Have you noticed how no one has a secretary any more? Now people have “administrative assistants.” I’m not exactly sure what assistants do other than what secretaries used to do – when there was such a thing. I’m not certain if secretaries became too important to be secretaries any more, or whether executives needed assistants because they didn’t want secretaries to be the only ones who knew how to use a computer.
By now, though, everyone has learned to use a computer or at least to send email, which is pretty much the only thing a computer is used for in business anyhow, unless you are an accountant and use it as a high-priced calculator. If we could simply have email, we would get just as much done and not have to waste money on operating systems for the rest of that stuff that we are not supposed to use at the office anyhow.
The transitional period was pretty confusing. There were secretaries, administrative secretaries, executive secretaries, administrative assistants, executive assistants, and executive administrative assistants. Apparently the human resources department only knew three words and just rearranged them. Unfortunately, no one could figure out who did what. Life is much more simple without secretaries around to confuse us.
Assistants are really handy to executives, though. When someone calls and the boss is not there, an assistant can talk to him or her instead. Secretaries were mostly good for typing memos and taking messages. Now there are no memos to type and the voicemail can take messages. Secretaries lost their function, and so they were promoted to assistants at the same salary.
Memos went out the window when email came along. That means that no one can say they “didn’t get the memo.” Of course, they can say they didn’t have time to check email, which is probably the truth since they no longer have a secretary to sort mail for them. You can always tell how important a person is by the length of time it takes them to reply to their email.
Assistants are a status symbol. Only important people need an assistant. Assistants can take complaint calls and talk to people that the executive does not want to talk to. Talking to an assistant is the next best thing to talking to an executive. When someone can’t get though to an executive, who else would they contact other than their assistant?
Assistants to higher management are called “executive assistants.” You can always tell an executive assistant because they have a wooden desk. Regular assistants only have cubicles. Being an executive assistant also means they have voicemail. Executive assistants are a great help to executive management because they defer calls from other executives, which gives the executive manager time to send more email.
Executive assistants get to tell other assistants what to do, since their boss is more important. Since executive assistants don’t have to answer the phone, they also get to go to the bathroom, a luxury not available to secretaries, when there was such a thing.
Assistants are never promoted to management positions. Forget that! They can only hope to become an executive assistant some day. They are expected to assume additional responsibility to go along with their title. They are not, however, expected to make decisions or offer opinions because that, after all, is why we have executives in the first place.
Assistants come in handy especially since they can tell the boss when there is something important in the inbox. They know this because they always get copied on everything too. Assistants are really very busy people. It’s too bad there is no longer such a thing as a secretary to help them with the work.
©2004 Sheila Moss
Go ahead and tell me why I’m wrong. I know you want to.