evening that I set aside to run errands like the library and grocery shopping.

      Because I take the train, that gives me 35 to 50 minutes (express vs all stops) to read, do work, etc. It is a long day, but I still find time for other activities: aquacise class on Monday evenings, Book club and all that fun stuff. Though it is easier in the summer than the winter. I am pretty much useless after dark.

      My office is fairly relaxed and I can work from home a day or two a week (depends on deadlines and that). There isn’t an issue for me to take an hour to two off in the middle of the day for medical appointments (see injury recovery above). But I have been working here for over 10 years, a couple of promotions, and have built up a reputation for reliability.

  10. 'Free' lunch :

    One of our friends is a self-employed attorney who is also the primary caretaker for his two daughters, ages 7 and 9. While not wealthy, the family is solidly middle class, owns a house, affords private school, etc. Last year, friend took his two daughters to the public pool almost every single day.

    During the summers, pools and other public places in our city serve free lunch and breakfast for kids – the summer equivalent of free school lunches underprivileged kids. Last year, our friend mentioned frequently about what a great benefit this is, since his girls get free lunch and breakfast all summer long. We saw him recently and, while discussing summer plans, he mentioned again how excited he is for the pools to open in part because of the free meals.

    Am I being overly judgmental, or is this really unethical? His daughters definitely don’t qualify for free lunch during the school year, and I feel like they are taking advantage of a program that isn’t meant for people of their means. My husband doesn’t think it’s a big deal, but it drives me crazy every time it comes up. Am I wrong??

    • I’m of two minds on this. As a taxpayer, I don’t want to subsidize the meals of a financially comfortable family. On the other hand, it seems really stigmatizing to less privileged kids to separate them out for meals.

      • That’s a good point. i believe Chicago Public Schools now provide lunch and breakfast for all kids – partly to destigmatize it, I believe.

        I’d also give minor side eye but probably not say anything.

    • Yeah, it would probably bug me too, and I’d side-eye him for it, but I probably wouldn’t bring it up.

    • Maybe, as a primary caretaker, he appreciates the convenience. Getting a free meal that he doesn’t have to cook/coordinate is probably a great time-saver, as well as saving some money in the long run. Since this has zero impact on you, except perhaps as a taxpayer who pays a few pennies into the fund for this service, I think you should stop letting it bother you.

    • What a cool city! I’d say not unethical- if there’s no means test or qualifier, he’s not doing anything wrong. And in the big scheme, maybe better to not separate out less privileged kids, as poster above mentions.

      • Senior Attorney :

        Yup. He’s kind of an idiot to talk about it because he’s gonna get judged by his so-called friends, if there’s no means test for the meals he’s absolutely not doing anything unethical. I’d say the negative of being a free-rider is canceled out by the positive of not stigmatizing the needy kids.

        • Anonymous :

          Yes, when everyone knows you’re the kid getting the free lunch and you become one of “those kids,” you stop eating your lunch.

    • I’ll be interested in hearing discussion on this. He may feel like this is part of his tax dollars at work, just like the public pool. In our community, school breakfast isn’t means tested-any kid who wants to get breakfast at school is welcome to do so. Perhaps it is really aimed at getting food to kids who don’t have much at home, but it’s marketed as being available to all comers. The summer sandwiches may be the same way where they have plenty to go around and plan for extras. It entices kids to come to the pool which is a bonus. From a planning perspective, they may also want to have slightly inflated demand to show their funding sources because money that is use it or lose it in the next budget. Have you asked him about this?

    • Anonymous :

      Are you sure this is really the same as free school lunch? You have to qualify for that – I believe normally the parents have to show the school a tax return to prove their income is below a certain level. If the public pool is serving a lunch to ALL kids, then I guess I don’t see what your friend is doing wrong. I would definitely side eye this guy if he’s lying to get a benefit he doesn’t deserve, but if he just likes to send his kids to the pool and the pool chooses to offer free lunch to all kids, I’m not sure what he’s doing wrong.

      • Just FYI, if the % of kids eligible for free lunch is high enough, public schools can serve free lunch to all the students. No proof needed.

    • Anonymous :

      I agree with OP. Does the wife know? It bothers me that he’s proud of it, like he’s getting away with something.
      He could feed them before they go, leave before lunch, do something else a few days a week.
      It seems like this could be a teachable something for the kids but instead they’re learning to take advantage.

