What is this you ask? I know you can’t read it, but never fear, I’m going to type it for you. But first, a little background.
I was searching for a photo of my/our Kindergarten Class for a blog post. As I was going through everywhere I thought it could possibly be (and never did find it), I came across a letter I had written in 1983. I honestly do not remember writing this letter. But I clearly remember the situation that prompted it. The page you see was one of 12 (twelve!) handwritten pages to my boss. As I read the first page, I thought, “wow, I’m glad I didn’t give this to him”. Then I got to page two and saw red notations and comments in my former bosses handwriting. Oh my gosh! I had literally blocked this from my mind! Even now I cannot remember the discussion we must have had. However, since I not only kept working for him, but was asked to move with him from this 1983 job to a new job in 1984, it must have been the right thing to do.
I know this is long, and won’t be offended if you move on… I really do understand. But I need to type this out for me. This blog is
somewhat of a journal and this needs to be included – for me. The John/JDA referred to here was the then Attorney General of Missouri, John Ashcroft. LaVerla was his secretary. (My bosses’ comments are in parenthesis). So here goes!
5/11/83 – 2:00 am
Thanks to our discussion this afternoon I cannot sleep, because of the things I wish I had said and didn’t. Most of this will probably be plain ol’ garbage but I’m hoping that somewhere in this effort, there is going to be one or two points worth looking at.
When you asked me to help LaVerla out, I told you I would be glad to, but that it is a lousy solution. I meant that more than you can know and for more reasons than you knew.
LaVerla needs immediate help. As it looks now, I’m going to be hard put to give that to her. And my stomach is going to be hard put to be trying to do my own work, help LaVerla in every spare moment, and walk by Sue’s desk and see her do nothing. There is a problem and it is time to deal with the problem. The way I see it is you are going to be very hard pressed to find someone suitable for that chair. I know, because I’ve been there. Sue is sloppy, careless, unproductive as far as initiative goes, and as far as I can see, doing a lousy job for you. So was Patty and Leesa. Who knows, maybe I’d better throw myself into that category too for the time I sat in that chair. There has to be reasons for this. Your first problem is LaVerla. She has to change her ways. The girl loves to complain about being overworked, used and unappreciated. I’m sure there is a lot of justification in her complaints but there are also solutions. One is when someone offers help, give them something. I have offered too many times and been told “I think we’re in good shape” or “just let me work things out a bit and I’ll get back with you.” A person gets told no only so many times and they quit offering. This has happened to Sue, it’s happened to Rita and it’s happened to me. LaVerla is scared of John. She saves everything for fear that he might want something. I realize this point is somewhat off the track but it is terribly bothersome and adds to her confusion and disorganization tremendously. She trust no one – including me. When John is in the office she watches his phone, his door and his every move like a hawk (Duncan’s note: This is as he wants). This is needed to an extent, but there are also other warm bodies of fairly capable standards that could also watch the same thing she does with a varying degree of success. She love to complain about luncheons (Duncan’s note: RS & TD’s secretary should be assigned this) but yet she will let no one help her – I know because I have offered numerous times. To work with LaVerla is terribly frustrating. If I (Duncan’s note: or anyone else) am to do letter, dictation, or whatever for JDA, I want to feel I am a capable secretary able to produce a final product to be proud of. This is usually impossible. If a letter is drafted by someone besides LaVerla, invariable the “again,” “too”, “date”, or something is at the wrong end of the sentence. If you space down five, it should have been 10. If you say “Dr.” in the title it should have been “Professor” and if you close with “sincerely” it should have been “most sincerely”. Get my point? It’s no wonder Sue has no initiative to do right the first time. It is going to be changed anyway. Nobody like their work graded and I don’t relish the idea of going through that again. I am a very capable secretary but I have my ways of doing and saying things – and so does anyone else who tries. (Duncan’s note: Certain categories of JDA’s correspondence should go directly to TD sec., TD to review & give directly to JDA!) LaVerla has to realize this and give us a chance. Someone has got to set her straight on a few things and I’m not the person to do that. I consider her a friend and would do nothing to hurt her. Which means I will change sentences around as she wants until I’m red in the face and I still wouldn’t be able to let her know what she is doing. You are not going to get someone to work out in Sue’s position until LaVerla learns to let go and let someone work with her, not for her -or maybe even against her in this case.
