When I was recently teaching a night class at Upper Iowa University, a student of mine mentioned that her boss told her that she didn’t want to hear my student’s idea to improve a procedure in the department because she was “just a clerk.!” I was amazed. Then again…nothing ceases to amaze me anymore. This student is bright, articulate, hardworking and incredibly dedicated to the organization. Now…she is also hurt, angry and far lesswilling to bring up ideas because of a stupid comment like that…yes…I said STUPID!
Any leader that makes a comment like this should themselvesbe fired for gross stupidity! If most of you are like me…I realized as an HR guy that “the clerks” are usually the glue that holds an organization together. Without them…the place would probably grind to a halt. They know where everything is, who to call, and how things truly get done. From personal experience…these people saved my bacon more times than I care to admit.
Instead of stupid comments like this senior level manager made…you need to treat these “clerks” like they are worth their weight in gold…because they are. Not only is it a matter of simple respect…it is good business! When I probed further, it came out that this manager has lost…or driven out…over 50% of their staff in the past two years. The cost to the organization of replacing those people…projects that were delayed…tasks that were not completed or opportunities that were missed has been huge.
In the meantime, my student will do her job (and probably a bit more because that’s the type of person she is)…work on her degree and then leave as soon as the right opportunity comes along. Ultimately, she will go to an organization with a manager that appreciates her contributions…and sees her as an important part of their success…because she is not “just a clerk.”