      • They’re kids. They’re eating lunch with their friends.

      • PrettyPrimadonna :

        Ditto. This seems weird and lazy to me. I can understand his sometimes availiing himself to the free meals for convenience’s sake, but come on. As you noted, he could feed them before they go, leave before lunch, etc.

    • The San Francisco parks provide lunch to all during the summer. The only restriction is that adults don’t get the free lunch. My kids sometimes partook and sometimes brought their own. They really try to round up everyone at the playground and usher them in for lunch, so it was a little odd if you didn’t participate. They were trying to destigmatize it, I think, in addition to making sure everyone got fed.

    • Are you sure that he is aware that the free meals are the equivalent of free school lunch (something targeted towards low income families)? I’m no longer shocked by the amount of otherwise educated individuals who overlook this kind of (seemingly obvious) stuff. When you’ve lived a life of relative privilege it often just doesn’t occur to some people that X is being done for Y reason. He may genuinely think, “Wow! What a great thing my community does!” which is why he’s not only taking advantage but comfortable sharing. If you’re close enough, you might try to educate him, at least to prevent him from boasting, but that’s your call. Regardless of whether he knows or not, though, I don’t think it’s unethical.

    • Nothing unethical about it. I’m sure he pays his fair share in taxes.

    • If it weren’t meant for them there would be an application. I think it’s nice. Why shouldn’t his children socialize with people in need? Why not destigmatize the program by opening to all?

  11. Betterandbetter :

    Eh, as someone who was a recipient of free and reduced fare lunch growing up this doesn’t bother me unless he is approaching this with a really gross spirit. One of the reasons NYC public schools have had free/reduced fare (I think depending on age of the kid) breakfast for all for a long time is all the teachers figured the kids would do better if they ate breakfast and reducing stigma by making it available to everyone would encourage the kids to take advantage. When I was in public school school lunch meant having to use this special book of stamps to pay for lunch. That didn’t bother me but it made some of the kids ashamed and they would go hungry rather than pay with a stamp. I figure your friend’s daughters are helping destigmatize the meals for the other kids and contact across socio-economic classes will probably do no harm to any of the children. The people who run these things calculate what they need to spend on the program based on participation not a calculation on how many needy kids could possibly show up so I don’t think these girls are taking the food out of another kid’s mouth.

    Now if you tell me that he takes of advantage of a public pool (which don’t exist in nyc, outside of public housing) and this program in it and is a tax cheat, hand me a pitchfork!

    • Anonymous :

      I thought there were public pools all over NYC? I specifically remember reading something about a public pool in Queens or Brooklyn a few years ago.

    • Anonymous :

      Yeah, there are absolutely public pools in NYC. See: https://www.nycgovparks.org/facilities/outdoor-pools

      • Betterandbetter :

        Glad to be proven wrong! I think I remember hearing about the Betsy Head one growing up now (I grew up in Brownsville) but as a place not to go cause it was unsafe (which is kind of hysterical when you are starting in Brownsville)

  12. Business Not Law :

    Our office makes a HUGE deal of Admin Professionals Day and even does a flower/plant sale in the lobby of the exec office building the morning of. *SMH* (Nothing says “thank you” better than buying something last minute from the lobby, right?)

    I always do something personalized but “displayable” for my assistant (so, less personal than Christmas gift but not as impersonal as the lobby flower sale).

    One thing to note: Please be cognizant of any allergies your assistant may have. My current assistant has TERRIBLE allergies and sensitivities to fragrances, so flowers are always out. It’s actually painful for her at work that day because of the aforementioned p*ssing contest with the flowers :(

    • WriterKate :

      On that note, please consider allergies of all in the vicinity. I am not an asst but if there are flowers or a strong fragrance near my desk I will have a horrible day and likely have to leave early. Depending on your office set up this could affect people you barely know.

  13. Commuting Is My Nemesis :

    Gifting question: I’m planning on getting my assistant a gift but am questioning whether I should also get a little something for my boss’ administrative assistant. Although I don’t delegate work to her frequently, she does help me out at times (like when my assistant is out of the office due to vacation or occasional sickness). My boss’ former assistant was terribly unhelpful so I never would have considered the need to get her something. My confusion and apprehension as to whether to gift stems from 1) not knowing if/what my boss plans to do and 2) both my assistant and my boss’ assistant sit right next to each other and are close and although I doubt boss’ assistant expects the same or an equivalent gift as I give my assistant, I don’t want to create an awkward gifting situation.

