Thursday, April 28, 2016
APPRECIATION OF A GREAT SECRETARY
In yesterday's Sue's News article I HATE EUPHEMISMS, I wondered why secretaries are now labeled "Administrative Professionals". The following is an homage I wrote in 2011 about a great secretary who was--and is-- a true PROFESSIONAL.
Patty has the unique ability of having nearly EVERYBODY like her. Of the nearly 1,000 people at our work site, 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: that one cannot be FRIENDS, just FRIENDLY at work. We are still friends.
I had seen Patty at work when I would go to the "trailers"; our plant was large but could not accommodate all of the activity necessary for the government contract; thus, the trailers were brought in to satisfy the need for office space. I would speak to Patty but had no dealings with her as I would be there to see the Manager.
When an opening for Production Department Secretary became available, there were 19 in-house 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 form 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 26; 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 completed an interview with one of the applicants, I looked out of the window from the mezzanine 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 she'd had. 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's word; he 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 concluded 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 for her! Her score with my interview was the highest of any of the candidates I 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 a short time, Patty confided to me that she thought that she never stood a chance of getting the job because all the other applicants were young, pretty, and there were going to be three men interviewing the applicants. I asked, "You didn't know there was a woman interviewing 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 it wasn't until after the interview that she learned about my position with the Company. She said, "At the end of the interview, when you asked if I had any questions, I'm surely glad that I didn't ask if you worked for the government!"
I did my best Strother Martin imitation of: "What we have here is a failure to communicate!"