Information Technology Dark Side

Struggles of a Self-Taught Coder

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Be Nice To Admins

September 15th, 2006 · No Comments

Really, you should be nice to everybody. But let’s just talk about admins first.

Mistreating an administrative assistant is an excellent indicator that someone is a complete jerk. There are few ways of deducing someone’s nature than watching how someone interacts with someone else who is significantly lower in the corporate food chain. In terms of authority, admins are pretty much at the bottom, and they are frequently under attack from those who rely on them.

That said, if you’re reading my blog, you probably don’t have an administrative assistant of your own. But your boss does. Be nice to him or her. Why? They don’t have any AUTHORITY as we mentioned above. But don’t make any mistakes here. Of all the factors that come together to determine whether a person is “important” or not, authority is the least significant. The other factors are: influence, control over resources, and access to important people. Guess what an administrative assistant has. That’s right. She has three of the four factors mentioned above in her favor. That makes her a powerful person in your organization. Respect her. Fear her if it makes you treat her nicely. NEVER assume that just because she is not as well educated or technically skilled as you that she can’t destroy your career or seriously damage your opportunities.

Instead, try to get them on your side. If you do, you will find it easier to get on the busy schedules of “important” people, to borrow office equipment (like projectors, etc), and to navigate bureaucratic processes. They really can make your life easier, if not further your career.

In general, being nice to admins and other colleagues you might consider “inferior” to you in terms of education and position is a good practice. If you find it difficult, you should invest some time in serious contemplation of your world view. If you find that you have difficulty being polite and respectful to waiters, tellers, checkers, etc. when they make mistakes, you have a problem. It’s likely that you see these people, not as peers with problems not unlike your own, but as objects.

This is a big problem, because if you’re doing it to admins, you’re probably doing it to lots of people. People who you should be treating as your peers. People who should be on your side are now your opponents simply because you don’t see them as your equals. Instead, they are now more likely to oppose anything you do, no matter it’s merits.

I think that it’s best to apply Ockham’s razor to this kind of scenario to find a probable explanation: the simplest explanation is the most likely one. In this case, the simplest explanation for jerk-like behavior is that you really are a jerk. And nobody wants to be a jerk.

I don’t think it’s hard to stop being a jerk, but it is painful. It requires a hard look in the mirror and an admission that nobody wants to make. But there’s nowhere else to start.

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