Friday, November 30, 2007

Secretaries and others, remember to treat them well

When I started my first school teaching job, many years ago, I was told that the most important person I would know would be the secretary. I don't recall who gave me that piece of advice, but it is very valid and true. My father always gave me similar advice; he knew that in an office, a secretary was the one who really ran the office. He was an industrial salesman back then; he drove a lot. But I also remember how he treated the secretaries with respect and dignity. True, he treated everyone that way, but the point is he made sure his secretaries felt appreciated and well-treated as well as janitors and other workers. I can say, as I look back, that I never saw him act as if he was better than anyone else. He also made sure his three sons learned that valuable lesson: treat others with dignity and respect. Just because so and so may be a plumber or a janitor, it does not mean they have any less worth.

I work at the university level now. If I had to give that "treat your secretaries well" advice, I would modify it as follows: treat the secretaries, the janitors, the IT techs, and the campus police well. If you get on their good side, you'll be in good shape. Of course, you should do this out of common decency, but I will add that if you follow my advice, they'll remember you in a good light. And when you need to get some light fixed, you may just get it done a bit faster.

Note: this small post was prompted by this piece from Inside Higher Ed on "The Lasting Impact of a Departmental Secretary." The comments on the piece are mixed in terms of interest. Seems that, as academics often do, they have to focus on making it a class/privilege war issue when it is a tribute to a woman that clearly had an impact on many people. My two cents.

No comments: