PSA: Administrative Assistant’s Day is Almost Here!

how-much-to-spend-for-administrative-assistants-day2018 Update: Administrative Professionals’ Day is April 24, 2019. You can check out our most recent thread on what we’re getting for our assistants on Administrative Professionals’ Day here

As some commenters are noting today, Administrative Assistant’s Day is April 27 — right around the corner.  (Most flower places are touting “Administrative Assistant’s Week” as starting April 24.)  We haven’t had a thread on gifts for your secretary/administrative assistant for a while, so I thought now would be a good time for one. (Pictured:100 BLOOMS OF PERUVIAN LILIES, available at 1-800-FLOWERS for as little as $34.99.)

First, a poll:
administrative assistants day

Years ago, a friend explained to me that she always got her administrative assistant both flowers and cash: flowers so everyone in the office knows you appreciate your assistant, and cash to keep the assistant happy. My friend’s system made sense to me, so I never really looked for more than flowers — but I’m curious if other people get the assistant a personalized gift, or take him or her for lunch, or something else? Please comment in the thread about what you’re getting him or her — and how the equation changes if you share an assistant with other people.

Also, do you plan to celebrate Administrative Assistant’s Day or a full week?  Just curious…


  1. Gah, not flowers. As a former paralegal, just no. The flowers show the boss bothered to care. It is about the boss then, not the fine job the admin does all year long. They do nothing for the admin, except clutter the desk, drop pollen and petals and then die. Just what the admin needs, another thing to care for then get rid of.

    Oh and no more coffee mugs. Chances are your assistant has a ton of them already.

    Try to find something that your admin would appreciate. Gift cards are good. One of the best gifts I ever got was a picture box so I could have pictures of the reason I was slaving away all those hours. It got me through the day.

    • At my office (firm), people usually do both — flowers to prove to the world that you (the boss) remembered (yes, say “gah,” but that’s how it works), plus a gift card for the admin to a favorite store of admin’s preference.

      I share with 2 other attorneys – we will probably spend $75-100 together.

    • Diana Barry :

      I don’t agree – I really like flowers!! I get my assistant a gift card for Xmas and flowers for secretary’s day- they are from the fancy place and she thanks me for them multiple times (they’re so beautiful, they last so long, etc.).

    • When I worked as an assistant – I would love getting a bouquet on my desk. (There’s no AA Day in Denmark where I was doing it, so the bouquets would come for the birthdays) Mainly because it gave me something nice to look at for the day I kept it in the office – and it was something cheery for home.

      I might be different because buying cut flowers for myself would be a no-no on my salary back then, so getting them really felt like a nice treat.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      I share my assistant with three others. For AA, she loves getting flowers, and then we take her to lunch at her favorite restaurant, ends up being between $50-75 per person, all in. She gets flowers and a huge gift card for the holidays, and flowers again on her birthday with a smaller gift card. Every assistant in my office gets flowers for AA day – anyone without flowers would feel very hurt and lose a lot of face to the other assistants.

    • Not an admin, but I’ve received flowers at the office and I love them. Pretty sure my admins do too (at least, I’ve overheard them gushing to other admins on the phone about how great their group is and what nice flowers they got – not how much the amex gift cheque was for). If they’d been less enthusiastic, we probably wouldn’t keep going back to flowers every year (and I think it’s okay to say thanks but not to gush over them and hope the group gets the hint), but mine always seem thrilled.

    • Male assistants :

      Something else to note, whether you like flowers or not, is that some of us have male assistants who may or may not like flowers and baked goods. I’ve found that gift cards are good for my two male assistants, particularly if you know his hobbies. I usually add a small box of nice chocolates to a $75 card so they can enjoy a little something that day, but thatc an be easily given away if they are not int sweets.

  2. Back when I was an administrative assistant, my boss took me to lunch at a nice place near our office. She also presented me with a beautiful pashmina she had brought back for me from her recent trip to Europe. I still wear it 10 years later.

    I’m not sure this would work for everyone, but she and I had a very good relationship and her thoughtfulness made me feel really appreciated.

  3. As an Executive Assistant the best thing I ever received was cupcakes from my favorite bakery (Cake Love) for the entire office, on behalf of me. The two bosses pitched in and bought cupcakes that everyone had to come around my desk to eat them. When they asked the occasion, it was in appreciation of all the work I did and it was a neat way to be recognized and thanked by the whole office. Plus cupcakes are super fun :)

    Now that I’m no longer an assistant I hope to be able to pitch in and celebrate my replacement.

