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Author Topic: Collegiality and perspective  (Read 4716 times)
chron7
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« on: April 04, 2012, 2:23:12 PM »

I'm still relatively new in my current setting and when I arrived, I could not stop smiling.  A chance at a tenure-track position?  Fantastic! 

Meanwhile, after what has been my best effort to be a productive part of this department, I'm being singled out for collegiality.  And it's gotten to the point where it is affecting reviews of my job performance.   My chair mentions "vague" concerns about collegiality and everyone else follows suit.  And so it now pervades my tenure and promotion.  Unfortunately, my chair's reviews are generally harsh no matter what I do.

To be clear,  I am the person who smiles and says hello when I see others, who seeks others out for potential collaboration, and who attends social events whenever possible.  In other words, since the beginning, I've been doing whatever I can to be collegial.

Details:  I'm female in a generally all-male world.  I'm governed by more than one boss.

Recommendations?  Is this a lost cause or can I ride it out? 

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larryc
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« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2012, 2:55:23 PM »

Do you have a union?

Could you say to your chair: "I am really puzzled by these concerns about my collegiality. I smile and say hello, I seek out collaborations, I do my department service cheerfully and cooperatively. I really need you to be more specific if I am to address this." Then take out a pad and pen.

Edit: It might be better to put the above in an email, so you have a record.
« Last Edit: April 04, 2012, 2:56:03 PM by larryc » Logged

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lowerninthward
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« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2012, 2:58:54 PM »

+1 on larryc's sound advice.

In the interim I had composed the following:

This indeed sounds unnerving, but should be entirely remediable if your colleagues are honest and reasonable.
Under most normal circumstances we are hired because the hiring department knows that we are good fit and tenurable. If you feel that there is language in your promotion file which could jeopardize you future tenure case on grounds of collegiality then you will definitely need to show improvement in this area.
1. Try to get more concrete information on what you can improve, this means discretely consulting allies, chairs and perhaps someone in administration who knows the long term ins and outs of your department.
2. Make clear and documented steps towards showing your will to improve and your clear advances in this area.

Keep in mind that the file itself needs to have a few points to improve over the trajectory of the probationary period, so make sure to be very gracious about having been alerted to a potential weak point in your performance and take this as an opportunity to show your investment in the process.
I apologize for my cynicism here but in all seriousness - if you are enacting curricular changes or outshining your colleagues in some way, those actions, in some contexts, very unfortunately could cause you to be dinged on collegiality for lack of other available means.
Finally, I have found that sometimes grudges or ill first impressions, for whatever reason, can have a very long shadow. I am uncertain of whether, after making an awkward or tactless rookie first impression, one can ever reclaim the good graces of certain colleagues. It seems at times that people just don't want to like someone, no matter how cheerful, diligent or generous in service one may be, and that on top of being a stellar scholar and educator. We can always do better, but this one may require strategy, finesse, and sound advice from insiders.

Best of luck to you - you will be well served to stay positive and to assume that there is indeed a legitimate concern and that you are fully equipped to handle it. Process the disappointment of the personal blow away from campus and try to be ambivalent when seeking counsel close to the epicenter. Its the only way. ~lnw
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ruralguy
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« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2012, 5:02:31 PM »

Collegiality isn't about saying "Hello" in the hall. Well, not mostly, IMHO.

How do you react when you don't get your way? How do you treat others when put in a position of authority?
How do you defend your positions at faculty meetings?

These are much more important concerns.

Of course, you could be fine on all of that too, and this could be the tempest in a teapot created by "needing"
to find something "bad" for you to "improve."

If all of this has already appeared in writing, then , yes, feel free to ask someone of authority what it means.

Try not to be defensive. Say you wish to improve upon anything that needs it and your are truly interested in advice,
but were particularly mystified by the deeper meaning of the collegiality comments.
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prytania3
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« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2012, 5:18:41 PM »

If it's all good old boys and you--you may be experiencing discrimination.

Keep a log. Write it all down--just in case.
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oldfullprof
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« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2012, 5:33:49 PM »

I was being set up by something like this at my last place.  It was a pump-priming for being exploited by the chair.  I was non-renewed after starting to avoid him.
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polly_mer
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« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2012, 8:44:19 AM »

Collegiality isn't about saying "Hello" in the hall. Well, not mostly, IMHO.

How do you react when you don't get your way? How do you treat others when put in a position of authority?
How do you defend your positions at faculty meetings?

This.  You may also explicitly ask, "What are the three things I ought to be doing to improve in this area?"

Are you skipping the "voluntary" Tuesday 3 pm coffee break where the committee assignments are hammered out?

Are you missing the every-other-Wednesday "voluntary" lunch where the real departmental business gets done?

Have you failed to sign up for enough Meet-the-Prospective-Students activities?  Those things are necessary to departmental functions, but may appear optional and no one wants to spend Saturday morning doing that.  Attending social functions "whenever possible" may not be sufficient if you aren't at the right social functions.