There are also problems as far as Randy and Tom go. I wish I was clearer as far as what these are. I felt them when I worked for Randy and Paul, but I never was real sure what the problem was. I think possibly just the substance of the work is lacking. Randy could use Sue for research and project if he wanted to. Since I have never worked directly with Tom, I can’t pin point that problem either. I just know that the form letters get old. I also know somebody has to do them. The face is though, Randy & Tom were talking Sue down before she ever came on board. (Duncan’s note: ?) That does not exactly constitute a fair chance. I would very strongly suggest that they have a say so in their next secretary so they won’t have anybody to blame but themselves. (Duncan’s note: good idea). I wish I could see the problems there better but I can’t. A simple solution would be for Randy & Tom to quit griping behind Sue’s back and for Sue to quit rebelling with sloppy, haphazard work, and for everyone to sit down and talk, holler or whatever – over and over if necessary. It is kind of like a marriage, if you don’t open up and communicate, it doesn’t have a chance from the start.
Now that I am getting tired and sharper with my criticism – for my job’s sake, let’s say I don’t know what I’m saying at this point – I will tackle you. Why the devil won’t you handle the problem rather than walk around it? You are asking me to step in when I don’t have time. (Duncan’s note: that’s what I asked) Some solution! This is unfair to LaVerla who needs help now and unfair to Sue who keeps moping around the office looking for work. The problem is now and a temporary solution – no matter how good – or lousy, in this case – is not the answer. If Sue is in fact not capable of the job, admit it to her and yourself now, reduce her salary to her capabilities and move her to somewhere else in the office – now. If you want the whole situation to come to a head, put Rose in there. She won’t mince on words and I figure she and LaVerla will have knocked each other silly within a week.
Duncan, I wish you would open up and let Mary and me know how you feel about things. There are times you come out of JDA’s office and we can feel the tension coming through the walls. We tell each other that your silence, slamming phones and stalking in and out of the office are not directed at us (Duncan’s note: keep telling yourselves – it’s true!) but sometimes it is hard to believe. There are many problems throughout the office but Mary & I keep trying to hash out solutions between ourselves. You really aren’t all that easy to approach when it comes to support staff problems. We have both come to the conclusion that you want us to keep walking around it all. That is hard on us. Every time someone complains about LaDonna and the phone, Bev and her problems being brought to the office, Terry and her big mouth, Cathy, Jim, Mike and on and on (Duncan’s note: what are these problems? LaDonna I know) we just sometimes want to say “so what?”, Duncan doesn’t care, so why should we. You listen, nod your head in agreement to what we say and let things continue as they are. That is not fair to us. You have given Mary some authority over the support staff. Mary is not afraid of dealing with the problems that come our way, she is afraid of dealing with you afterwards. When she makes a decision, back her up. Her approach is direct and will stir up the office, but that is not all bad and might be worth a try. (Duncan’s note: The generalities of this approach sound fair, but I need more specific example to assess it) And if you don’t like the direct approach, let us know how you do want us to handle things. We are just tired of closing our eyes and saying things will work themselves out. Many things won’t.
As far as my job for you is concerned, I wish I could help you more. I’ve noticed a change in your attitude towards me – for the good – as far as being your secretary is concerns. Duncan, I am there to do whatever you want. Please don’t ever hesitate to ask me to return calls, type letters, write letters, research, file, organize your office – hint, hint… (Duncan’s note: why didn’t I think of this?), make copies or whatever - I figure my main responsibility is to you. By the way, I may be complaining loud and long about the word processing project, but I am thoroughly enjoying it. Thank you. (Duncan’s note: And doing a great job!)
Since my purpose of writing is to get things off my mind so I can go to sleep, I also have to let you know I am still hurt that you are paying Sue more than me (Duncan’s note: especially now) and if you like me as your secretary and feel I am as much an asset to this office as you say I am, you will quit promising to bring my pay equal to Sue’s and do something about it. (Duncan’s note: Almost every attorney would like to do this for his secretary. You deserve it, but appearance of favoritism would damage morale and my credibility).
Duncan, I have been as open and truthful as I can here. Everything I have said has been eating at me off and on for sometime. I find it easier to write my thoughts than speak them. Hopefully you will read this, think about what is worth thinking about, discard the rest, and pitch everything. One way or another, we have to all be open with each other. This is my way.
Now I am going to try to get some sleep and hopefully I will lose this – rather, burn this – before I come to work. But I have a feeling you will see my insomnia product in its entirety. Sweet dreams.Deanna
Apparently this was my approach to handling a problem. I’m totally amazed that I did it, but it seemed to work for me. I don’t think I’d recommend anyone else try it though. It might just backfire.