  4. ohmydarlin :

    Gift cards would be great… as a paralegal for several years, though, I have never received a gift on Admin Asst day. Even just $20 to Starbuck’s or Trader Joe’s would be nice? Kind of blows my mind that someone would spend $100+. (we don’t do anything for “Bosses’ Day” either)

    • A paralegal’s not an assistant. Paralegals are professionals. That’s probably why. It’d never occur to me to buy a gift for my paralegal on admin asst day.

      • SF Bay Associate :


        • ohmydarlin :

          I guess I should note… we don’t have secretaries or receptionists, either. Might make a difference, might not. If we had one, I’d go in on a gift, but it wouldn’t be outlandish, I don’t think.

      • ohmydarlin :

        I really appreciate that you notice your paras are professionals : ) I actually don’t hear that very often!

        • Then you should demand gifts on admin assistant day! Seriously though, paralegals are so much more than a glorified secretary. I’m sorry you don’t get treated as you deserve.

      • Well, I’m a paralegal too. I don’t think there’s paralegal day (but maybe I’m wrong), but in the grand scheme of things we do a lot more things bringing money into the firm, but get paid not a whole lot more than assistants. And we have to deal with billable time. I don’t know, would be nice to be acknowledged as well.

      • I work at a legal office and looking at my “DayMinder” calendar, it is called Administrative Professionals Day so you might want to include your paralegal. We do. We also do flowers and lunch.

    • I’ve seen paralegals go in on gifts for the secretaries (usually at about 1/3 to 1/2 the amount the lawyers contribute). Maybe the faux pas here is not that you’re not getting anything, but that you’re not giving!

      • ohmydarlin :

        There’s no one to give to, we only have paras here. Though, I would def. contribute if we had receptionists or secretaries.

  5. Ladylitigator :

    This is not as straightforward as it seems; in my experience, most assistants are fiercely territorial and any thank-you gifts need to reflect that or risk “my gift is bigger than your gift” angst or “my partner is busier than yours and and that’s why I got nothing.” I make sure that I do something small for all the staff (fruit bowl or chocolates, etc) and then single my assistant out for something bigger. Yes, I know you are not supposed to feed people if you want to succeed in business but for me, this is an easy way to buy loyalty.
    I have noticed times when I (as the only female partner) am the only one to “remember” secretary’s day, so the group gift also prevents any problems for colleagues. This year I will send a discrete email reminding the other lawyers, I guess.

    • Maybe I just don’t get the reference, but I’d love to know – what is the rule about feeding people and succeeding in business?

      • dress fanatic :

        The rule is based on the idea that by feeding people you’re mothering them. It’s something that is perceived as “girly” rather than authoritative. It may have originated from “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office.”

        • I struggle with this. I bake to relieve stress, and I’d rather dispose of all these baked goods (I’m very stressed these days) by leaving them in the kitchen at work than by eating them all myself or letting them go bad.

          I thought about taking up knitting or something instead, but I also don’t need a zillion scarves lying around the house.

          • And personally, I’d rather people dispose of baked goods by leaving them in the kitchen so I can have some!

          • Misery loves company :

            Leaving them in the kitchen is okay I think. Leaving them on your desk is a different story. Just leave them in the kitchen with no note who they are from.

          • I said this in another thread today… The point of NGDGTCO isn’t that you should stop every single one of the 101 behaviors discussed in the book. The point is that you should figure out which behaviors you engage in that negatively affect your career trajectory, and stop engaging in the ones that seem manageable to you and that are likely to have a positive affect on your career trajectory. If bringing in baked goods isn’t negatively affecting your career, then bake away.

          • I’m sure there are a lot of charities that would appreciate your knitting: hospitals for newborn babies, shelters, nursing homes, etc. Just a thought in case the knitting bug strikes.

          • this is hilariously funny. i’ve spent 25 years baking and knitting for both the lawyers and the support staff in my office, and it doesn’t seem to have done my career any harm as i’m the boss.

          • Yea Joyce! This!

          • I think if you already have the “Corner Office” (which the book admits is an analogy), then you can do whatever you want. :)

    • Good points by Ladylitigator. I email my three colleagues who work with my assistant, and we go in for a joint gift ($100 Amazon gift card, plus a signed card and something that looks substantial – flowers, cookies, etc.)

