As I look back over my career of over 32 years at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale I can say without reservation that I enjoyed almost every day of my time there.
When I began in October of 1978 I was hired under the job title of Building Service Worker I…which is a janitor. I immediately doubled my pay and for the first time in my working life I had benefits. It was difficult for me to get my mind around the newfound fact that if I became ill that I could take a paid sick day! Until I took one…I thought that the University might be pulling my leg.
I was so happy to discover that my supervisor and my foreman were both nice people and that if I did my work they were very pleased. In fact the leadership of Building Services were for the most part easy to work for and they reflected the calm and considerate demeanor of their superintendent, George O’Hara, who I never saw loose his temper or even display a hint of anger.
To Mr. O’Hara I was Jay Bradley and I thought that was just fine. Early in my service to SIUC I began to be encouraged by the night supervisor, Harold Young, and many of the foreman to take the Building Custodian exam to attempt to have my name on the test register for temporary upgrade purposes as well as to be in line for future promotions.
I recall never being nervous or apprehensive or in fear of being harassed by a overbearing supervisor. I accomplished my work and did not goof off and management praised my efforts and encouraged me to begin climbing the promotional ladder.
I experienced much of the same understanding leadership when I became a Building Custodian, which is a crew leader, in 1980. Although the supervisory work was demanding I understood that if I continued to work hard and treat my colleagues fairly and with genuine concern for them as human beings…I would have a satisfying experience as a member of the housekeeping team.
Later in the management portion of my career I found what it was like to be treated shabbily and to be made fun of and belittled for working hard…and I subsequently almost left the University. It was disheartening and disillusioning to be made the ‘goat’ or the butt of jokes or the victim of a hidden agenda that is not in the University’s handbook or a copy being made available for my education.
‘A sign you have a positive workplace culture is laughter. Just listen to how much laughter there is where you work. Laughter is a very good sign of positivity. You can work hard and still laugh and enjoy your workday more.’ Sam Glenn
An old saying that I heard a minister say 45 years ago is an excellent way to live your life in the workplace; ‘Be friendly but not familiar and be good but not gullible.’
The more honest and open and accessible that leadership and management are the more content and peaceful and joyful the staff will be that works with them.
I learned early in my management career that micromanaging is not my style. We all respond in a positive manner when we are allowed discretional flexibility in our operational procedures to accomplish the end goal that our supervisor has laid out for us.
Simply put…if you want your colleagues to conduct themselves as professionals…you must treat them as professionals! For instance; you may be a manager with many people that you are responsible for and you enter a building to find your Building Service Worker sitting in the hall and it is not break. Now the paramount question should be how many times have you observed this member of your staff working hard and often through their prescribed break periods? The question is do you want an automaton or do you want a skilled technician?
A manager or leader that is confident in their abilities and their vision for success subsequently treats all whom they encounter with a graciousness and civility that is contagious to the entire department!