October 18, 2010 10:54 AM   Subscribe

Is my job in peril? Should I be searching for another one? Why do I suck so much? These questions and so many more, answered after the jump!

Hi, I'm this person, working as academic support staff. The suggestions you fine folks gave me were extremely helpful, and I successfully reduced stupid, careless errors on my part to near-zero. Now the problems I have at work are more on the order of mistaken priorities, not being able to divine what someone wanted on a task, asking too many questions, asking not enough questions, etc. It really feels sometimes like whatever choice I make is the wrong one, and I lack the common sense to figure out what to do.

Anyway, I thought I was doing a mostly pretty good job, with some minor kinks and growing pains-- I've been working for about seven weeks-- but today I was called into a small review meeting with my managers where I was told that I could be performing much more satisfactorily. I really, really don't know what to make of this meeting. Ostensibly it was also about how they could help me succeed, etc etc., but I got a strong sense of "you'd better figure out if you can step up your performance. Fast." I think they were trying to be nice, but the main gist seemed to be that so far I was really not performing up to par. Phrases like 'fit' and 'what this job entails' were thrown around a lot... Were they trying to give me a discreet heads-up to start looking for a new one?

In some ways, this job is a bad fit. Though I like my co-workers, the work that I support, and feel happy when things are totally under control, I mostly spend all day completely stressed out, worried that I'm doing something wrong or that I'm mis-managing someone's something. I spend so much time trying to read my manager's minds and deal with their huge (friendly, kind, and likable but also extremely picky, moody, and sometimes childish) personalities. I feel like I over-estimated my ability to be organized, which is basically my entire job, and that my real skills are in interacting with people, communication, writing, research, etc. In fact, now that I write it out, the idea that I should have been hired somewhere to organize other people is laughably stupid.

Should I be looking for a job? Who the heck is going to hire someone whose last two jobs were each three months long? On the other hand, my employer has a huge amount of cachet, and it seems like it would be much better to be That Guy Trying To Come To Us From Awesome Employer After Working Only Three Months than That Guy Trying To Come To Us After Getting Fired By Awesome Employer In Only Three Months.

Sorry for the verbal diarrhea; I feel so stunned by all this. I know in theory I should be able to just step it up and meet my managers' expectations, but that feels like such an impossible goal. I am working at a true 100% right now and I really don't see a way to get better. It's like I'm challenged and everyone else is normal; like there are these things that everyone else has figured out to be a successful worker and I just can't. What kind of idiot fails at an administrative job? It's weird that I can't pick up on these cues at all because I'm very outgoing and people-oriented. This seeming no-confidence vote from my managers feels really final; how can I ever feel as though my job isn't on the line now? I felt so proud and happy to be hired to this job after a very grueling and competitive hiring process, and now it's like, woops, sorry, turns out I suck!

I guess my real questions are:

1) am I totally over-reacting? Or am I actually circling the drain and should be looking for a next move immediately?
2) if I should be job-hunting, how should I be conducting it in a way that complements my situation?
3) is it possible that my managers have unrealistic expectations? Or am I necessarily being defensive and excusey?

Thanks for your time, and sorry to get all therapy on you. Having the talk about this in real life released a lot of the stress I've been feeling about this job into the open of my brain.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
What kind of idiot fails at an administrative job?

I've worked in administration in one capacity or another for about 25 years, and the answer to that is a lot.

Administration is tough. It's about juggling many things all the time, and nowadays, it's definitely not for deep-divers and/or unitaskers. Those skills come in very handy for some roles (research, testing, some programming), but for administration? No. In fact, I think the one thing that's constant with every administrative role I've had is the constant feeling that everything could fall apart if one thing went wrong. And it usually does. It's the picking up all the pieces as that one thing tips all your neatly-arranged plates off their spinning poles that separates a good administrative professional from one who isn't cut out for the work.