    • Original Lola :

      It frustrates me so much that the women attorneys are always the ones that have to remind the boys to do nice things.

      It’s like when the woman attorney is the one that is asked to take notes at a meeting. No way. I don’t do that any more.

      If one of the male attorneys initiates a group gift, then I’ll contribute. But I’m not going to mother them. I’m responsible enough to mark this day on my calender and give a small gift to my assistant (whom I share with several male attorneys). If they aren’t together enough to do that, it’s not my problem.

    • I share an admin with about 15 other people and I am the only one to remember to get her flowers – (wait for it….yes, I am the only woman in the group). I usually get flowers for each of the admin groups (they sit in clusters) since they all help whenever I ask, but our current floor layout makes that difficult – half are in cubicles now – so I will just buy flowers for my admin. fwiw, the whole group pitches in for a holiday giftcard.

    • Nice girls who don’t use words correctly are also never going to get the corner office. I suggest you send an email that is “discreet” and not “discrete”.

      • Glad you can spell! :

        You’re totally right, the best way to get to the corner office is to waste your time correcting spelling on a public forum. But I’m super glad to know that you can spell!!

  6. When I used to have an assistant I was friends with, we’d take her out to lunch. We enjoyed spending time together and having a break from the work day.

    When I had an assistant I liked less, flowers. I’m sure she didn’t want to spend any extra time with me, and she always had fresh flowers on her desk.

  7. Valleygirl :

    As a former admin – I liked the flowers (and fwiw I have had great luck sending people flowers via amazon too). One year I was given a giftcard to subway (mostly because I love subway and staff noticed I would get it once a week or so).

    The best admin gift I received was while interning at the House of Commons in London as a college student – my MP got me a picture frame made of wood from the area she represented, a House of Commons golf umbrella (which I still have and use 9 years later), and a beautiful leather bound House of Commons planner and pen set. Yes, she had clearly raided the gift shop but that and taking me to the Member’s Dinning Room for my last work day’s dinner were really sweet gestures.

  8. So if you are doing flowers, is it better to have them delivered or hand them over in person? I always kind of think getting flowers delivered is a nice surprise but maybe the personal touch is better . . . .

    • I hand them over. Delivery makes it so much more expensive – I’d rather apply the savings to a giftcard.

    • Anonymous :

      I love flower delivery – but from someone out of town. Delivery from someone across the hall is strangely stand-offish.

    • I leave it on their desk for them to see when they come in in the morning. With a nice handwritten thank-you card, or one made specifically for the occasion, with an additional handwritten note.

  9. When I was a Human Resources Manager, I celebrated admin asst.’s day for my whole front office just once. Many of the women* I included were pissed at being called, essentially, a “secretary” and found that demeaning (NOT ME, I know admins are invaluable, whatever their title), and some of the women* I didn’t include (bc they had “Manager” in their title) were pissed that they didn’t get recognized. The next year, I bought my own assistant a nice lunch and a decorative item from a store she loved – I made almost nothing, and she knew it, and I bought them out of my own pocket, but she still rolled her eyes and asked why she was supposed to be happy with this crap instead of a bonus. I never did anything again! :)

    But I also love flowers, even when they drop gunk. So pretty. The cupcake idea sounds cool, too.
    *Yes, they were all women.*

    • You’d know better the context, but I’ve heard similar from my secretaries around the holidays – but more in the context of, why are you all responsible for doing this? Shouldn’t the firm be paying a bonus?

      • Anonymous :

        We have no secretaries, paralegals or personal assistants but we have an awesome mail clerk and a few other receptionists/assistants who work for the whole office. I get candy and a small gift card each but the gift card is always just a tad more for the clerk because the clerk always goes out of his way to help.

    • Wow, your assistant was a jerk. That’s incredibly rude to say to someone who’s giving you a gift. I don’t think you should do anything again, either.

    • I hear where you’re coming from, Gillian. I have no administrative support now but in the old days, I worked for a large deparment with three department heads, each having their own admin. The admins also supported us, though we didn’t really require much. Between the three admins, it evolved into a big grudge match.

      Every year we underlings would chip in to buy them flowers (identical bouquets for each) and their bosses would take them individually to lunch. But I don’t really think any of them appreciated the gestures. They usually spent the afternoon comparing notes and complaining about what cheap restaurant their bosses took them to, or how the flowers weren’t as nice as last year’s. We could hear them from our cubicles, which was their intention. Then they’d essentially sulk for the rest of the week.

