Monday, January 15, 2007

Thinking as an administrator

So, today was the first day as an administrator where I was not away, sick or feeling terrible. So what was it like? Not bad and not particularly fun either, I'd say. It seems less frightening and more doable than I felt last week, it also seems like a lot of work and much of it seems to be rather boring. But it does still feel like a challenge, just not a completely overwhelming one.

My first task of the day was to say hello to a new staff member. I did not hire her and had nothing to do with that process, but she happened to have her first day at work last week. At least welcoming new people is a nice and meaningful thing to do. My second task was to sort through all the emails related to this new position and figure out which ones I need to take care of one way or another and which ones go straight to the archive. Maybe I am not a very good employee since I normally don't send copies of all sorts of stuff to my boss, but apparently that's what people do. At least I get lots of emails now about topics that are not even remotely related to my work or my interests and when I open them, they are "for your information" copies about all sorts of things my colleagues are doing or planning to do. So far they go straight to the archive since I don't really know what to do with them. But maybe I should start sending those too, when I take a step down the ladder again in six months.

Actually most of the day was spent filing things, organizing my calender, filling in all the dates for meetings, activities, deadlines etc from the email pile, responding to suggestions for meetings and answering questions. Some of the meetings are obviously important like the ones related to research projects or financial questions or an invitation to a seminar about staying healthy at work (where the offer fruit....according to the invite). Others are weird, but takes time like showing up in costume related to my field to have my picture taken....errrr, what is that? The only "real" thingI have done today (that is not related to administrating myself and my life) was propose a meeting for the department and provide an agenda for this.

So far none of this requires any higher education and anybody who knows how to do Outlook could do it, but I do know that more complicated tasks are looming on the horizon. I am also aware that to deal with those I will probably need a whole different set of skills than the ones I need to do research. I do think there is a reason why people study management of people, of projects, of money and the like, but academics are just supposed to walk in there and start managing. I am not frightened at the prospect of the job itself anymore, but I do feel that I don't know much about how to do this job in a good way and that irritates me and will very likely be a source of frustation in the coming months. Like most academics I like to do things well, but I also think this group of people deserves that I am not completely screwed up and actually make some good decisions. We have a very open atmosphere and flat hierarchical structure, and I expect everybody to be involved in most decisions, since that's the way things are done here, but some one has to lead the discussion and make the final decisions and I think that is going to be the difficult part.

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