Monday, December 18, 2006

Office chair psychology?

The last couple of weeks I've encountered a new incarnation of something I despised in grad school:

Administrative assistants who act like petulant moms babysitting someone else's children (postdocs and grad students).

I actually had to bite my tongue in one instance. This particular woman didn't want the burden of cleaning up after people she clearly deemed as completely immature. In this case, she was making the assumption that she'd have to scoop the poop of her irresponsible child's pet dog (in this case, arrange for speakers for a meeting that was supposed to be organized by a group of postdocs). Before the dates had even been set, she was leaping to the conclusion that the postdocs couldn't handle it (which wasn't true- this same group had done this successfully long before this woman was assigned to 'help').


In another case, I witnessed an admin who refused to forward a speaker schedule to the people attending a regular in-house seminar series. That one I really don't understand.

The version I experienced in grad school was much more extreme. We were routinely chastised for going out of town to do things like visiting our sick relatives ("vacations"). That one has some seriously bad karma coming to her.

Anyone got any
a) funny horror stories about this type of behavior
b) deeper explanations for why they're like this?
c) funny/helpful ways to deal with this type of person?



At 9:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

actually, I don't blame the administrative assistants. Most post-docs, grad students, and PI's act like idiots and cannot do anything themselves without someone to help wipe their ass.

perhaps these people are just fed up with the idiocy.

At 5:01 PM, Blogger DancingFish said...

We have one that is constantly on power trips. She flipped out on a 6ft 5 man for wanting to switch desks in his office so his legs could actually fit underneath! Another complains about doing things for grad students but gets all worked up when we do things that she usually does.

I've found that bringing them baked goods helps...

At 10:19 PM, Blogger Female Science Professor said...

It must be national Evil Administrative Assistant week or something.. the EAA here at my department has been particularly virulent this week.

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...


can't or won't?

I've noticed that while I hate asking anyone to do anything for me, particularly when I know I could do it faster myself, the more efficient of my colleagues are better at knowing what's worth delegating.

What pisses me off the most is when I get leftover evil backwash from whatever jerk asked for something before me. I don't deserve to get barked at just because I'm a postdoc.


Are you sure we're not overlapping somewhere?? That sounds like a combination of the psycho at my grad school and the cheapskate I work with now. We're all supposed to have repetitive stress disorders from using ancient furniture because having enough actual chairs would be too expensive (!).

And oh the martyr complex is a classic. The "oh these demanding people..." followed by "no no no, I'll do it!!"


That made me laugh. Maybe it's just the full moon or something.

At 7:42 AM, Blogger JF, scientist said...

I have two theories:

1) My advisor, half the other profs, and most of the grad students are mean, demanding, and condescending to the admins. They aren't PhDs, after all! So everyone who treats them like humans gets screwed. But being treated like dirt would make me a horrible person too...

2) "University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small." - Henry Kissinger

At 12:08 PM, Blogger KitchenPrincess said...

I have also used the baked good approach - it softens them over time...
even when they continue to act that way I just walk into there office and tell them what i need
the response is usually a million reasons why it can't happen, isn't their job, i should have done it months ago etc. util they finally come to terms with the fact that they have to do it.
I thought all this would be over after grad school, but the admins at my post-doc are even happier to be difficult evne though I now have a PhD.


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