      One year, one of the admins had been promoted to analyst and joined our pool of underlings, which had been her stated goal since being hired. But boy was she royally steamed when we didn’t get her anything for secretary’s day! We couldn’t win. :(

      Hallmark holidays – seriously – do no one any good.

      • I just… wow. Admin’s day is essentially a thank you for doing your JOB, the one you get PAID for. To be so rude and ungrateful for a gift is inconceivable to me.

        • Anonymous :

          Absolutely. I’m astounded by the responses some of you have received. I’m currently a legal assistant, but its only my second week there so I’m not expecting anything. If I do wind up getting something, I would be appreciative regardless of what it is.

      • I worked as an admin for 3 years in the late 90’s and never received any gift or recognition on secretary’s day. It did make me feel deeply unappreciated.

    • Anonymous :

      The firm I work for does something from “all attorneys,” so the attorneys do not give individually. In the past we took them out to lunch and gave them a gift card. One year the restaurant was too nice; one year the restaurant was not nice enough. One year we just gave gift cards and the response was “you aren’t taking us out to eat?” We accept the fact that you cannot win. This group of administrative persons also wanted to expense the one card addressed to everyone and dozen donuts which they purchased for Boss’ day.

  10. I could use advice on this. My firm has one paralegal, but since she’s all we’ve got she’s also the administrative assistant, the tech support, and anything else the partners ask (she’s seriously wonder woman). As a result, she’s completely overworked and I try not to ask her to do much for me. She has also become a close friend (I know there was a discussion advising against this a while ago, but it’s just me, her and the partners, we’re close in age, and we keep each other sane). I know the partners don’t do anything for administrative assistant’s day (or any other day, for that matter) to show their appreciation of how hard she actually works, and I’d like to do something but I’m not sure how appropriate that is. I don’t want her to think that I don’t view her as an equal by giving her something for an “assistant’s” holiday, and I don’t want to show up our ingrate bosses, but I do feel she should get recognition for all she does.

    • Maybe save the recognition for her birthday?

    • Why not just do something more low-key (like a small gift or taking her out to lunch) and not super showy (like flowers or baked goods for the whole office)?

      • She works through lunch every day (part of the problem with the bosses). But maybe getting her sloshed after work would be better anyway :-) Thanks for the suggestions.

    • Totally appropriate, but I might do something like taking the office initiative on giving her an office gift (you might have to get a card and a gift on behalf of the partners and bully them into signing/paying for it), and then since you are friends you could personally take her out for lunch and a pedi, or something like that.

    • I’d skip assistant’s day and give her recognition or a gift on another day. Perhaps you could find out the date she started at the firm and give her a gift for her work anniversary?

    • Maybe just do something small that won’t seem like you went overboard to her, but that also won’t be too noticeable to the partners if they feel awkward. Like, bring her coffee and a pastry from her favorite coffee place in the morning or take her out for drinks after work. Or get her some little thing that will make something about her job easier or that will help her relieve stress (since it sounds like she’s got plenty of that).

  11. reposting this threadjack on the new post: I just accepted a job for after law school last week. I am really excited about, but I didn’t ask a lot of questions. What’s the best way to ask questions about dress code, hours, if I get an office? TIA

    • These are things any first year should know and be happy to answer. If you don’t know any first years at this firm/company, ask one of your more junior interviewers or HR for the contact info for a couple. Then reach out to those people (preferably 2 – just to make sure the advice is sound), see if they’d be okay to set up a brief call or meet up for coffee, and then ask away! Also, if there is an employee handbook, it might be helpful to get your hands on that in advance (sometimes those don’t capture the actual culture of a workplace though – e.g., hours that are actually expected of you, intricacies of the dress code, etc.).

    • Are you going to a firm? If yes… the firm “official dress” policy can give you a clue, which you can ask HR for (do you need to stock up on suits vs. looking for business casual basics?) but I’d recommend just wearing a suit the first day or two and paying attention.

      As for hours… I unfortunately think the answer at most firms is “whenever the partners you’re working with expect you to be there.” Hard to know in advance, unless you’re just looking for an average number of hours per day in the office (for me, it’s 10-10.5).

