Thursday, December 13, 2007

(Dutch )secretaries

Here in the Netherlands, being an office support staff is not a position where you serve others. No, on the contrary it is a position where you can order people around, since you have the information and the keys to office supplies.
I've written something similar about the dutch services before, but let me just add a bit more.
First of all, after having adjusted to the system here more since I've lived here for two years, I was able to "adapt" to their slow manner and impoliteness.
However, one thing I didn't know or forgot maybe was that you should never accuse them of not doing their job remotely wrong or bad. They will just make your life more miserable.

Ex) I have e-mailed our secretary who is in charge of faculty graduate issues to answer a very short list of questions which were needed for a meeting 2 weeks later. One week later, after no response I wrote back, nicely- i.e. please, if it isn't too much of a bother, many thanks in advance etc - to answer it back, and asked if she was alright. No answer and tomorrow being the meeting I went downstairs, to see she is chatting away with colleague.
I ask her if she got the e-mail and she says yes, and I ask her why she hasn't replied, she tells me it isn't her job to answer every single e-mail, and it wasn't something she could answer anyway. I told her it was two weeks ago and two e-mails and I asked her specifically if it wasn't her duty to forward it to someone else, which would've took 30 seconds. She goes, well I was sick and the sort, and I don't like you speaking to me like that. I ask her, well I have a meeting tomorrow with nothing. she starts to get really upset and trying to cry and kicks me out of the office. (in between that somewhere I asked her if it wasn't her job to facilitate the people at the graduate school - she answered "yeah, but no, but yeah, but no, but yeah...")

I feel like I am dealing with a small infant, who cries all the time and pisses you off but you have to be very gentle with, or else you will pay for it, i.e. getting nothing done- which I will not be surprised if this would be the case from now on.

All in all, I have no clue what they do- seriously- but whatever it is, it ain't to facilitate people's work.
Maybe it is hiding valuable information in which none of us other workers are not capable of handling. Then again, this reminds me alot like the secretary - Carol- from Dilbert. so maybe it's a secretary thing not specifically a Dutch secretary thing- having said this my experience with Scottish/English/German/Korean secretaries are to the contrary.

1 comment:

A friend said...

Fatal mistake my dear. You shouldn't specify this as a Dutch secretaries' problem. It has to do with almost all Dutch people. The golden rule is: NEVER attack directly a Dutch person about his work if you expect smth from her/him. If you attack her/him, then she/he cannot handle it, she/he will take a very defensive position and will start crying. Which means that you will achieve nothing. I think that the solution is just to insist politely without making any inference to a possible responsibility of the person for not resolving your problem. In such a way, she/he will have no excuse of taking a defensive position and will be forced to take some action for you, in order to get rid of you. It works, I have tried it many times.

Don't forget your friends.