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Are administrative rankings based on your boss’s title vs. your skills equitable?

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Question: “My company has just launched a ‘Career Ladder’ with various tracks and role profiles. The administrative track is the only one in which the levels are related to the status of the boss. In other words, you can be an Executive Assistant only if you support a President. As I was hired as an executive assistant, but support two senior vice presidents, effectively I am being demoted.  Does anyone else have a similar experience with Career Ladders and/or administrative rankings based on whom you support rather than your skills?” — Julie Thomas


My company ranks administrative assistants based on the title of their boss. I was an executive assistant but when the company removed the COO role, my CFO executive was given to his admin (Sr. Executive Assistant) for support, thus eliminating my executive assistant role. I was given other people to support and "demoted" to Senior Administrative Assistant, which also lowered my pay scale.

Our firm is the same way. You can be an administrative assistant or senior administrative assistant no matter who you support. However, you can move up according to the position of the main partner you support. And if they are demoted you are demoted. Though I believe your pay isn't affected. Just your title.

Our company is the same, your ranking depends on your boss's rank. Generally speaking, it's Executive Assistant for VP's, Executive Assistant II for SVP & EVP's, Senior Executive Assistant for President, CEO, etc. There are different payscales for each level.

Yes, our Hospital is the same way. You can only be an Executive Assistant if you work for an Executive Vice President or CEO. You are an Administrative Secretary if you work for a Vice President, and if you work for a Director you are an Administrative Assistant. I have always worked in an executive level position as an Executive Assistant or Office Manager for the past 25 years, but where I work now, they don't go by your past/previous positions, only who you were hired to work for so I understand how you feel.

Demotions are very tough especially if you are a good admin. Don't let it demotivate you; let your professionalism shine above your title and you will be promoted in time.

In my present position as the Assistant to the President, I am called an Executive Administrative Assistant. Nevertheless, I am forced to punch a timeclock. Even after 4 years, this is still a hard pill to swallow. Making it even more difficult is the President's wife's admin. (the wife is a Director) has never had to punch a clock even when she had my position before I was hired. When I kept bringing it up, the Director got HR to make her assistant exempt and changed her title to operations administrator. Same secretarial role, different title.

I tell you this to let you know things aren't always fair.

I learned a long, long time ago that it doens't truly matter what your title is...all that matters is what is on the paycheck.

I feel really blessed. Our agency does not base my pay on who I am working under but on my skills and the work that I am actually performing. If the Director is demoted then I would still have the same title and pay. If the department is phased out I would be placed in a like position with the same pay and seniority.

My title is also based on my boss title. I too bit the dust when the VP left, I was lowered from Executive Secretary to Senior Secretary. I was blessed where the pay was not affected. It's unfortunate, but I am relieved, not at anyone's demise, but that other companies do the same thing.
When it happened, I took the matter to HR, but they were not willing to change anything. Go figure.

To take a different point, why does it matter what your title is? Do you feel you've lost respect? Did your job responsibilities change? Did you suffer a pay loss? I was hired by a company under a specific title and paid a salary in the low 70's. Over the course of 3 years, my responsibilites under the original role have dropped to practically nothing and now I'm functioning more as a company secretary. My pay and benefits were not affected, my responsibilities are much more of a benefit to more divisions, and everyone - including me - is happy. Here's something to think about: in a slowing economy, appreciation for having a job should be more important than your title.

Debbie, for some of us, it is sometimes, easier to swallow a demotion when your salary and benefits are not affected.

Keep in mind that we all work very hard to get from one "title" to another. It does matter what your title is, if it didn't there wouldn't be a distinction and there wouldn't be a pay raise/or loss associated with it. To move from an Administrative Assistant to an Executive Assistant is not a lateral move it is a promotion that includes more money. To move from an Executive Assistant to an Office Manager is the same. With these promotions comes more prestige in the "career" scheme of things.

When this is taken away, I don't believe we should make light. It is demotion and depending on the company, this can include loss of privileges, benefits and pay. An employee is then left to deal with their own mindset and personal self "issues" such as depression, low self-esteem and so forth, that can follow a demotion.

In your circumstance, I am happy that your pay scale did not change, however, I believe if it had, you may feel a little differently. Your role changing became a benefit for you because you end up doing less work for the same amount of money. You came out on top, not everyone does.


Julie, I empathize with you in this situation because I was once in a similar situation. I was blessed that my salary did not change, however, I do understand the many emotions that goes along with it.

Yes, there are many companies that are now formalizing their titles to industry standards and in doing so many of their employees are being slighted. Personally, I feel that the employees who were employed before the change should be "grandfathered" in as far as salary is concerned.

It does sound strange though because in many organizations, if you are supporting a VP you should be a Executive Assistant because that position is considered an Executive position.

My suggestion is to set yourself on the path of promotion in your company or go back to school and get your degree (if you haven't done so yet), as I did.

