Bosses vs. Secretaries: Who Is Really More Essential?

administrative assistant, secretary

As many administrative assistants know too well, so much of the work they perform day in and day out goes unrecognized. It was the awareness of that slight that gave rise to the first Secretaries' Day (now Administrative Professionals' Day) 60 years ago.

And if you don't think the work that office managers, receptionists and other support personnel perform is important, think again. A recent poll of Facebook and Twitter users found that nearly two-thirds (65.2 percent) felt their offices were more likely to fall apart without the presence of the office manager than without the boss (30.3 percent).

In addition, the unscientific survey, conducted by the online retailer of office supplies,, in advance of this year's April 25 holiday, found that administrative professionals often perform duties beyond just those contained in their job description. Those included necessary business functions, such as managing staff and accounting, as well as lending personal support to colleagues.

Running errands or dealing with personal issues likely contributed to respondents reporting that their office assistants know more about their schedules than their spouses, 41.6 percent versus 33.5 percent.

Though much of that work may seem unglamorous, many support staff positions are among the best jobs to have these days, according to recent rankings by U.S. News & World Report.

"Receptionist" and "administrative assistant" are among the top 50 jobs of 2012, the publication says. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that the economy will add nearly 250,000 receptionists jobs by 2020, with another 317,100 positions needing to be filled by those quitting or retiring.

It's just such favorable job prospects that resulted in receptionists taking the 22nd spot in the overall occupation ratings. Still, with a median wage of about $25,000 a year, it's easy to understand why so many existing jobs will need to be restaffed.

Prospects for job growth among administrative assistants, which ranked 46th on the U.S. News list, are more tepid, according to BLS. Still, the agency forecasts that about 120,000 jobs will need to be filled by 2020. Pay, at about $31,000 a year, is better than that of administrative assistants, but still modest.

Low pay combined with such mundane tasks as answering phones, routing calls and greeting clients may be one reason that office support staff are often portrayed in mainstream TV programs as frustrated.

They include the character Pam Halpert from "The Office," who edged out Mimi Bobeck from "The Drew Carey Show" as the top pick among respondents when asked who they'd like to have at their workplace, according to the poll.

Meanwhile, Joan Holloway, the office manager in the popular AMC cable-TV show "Mad Men" finished a distant third (19.6 percent). Christina Hendricks, the actress who portrays Holloway, was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2010 and 2011 but didn't win, proving yet again that great work isn't always recognized.

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I would say it would have to be the Maintenance/Janitor person. They keep the toilets unplugged and keep a good supply of toilet paper on hand. They are the unsung heroes of any office.

April 22 2012 at 11:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Not again! More AOL/HuffPost Obama class-warfare communist propaganda!

(But the girl in the photo is cute - I wouldn't mind her as an "admnistrative assistant".)

April 22 2012 at 1:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ha6ai's comment

Class warfare? That means 80% of wealth controlled by 20% of Americans, nothing to do with Obama, but nice try. Tell your GOP buddies about the problem.

April 22 2012 at 12:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The way the job market is everyone that has a job that pays the rent should just be glad they got a job .

April 21 2012 at 8:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Nobody is running anything they are ruining everything however!

April 21 2012 at 8:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What an idiot that wrote this article... "A Facebook Pool” Really, an American who thinks they are undervalued... I’m surprised that it wasn't 95% vs. two thirds. I just got quoted $4,000 to have my carpet cleaned at my home, that I could replaced for $2,000, and that I can train a monkey to do for 4 Bananas. Here is an idea, work hard and play hard vs. find excuses for your life and play with someone else’s money. Thanks Mom and Dad for bring me up old school... Don't worry the minority will keep the things you built up running when you’re gone. How about a reality show about people with good values, modest, honest, hard working, that eat right, exercises, and enjoys life. No, it won’t sell because it does not fit into their profile of "drunk, drugged, jailed, tattooed, lazy, foul mouthed, unhealthy" audience. CONFIDENCE WITHOUT RESULTS IS ARAGANCE, but I am sure there is an excuse for the lack of results. CONFIDENCE WITH RESULTS IS AN AMERICAN!!!

April 21 2012 at 7:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If your department runs well even if the boss is gone, you have a boss who's smart enough to hire good people.

April 21 2012 at 6:07 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I'll bet that the Facebook poll consisted of at least 65% of administrative assistants, probably during their working hours, as I am.

April 21 2012 at 4:51 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

The three most annoying things companies put in their ads for Adm Asst, Secretary, and Receptionist jobs are: 'fast paced office' 'ability to multitask' and misc duties as assigned.'

What that means is:

Most people who work here are disorganized and late meeting unrealistic schedules.
That you will constantly interrupted with crap details to get those disorganized back on schedule.
Few people plan anything very well or with enough lead time to preclude producing sloppy results.

April 21 2012 at 1:46 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I believe that one of the person's not recogized as "running the business"is the one who answers the phone ! She/He frequently asks the caller whatthey are calling ablout....TOO OFTEN SHEHE TELLS THE CALLER THAT WE do not do thar !

April 21 2012 at 1:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As Secretary to the Director of a county department, I once received flowers from a section head. I had chastised him for something and he said the mere thought of making the boss's secretary mad gave him the willies.

April 21 2012 at 12:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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