When I first became a supervisor, at SIU, in 1979, I quickly noticed that many of the members of my crew were not only older than me…but also brought with them a wealth of life and professional experiences.
I had a gentleman, Joe S., who had been the Chief Credit Officer for Martin Oil Company for 25 years.
Another crew member, Ken H., had been a salesman for Bluebell Lunch Meat, in DuQuoin, Illinois for 30 years.
I was 21 years old. I had student staff…that were older than me.
Another member of my housekeeping staff was, Rufus H., who was a minister. Rufus, expounded to me…the first night that I met him…that he would not tolerate prejudice or bigotry…and that he would not ‘set at the back of the bus…as Rosa Parks had already paid the price!’
When Rufus completed his impassioned statement…I told him that not only was I not prejudice…but that it was my honor to have him as a member of the crew and that I took great pride in producing Crew Supervisors from my staff.
Rufus smiled and said that he had heard that about me and that he was glad to be working with me.
When I became Superintendent of Building Services, the last 13 years of my carer at SIU, I was humbled at the support that was afforded me by almost the entire staff of 350 people.
The Dean of CASA, Elaine Vitello, telephoned me a couple of days into my tenure and told me that she had never seen her custodial staff so happy and full of life and that they could not be confined in their joy that I had been named Superintendent.
Humbled is not an adequate word to describe how I felt…I was not worthy of these fine professionals support…but I was going to try to live up to their expectations…with God’s help.
Throughout my career…there was one certainty…and that was the supreme honor that I had in being allowed to manage such an excellent and diverse group of professionals.
We all have feelings.
We all can be hurt.
We all respond to genuine kindness.
We all recoil at vindictiveness and meanness and vitriol that is focused at us…from a supervisor or manager or leader that, somehow, feels that by virtue of their title…they have become smarter or wiser or more proficient than the excellent staff that they have been blessed with.
I have had staff tell me that they were thinking of committing suicide.
I have witnessed men leave a meeting with me…weeping…only to return to tell me that the stress that they were under at home…was virtually unbearable.
Often colleagues are battling chronic illness…both physical and mental…and they are presenting themselves in a professional and workmanlike manner…only to be disparaged and discouraged and talked down to.
There is an axiom that I lived by for my entire career.
Praise a person in public…from the mountain top…for all to witness and hear.
Constructively criticize a person…only in private…begin with a positive affirmation of something that they do extremely well…and end the meeting with another positive comment regarding their strong work related qualities.
As my friend and colleague, Jody, told my wife several years ago…Jay can ‘chew you out…and you do not even realize it until well after you have left the meeting with him.’
When you are employed…much of your waking hours are spent in dedication to your job.
It is vital that supervisor and managers and administrators are trained in the proper manner in which to treat the staff’s that they are responsible for.
A good leader…can make your life wonderful…and a bad leader can make your life…Hell.
It is never about the supervisor or the administrator or the leader…it is about the human and professional that is subject to to the life changing edicts of either a good manager or leader or administrator or a bad one.