      • No a government agency. I’ve worked at them before and when the day starts just varies wildly (some get in at 4am! some 10am)

        • oh wow! I guess if you knew whether it depended on who you worked with, you wouldn’t be asking… definitely worth figuring out, but I’m not sure about asking so far in advance. I agree with EC below, but am thinking that maybe you should wait until closer to your start date to have the lunch/drink.

        • When I started at my government agency last year, I was asked what I wanted my “tour of duty” to be – a hilarious phrase to me because we are totally non-military. So I got to set my own hours. It probably depends on the agency, but the variability in hours is true here – we have people who work 8:30-5, 9-5:30, 7-4:30. There also are several people who do the Alternative Work Schedule thing – work an extra hour a day over the 2-week pay period and get either every other friday or monday off. Your office might not be as flexible, but you may get a chance to define your own hours.

          Can’t help with the dress code, as I think I’ve said before, the dress code over here is basically “clothes.” Well, maybe a step up from that, haven’t seen any cut-offs or tights worn as pants.

    • I’d ask a fairly junior person (preferably a woman…men often aren’t good at answering women’s wardrobe questions!), or an office administrator/secretary who works with the people in the office. HR often sits in different parts of the building and doesn’t know the unwritten rules of the section.

      See if you can meet up with someone from the office for drinks or lunch and pick their brain! And on dress code – dress conservatively your first few days, see what people wear, and then make your decisions accordingly.

    • Call HR and ask. If there’s no HR, call the person who gave you the offer and ask him/her whom you should contact with those questions.

  12. I love my assistant! She covers for me when I have an extended lunch rendevous with my friends, and also when I have to leave early. She is very smart and has provided me with a great entree into the firm, telling me who is good and who is a jerk and who I should look out for. She also has provided me with information about some men in the firm. I will definitely get her something nice for assistant’s day!

  13. Does anyone else get roped into giving more than they want to on these occasions?

    I work as a lawyer for a government agency and share a secretary (“Litigation Assistant” which is the same thing here) with eight other lawyers. We each get hit up to contribute $25 every Secretary’s Day and every Christmas for a cash gift. To me this is a little excessive for an Assistant so many of us share, who does a mediocre job anyways. I would be happy to contribute $5-$10, and I think a $45-$90 gift should be enough to show our collective appreciation.

    • It’s tough – our assistant:attorney ratio is 1:7 and I basically do everything myself. I can actually hear the assistant assigned to me cursing about the work others give her from my desk. People with different salaries and admittedly different personalities give wildly varying gifts, if any gift at all. It’s awkward.

    • I used to when I was G’ment. I agree with everything you say. $5-$10 should be plenty.
      Now that I’m in private practice, I get my secretary a gift card and personalized thank you card and she always appreciates it (and tells me what she bought later, etc.). I recently found out that I am one of a very few that actually do that — maybe because the firm does stuff all week for all the admins, but I still think it’s nice to do something personal.

    • another anon :

      Ha! I feel pressured into giving more too, but it’s more along the lines of $100 per person (for an admin shared among three people), for AA day, her b-day, and x-mas. We are not a gov’t agency though. It’s not that I can’t afford it, but it just seems really excessive.

    • Gov't employee :

      There is a lot of conflict about this topic at my agency. We are asked to contribute food/money at least 1-2x a month to various parties/causes. Birthdays, holidays, get well gifts, etc. Usually a group chips in for one bigger gift for a specific employee instead of giving lots of little gifts. We have not come up with a plan for Administrative Assistant’s Day yet and it will be interesting to see what happens there.

    • That is excessive in government. In private practice, my salary plus bonus is more than four times my assistant’s compensation, which she knows and I know. She is also awesome, which she also knows (or I hope she does!). My experience when I worked in government was that neither of these things were true, and I would have resented a big gift too.

      Do you know if everyone contributes the full $25? I’ve noticed that even when there is a “suggested contribution,” some people contribute what they think is right instead of the suggested amount. You should ask around…

    • Really? You are complaining about spending 25 instead of 10 dollars? The difference is, like, 4 lattes. This person makes far less than you do. Get over it.

  14. I and the other associates who share her are getting our assistant nice flowers (delivery). We got her flowers last year and she loved them. This year we’re having them come on Monday so that she can enjoy them all week and show them off. I’m in biglaw. I don’t see a lot of other flowers around that week, so if people are doing something different I’m not aware of it.

