III.2. Operating Staff (Civil Service Personnel)

NIU has a tiered civil service structure that is administered in accordance with the rules of the State Universities Civil Service System. These rules for employment include a comprehensive set of tests and interviews, which are conducted by NIU's Human Resource Service/Operating Staff Services personnel. On occasion, civil service positions are also available on an extra-help basis and limited to no more than 900 hours per year. In either case, offers of employment must go through HRS and its procedural regulations.

The effectiveness and efficiency of the members of the department's operating staff can have a dramatic effect on the chair's ability to manage his or her administrative responsibilities. Hecht and colleagues summarize this relationship well:

Although department chairs may expect to manage the staff, ironically, staff often manage department chairs. Staff with long experience are often the most knowledgeable in the university. They have control of files and information. They know who really makes the decisions. They can anticipate the cycle of events. They know the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the system. They have seen it all before, and they know that every new administrator is bound to make unavoidable mistakes. Savvy department chairs will take full advantage of their staff's knowledge and experience (Hecht et al. 1999).

It is also office staff who can monitor unscheduled visitors and regulate the amount of daily traffic that is admissible past the door into the chair's office. Regular gestures of appreciation to the office staff from the chair are appropriate. Because of their centrality to department functioning and well-being, office staff members must understand clearly the department's mission and its policies. Unlike faculty members, staff members require clear direction from the chair as supervisor; the smooth running of the main office; as well as the rest of the department; depends on effective communication and counsel. Chairs may also be called upon to manage tensions between faculty and office staff; however, the status differential of academe may leave all but the most vocal of staff members feeling disempowered. For this reason, it is imperative that the chair protect office staff to ensure that they are able to fulfill their responsibilities to the department effectively.

It is the chair's responsibility to review regularly the job descriptions of the department's operating staff and ensure their currency with the files on record with HRS Operating Staff Services. These job descriptions are vital in both the annual evaluations of office staff and, should unfortunate circumstances arise, in executing disciplinary action.