Mostly, I've found the best thing for me to do is document everything, and put it into a priority list. For me, three priorities work best: RIGHT NOW, sometime today, and later. Later can be flexible, since so many things come up. Sometime today is the work that you do in-between RIGHT NOW tasks.

Instead of an attitude adjustment or some sort of overhaul of the way you think, you might just want to arrange for a regular (daily, twice-daily) check-in with your supervisor to make sure you're always on-track. Divorce your own self-esteem from whether or not you're on task, just adjust.

It may be that you're on notice, but if you are, you'll know soon enough. Why not see if you can succeed, rather than assume that you've already failed?
posted by xingcat at 11:09 AM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

I see two possibilities here:

1. They are letting you know that if you don't perform better, they will fire you.
2. They have already decided to fire you, and are getting their paper trail in place.

Either way, I would start looking.

As to what you say about asking too many of the wrong kind of questions: In any job, there are lots of undocumented processes. Things that a long-time employee would have already absorbed. There are also politics involved - whose requests get a higher priority? It might not match their official position. It sounds like you are unaware of these things, and are having a hard time learning them. To succeed in this job, you would have needed either documentation of the processes, or a mentor who could fill you in and get you up to speed. Preferably both. I'm guessing you got neither. A lot of workplaces lack documentation and forethought about continuity, but so far as I have seen, academia is worse than business in this regard.

What kind of idiot fails at an administrative job?

Someone who's not cut out for that kind of work. There's no shame in it. Your skills lie elsewhere. I don't know where people get the idea that admin support work is easy, or that any idiot can do it. Employees who do this well are highly valued (at least, by managers who know what they're doing) and vital to an organization.

You'll succeed best in a job that plays to your strengths. It sounds like you know what they are, and that's an excellent starting point.
posted by expialidocious at 11:31 AM on October 18, 2010

I am sometimes in a similar situation to what you described in your other post. I find it hard to prioritize low-level tasks because I know they're not the ones that will trip me up, but... then they're the ones that trip me up when they don't get done. And then I feel really stupid, because the higher-level stuff is the stuff that keeps my brain engaged, but how can I ask for more complex work when I clearly can't even fill out a damn single-sheet form? And I am NOT STUPID. Neither are you.

Get a whiteboard. Get any kind of reminder system that sits right in front of you, even if it's a Word doc that's always open on your desktop. Make it a priority to clean your desk every night, or at least every week. Lists, lists, lists. Have a check-in meeting with a supervisor at least once a week.

Focus on your strengths. Write things down. Go into the meeting with evidence that you've gotten better and ways in which you know you can improve, and try to figure out a way that your strengths can match with what they need in one way or another. Sometimes that isn't going to be the case, and it's sad. You and your bosses can all be very good people who are just not suited for each other. It happens.
posted by Madamina at 11:34 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

"after a very grueling and competitive hiring process"

This is a point in favor of the interpretation that they're genuinely trying to help you improve -- it will be grueling and time-consuming for them to hire your replacement. So I wouldn't necessarily assume that they're planning to fire you and just documenting the process.

The question is whether you want to keep this job.

Did they give you a written summary of what needs to improve? If not, could you get one? And could you please share it with us via a mod?

Did the checklists suggestions from the previous AskMe help? Checklists are awesome.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:39 AM on October 18, 2010

Well, in your first question you said you were "trying your hardest" and yet the suggestions were helpful and you admitted there were things you could improve on. Now a month later, you say you're still trying your hardest, but don't see anything you could improve on further? I would say at any job- especially one you've only been at for seven weeks- there are always things you can improve on, and that's an opportunity.

Based on your question as is I would tell you to not worry about asking too many questions and instead be that person who does ask all the questions. Especially after you've been told your performance could improve, this won't be seen as a strike against you. As an admin, I ask a lot of questions- even ones that seem too detailed, such as if it okay if copies are front and back or if they need to be in color. Take notes for every single assignment/project when you do ask these questions so you don't need to ask them again.

