A good sense of humor can go a long way in certain jobs. Little baskets of candy can help, too.
Debbie's personality, along with Hershey mini candy bars and Jolly Ranchers, sets the table for working in an office full of tough electric linemen.
"I'm funny, I think," she says. "I don't take myself too seriously. I try to make everybody happy."
Debbie is a 32-year TNMP employee and in her second stint as a staff assistant at our Lewisville Construction Center. She juggles a lot every day: home builders, customers with certain electric service needs and any number of matters that might come along.
And let us not forget work assignments and timekeeping for about 20 linemen and other field employees.
"You can kid around with them, but still get the job done," she says. "They respect me. And I respect them, because they're out there doing a hard job, a dangerous job.
"That's why I have little candies on my desk. When they come in and talk to me, they deserve a little treat. It's like I'm being a mother for the younger guys."
That doesn't mean there can't be a measure of professional tough love, too.
"I just tell them like it is," Debbie says. "If they're grumpy, I say, 'What are you grumpy about? You need to chill out.' I just kind of give it back to them."
All kidding aside, that professional respect plays a role in helping Debbie do her job. She can receive inquiries on many issues, but sometimes it's hard to know answers without asking field employees who put eyes on the issues at hand.
"They're very good at explaining things," Debbie says. "When a customer calls with a question and I go to them about it, they're very good about helping me out and explaining it all to me."
Debbie's husband, Rick, is an engineer for a neighboring electric utility. Debbie says that his knowledge of the fundamentals of the electric system hasn't always been that fascinating.
"I should have listened to Rick all of those times," she says with a smile. "He talks about fuses and transformers and all that when we're driving around. If I'd paid attention, I'd know more."
Debbie's people skills take care of her actual responsibilities, though. But humor and sweets help, too.