“There are two people in the unit you never want to piss off: the quartermaster and the pay-clerk. No beans, no bullets, and no cash for the bar.” — Sergeant B. L.
This can also be told as: “A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, isn’t nice.” I’ve heard told as dating advice in that context, but it also has a leadership application.
The so-called “little people” have power. Yes, I’ve heard them called that, and it made me wonder what kind of person they are. The bottom line is that you depend on everybody on your team to get the the job done. If people who work with or for you perceive a sense of entitlement, privilege, or power over will do two things for you:
- You’ll have people working with or for you that don’t have anywhere else to go, so they have to put up with your shit. If you treat people poorly, you’ll have poor staff.
- You’ll get your coffee spit in, if you can get a coffee. Or your project will get sabotaged, you’ll only get what you can force out of people. If that’s your jam then go ahead. Personally I don’ t have the energy to lead that way.
If your boss / client / supplier / peer has an executive administrator, then I strongly invite you to nurture an authentic relationship with them. He or she is your boss’s gatekeeper. He can make your job much harder if you give him reason to. Like, for example, mocking him for being a guy secretary.
Things you might want to consider when interacting with any administrator:
- Respect their desk and supplies. Don’t borrow their stapler without asking. It’s their desk, treat it with the respect you would for anybody else’s. Their office supplies are not public property. Do you go through your boss’s desk looking for a three-hole punch? No? Don’t do it to her admin either.
- Respect their personal space. Don’t lean on their desk and tower over them. At best it’s an obnoxious power play. That’s how they’ll perceive it, even if that wasn’t your intention. Remember that communication is what the listener does: if somebody thinks you’re being creepy, it’s because you’re doing something creepy.
- Look them in the eye, not at their cleavage. This one is so obvious, but there are still men who do this. Yes, they can tell. Even when you think they’re not looking. If you’re lucky they’re just laughing at you behind your back because you think they can’t tell.
- Be nice to them all the time, not only when you need something from them. You know when people are sucking up to you just because they need something from you. That means other people can tell when you’re doing it to them.
- The best and fastest way to build a relationship with somebody is to learn their name. If it’s your first day, learn the boss’s secretary’s name, and as many of the other administrators as you can.
- Be nice to all of them. They talk to each other. I’m not condoning gossip here but they do compare notes. Who’s good to work for, who isn’t, who’s an asshole. If you’re polite to one and not the other, you’re not polite.
Your boss’s administrator has tremendous influence. A good receptionist/administrator is worth their weight in gold. Treat them with respect and that’s what you’ll get in return.