How do you handle administrators with chronic bad attitudes?
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This semester, I've moved over to a different, better-funded, community college system. Things are marginally better organized, and at least the department I'm working in seems to actually care about the education the students are getting. But, yet again, I seem to be constantly running into the brick wall that is an administrator with an absolutely shitty attitude. The problem is, I have to deal with this person constantly in order to get room keys, fill in drop forms, get students to do their instructor evals, etc. I am SO SICK of the attitude coming across in her emails, but I'm not at all sure what I can do about it. Every time I construct an email which tries to politely ask her to show me a little respect, I end up deleting it because I figure it's more likely to just make things worse than make things better.
I'm at a complete loss, because I actually want to continue teaching at this institution, but I honestly don't have the kind of personality that can let someone be so utterly horrible to me without at some point actually saying something about it. Anyone have any advice about how to deal with this?
In the meantime, I apparently need to read Notes from the Underground, sounds like it might be a story I can relate to a bit.
Keep in mind that these staff are probably treated with disrespect on a regular basis. I'd be disgruntled too.
I would also make it point to ask about how things were for them and their job, and acknowledge how stressful their job must be (whether I thought they had a right to gripe or not!). Stuff like: it must be busy now, have things slowed down for you guys yet, I don't know how you guys do it, this place would shut down without you guys, etc.
I have to say that this extra effort made my life so much easier. My boss couldn't get anything done without a struggle because she routinely treated the administrative staff like they were "lower than her." These same people would go out of their way to help me out.
For this person you are dealing with now... My suggestion would be that the next time you need to contact her, stop by her office. Make an excuse that you were already in that building and figured you would stop by rather than call or e-mail. Check out what pictures she has in frames by her desk, and ask about them. Make some acknowledgment of how crazy and difficult her job must be having to deal with keys, forms, evals, and everything else.
I hope that helps.
Morally, I'm disgusted. Even if some employees/adjuncts/profs/whatever treat these people with disrespect, I'm not one of them. I have a really hard time accepting the idea that I should have to kiss someone's ass to get them to show me some respect, just because someone else was disrespectful to them.
I guess this is my downfall, because while I understand the practical wisdom of what is being offered here (and to be fair, that's what I asked for), I feel like we are swinging too far the other way... people in this position are treated badly, therefore we ought to put them on a pedestal? How about instead, we just treat them like we treat everyone else, and expect the same level of respect from someone as they show to us? No college administrator has EVER asked me how my dissertation work is going, or whether I have kids or how they are (since I don't have a desk to show photos on, I must not have a life to ask about?). I'm ranting, I know, but I hate the implicit double standard. I just think you should take your anger out at the person who earned it, not the frazzled adjunct who asks you a simple freaking question.
*sigh* In the end, I know that the advice from djsanders is precisely the right thing to do, and sounds very much like the approach that I've taken, but the fact that this is the case is what is aggravating me. People anymore are such jerks, and I hate that I have to go out of my way just to stay in the good graces of someone who doesn't deserve it and has arbitrary power over me due only to the fact of bureaucracy.
What, specifically, is this person doing that is so frustrating? If it's simply their attitude, it may be a matter of personality and nothing you say is going to change that.