Working in college administration is certainly rewarding and can even be fun sometimes. Sometimes.
I am the college Registrar, meaning I am responsible for creating student schedules, handling transcripts, and several other things that would bore you to tears. I am probably one of the least liked people on staff due to my job requirements (at least that is what I tell myself). I am the one who puts students on academic probation. I call to tell them they have failed a class and as a result will not graduate with their cohort. I am the one who decides which teachers they will have and when they will take classes. If a student is unhappy with his or her schedule,grades, or any aspect of life in relation to school, I hear about it. Usually by way of screaming and threats.
For almost two years now I have been cussed at, insulted, and called names I would save for my worst enemy. It has been a good learning experience and has allowed me to practice my “workplace professionalism” when dealing with nasty clients or customers. Many a time I have been tempted to say to an ill-tempered student “keep talking to me this way and I’ll make your life miserable you idiot. I see your grades, I SEE HOW STUPID YOU ARE!” Instead, I have to respond calmly with things like “This is our school policy, Jenny, and I am terribly sorry but there is nothing more I can do. Would you like to discuss your options again? Is there anything else I can do for you?” GAG.
Lately, I have been trying out different tactics for dealing with these unruly students, I am calling it my own little social experiment. This way I can entertain the psychology freak in me AND avoid anger buildup as I’m being torn a new As$hole. I simply decide which type of response I want to go with and track the effectiveness of each. It’s win-win! So far I have tried arguing back, sympathizing, tough love, pissy, sad, defensive, overly confrontational, and pass-off-to-another-staff-member. I have not been too satisfied with any of them.
Today I tried a response that I thoroughly enjoyed, and am definitely going to repeat. I call it the “passive aggressive smile treatment”, PAST for short. A student entered my office and started screaming about something that actually had nothing to do with me (for once). I let her rant for a minute and when she stopped and was angrily awaiting my reply I gave her one of these:
I literally did not say a word, just smiled that snide stupid smile. She didn’t know how to react, so she started screaming again. When she stopped and stared at me, STILL waiting for me to show her some compassion or offer assistance I threw her this:
I had a hard time not laughing at this point. The student became noticeably awkward and screamed at me “I’M SORRY, I’M JUST REALLY TIRED!! OKAY???? I’M TIRED!!!!!!!!!” How did I respond?
The student and I stared at each other in silence for a solid 10 seconds (yep I held that smile the WHOLE TIME) until she slowly turned and walked out of my office.
I’d say the PAST response was a complete success. The student vented, I listened, I did not utter any words of unprofessionalism, and I maintained my cool. I can’t wait for another angry student encounter so I can test my PAST effectiveness plan again.