    • Anonymous :

      If you work in big law how about giving your assistant money. You can afford it, and flowers die.

  15. I sent flowers last year (theoretically with one of the other associates who shares the same assistant — but I ordered them and I don’t think I ever got paid back for them…hmmm…).

    I think my assistant likes the show of flowers — debating a gift card as well, but I don’t want to show up the senior associates who she also supports. Maybe just a smaller one for a treat I know she enjoys.

    I’m happy to give her something — it keeps things smooth, even though she’s not the most stellar of assistants she does look out for me. What does annoy me is being the only female associate who she supports, this stuff (Birthdays, Christmas) seems to fall to me to organize, so I’d rather just deal with it alone.

    • Manoa Valley Girl :

      I give my secretary I beautiful bouquet. I give her a crisp $100 bill inside a card filled with my written gratitude. About a week later, I give her a $200 gift certificate for Ala Moana Shopping Center — can be used in any shop. (You-all must take a trip to Hawaii just for this Mall.) And about two weeks later, after the celebration is over, I call her work voicemail from home, and I tell her she is the best legal assistant ever, and the kindest human being I’ve ever known. I always tell her that her parents raised her right. Anyone would want my legal assistant, but . . . too bad, she’s mine. She makes me look good on days when I’m mediocre. She helps make me feel good when I’m down, and she recently helped me thru a scary medical crisis. Plus. she’s a damn good secretary/assistant. Okay. Love story over.

  16. My secretary works for another associate and a paralegal. Her birthday is the same week as admin asst’s day; admin asst’s day is big in our office, but not birthdays. The three of us go in for flowers for her, and the four of us go for a long lunch at nice restaurant, with the two attorneys splitting the lunch bill. The paralegal always offers to pick up the card and order the flowers, and I always appreciate that time savings.

    Also, just a note on those peruvian lilies – I have found that they always look withered right when they are delivered and don’t perk up until they have been in water for several hours, so I’d avoid sending them to someone unless you know they are a favorite. Sad flowers can be worse then no flowers, even if they eventually perk up.

  17. I’m a third year associate at a large law firm. I share three secretaries with over a dozen other people — first years through fourth years and paralegals. When I was a first year and second year, I always led the charge to get the gift — ordered it, circulated the card, collected $, etc. But I gave up on that because I was always the ONLY one taking charge, and now I either go it alone or go in with one or two others.

    For the holidays, I spend around $150 total. For admin’s day, I spend anywhere from $50 – $75 total. I’ve occasionally spent more to avoid the aggravation of leading a collection.

  18. I can’t believe they extended this Hallmark holiday to an entire week. I’m not one to deprive my assistant of anything s/he deserves, but I think it is a bad idea in general to introduce the expectation of gifts into the workplace. As others have mentioned, there can be various attitudes associated with these ordained gift-giving occasions (pettiness, entitlement, resentment, distraction, etc.) that make it emotionally draining to be at the office during these times. Le sigh.

    • Manoa Valley Girl :

      It is rarely wrong to be kind. So what if there is an expectation of gifts?
      Unless, of course, the people you work with are jerks, which I doubt. Be kind, be generous, love one another. . . okay, yes, I’m the original hippie.

      But there’s that high road. Take it.

      • That’s a good way to say it, Manoa Valley Girl. “There’s a high road. Take it.”

  19. Anonymous :

    I worked as an administrative assistant while putting myself through school. I appreciated *every* token of thanks. My favorites were wine, chocolate, and other consumables; flowers (but PLEASE verify that the AA is not allergic); and thoughtful/useful items (a “girly” nesting hammer/screwdriver set, cashmere gloves, etc). One year someone decorated my desk for AA day, which I loved – would work well with the cupcakes idea above. Cash would have been nice, but certainly not consistent with the office culture (public university admin). As others have indicated, I only liked going out to lunch with bosses with whom I had an amicable relationship – although I had one boss pick up the tab for the AAs to go out to lunch together, which was fun. I loathed getting plants (something else I have to manage!), lotions and bath stuff (what kind of message is that?), and candles/frames/etc. Look at their desk – if they aren’t a knickknack person, don’t get them knickknacks.

    Actually, I preferred receiving smaller gifts as a thank-you for a particularly arduous or “not in my job description” task rather than one big gift for a Hallmark holiday. It feels like genuine recognition. It also avoids potential awkwardness of labeling someone as your assistant.