    • I think that something small would be absolutely appropriate for your bosses’ assistant. She likely doesn’t expect anything from you and will be truly thrilled that you thought of her and appreciate her help. I’d say make it “worth” half of what you’re spending on your assistant (i.e. $50 for your assistant, $25 for your bosses’). Just the small token of appreciation to her will mean the world. I wouldn’t take into consideration what your boss is doing for her – either he won’t do anything and will feel/look like a jerk or he will.

  14. Nudibranch :

    If someone gave me a seriously ugly $80 poncho for a AP gift, I would be seriously pissed. What a disgusting gift idea! Don’t do this.

  15. Old Chick Admin :

    Many of you sound like awesome people and I admire what sounds like your genuine desire to show your appreciation for a good admin. I’m an Admin and I agree with Nada and don’t like the “holiday”. The reason is that I feel that it’s a holiday manufactured by the greeting card and florist industry that more or less makes people feel obligated to recognize their assistant. I would rather have those I support show genuine appreciation or positive feedback on a regular basis than to be more or less forced to gift me on a specific day/week. Not to mention that for most of the people I’ve worked for, this is a personal, out-of-pocket expense that is non-reimbursable and I feel guilty they spent their own money on me. Yes, I work hard and try to do a great job for them, but I’m being paid for that job. Lastly, now that this is called Administrative Professionals Day, there are other people who hold jobs that could be categorized as administrative, but aren’t an administrative assistant aka secretary back in the day – and they resent not being included in the recognition. So in order to prevent hard feelings, they get EVERYONE the same thing or take us all out together, even though they really aren’t in a job that this was intended to apply to. So the whole thing becomes meaningless anyway. Frankly, I dread the week every year. I’m in a new job this year and I have a great boss that I very much like working for and who treats me well. I’ve debated telling him that I’d be happy if we just ignored this contrived holiday, but I’m afraid it may look like I’m trying to make sure he knows about it and am hoping maybe it’ll fly under the radar. For those of who have Admins, I’m curious what you think about this approach – should I tell him how I feel about it or just hope he’s oblivious to it (this is the first job he’s had where he’s the boss).

  16. I have to help plan our administrative professionals week and it is torture. The entitled people complain about everything you do, but also complain when you don’t do anything or what they see as not enough. My assistant is semi-competent depending on the day, but we have had issues lately with her performance. It’s so much quicker to do most tasks on my own and I know they are done right. I will probably give a gift card since I have to do something. I gave cash and wine for Christmas. The cash wasn’t acknowledged and she complained I bought prosseco instead of moscato. Sigh….

  17. EA Support :

    I work for an amazing company that is an enormous conglomerate yet still family owned and all employees are treated amazingly. For the EAs they have a luncheon, and there are 150+ of us just at my location, and each is given a $50 AMEX card. I am helping plan this year and we have games, prizes, raffles, and a few special surprises in store. The best part is that this is one definite time we all go to lunch, and get together and celebrate ourselves. The gift of this TIME is the most important part because most EAs (worth their salt) hardly take time out for lunches and breaks so they can always be available for executive and team support. Gifts can be great but a daunting task for the giver, send a group out to lunch, give them the time away and to celebrate themselves.

  18. Anonymous :

    Regarding this comment: “I have worked places (and been an assistant myself in places) where the day and other holidays were the only time assistants were shown appreciation, and that was awful,” I have worked at places where I didn’t even get a thank you from my own supervisor or even recognition of the day, nevermind all the other people I work with!

  19. Anonymous :

    As a secretary, I’ve come to not like this day either. In fact this year I wasn’t even invited to the luncheon, and I work for the president of the company. So I’ll likely go grab a quick lunch outside the office. As to whether to give gifts to an assistant assistant. I do as I feel my backup allows me to be able to go on vacation at least twice a year and when I need to be out of the office other times. So she makes my life easier on those days. It may not be much but I figure it doesn’t hurt to express my appreciation, which I also do at Christmas time. When you do your job, the boss should show you appreciation year round, which thankfully my boss does.

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