Sunday, August 7, 2011


My friend Patty has the unique ability of having nearly EVERYBODY like her! Of the nearly 1,000 people at work, I swear that you could not find one person to say a negative word about her, from the Vice-President to the janitor!

Patty became my friend which meant that I broke my cardinal rule about work: one cannot be FRIENDS, just FRIENDLY at work.

I had seen Patty at work when I would go to the "trailer"; our plant was large but could not accommodate all of the activity necessary for a government contract; thus, the trailers were brought in to satisfy the need for office space.

When an opening for Production Department Secretary came open, we had 19 in-company applications. The secretary would be shared by four Production Management people, all of whom would be interviewing all of the applicants. The process would obviously take a considerable amount of time. There had been a problem with the previous secretary not maintaining confidentiality. I created a matrix and interview sheet and the applicants would be graded according to the guidelines; then the Managers would make a decision based on those scores. We had an extraordinarily young work force; the average age was 24; the only "old" people were in management positions. 18 of the applicants were young, attractive, women with some relevant experience; Patty was the only "mature" candidate. At the beginning of the interviews, each of the interviewers were to caution the applicants that the interviews were to be kept confidential and not to be discussed with other employees.

After I had finished with an interview with one of the applicants, I looked out of the window and saw the applicant talking animatedly with a group of people. One of them was one of our Team Leaders. About an hour later I asked the Team Leader the topic of that conversation and I was told that the applicant was telling about the interviews. I told my colleagues that the applicant needed to be removed from consideration. She was a favorite of one of my colleagues and he said that we needed to ask her about it instead of just taking someone else's word; I called her to the office and asked her if she understood when she was told she couldn't divulge anything about the interview that she should not talk to anybody about the interview. She answered that she did. I then asked her why she had told several people about the questions. She didn't even bother to deny it but shrugged her shoulders and said she didn't see anything wrong about it.

When Patty came for the interview, after the perfunctory warning about confidentiality, I completed the interview and asked my last question, which wasn't on the interview sheet, "Do you know the derivation of the word secretary?", and she answered, "It's from the Latin--secretum--to keep a secret." She later told me that she'd looked up the word secretary before the interview! How fortuitous! Her score on all of the matrix questions was the highest of any of the candidates I had interviewed.

When my three male colleagues and I gathered to make a decision, I think that they were all surprised that their choice was also Patty but they had followed the matrix and guidelines and they had arrived at their conclusions based on qualifications, as Patty was obviously the most qualified.

After being in the job for awhile Patty confided to me that she thought that she never thought she had a chance to get the job because all the other applicants were young and pretty and there were going to be three men interviewing the applicants. I asked, "You didn't know there was a woman too?" She laughed and said, "All the times you would come out to the trailer, I thought you were that GOVERNMENT LADY because everyone was afraid of you and when I came for the interview, I wondered WHY you were interviewing for the Company!" She said that, after the interview, when I asked if she had any questions, she was glad that she didn't ask if I were that government lady!

I did my best Strother Martin imitation of: "What we have here is a failure to communicate!"

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the world's best secretary and friend!

1 comment:

Mona Lisa said...

I think Patty is lucky to have YOU for a friend!