September 28, 2012
We restarted our weekly staff meetings the first week of classes, and I forgot how to behave! I’ll admit it, I’ve always been a bit of a cynic, and sarcasm drips from my veins. Some of my responses are better left unsaid. I forgot to turn off that part of Sarah before walking into the meeting.
I’m sharing this with you because circumstances get the best of all of us. We forget where we are. We regularly yell from one end of the office to the other rather than use the intercom. We have a couple of drinks with the dean at the student leadership retreat. We get too comfortable at work wearing topsiders without socks all summer. It can add up to a level of comfort that is unintentionally disrespectful. In my case, it showed up at our first staff meeting.
At meetings, I will usually clap my hands over my mouth rather than say what I’m really thinking. When I’m at the top of my game, I can even stop speaking midword when requested to do so. I didn’t remember any of that at this particular meeting. Let’s just say that if there had been a way to bench me, I would have been sitting on the bench for most of the meeting. It was not my finest two hours.
We are automatically professional, respectful, and well-behaved with the institution’s new president and with parents at new student orientation, among others. Behaving that way with your supervisor(s) should also be automatic. I forgot. The self-awareness check has been turned back on. Following meetings have not been as fun, but the dean hasn’t been offended by our behavior.
There are two take-aways from my experience. First, perceptions matter. I didn’t think I was disrespectful, but my dean did. That is all that matters. And second, apologize for your actions. Leave out the details, explanations, and all the finer points you might bring up. They aren’t important. Just say "I’m sorry," and do better next time. That’s what adults do, and that’s what we would recommend to our students.
The third take-away: no matter what your age, you will still have imperfections.
is the Assistant Director–Campus Life at New Jersey City University.
Sarah became active in ACUI with her first job in student activities of Rider then-College. After earning her MFA from the University of Texas, she relocated to New Jersey and just never left the state. Intrigued by how things work, she accepted an operations position at New Jersey City now-University where she has learned more about elevators, revolving doors, and roof leaks than most people should ever know. The real reason she has stayed in this field is the pure joy of watching students learn and grow.