    • Gov't employee :

      In my experience, the “suggestion” is not really a suggestion. The way we do things makes it pretty public in terms of who contributes and how much. It’s very frustrating

    • You appreciated *every* token of thanks, but “loathed” getting plants, lotions, and bath stuff? Hmm….

  20. Anonymous :

    I am the only associate with two male partners. When I first arrived, the firm bought the assistants expensive and small flower arrangements, which were purchased the day of (explains why they were small and expensive). While appreciative of the token of gratitude, I discovered the assistants were not overly excited about the flowers (what fun are flowers if everyone has the same arrangement on their desk?). The following year I convinced the partners to get gift cards rather than flowers, they were hesitant thinking it was tacky, but finally agreed. Because we are a small office, I knew where each assistant liked to shop, so they were particular to the assistant. The assistants were so surprised and very excited. It was a huge hit.

  21. Anonymous :

    If you want to show your Admin that you appreciate him/her, get flowers and a gift card. If you want to show that you value him/her, arrange a lunch meeting to discuss what they bring to the office and where they see themselves going in the next few years, and offer to support them in advancing themselves professionally in some manner (trainings, seminars, paid time to enroll in a course). As an individual who received that latter when I started out as and admin assistant I guarantee you that you will be paid back in loyalty and increased productivity.

  22. NYCAssociate :

    I am a junior associate at a large law firm in NYC. I give my secretary (who also works for/with 2 partners and another associate) a very generous cash gift, along with nice chocolates, at holiday time. I don’t think I have ever seen any of the secretaries in my office receive gifts on admin assistant’s day. That said, does anyone else feel flabbergasted that, in addition to the holidays, we are also expected to give gifts on a randomly designated “administrative assistant’s” day? Or am I just jaded?

    • Original Lola :

      It’s like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day – everyone should appreciate their parents and their sweetheart every day. And it’s true, they are Hallmark holidays, created completely by the greeting card and flower industries.

      But why not do a little something? If you can’t afford anything, then just a sincere appreciation. Or a little mentoring time, like another corporette suggested.

      Sure – we should be nice every day. But there’s no harm in being extra nice on an appointed day, too.

      • NYCAssociate :

        Lola – I totally agree and also agree with your comment above. I think part of my frustration comes from the fact that I am the only female attorney that my secretary supports and I don’t want to be get caught in that weird dynamic where I’m the only one who remembers and the male attorneys flake out.

        • I don’t think that’s so bad as long as you’re not pigeonholed into organizing the male attorneys and nagging them to get a gift. If you just happen to be the only one who gets your secretary something, well, you just look that much better to her.

        • Original Lola :

          Right, Em. I don’t see what’s so wrong about you being the non-flaky one. If they’re flakes, that’s their problem, not yours.

  23. I started at my firm about a month ago and don’t know my assistant all that well. However, everyone tells me she is one of the best assistants around. Question is, how much should I spend on her, given that we’ve barely worked together?

    • Downtownist :

      I would start with something small and work up to bigger for the holidays and her birthday. It’s hard to tell you how much you should spend on her without knowing how much you make (and therefore what would be reasonable).

  24. Edible arrangements are the best –

  25. I got my assistant a spa gift certificate – she can use it at virtually any spa for any service she wants. It was a huge hit and a big surprise. I gave about $100 which was more than I usually give. But she had been working some serious overtime for me without complaint around this time last year! Another bonus – it is an e-certificate!

  26. Possibly a minor detail but as a former admin asst I would much rather get a plant than flowers. :)

  27. Christmas, birthday, AA Day, I always give $80-100 in cash. It’s the gift my AA wants and appreciates. Some of the people I share her with give chocolates and flowers in addition to money but I’ve always thought that was more a gift for the gift-giver to show off. I’m very close w/my AA and if she ever left the firm, I would enjoy work substantially less.

  28. Ideas of what to get a male AA?

    • I’m the Administrator of a small firm, and three or four years ago I got the male members of the office staff the Hammacher Schlemmer Wind Defying Umbrella (the smaller version that fits into a briefcase or backpack). I have one myself and they are fabulous umbrellas and really do defy wind. I still see some of the guys carrying them.

    • Over the years, I’ve gotten my male assistant gift cards to Best Buy, gift cards to his favorite coffee shop, iTunes gift card, and a coupon for the cinema.