Additionally, it sounds like one of the main questions you need to be asking is how soon this project needs to be completed. Learning to prioritize is a huge part of being an admin, and you can't do it without asking how urgent things are. If you're already working on something that has to be done ASAP for Person A, then when Person B approaches you and says their project needs to be done ASAP, it's your responsibility to say, "I'm working on Project X for Person A at the moment. Can your project wait until I finish with it if I get to it next?" If the answer is no, then you need to communicate that to Person A, and in some cases, let Person A and Person B hash that out. Usually once people realize you're working on a project with a specific timeline, they can give you an answer that helps you determine priority.

You should not be trying to read anyone's mind. You should be asking exactly what they need and how they want it done. If they ask you to make an appointment, your questions are: how soon do you need it to be? How much time do you need? And where are you willing to meet?

I would also re-emphasize the list answer from last question. Every day gets a list of things to do or projects you're in the middle of. Write notes to remind yourself where you are, or if booking an appointment, who last contacted who so you know when to follow-up.

I'd also start trying to have a very brief check-in with your managers once a week to let them know what you're currently working on, where you are, and ask what projects they anticipate needing your help on. Specifically ask about emails where you were cc'ed but there was no direct action asked of you. You can either have these check-ins at the end of a week and tell them what you accomplished and what you have lined up for next week so far, or you can have them at the beginning of the week- and these need to be on you to prepare for, not them. This will especially help as it sounds like you have multiple people you're juggling on behalf of, as it will give you a chance to communicate, "Person A has told me they'll need a lot of help with a mailing next week" and so forth. One of the main things about being an admin is you are one of the main connectors and facilitators of communication in the office- you know what everyone is working on, to some extent, and can communicate that to others.

Memail me if you think of any other questions, and good luck!
posted by questionsandanchors at 11:41 AM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites] I was called into a small review meeting with my managers where I was told that I could be performing much more satisfactorily. I really, really don't know what to make of this meeting. Ostensibly it was also about how they could help me succeed, etc etc., but I got a strong sense of "you'd better figure out if you can step up your performance. Fast."...

This sounds like pretty textbook managerial practice in a setting that tries to follow progressive discipline. They are letting you know - and it sounds like "pre-verbal" to improve your performance.

It does not sound like they want to fire you. It sounds like they think you need to do your job better (which you don't see to disagree with.)

What is the follow up, here? Did they set an additional date that you'll meet to see if any progress in your work has been made? If they are actually following a 'by the book' step, you would get another meeting in which your work since the first meeting is reviewed, and then a verbal or written warning to improve with a date to do so by.

OR, you could simply improve your work. I know that's way easier said than done, but really, sounds to me like their interest is you improving, not leaving. If they wanted to fire you they would have immediately - a staffer at seven weeks has little to no recourse, you aren't past anyone's probation and they could chalk it up to "a bad fit".
posted by RajahKing at 11:58 AM on October 18, 2010

Hi! I'm a department assistant at a university. I worked one job where the supervisor sounded similar to the one you have. I ended up leaving and now work in a better place. It's hard to tell if your manager is bad at, well, managing, or if it is indeed something with your job performance (or more likely a combination of both).

I, as a department assistant at a university, can you tell that:

1. I make certain rules, and I hold my faculty to them. If they want copies, they get them to me 24 hours ahead of time. If they don't, I make no guarantees they'll be ready. (Barring obvious emergencies and including that 95% of the time, it has never been a problem for me to get copies done, but I have the policy in place for that 5% of the time when I can't.) I will sometimes proctor make up exams if a student misses one. But I only do that on Fridays. I will not do make up exams on other days unless there is a compelling reason because I am so freaking busy. I tell them this. At the start of each semester, I send out a long memo of how things will be done so I can best serve them and the department as a whole.

2. Workstudy students. Holy crap! Workstudy students are amazing and pick up my slack so hard. I love them with all my heart and I nearly cry when one of them graduates because usually the person has been working with me for four years and can do their jobs without my having to do anything, which helps me in my job! So if it's not too late (and it shouldn't be in October), get yourself some workstudy students to give the more minor tasks to. (Like photocopying, errand running, creating a spreadsheet, etc.)

