Rainy Day Academics #12 & 35

April 29, 2009, 10:38 pm

Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re trying to be so good,
They’ll stone ya just a-like they said they would.
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to go home.
Then they’ll stone ya when you’re there all alone.

Today’s meditation follows along the lines of the above career advice, given by Bob Dylan to a young academic who happened, at the time, to be wearing a leopard-skin pillbox hat.

As for me, after generic academic rainy day moments, instead of getting stoned –er, I mean being passive-aggressive (though, `tis the academic way) — I have learned to try to tolerate the discomfort attendant to actually confronting abusive people. Until the Unfortunate Events, I had almost never taken this approach to inappropriate, hostile or aggressive behavior on the part of colleagues. In fact, it was part of my recovery from this (now blessedly long ago) period in my life to learn to screen out other people’s craziness, to dodge other people’s crap more adeptly and not worry about things I couldn’t change. I have colleagues who do this very, very well, and although it can be frustrating for those of us who sometimes need them to engage at key moments, I learned to understand why it buys them peace of mind.

But sometimes crap is unavoidable, given the personalities of academics; it gets delivered to the door, Federal Express, and you are asked to sign for it. So I also worked hard on becoming more adept at responding to crap maturely, directly and with dignity. My repertoire now includes a private conversation where I say, “Hey, this is what you did/what seems to be happening; this is why it isn’t ok; you need to have respect for me.” Or whatever. Email can follow under some circumstances, but the initial private conversation, uncomfortable as it is, is essential. Best case scenario is that the person tells you something you need to know that allows you to understand why they are behaving badly, even if you don’t accept it, or think it is your fault; worst case scenario, they continue to behave childishly and begin once again to abuse you with their contempt and bad manners.

The results of my attempt to deal directly with the most recent unpleasantness fell somewhere between these two outcomes, after which the offender sneered in a parting shot, walking away, “Why don’t you blog about it?”

Oooooooh. It’s tempting, isn’t it?

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