Another dot in the blogosphere?

A little bit special

Posted on: January 12, 2012

Depending on where you are, being special can be a good thing or a bad thing.

If you are in Singapore, being special in our educational system is good because you are among the schooling elite. Elsewhere, like the USA, being special is not so good because you have special needs. It is a matter of context and perspective.

I have discovered that I am special in my work place in a bad way.

I might be the only academic who takes care of a non-academic department. This is somewhat ironic given that we are the Centre for e-Learning. But that is not the special bit.

There are separate work emailing lists for academic and non-academic heads. As some folks do not know quite where to place me, I sometimes miss out on important notifications.

Thankfully there are a few alert staff who spot this operational flaw and try to deal with it by including me in the distribution or providing the information as an urgent afterthought. But that rarely happens because to TO and CC lists are either very long or automated.

I guess this is what happens when you are “special” in a one-size-fits-all setup. This is a reminder to me that we are all special in some way and it is important to treat people that way.

Email is one thing. The telephone is another.

Earlier this week, I realized that my office phone number was accidentally assigned to someone else. I have had this number in my five years at this work place. It is the number used by people who I give my business cards to. This number even followed me when I moved from one office block to another when I took up my appointment.

I discovered that a new staff member has been assigned to my old office. In setting up a phone line, the system (or more likely someone in the system) gave him my current office number instead of giving him a new one.

Again, this reminds me that a whole comprises of many parts. For operational efficiency, it might seem prudent to look at the whole. I think that is why someone just followed a fixed process.

But if you ignore the parts that make it whole, seemingly small problems like these eat away at the integrity of the whole.

This latest incident took three days and four different people to sort out. Imagine me spending time explaining the same problem over and over again. Imagine the total man hours lost on this. Imagine me losing confidence in a system designed to help me work.

My takeaway is that the parts are sometimes more important than the whole. To make an organization special (in a good way), you need to treat its people special (also in a good way). It might seem like a lot of effort, but it is better in the long run.

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