3. Ask, ask, ask, ask. You've only been at this job for 7 weeks. It took me three months of asking questions every day and writing the answer down before I was any good at it. If you're not sure what your manager means, asks for clarification --- specific clarification. "When you said you wanted x, did you want me to do y or z to it?" If you are asked to do something, like book a room or order food for a meeting, and you don't know, ask your neighboring support assistant. For reals. Other assistants like me who have been around the block probably have some stories to tell you about the particular people you are working with and what things you should let roll off your back because it's not you, it's the person. You can also get good coping strategies from those people.

When I first started my job, the other assistant pulled me aside with the semester's office hour handout and went through the list and told me this person is demanding and sometimes a jerk, this person is never clear in his instructions so absolutely ask several times what it is he needs, etc. It was the best bit of information I have ever attained. I guarantee you somewhere there is someone who is at your level who can give you some insight.

4. Use a task manager or a calendar to organize your day, as much as possible. Write things down. Be as nice and polite as possible, even when you're feeling as bad as you do right now. I had those days. I once forgot to give a midterm to an entire class. I apologized to the professor. I apologized to my boss. I apologized to the director of the program, and I made sure nothing like that happened again.

5. Check your work. Go over the instructions several times. And then check once it's done before giving it to your boss or whomever asked for it.

6. When receiving work, ask, "When would you like this done?" Add it to your list of tasks. And then aim to have it done an hour or a day before it's due so you can do step 5.

7. As the department assistant, I know what the priorities really are, regardless of what the people I work for think. Entering the schedule? That takes huge precedence over calling facilities because the light in a classroom is flickering. If the classroom light is a huge priority for the faculty person, I will provide them with the number for facilities so they may call themselves while I continue to enter the courses our students need to take into the system, and etc.

8. If you cannot get something done when someone wants it, tell the person, "I have x going on at the moment, which I do really need to get done. Can I have y to you a day later, or an hour later?" Most of the time, provided the faculty person is on their game, it's not an issue for me to get something to them a little later provided they know I have something going on that takes priority. Making clear that there are more things than just their things going on has served me well in getting my faculty to understand that I'm not just sitting at this desk 7 hours/day. I'm really freaking working.

I have a lot of other tips that I've found have worked for me. Please feel free to Memail me if you have any other questions. And if you decide that it's just not a good fit for you, there's no shame in looking for another job. There's no shame in looking for another job if you just don't particularly like what you're doing or the people you're working with, either. You don't need anyone's permission to look for another job.
posted by zizzle at 12:00 PM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

It does kind of sound like a pre-firing to me. They are definitely making notes and a paper trail if you're "not a good fit." (Using the word 'fit" at all seems to be a bad sign.) Now, at the moment you're not being fired, and they're handing you a long list of hoops to jump through, but... well, how feasible is it that you will be able to jump through these hoops? I'm not sure.

As far as I can tell, in these kinds of situations, they will tell you what you are doing wrong, but it's at best up in the air as to whether or not they think you are going to be able to "fix" yourself by the time they give you the long list. It is kind of a warning to look for a new job. Sure, if you COULD somehow manage to fix yourself in all of these ways on the list, great! That'd be awesome! They would certainly like that outcome best of all. But are they really thinking that you're going to be up to their standards? ... harder to say, but probably not quite.

Unfortunately, this kind of leaves you in a position of (a) stepping up your game even harder and trying harder from 8-5 in hopes of keeping the job, while (b) needing to start job hunting once again once you get home. And start saving every penny you can because you probably don't have all that much longer at this job, and if you're still in a probation period, well...

