I just reviewed for the umpteenth time a copy of The Extension Worker’s Code by T. J . Talbert, Superintendent of Institutes and Extension Schools at what is now Kansas State University, then Kansas State Agricultural College. Talbert concisely articulates the behaviors and attitudes that were expected of those who represented the Extension Division to the county practitioners who were their customers. In these small 18 pages he also discusses truths about communications and attitudes regarding the jobs and mission these people have set out to accomplish. I keep a copy of this little pamphlet on my desk to help me remember that there are patterns of acceptable behavior and that the values expressed are those that would continue to serve us well. While I will not restate the entirety of Extension Bulletin No. 33 here, I thought it might be well to highlight just a few for your consideration.
Think It Over
Some workers refuse to think. They don’t want to be bothered. They know everything already. Others can’t think. That’s why they never get anywhere. You have found that it pays to think, especially to think ahead. That’s why we expect you to read this and think it over.
That’s a pretty basic headline to any employee handbook. The implications of that first section are profound, if you think about it.
Believe In Your Work
If you do not believe in your work, you are whipped before you start; your efforts will be fruitless. Besides, it is tremendously difficult to get others interested unless you are a believer yourself.
If we don’t believe in the work and desired outcomes of our employers, we should not have taken the job that was offered. We have to believe that the services and products we deliver bring value to the people we serve.
Study and Serve the People
Study the people and their problems and when you are able to know them they will know you. If you do not have their support and cooperation there is something wrong. Find the reason and if you are at fault, endeavor to correct the error. Develop the spirit of helpfulness and try to be of the greatest possible service to all those with whom you come in contact.
Seems basic enough but to be honest, there are many times that I, as the customer, feel I am there to do favors for the service provider.
Stick to the Truth
Regardless of the number of errors a worker may make, if he is always absolutely honest in his dealings and relations with others, he may yet succeed. On the other hand, nothing will cause him to lose the confidence and esteem of others, so necessary in everyone’s work, as quickly as dishonesty.
Whether you are dealing with your supervisor or your customer remember to stick to the truth. The truth in any situation ensures good decisions and problem solving.
Carefully and tactfully avoid antagonizing people upon any particular question about which they are contending and divided in opinion. You may express determined views and firm convictions upon all questions affecting the public without making yourself offensive.
There are some words that seem to have escaped our culture in recent history. We have moved down the slippery slope of proclaiming the truth as we see things and pressing our point of view without regard for the next person. Seeking the middle ground and the art of negotiation are fast fading skills.
These are the first five principles that Talbert impressed on his field representatives. As I said earlier, while I may refer to these principles from time to time, I’ll not repeat the entirety of the little code book here. Rather you can click on the link The Extension Worker’s Code to read this collection of workplace wisdom. I’ll wrap up with two more …
Say Something Good; Be Loyal
The little cutting remarks made about others and their work always do you much more injury than they do anyone else.
Don’t Knock; Be an Optimist
The worker who seldom if ever sees anything good in anyone or any undertaking, may be relied upon to do wrong to all of us, should the opportunity come.
Our greatest comfort and satisfaction should come from being happy in praising and serving others. The disgruntled, displeased worker does far greater injury to himself and his prospects for advancement than to anyone else.
Other headings include:
Have a Smile for Everybody
Arrive Promptly and Remain at the Meeting Place
Make Clear, Concise Talks
Don’t Be Afraid to Say “I Don’t Know”
Be Careful in Using the Pronoun “I”
Keep Cool, Control Your Temper
Use Discretion in Telling Jokes
Better to Talk Too Little Than Too Much
Remember Somebody Can Take Anybody’s Place
And lastly, Be Courageous
If you can keep courage when others lose heart; if you can keep pushing on when others turn back; if you can smile and wait when others play the coward and quit; if you can be serene in the face of misfortune and failure; if you can keep your nerve and a level head when others get panicky; if you can carry yourself like a conqueror, keep your fixity of purpose when others waver; and you still refuse to lose courage and grip on yourself, then you may know that your work is a success and that there is a hero or heroine in you as noble as any that ever gave up his life on the field of battle for a great cause.
Good words for reflection from a day gone by. Let’s hope the values have not all passed with the years.