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Show appreciation on Administrative Professionals Day—and all year round

Gerri Collier understands why some people may think the job of an administrator isn’t terribly taxing.

“A good admin will make the role look easy,” explained Collier, a department assistant for Residence Life and First Year Experience. “They are level-headed, composed and mostly calm, but that is part of doing a job well.”

Collier, who has served in the role at different organizations for 30 years, most recently at CWRU, is one of the hundreds of staff members for whom Administrative Professionals Day is designed. Dating back to the 1950s, this national observance emerged during shortages of administrative professionals after World War II. Companies quickly realized just how critical the contributions of these individuals were, and wanted to make sure those in the roles felt appreciated for their efforts.

This year Administrative Professionals Day falls on Wednesday, April 26.

“The daily contributions of administrative professionals are incalculable,” Senior Vice President for Administration Elizabeth “Libby” Keefer said. “This week’s observance marks a ‘formal’ opportunity to show appreciation, but we should not limit expressing gratitude to a particular time of the year.”

After all, explains Staff Advisory Council representative Richard Kramer, “they support you throughout the year and provide a much-needed service.”

Plus, says human resources expert Richard Boyatzis, such gestures really do matter.

“Research has shown over the past 25 years that recognition by one’s peers, boss, clients and others is a more powerful motivator than money or financial incentives,” said Boyatiz, who is also Distinguished University Professor and the H.R. Horvitz Professor of Family Business at the Weatherhead School of Management.

Boyatzis said it’s important to show administrative professionals their hard work is noticed, appreciated and that other employees need them to successfully do their jobs.

“They need to know others of us depend on them and know it,” he said. “We value them. We sincerely appreciate what they do to help us look better—often from behind the scenes.”

At Case Western Reserve, Boyatzis explained, administrative professionals are often the first people prospective students, donors and potential employees meet when they visit campus.

“They really are the face of CWRU,” he said.

What are some small things people can do to express their appreciation?

“Smile at people. Be friendly with them,” Boyatzis said. “Show them that you don’t take their work for granted. Explain how what they do helps you do what you do for science, research, students or the community. Tell others how great an administrative person is. Be nice. Be courteous. Be thoughtful about their lives. It is best when the forms of recognition and appreciation are not once a year, but regularly shown.”

That said, Kramer suggests that this Wednesday represents a good time to take an administrative professional to lunch.

Whatever form they take, Collier says, those demonstrations of appreciation make a difference.

“It makes me happy—to feel part of a team and family—and it makes me want to do my best,” she explained. “We all want to feel needed and appreciated, and when you work hard, it’s the little things that mean a lot.”