If it's any consolation, it may not be "you" that's the problem so much as your having to work for people who are super picky, capricious, and expect you to be a mind reader at the job. Do they ah, tend to go through a lot of people in your position? That might be a sign. It doesn't sound like you are trying to be a slacker here or anything, it might just be them. Not that that helps with your job anyway, but it might help you feel less crappy.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:54 PM on October 18, 2010

Hi, I'm an admin who sometimes wonders how I'm supposed to read my boss's mind. Assuming you want to improve at this job (and there is no shame in being bad at admin, as noted above):

Overcommunicating is your friend. Are you always letting the people you support know when something is done? My boss's tension about me handling her calendar has gone way down since I started sending her FYI messages when I schedule something she asked for. It saves time in the end, because she's less stressed and it's improved her trust in me.

And 2nding zizzle on asking lots of questions. I always summarize what's being asked of me when I get the assignment - this has caught lots of misunderstandings before they became problems. Also, make sure you have your bosses' support for any new rules you try to implement. Anyone who doesn't like your rules will go straight to your boss to complain.

As far as organization, David Allen loves you and wants you to be happy. Read Getting Things Done. Get in the habit of capturing all your action items in one place, and making sure that your list is, indeed, composed of action items. I use an Excel spreadsheet with columns for task, context, date assigned, date due, and date completed (so I can show what I've accomplished in a given day/week). I sort/filter to show only active action items arranged by context.
posted by momus_window at 2:28 PM on October 18, 2010

I don't think you're in trouble - they want to help you to improve your (admittedly) spotty performance. They wouldn't bother if you were on the way out.

There's nothing wrong with asking questions - but there is a wrong way to do it. Try to consolidate your questions, avoid popping in constantly to clarify points. Get clarification on tasks when they are given to you - don't wait until you start and get stumped. I also recommend having a short meeting with your boss to go over priorities and tasks for the week, if you can, wait for clarification on ongoing projects then.

If you are having trouble with changing priorities of projects, send your boss an email with your task list and ask them to prioritize it for you. Communication is key, email is best (you really want that paper trail, especially if they are saying one thing and expecting something else.) DO NOT attempt to mind-read. Your boss should be learning your communication style while you learn theirs - let them know when and how you are confused.

Good luck! I've been there - it sucked. And it happens all the time.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:15 PM on October 18, 2010

1) am I totally over-reacting? Or am I actually circling the drain and should be looking for a next move immediately?

No, you're not, and yes, you should.

2) if I should be job-hunting, how should I be conducting it in a way that complements my situation?

Yes, start hunting. Look in the trade papers/websites that are relevant to your area of work. Do NOT discount non-traditional sites - I got my dream job via ThedailyWTF of all places.

3) is it possible that my managers have unrealistic expectations? Or am I necessarily being defensive and excusey?

No, they are setting you up for failure so that they have an excuse/reason to fire you and hire someone else. This is common in academia, at least with the uni that me and my wife used to work at.

At least you're getting the signals to you early, so you can ready your GTFOOD kit ready.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 5:32 PM on October 18, 2010

I think you need an intake procedure when people make requests since they're throwing stuff at you left and right and navigating the prioritization waters are difficult due to lack of communication & politics. Every time someone gives you a task, ask the following:

1. When would you *like* this done by?
2. When is the absolute latest it can be done by (can't match up with #1!)?
3. (if it's something you've never done before) What will a successful version of this look like when it's done?
4. Notes

If they don't have time to answer your reasonable questions, they don't have time to be making the request.

I would probably color code (today/tomorrow/later or OMG CRISIS/emergency/rush job) on post-its in pen (less chance for tampering...and yes, that's happened) with the relevant info and post to an over-sized wall-calendar in plain view, in order of due date/time. That way everyone can see exactly how much shiz you have on your plate and the queue is less politicized.

