End of the week reflections…

I am sitting at my desk, putting the finishing touches on an application for some pilot funding and reflecting on life. My department has some really amazing administrative folks that, despite my best efforts to derail them, seem to somehow keep us all on track. Earlier today I went to see one of our administrative assitants with a new publication in my hand. She asked me if I wanted her to put it on “the fridge” (what she calls the glass case where she hangs all of the papers the people in our division publish) and it kind of made me feel warm and fuzzy. She takes really good care of me. You’ve never seen a grown woman look more like an 8 year old than when her work ends up on “the fridge.”

I was thinking about how my attitude toward our administrative support has changed over the years. When I was new here and scrappy, I would have lost my junk at the simplest of mistakes. But, I realize that I also didn’t understand how much harder in many ways their job is than mine. More than once have I gone to them and had this interaction:

Me: “So, I want to submit a [whatever]. Can you help me get it set up?”
Them: “Sure. When is it due?”
Me: “In [insert some ridiculously short amount of time].”
Them: “No problem”

And now that I’ve been here a little while, I realize how many of us do that to them and how hard they work to accommodate us all without complaint. I realize how many late nights they send fixing the shit we send them and how very, very infrequently they tell us they can’t do something.

I guess the point of this mini reflection is that, in retrospect, I regret how my ambition may have occasionally manifested itself into dickishness when I was a n00b here. Science is an inherently human endeavor and, even with the occasional mistake, there is no way that I could do my job without them.

I think I am going to go say “thank you.”

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14 responses to “End of the week reflections…

  1. So true. Our department admins are amazing! Even as a grad student, there is no way I’d get room reservations, projectors or pre-doctoral fellowships without them. After my NRSA got funded, I sent flowers to my AMAZING administrator who handled it smoothly and cheerfully despite me bumbling along and asking dumb questions.

  2. On behalf of admins everywhere, as I myself am one, I want you to know that we all appreciate the thanks very much.

  3. It is like you read my mind. These people are amazing. Specially these days when every PI is applying for more grants and they have reduced the number of administrative staff.

  4. Disgruntled Admin

    It is amazing how nice small gestures of thanks can feel. Unfortunately, some labs or departments foster a culture of this is just part of the job and discourage gestures. I work with a large lab with many research track faculty. The department has decreed that nothing should go out that does not come through me for correction/organization or more. Neither the lab nor the department show appreciation and if anything goes wrong it is my fault. Being a scapegoat is not in my job description. This is why I am persuing another degree and leaving the field.

  5. A related question: how do you ever-so-gently nudge say, a new faculty, that ze should be kinder to the support staff (ie not a dickishness from the getgo) and that will make life infinitely better in the long run?
    I’m on very good terms with our support staff, and one of them let me know that our newest faculty is leaning heavily towards dickishness. I would like to be part of the solution. Just don’t know how or where to nudge.

  6. Mama wears a lab coat

    This is an awesome post! I agree completely and have occasionally admonished another faculty member or student for treating one of our admins as if they are beneath them. Without ours I could NEVER submit a grant on my own. I find that I am completely incapable of reading instructions when my brain is in grant mode. Here’s to all the admins that put up with our bs on a daily basis!

  7. This. Absolutely. We are blessed with excellent admins at my university – without them, I’m not sure how we’d hold it all togeth.

  8. Why don’t you drop an email saying “Hey dumshitte! People who are not on good terms with the Admins rarely make tenure you rude ass klowndouche.”

    (You can quote me if you want)

  9. Our departmental admin staff is awesome, and they make our lives amazingly easier, but in all my years here, there has never been a situation where they have ever had to spend a “late night” to get the shit done.

  10. I have always tried to keep good relationships with admin staff, and find out the things they really don’t like and try not to do them. Once when I was apologising for a very tight deadline, they said ‘no problem, we will put it on the top of the pile and have it for you tomorrow’. They THEN named another Dept member whom, they said, always tried to pull rank and demand that her stuff get done first, before the other things in the pile. They giggled and told me they always put hers on the bottom and did everyone else’s first, in correct order, unless there was a really urgent job like mine that came as a genuine emergency from someone who normally didn’t pressure them.

    Moral? Be kind to your admin staff, and don’t cry ‘wolf’ too often. If it isn’t urgent, don’t try to pretend it is.

  11. CPP – there are some departments that have had to cut WAY back on the number of admin staff. My former dept cut back to TWO people from 14. Things didn’t go so well for anyone after that, it was fuckin miserable. Some admin staff do need to work non-stop because of under-staffing.

  12. I waited on tables for years. Seemed so stupid when the wait staff pissed off the kitchen staff. Like you think you’ll get your order faster… Same goes for the administrative staff. I see some of the senior dicks treat those ladies so nastily. You have to wonder where their brain is or if they ever had to work at something other than academics in their miserable lives.

  13. We have some pretty amazing admins too, and I’m always happy to tell them how grateful I am for the job they do.

    We also have some that can’t seem to turn on their computers without causing problems, and those I am much less sympathetic towards.

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