I went back to school received my Bachelor's in HR, I was promoted to Office Manager and now I'm working on my Masters in HR. I would encourage you to grab your career by the horns and make yourself more marketable so your employer will stand up and take notice.

I wish you God's Blessings.


It seems to be the trend that administrative assistants' titles are joined to their bosses' titles. That is unfortunate. I work for the general manager of our company, which is the top job. I am an Executive Admin. Assistant but so are the gals who work for the department directors. We do have two other admin. assistants who support managerial level employees and are not executive admin. assistants. I learned a long time ago that its the job with regard to how you perform it that is important. I do have one difference from the other exec. admin. assistants here - I am salaried and they are still punching the clock. To their benefits is I do the job until it is done and they get overtime pay to complete the job. I prefer it this way as I am terrible at punching in and out. Also I am the oldest in age and time with the company. I am not the others' supervisor on paper or organization chart, but have earned an unspoken supervisory position with them, which I do not take lightly. We are all well experienced working with upper management and our skills are exceptional. So I believe that the title covers a gamut of skills and experience and we should get over the hang up of titles and do the JOB! The compensation will be there.

As an administrative assistant to the top job - I am definately joined to a higher title. So much in fact, the next election may determine where I am assigned. Maybe the top, maybe the bottom, but hopefully still employed. Did I know this when I accepted the job, oh yeh!


I have to agree with Merri -- I don't care what you call me; just pay me well for what I do! For a long time, I harbored resentment stemming from the knowledge that there were certain titles I could never attain unless my boss was promoted -- no matter how good I was at my job or how hard I worked. I let that go and as long as I continue to be fairly compensated, my title doesn't really matter to me. Having said that, I think our titles should reflect our experience, work ethic and skills, not those of the people we support.

I started out very fortunate. My first admin role was supporting a C-Level, who was an amazing mentor. She understands the levels of experience within an admin position, and started me as Administrative Assistant Level 1, but always explained the difference in levels, and would continuously give me more responsibilities as I was ready for it.

I'm the first (and only) admin in the company. Now my boss has left and I'm working for the Executive team, C-Levels and VPs, and they have all been self-sufficient. It's taking awhile for them to understand what I can do for them.

I'm glad this was brought up, and gives me a different perspective on things. I think this situation of being tied to your boss's title is incredibly unfortunate. I still love this career that I've been given a late entry into.

I, too, understand the importance of titles and the role it plays in the work force. I was transferred from one geographic location to another, give a paycut (half!) with the relocation. Then, at the beginning of the new fiscal year, my pay was cut in half again! Two months later I was informed that I would be taking early retirement and severance (at the lowest rate of pay). Pay is very important just as is the title. Now, I'm working for another company, do all the same work as the Exec. Assistant, and am her back up when she is out of the office. She is exempt and I am not, therefore the pay is not even close on the pay scale. In my opinion, it's all a political decision and we have no say in how the rules are observed.

My company also ties Admin Professionals to the role they support. Last year I implemented many admin changes for my team. Although I received a really good review it did not accurately reflect my accomplishments that enabled our team to achieve its goal, a major program milestone. I felt hurt, unappreciated, and angry. During the ensuing discussions, I discovered that inequity plays out this way: The Company allocates money to each division which in turn is allocated down the line. This means that when salary increases are recommended that the EAs supporting executive staff are certainly going to "be taken care of" especially as the "executive is promoted taking the Admin along for the ride". In addition, there are many opportunities for the executive to recognize and ensure his or her admin receives monetary awards to supplement annual income. This is increasingly more important for retention of an Admin because regardless of the employee's review the raise percentage becomes increasing smaller as the as he or she approaches the top of the pay scale. Lastly, just because corporate allocates a certain amount for each employee does not mean the employee will receive it. The manager may elect to distribute the funds differently to "sweeten the pot" for other employees particularly our junior or rising staff fresh out of college. I see this as somewhat unfair not only to older workers ...ageism but also Adkins. On the other hand, I do see the need for my company to hire and retain talented engineers from the shrinking workforce pool. Companies have to look at what the motivation trends are with each generation. While I do not embrace what truly seems unfair, it does make business sense. I do not mean to be provocative; however, I would like to hear better ways of taking care of the corporate backbone.

I think that most companies pay by title and are ranked by your boss’s title. Whether you work for a supervisor, manager, or director you will end up with some variation of Administrative Assistant title. If you work for a VP or above, you hold the Executive Assistant title. When you look at salary (i.e., for any position it is based on a specific title, each title has an EMV (estimated market value). The only exception to this may be that an executive may leave the company and be replaced by a lower ranking official and therefore your title/pay should not change you are doing the same job. Even though working for a manager or director as an Administrative Assistant you may have to support more than one person and find that you have much more work than the EA working for only one person.

Bravo INCAdmin !!!

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