In a routine phone call with my mother back home, she informed me that my niece has landed her first job. Excited about this development, I called my niece to congratulate her and I started asking about the new job then she cut me off (in an embarrassed voice) saying, “It’s not really a big deal because it’s just an administrative assistant position in a small company where I’m expected to do the “lowly tasks” of filing, typing, running errands, answering phone calls, arranging transportation, ensuring that cleaning is done, and even serving coffee or snacks in short, “dakilang alila” (great servant) who is at the receiving end of all blames when things don’t turn out well.”
Alas, my niece’s perspective of her new job is rooted in the old-school (but still very much existing) stereotype of an administrative role. I often hear workers in the area of administration, support services, logistics, transportation, security, and the likes refer to their job roles with some level of embarrassment and insecurity. Rarely I’ve heard a driver introduced himself as one and would say he’s proud to be one. Instead, they often say “I am ONLY a driver” and some of us also refer to them as “ONLY a driver/cleaner/secretary/etc.” A lot of factors have contributed to these stereotypes --- from job requirements, to levels of education, pay structure, skills and the way society has labeled and treated this cadre of the workforce.
Having been an insider in this line of work (at different capacities), I firmly believe that these stereotypes should not be too common in this modern world and age. True that each organization has structures, job titles, roles and procedures to follow but for stereotypes (both internal and external) to persist at this age is a challenge that Senior Managers have to address and addressing it is a complicated process but not impossible. Personally, I think it all goes back to organizational culture.
It’s a shame that my niece feels that way about her job but I cannot blame her. Maybe it’s a recruitment mistake; maybe she’s not the right person for the job or maybe --- just maybe, her company and the community also contribute to this.
I am also holding an administrative function; I started somewhere at the lowest end of the ladder; and at some point I have noticed and experienced some degree of discrimination related to the nature of my profession. But I am one lucky cookie to belong to an organization whose culture puts its human resource front and center of its affairs. My admin/finance team at Gede Foundation may always be at the background of every major activity but our senior officers and the rest of the staff never looked down on us and on what we do. We know our place in the organization and the value of our work to the over-all goal of the organization. And we never felt that we are left behind in the area of capacity development. My team does not feel left out nor ignored in our daily operations; our expertise is respected and we are allowed to learn new skills and relearn old ones. We are not pigeon-holed to be stagnant in our jobs and remain the same person day in and day out. This is how we do things here but we will never stop learning to be better at what we do.
I am Jeremy Boglosa, I represent a team of administrative and finance support services staff also known as drivers, cleaners, receptionists, secretaries, administrative assistants, logistics officer, cashier, assistants and the likes. We deal with the nitty-gritty details of things --- from procurement, to repairs and maintenance, to catering, to typing and filing, to answering phone call, the list goes on and on. Yes, we make mistakes but we learn from them. We are always at the background but we are the proudest when the show turns out excellent. We are proud of our team because our organization never makes us feel otherwise.
I look forward to the time when majority of administrative/support service professionals (in whatever level) really take pride in what they do and realize how important they are in an organization.