Proving Trust

We had a meeting yesterday of all the CUSS (Centralized User Support Specialists) in Computer Services, or at least of the CUSS who were here during that shift (which was probably around half). Currently, CUSS are divided into two groups: Microcomputer Support, who focus primarily on faculty/staff on campus, and Lab Supervisors, who focus primarily on the labs and student support. For a variety of reasons, there has been some tension and distrust between these two groups in the past. Such tension is beginning to wane, in my opinion, though it is certainly far from gone, and I feel that we are currently dealing more with the memories of that tension than with any individual’s specific frustrations. We are so used to having this tension that we imagine our problems are greater than they really are.

As I was getting ready for work this morning, I had a bowl of Cap’n Crunch for breakfast and thought that I might as well be having donuts since this cereal was so unhealthy. Since I’m on the Desk today (our call center), I wondered if Glen would be going over to get any. And my train of thought progressed through to the fact that I don’t have any cash, but that he’d probably offer to pay in that case.

Why is this significant? Well, it occurred to me that, at least for people like myself and Glen, we don’t particularly like people spending money on us, and that to let someone spend money on us indicates a certain level of trust and familiarity. If we all were going out to lunch, say to a place that only took cash, I doubt many of the lab supervisors would feel comfortable with me paying for them if I had cash and they had been unaware. Or if we mentioned it beforehand, they might elect to just not go. We don’t know the people on the other side of the division (Micro vs. Labs) as well as those within our own group. That trust hasn’t been established yet.

It’s both a trust of character and the knowledge that they’re not just mooching off of you, that they’ll pay you back or return the favour in kind someday. When you know that you can count on someone to do their job and do it well (thus enabling or helping you to do your job well), it helps you take those first steps to trusting someone.

Until we get the level of trust established where we can ask someone if they want a donut, buy it for them, and it’s not that big a deal, that tension is going to remain. This isn’t a department-level trust–buying donuts for the entire department isn’t the same–but a personal one. And that’s what we need, because at this time, we just don’t know each other well on a personal level or, as I’m beginning to think of it, on a donut level.

The solution, of course, is to spend more time working together and getting to know one another. But how that works practically, considering we’re spread across three physical buildings and three shifts, I’m not really certain of yet. I have some ideas, but like Kevin (our boss) said, it’s probably going to be on the ten year plan. Getting both groups trained to a decent level where we can understand the other side and establishing that trust will take time, and with all the other projects we have, unless we want to just throw the two groups together, it’s going to be a while. Of course, we could just throw the groups together, but as Kevin observed yesterday, it would be disastrous. Our service level would go to pot because we’d be too busy working out internal differences, and that is simply unacceptable. So, we’ll go more slowly, and in the end, it’ll be good.

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