You are doing things that strike you as collegial without asking what the department considers collegial.  Find out what they consider collegial and then do that.
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anisogamy
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« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2012, 9:08:57 AM »

Collegiality isn't about saying "Hello" in the hall. Well, not mostly, IMHO.

How do you react when you don't get your way? How do you treat others when put in a position of authority?
How do you defend your positions at faculty meetings?

This.  You may also explicitly ask, "What are the three things I ought to be doing to improve in this area?"

Are you skipping the "voluntary" Tuesday 3 pm coffee break where the committee assignments are hammered out?

Are you missing the every-other-Wednesday "voluntary" lunch where the real departmental business gets done?

Have you failed to sign up for enough Meet-the-Prospective-Students activities?  Those things are necessary to departmental functions, but may appear optional and no one wants to spend Saturday morning doing that.  Attending social functions "whenever possible" may not be sufficient if you aren't at the right social functions.

You are doing things that strike you as collegial without asking what the department considers collegial.  Find out what they consider collegial and then do that.

What polly said.

I can see myself being flabbergasted in your position and entirely missing the subtext (if there is one) as to what the department considers collegial when I felt like I was being perfectly warm and cooperative in my behaviors.  I'll add this to the list of things that I need to think about as I start my new position (it's becoming quite a long list indeed).
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menotti
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« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2012, 9:13:24 AM »

One thing you might ask yourself is if this is a consistent problem in your life.  Does this happen a lot?  If you've never had any problems with getting along with people and establishing this sort of rapport, then, yes, make sure there's not some meeting you should be attending, but it might be nothing to do with you.
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lizardmom1
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« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2012, 5:30:22 PM »


Details:  I'm female in a generally all-male world.  I'm governed by more than one boss.





My antennae went up when I read this. A few years ago, I heard about a woman in a virtually all-male field at Harvard who was denied tenure due to "lack of collegiality". From what I heard, she filed a lawsuit and won. The term collegiality can be code for "not male/heterosexual/White/middle-class, etc. enough".

That being said, I agree with the other posters. First of all, join the union (if there is one available; if not, I think AAUP [American Association of University Professors] can/does provide some support, but I do not know since I am not a member of that organization because I pay huge union fees and other professional membership fees).  Make sure you try to find out (in a non-defensive manner) what it is, specifically, that you do that is considered "not collegial".  Document, document, document. Then, work on all aspects mentioned by the above posters. Be sure to document everything that is said, and everything you do.  I wish you the best of luck.
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Lizardmom1

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polly_mer
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Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2012, 5:54:20 PM »

Argh, don't wanna, don't wanna.  <sigh>


Details:  I'm female in a generally all-male world.  I'm governed by more than one boss.


My antennae went up when I read this. A few years ago, I heard about a woman in a virtually all-male field at Harvard who was denied tenure due to "lack of collegiality". From what I heard, she filed a lawsuit and won. The term collegiality can be code for "not male/heterosexual/White/middle-class, etc. enough".

I wish more people would stop immediately jumping to the discrimination argument instead of asking about the situation.  Yes, you have the appropriate weasel words, Lizardmom, but sharing the anecdote  and putting it first in the post means you think discrimination is a likely possibility.

I'm a woman engineer.  While some places probably do have discriminatory practices, many more places aren't purposefully discriminatory, but instead have a culture that just requires a little getting used to because it is based on what the people already there like to do and have established works.  They don't mean "no mothers can ever join us", but they are not going to suddenly swap Friday night beers and complaining about the administration for a Tuesday afternoon tea to discuss their feelings about how the students don't respect the learning process.  If the tradition is Friday night beers, then somehow the new person has to find a way to get to the pub at least once a month at 5 pm, even if the new person has a Sprite.  If the tradition is discussing the big game on Monday morning, then the task falls to the newbie to have done fifteen minutes of homework on the big game Monday morning or at least show up at the watercooler and nod appreciatively before people transition into the important casual conversation.

More people would fit in if they made the attempt to fit in (no one is saying anyone has to become a rabid sportsfan and get through a case of cheap beer every week) instead of saying, "I'm doing what I like to do and that's not enough for them.  How dare they?!"  After fitting in a bit, then one can make the suggestion of "Friday night is family time.  What about Tuesday lunches off-campus at least once a month? Ted, I know that would be better for you because Y.  What about it, Sam?  Then you could <whatever> earlier in the weekend" and be taken seriously.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2012, 5:57:06 PM by polly_mer » Logged

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zoelouise
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« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2012, 10:22:08 AM »

I'm governed by more than one boss.

That's pretty much Hell.
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larryc
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« Reply #12 on: April 06, 2012, 12:53:51 PM »

I'm governed by more than one boss.

That's pretty much Hell.

That is my world. It isn't hell for me because my bosses have been mostly reasonable and shared a common goal, but there are certainly some delicate moments.
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