Setting rules like zizzle suggests is key, esp. for routine things like copy requests. In fact, I'd demand 24 hours notice minimum for as much as possible. Make sure it's not their lack of planning & organization that's screwing you over and making you the fall guy/girl. Remember the admin wisdom: A lack of planning on your part does not constitute a crises on mine (or something like that).

and yeah, it does sound like you might be getting the boot, so start looking just to be safe. But from the sound of it, you're probably better off!
posted by smirkette at 9:07 PM on October 18, 2010

Mod note: From the OP:
Hi all-- thanks so much for your responses. I'll be much briefer here than I'd like to be just because I want to get a followup in before this thread drops completely off the radar, but I am hoping to MeMail some people individually as well.

One major element that I neglected to add-- re: the question of whether this is part of a specific disciplinary process-- my employer has a 90-day probation period for anew employees, up to the end of which either party can terminate the relationship (this seems to make pretty much no difference for the employee, but for the employer, it makes a pretty big one-- after the 90 days, there is a much more complex and bureaucratic system in place for disciplinary action, and also the union may get involved). So anyway, this 90 day point, which I am approaching in a number of weeks, is really the point at which they will probably drop me like a hot stone if they don't think I have much of a future in this position.

As for the types of errors-- I would agree that there are occasional errors that are just me outright dropping the ball. To the people saying "ask ask ask"-- I agree in general, especially as that's my default personality, but one of the specific points my managers brought up is my apparent lack of judgment in knowing what to ask about and what not to. I feel like I always make the wrong choice-- when I make an executive decision, it's the wrong one and I should have asked, and when I ask, it's something stupid that I shouldn't have bothered asking about. I know it sounds like this should be obvious, but the whims and fancies of my managers seem thoroughly capricious. Like, for example, maybe I'll ask if something should be single- or double-sided and the answer is basically "don't waste my time, you can decide that for yourself", but another time I'll make an executive decision to do double-sided and it's like "OH GOD YOU SHOULD HAVE SOMEHOW KNOWN THAT IN THIS SPECIFIC TYPE OF SITUATION ONE NEVER DOUBLE-SIDES. ASK!" (bad, made-up example, but you get the gist.)

The idea that "your lack of planning is not my crisis" seems utopic from my vantage point. A decent amount of things I have to do are basically "I am suddenly sending you this barrage of things that could and should have been sent to you two weeks ago and you need to make it happen within the next hour or so, and if you can't you are incompetent!" For example, there are a number of processes within the university for requesting certain things from other departments that basically NEED to be activated however many days before the item or service is desired. I am repeatedly receiving requests that violate these deadlines and it is my problem if I can't pull them through.

This job does cause me ridiculous stress. I spend most of my day feeling like there's a weight sitting on my chest, which I've never felt before. The past few days have made me realize that this job is just not good for me, but it feels so stupid, or maybe ungrateful, to give up a job that pays more, gives better benefits, and is a really respectable name, compared with anything else I'd be looking at. Then again, I want my day back-- I've worked in places where everyone doesn't run around like headless chickens all the time, and I miss that. But I feel a certain sense of guilt in leaving a job where I like my co-workers and most of my managers as people, and I hate to cause such a drain in resources to a small program that does very important, applied work (that is, a work slowdown would have an effect on projects that directly affect people's lives, not just delay the sixth-edition printing of The Role of Myth and Gender in Medieval Latvia or something). I think my managers do want me to succeed, but don't realize that that feels increasingly impossible, both on the part of my ill-matched skillset and of their bewildering communication styles.

I think what I'll do (with a good deal of luck) is receive a job offer I can live with, and then sit down with my bosses and say, "All right. I think what you implied is correct-- I may not be a good fit for this job at all. I have a job offer elsewhere, and unless this is totally surprising to you and you feel I have huge potential here and want to keep me into perpetuity, I will be giving my two-week notice today. I'm sorry it turned out this way and I want to make this as easy for all involved as possible." How do you folks feel about this tack?

Bonus question-- if I do get fired, how the hell do I mitigate this to next-step employers? "Bad fit", I know, but really.

