Saturday, January 04, 2003

Admins rule

Once upon a time there was something called a "secretary". Most were men, and then as now their job was about doing legwork and stenographic tasks for the bosses. But the men wanted promotions and the bosses wanted to get some better looking help, so slowly secretaries became women almost exclusively. But in recent years they've been dying out, and the most recent sighting has been at JoniElectric.

That work didn't just go away, it was just taken over by a new entity known as an "admin". Whether that resulted from govt-style pay grades, PC, attempts to upgrade a position seen as humble or whatever, the fact is that these people are essential and in fact are the hidden power in an organization.

Like Santa, they know when you are sleeping, etc. And if you ask them nice they can get you anything you want.

But don't tick them off, or you'll get the claws instead. Your every act is known to them, all the way to the CEO, and like the Borg, if one of them knows then they all know instantly. Run afoul of them and your every paper clip will be numbered, your expenses will be delayed, your billing will be hosed, and you'll be held to every last letter of every administrative rigmarole ever conceived until you're carried off babbling by men in white coats.

They know this, and they usually cash in around Christmas time. Almost all of them have kids who are selling something, and no matter how bad it is for you, if you know what's good for you you'll buy something.

The other major haul is on Professional Secretaries DayAdministrative Professionals Day, first decreed in 1952 by Secretary of Commerce Charles Sawyer. You can't miss the occasion, because they're the ones who put up the notices, but in case you're on the road it's Wednesday of the 3rd full week of April (it looks like 4/23 this year). I'm thinking that it's no coincidence that the promoters, the International Association of Administrative Professionals, is located in KC along with Hallmark.

Alright, I don't begrudge admins their few moments at center stage, because some of the tasks they are asked to do are incredible. I can't find a link for this one, but I recall one "worst boss" contest that was won by an admin who was asked to take her boss's stool sample to his doctor. For other stupid boss tricks, look here.

I've known quite a few admins from many different organizations, and a number of them were memorable.

"Nancy" was a union member with a quarter century of seniority. But she was simple, and despite attempts to upgrade her she was still pushing the mail cart when I met her some years ago. One Christmas after the annual candy shakedown I found myself with an empty metal box with a Christmas print on the outside. Nancy fussed over it, so I gave it to her. From that day forward she got all my empty metal boxes, and she made a special trip to my cube for every piece of mail I ever got.

Then there was "Angie". She was a very nice but spacy late-30ish mom who was worried about her looks. She always had a dark tan, she exercised until she was tight as a drum, but then there was her AAA bust. So she disappeared for a couple of weeks, then she wore really loose clothes for a week after that (she had been the office's thermometer), then suddenly she's sporting a Victoria's Secret rack. And at that 95+% male nuclear power plant construction site full of leering engineers and other hardhats, she swore nothing had happened.

And there was Saint Esther. I was always working remotely, so we had a Charlie's Angels sort of relationship. I don't thing I ever finished a sentence with her - she always had the right form or procedure within arm's length and the fax would be humming before I got off the phone. I only met her once that I recall, at a company meeting, and in an understated Joan of Arc type way she was a babe too. We worked together for a couple of years until the day when most of us were laid off. Well after I was gone she helped me with admin nonsense, and I'm sure she was the last one out the door when the office was closed down.

God bless the admins - I love you all.

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