Ever get that look from someone at your workplace.. you know the one that might have made you feel as if you just started in the workforce? You weren’t the sharpest tack in the box? A simple question asked and the return glance actually dented your psyche? I sure have. And, I’m guilty of giving that look to new peers in our career field and have certainly provided that withering gaze to more than one temporary staff member during my working years. Luckily, I’ve (mostly) moved past that. Maybe we should take a look at how the more experienced of us (admins) treat newer and sometimes younger co-workers.
Ponder this. If you are like me, maybe you have put more than twenty years into the field- starting out on a Selectric II, moved on to WordStar and now the PC. We forget how long it took us to learn all the skills we have today. So whether it’s a co-worker or a supervisor, we’d be wise to take a minute or two or maybe an hour if the project allows- to show that person how to complete the task. Or at least where the resource to help them is located. We could even provide them corporate culture background as to why we approach certain tasks the way we do. [See the unspoken/stealth org chart.]
Sounds simple right? Maybe not. Here’s an analogy. Ever started to give directions to someone, but you can’t remember the name of the streets because you’ve driven it so often –it’s all in your head? Well, it can be the same way with daily tasks. A great example is making travel reservations. We may have the check list in our head of all the things we need to know for our supervisor’s travel—Airline preference, hotel preference, whether or not they prefer non-stop, aisle seat or window? Bulk head? Do they always need a rental car? What are their rental car preferences? etc. You get the idea.
And.. this is where a desk manual or an admin-focused intranet site at your firm becomes essential. If you have resources available the person can have a starting point instead of reinventing the wheel because they don’t know any better. I bet you’ve said these words, “By the time I teach them I could’ve done it myself!” instead of delegating a task.
Please consider making the time investment –obviously when not up against a serious time constraint- to sit one on one with this peer. Let them know you are invested in their success. Show them the ropes. Not all at once, but maybe one rope at a time. Be open and patient. Tell them honestly if you aren’t a morning person. I kindly ask my co-workers to give me the first thirty minutes of the day to get going. Perhaps you can schedule time to show them one complicated task. Maybe share a story or two about some of the really fun or interesting things you’ve learned during your career.
Yes, you might get that look back at you from that person. The look resembles that of your teenager’s Are you serious? –look. But I believe that taking a step back and then taking steps alongside and forward with the new admin or new co-worker is one way to approach being a better mentor.