Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Taking the Admin to Lunch

My research group recently got a new administrative assistant, and while we miss the old admin, it's sure much better now than the no-admin situation we had going for a few months. This is now the third admin that has been here during my years as a grad student - which makes me feel either older, or high maintenance! Truly I don't know why the turnover has been quite so high... I swear I'm nice to the admins...

There's been some discussion at Candid Engineer and at Dr. Isis's blog recently on treating the staff well, and I thought it's an appropriate time to mention a nice tradition in my lab.

When the last admin joined our group a couple years ago, I thought it would be a welcoming gesture to organize a lunch outing for her with the students. I'm sure the professors welcomed her as well, but I hoped it would be helpful for her to meet and say hi to all the students that she would have to be fielding requests from. The idea was well received, and the lunch went well. (We paid for her, of course, even engineering grad students can pick up on some etiquette...)

When this most recent admin joined the group, I did the same thing. First I conferred with all the students who would be working with her to see what days would be good for lunch, and not surprisingly the answer was "pretty much any day." Man I love grad school! Then I went to say hi to the new admin, introduced myself and made small talk, and offered that the students would love to take her out to lunch if she had a free day.

The lunch again went very well, and we discovered that actually she is not only a secretary, but a technical writing editor. Perhaps maybe, just maybe, if we are especially nice to her, she might critique our papers for publication? Worth a shot in the future! :) I feel like the outing was a success (even if six people did pay with credit cards - really people? You don't carry $12 cash?), and I think it makes a nice tradition.

In business-speak, this is "on-boarding." Leave it to the business folks to make up a term and a procedure for common sense... Actually it's popular here to do the same thing when an advisor gets a new student - the current students of that advisor will take the new one out for coffee (or a beer, depending on the lab group). Gossip, small talk, and there you have it. It's a bonding thing, and it helps people become more comfortable and feel like valued parts of the group.

Between the welcome lunches and the bread and vanilla I make for the staff, I think the moral is that my way of being nice to people is to feed them... there are worse ways to show appreciation, I think!

Do you do anything to "on-board" new staff, or members of the lab group?

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