Anyway, sorry to ramble on so long; guess this wasn't so brief after all. I really appreciate your responses and you've given me a lot of food for thought.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:47 AM on October 19, 2010

"Bad fit" is apparently the thing that you are supposed to say. In your case, it was a bad fit: they expected Superwoman with psychic powers and fifteen arms and got a human being! It does sound like they are really expecting too much of someone who's new to "magically" know. Yeesh. I wanted to cry just reading that, I don't know how you put up with it daily when they are always changing things on you. Anyway, "bad fit" is designed to hide a myriad mess of problems from "They were crazy" to "I was crazy," and as far as I can tell is really the only answer you can give. You absolutely can't say anything bad about a future employer in an interview even if they did terrible things to you, and you don't want to talk yourself down, so... "bad fit" it is.

I think if I were you in there for now, ask them about everything. Every single stupid thing. Yes, sometimes they will be pissed if you asked. (Probably because this seems like the kind of office where they want to put you down and make you feel stupid. It's sounding very abusive-relationship-y here.) But at this point they're probably pissed at you about everything anyway, and can asking make that worse? Probably not. Mostly I just say this because you're more likely to get into trouble if you "use your own initiative" here and don't ask questions than if you constantly ask. Okay, you're in trouble no matter what anyway, but asking will lessen some of it. At least if you ask about every nitpicking thing, you'll find out SOME of the information that you were supposed to magically know you had to ask about. And it shows you're trying.

If you have a job offer by the time they lower the boom, fine, but have a plan in the even that there is no job offer (which is to say, don't lie and say you have one). I don't think a job offer, real or not, would change the outcome at this point with them anyway.

I wish you all the luck in the world in finding less insane employers. Not all university departments are that crazy!
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:32 PM on October 19, 2010

Awwww. OP. This is where I can help you.

I have run into similar issues where the policies of other departments have prevented me from getting tasks done as quickly as the person wanting it done would like. I inform them politely of that department's policies and explain that I will do my best, HOWEVER, it may be that the person needs to take it up with that department. In other words, you are appropriately passing the buck. If it is something where several people in my department are not getting it, I send a very kind e-mail to the entire department that is something like the following,

"Hello everyone (my department is informal, adjust this as needed for yours),

It has come to my attention that there is some confusion pertaining to requesting set up and assistance from our Media Services Department. I wish to alleviate this confusion by explaining the policies of the Media Services Department.

First, Media Services Department is responsible for all classroom computers, special event set ups, as well as for providing appropriate media in classrooms that do not currently have media installed. There are only two people who work in this department for the entire school, and for this reason, they have set the policy laid out below.

They have asked that all requests for classroom media be made no later than 5 days in advance. Becoming aware of this myself only recently, I believe that this has been the primary source of frustration for us as a department. Going forward, I ask that if you require additional media for your classroom, please send the order to me five days before you require it so I may place the order with media services in a timely manner. Media Services has made it clear to me that any orders made later than 5 days before will be honored only if they have the time and means to do so and that after that point they do not guarantee their services will be available.

Second, it seems that several of you have had difficulty with the classroom media in the past few days. If for any reason something is not working in your classroom, please contact Media Services by calling (ext) from the classroom phone or (full number) from your cell phone. If no one picks up, please wait for the voice mail message as the message contains the cell phone numbers for both (x person) and (y person). In most cases, they can walk you through the issue on the phone if you contact them.

I hope this helps to clarify some of the issues we've experienced recently and that this information will serve to help us as we go forward with the rest of the semester.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Thank you,

I send e-mails like this all the time so if something goes awry, according to a faculty person, I can point to the e-mail I sent and give a polite and non-spiteful, "Told you so," followed by a, "I will give them a call, explain the situation, and see what can be done," and after that department tells me, "No," I return to the faculty and say, "I contacted the department, and they said they were unable to accommodate this. At this point, if this is something that you really need done, I would suggest that you contact them directly as they may be more willing assist you than me. Here's the (number) and the name of the person I spoke to. Let me know if I can help you with anything else."
posted by zizzle at 5:56 AM on October 20, 2010

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