A Brief Guide to Interacting with Administrators Without Making Them Want To Strangle You.
People in student affairs (i.e. the “adults” who work on all those things outside the classroom that make your school great) work in the profession by and large because they love students. The hours are long, the pay kind of sucks, and “admin” is said the way people say things like “lawyers” and “the Kardashians.” But despite all the bad parts, when we get to work with students and help them develop as people and/or leaders and challenge them to accomplish things that they would not accomplish without our help-that’s just awesome.
Sometimes the students we deal with make us want to scream and pull our hair out (or in my case, someone else’s hair.) Students can be complete pains in the butt, irritating, and infuriating, but they don’t have to be.
To help you avoid common mistakes, and to help my colleagues avoid having to deal with them, here are some things you can do or not do to make sure your admin loves you.
- Get to know them before you have to. Whether you live on campus, are in a student organization, are Greek, or do (or potentially want to do) something besides go to class and study-there are staff there to help. Set up a meet and greet with them and just get to know them. In addition to helping them spot your name on a list of otherwise anonymous people, having a connection with them will help you get the benefit of the doubt if something does go wrong. (And ABSOLUTELY get to know your RAs. They are not only connected to the campus administration, but they are also often the first people who will interact with you if something happens.)
- Make appointments and keep them. Yes, the admin will do everything he or she can to accommodate you including putting all of their work on hold to speak with you, but that does not mean they should have to. They are professionals with a Masters degree or higher, and unless they have open office hours, they deserve the respect of you making an appointment. That being said, dropping in without an appointment is 100 times better than having an appointment you miss without advanced notice. (And if you do miss it, apologize and reschedule at his or her convenience.)
- Invite them to things with notice. Believe it or not, most student affairs staff work 50+ hours a week. While we can’t go to everything, we would love the invitation and will do what we can and the more heads up we have the more likely we can do it. Also remember that these are people with families and lives, so “notice” means more than a day.
- Try not to ask them for things outside of the office context. Specifically, when you see an admin you know and work with outside of the office, that isn’t the time to tell them or ask them something you want to remember. Note: if they ask you, this does not apply.
- Thank them. This is a time when you can stick your head in, send a quick email, write a note on FB, or send a Somee card. It doesn’t have to be much as long as they know you appreciated the work they did. They get paid to work, but the caring they showed you was on their own time.
None of this will get you out of trouble or ensure that you get that position you really want. There isn’t an ulterior motive or something immediate to gain. Part of being a leader (or at least an adult) is learning how to recognize and appreciate the people that work with you.
Do you do anything to show the staff you respect them? Are you in student affairs and have another suggestion? Let us know in the comments or email me at DaveK (at) CollegeJudicialConsultants (dot) Com.