      I have a female now, but if I had continued with him, an appropriate gift could have been something for his kids or something relevant to his hobbies.

  29. I am an admin supporting executives for an FFRDC.

    This is a Hallmark holiday, I get it. That being the case, I think it is important the people I support only participate if they are comfortable doing so. Even if you don’t believe it is an expense-worthy event, it is always nice to hear that the work I do is appreciated and valued.

    I am sorry for those of you have work with the person whose expectations can ruin the day. A gift is never to be expected and if it is begrudged, it isn’t much of a gift.

    I can’t tell you what to do for your admin. But I do recommend that whatever you do, make it genuine. If it isn’t, what’s the point?

    • I would be willing to bet that I am the only other person reading this blog who knows what an FFRDC is.

  30. This is likely a stupid question, but I am a first year attorney and have never been in this position before. Does AA Day apply to just secretaries or to paralegals as well? Thanks.

    • ohmydarlin :

      Take a look at the thread above – if your para is the only thing, it’s a nice gesture. However, keep in mind that they are professionals themselves and (totally depending on the individual) may be taken aback that they’re seen as admin. If you have secretaries and paras, both, prob. get your paras in on a joint gift to the secretaries/receptionists.

  31. Talking Texas :

    We have a small office. Two attorneys. Three staff that are administrative and 3 staff that like to be administrative when food is involved. In the past the two attorneys have cooked and or catered breakfast, brunch and or lunch. Bringing in a “brunch” setup seems to be a hit. I’m ordering Sherris Berries this year for part of the treat. In the past I have given the gift of paid time off to my staff person for AA day. Always a big hit.

  32. anon and confused :

    Just started at my firm three months ago. We are sharing “teams” of assistants. That means anywhere from 2-4 associates share 5-7 secretaries. How the heck am I supposed to handle this situation? Get a gift for all 5-7 secretaries? or just the 1-2 who actually help even though 5-7 are assigned to me? And even if all the first years chip in and we split the cost for 5-7 secretaries, it still sucks for them unless we each chip in $300+. What do I do?

  33. I’m in a 2 lawyer, 2 assistant office. We skip flowers and get them each a gift card for the place of their choosing, and will all go to lunch on the (rare) day when we’re all in the building.

    Anon & confused, can you talk to the senior people in your firm about how things are done there? it sounds like it could be potentially awkward and expensive and there’s probably already a practice in place.

  34. Once I had a boss who gave myself and the other admin asst. old Christmas chocolates that had sat in his office in an unopened box as our gift for this “holiday.” He thought that highly of us. We were united peons eating old chocolate because we were desperate and candyholics.

  35. Marina Bradstreet :

    National Secretary’s Day has changed it name a few times over its history of existence, it changes so often it has us florist confused! No, florist did not create Secretary’s Day, nor did Hallmark. A businessman Harry F. Klemfuss created a special Secretary’s Day holiday and the holiday caught on.
    Call it whatever you want! It is a day to recognize and your assistant or assistants for performing small and large tasks that make the daily operations of a business run smoother.

    If you are an assistant enjoy your special day even if it goes unrecognized by those around you, the rest of us know how important you are!

  36. anon assistant :

    I am an assistant (not in law) and I very much dislike receiving AA Day gifts. I am a professional doing my job and I do not need a special day of recognition for my work. On occasion after a big job requiring lots of overtime (and aggravation), I’ve receive a thank you gift; that’s fine, that was for something specific. But a gift for being generally good at my job…I feel that is patronizing.

  37. So, my office gave everyone their administrative assistant’s day present a little while ago and…well, I was a little offended. Specifically, they gave everyone shampoo and a comb. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice that they bought us anything. But…personal hygiene products? Really? What was HR thinking when they decided on that? I feel like they might as well have bought us all designer deodorant or something.

  38. I don’t currently have a secretary as I’m now a solo practitioner. But when I worked at a firm I liked giving my secretary gift certificates to sephora and she always said she loved them. I think giving cash to people is awkward and I felt like with the gift card got to buy herself something fun that she might not have otherwise. However, my secretary at the time was a girl in her mid-twenties. Might not work for an older assistant.

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  41. frustrated owner :

    I just got a heads up today that one of our managers took all of their office admin assistants to nice a lunch during admin week. Not just one day but 3. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It was noticed by the comptroller when the company issued credit card statement was reviewed. The manager was offended when ask about the charges. Any thoughts?

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