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Author Topic: Is there any good source to teach one how to deal with departmental politics?  (Read 1971 times)
new_prof_prof
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« on: February 08, 2013, 11:33:57 AM »

Hi, is there any good source to teach new assistant professors how to deal with the politics within the department? Discussing problems with colleagues may not be a good idea when one does not know who is reliable.
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ruralguy
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« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2013, 11:47:16 AM »

I am not sure of the question.

Do you mean to ask for , say, a book that might help with suggestions on how to deal with difficult people (I think there is one book that more or less has exactly that title), or are you asking if there is, in general, a key player in every dept. or school you should speak with?

The first is easy: just search for books with titles like that. They are in every library.

Second: get to know everybody, make your own judgements. Try not to get bogged down by gossip,
but you can make a mental note of something a colleague in a different dept. tells you, etc.
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new_prof_prof
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« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2013, 12:05:25 PM »

I meant the first but your suggestion for the second is good. Any good books or websites? Searching "department  politics" often leads to "Department of Politics"
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proftowanda
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« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2013, 12:53:20 PM »

See Machiavelli, Niccolo, The Prince -- or, for certain administrators deserving of a lengthier treatise, The Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy.

Then, in department meetings, dub -- in your mind -- certain obdurate colleagues as "the little prince."  Or, when receiving an idiotic email from an admin, address it as "Titus" in reply. 

(Dependent upon your tenure status -- or not -- do not necessarily send the reply; see the STFU thread and, if untenured, delete it.  If tenured, have some fun.) 
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innyc
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« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2013, 1:55:25 PM »

The beauty of some initial silence is not just that it saves you from stepping in something but it also reminds you that your goal at the beginning is observation and understanding.  At the least you may learn something about who is level-headed, who is forthright, who is reliable, etc.  At most you may actually learn that there are reasons why things are done a certain way at your new institution; absorbing that before telling people how you would change things can be very useful.
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yellowtractor
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« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2013, 2:08:35 PM »

See Machiavelli, Niccolo, The Prince -- or, for certain administrators deserving of a lengthier treatise, The Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy.

This is exactly what I was going to post, ProfT.  And I'm actually not kidding at all.
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proftowanda
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« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2013, 2:34:37 PM »

Nor am I, Yt.  Nor am I.  Not. At. All.
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ruralguy
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« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2013, 2:44:01 PM »

I think there really is a book called "How to Deal with Difficult People" or "10 types of Difficult People" or something like that.

Its more about general office politics, so it won't speak to academia specifically, but you can get a sense of how to deal with
certain personality types.

More or less, its about NOT engaging in peoples negative behaviors, and saying "Oh, thats a great idea!" a lot, or "I can tell you are upset now, but..." In other words, if you treat your colleagues like you treat a 3 yr old, you'll probably succeed.

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theblondeassassin
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« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2013, 4:04:47 PM »

Robert Sutton, No Asshole Rule, and Jeffrey Pfeffer, Power.
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girasol
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« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2013, 7:44:58 PM »

After seeing it recommended here on the fora, I picked up a copy of Boice's _Advice for New Faculty Members_, which I found helpful in my first year.
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polly_mer
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« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2013, 9:10:14 AM »

More or less, its about NOT engaging in peoples negative behaviors, and saying "Oh, thats a great idea!" a lot, or "I can tell you are upset now, but..." In other words, if you treat your colleagues like you treat a 3 yr old, you'll probably succeed.

OP, you might want a more delicate hand than this.  Those of us who have been through a lot of that touchy-feely crap training will think worse of you for trying to manipulate us using those transparent methods instead of staying silent, asking questions, or staking out a position.
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alleyoxenfree
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« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2013, 9:32:49 AM »

The Psychopath Next Door is always good for the warning signs of the truly disturbed but functional.  I wish I'd read it even before grad school.

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latico
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« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2013, 3:18:23 PM »

Better than almost any book, in my view, is becoming a regular reader of the fora.  You won't learn about department politics in a *systematic* way, because information here emerges in a web of association as people post questions/dilemmas/stories, but you will over time develop a good sense of how departments work and what pitfalls to avoid.  A good thread is the "when to STFU" thread (do a search for "STFU"), and there are many others.  The "tenure track" category is probably most relevant to you, though if you are supervising graduate students, you can find out a great deal (especially about how *not* to do it) from the "grad-school life" group of threads.  In general, spending 15 minutes every day checking out posts, asking questions as they come up, and doing searches on topics of importance will give you information you can't get anywhere else.  A book is generally written by one person, maybe two people; its perspective is inevitably limited by author's field and experience.  Here, you get people from all academic fields chiming in, ranging from undergrads to full professors, which gives you a fuller and more complex picture of the issues.
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anakin
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« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2013, 5:01:35 PM »

The Psychopath Next Door is always good for the warning signs of the truly disturbed but functional.  I wish I'd read it even before grad school.



I think you mean The Sociopath Next Door. I recommend that, with a caveat: if you suspect that someone in your department is a sociopath, then by all means give it a look. (A forumite recommended it to me back in the Epoch of the Head Annelid, and it was useful in convincing me not to go out of my mind.) If you don't see anyone like that, and no one's giving you cause for concern, I'd turn to one of the more, um, mainstream titles.
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alleyoxenfree
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« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2013, 7:37:04 PM »

The Psychopath Next Door is always good for the warning signs of the truly disturbed but functional.  I wish I'd read it even before grad school.



I think you mean The Sociopath Next Door. I recommend that, with a caveat: if you suspect that someone in your department is a sociopath, then by all means give it a look. (A forumite recommended it to me back in the Epoch of the Head Annelid, and it was useful in convincing me not to go out of my mind.) If you don't see anyone like that, and no one's giving you cause for concern, I'd turn to one of the more, um, mainstream titles.

You are correct.  I confused the titles.  I also recommend Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work and Without Conscience.  If only I'd seen a few things coming, these would have saved me many sleepless nights and at least one job change.
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