Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Big Thirsty on Favors.

Someone who has been a bit of an ass to me wants me to do a tremendous amount of work for her. She's a colleague, the only one who I've not hit it off with. I'm still relatively new at my new institution. 

I can DO the favor. I know it will help students. But in the back of my head I know that my colleague is just using me so she doesn't have to do the work. Her mysterious conflicts are bullshit - I'd bet my Jimmy Choos on it. 

She told the chair how talented I am in this area, and wouldn't it be great if HER students could benefit. I can't give any more details.

Q: Put yourself in my Jimmy Choos (can you tell they're new), load in your own miserable situation that sort of fits. What should I do? Why should I have to decide?


  1. Don't say "no" or your not a team player instead find a reason why you can't. Or I you have to do it try to tie it to something that will get you A LOT of recognition. Maybe present on it at a conference in a tropical location and get her to cover your classes while you are gone ;)

    1. Agreed -- and to Dr. Bitofanass's credit, she seems to have already seen to it that the chair knows that it's YOUR skills, not her own, that are most necessary to the project's success. See to it that no one forgets this fact.

      Then, see that it's Dr. Bitofanass who returns the favor if you're even in a position to ask for one.

  2. Is this colleague tenured with a say on whether or not YOU will get tenure? Will she be tenured by the time you come up for tenure?

    If so, do whatever she asks of you, within reason. Do it and do it well. The basic rule of getting tenure is never say "no" when someone that can determine your tenure asks, so long as it has something even remotely to do with your job, and again, it is within reason.

    If it's a one-year asking for these favors, or something that can never affect your future at your institution, politely say no.

    If it's a tenured person and if you still really feel that you absolutely do NOT want to accomodate this person, no matter what, there are ways to say "no" without saying "no".

    As in:

    "Gosh, what's the timeline on this?" (wait for answer) "Oh, I could probably do that if it can wait until (three months after the deadline cited), but I have two really important deadlines coming up (make up a bunch of shit here), and then there's (make up a bunch more shit). If it can't wait, can you keep me in the loop so I can know what's going on? I think it's a great project...

    People do not know how to say "no". They do not realize you don't need to say "no" right away. You need to learn to say "Can I get back to you on that?" Then, when you get back to them, there's a whole bunch of shit you've discovered that totally keeps you from doing what the asker wants you to do.

  3. Propose to chair an ad hoc committee to accomplish the task. You get to be in charge, you get the good rep, and you do not have to do all the work. You get to be a teamplayer with faculty you actually get along with, and everyone can pad their CV... everyone, except Dr. Bitofanass 2Me.

    Job gets done, good guys win.

  4. Definitely tricky. I had the same thoughts as Stella about power hierarchies and where you and the requester are on the tenure track.

    I was also thinking somewhat along the same lines as Vanfur: not a committee, perhaps, but volunteering to teach a workshop or share sample assignments or something along those lines. It would be good if you could do part of the job that would count as sharing your talent/expertise, but make sure that at least some of the drudgery (e.g. actual grading/assessment, if this is something the students do/produce) falls back on the requesting colleague. Perhaps you could justify this along "teach a man to fish" lines -- i.e. that of course you can't do this for all the departments' students directly, because you're only one person, but you'd be glad to mentor/run a workshop/whatever to get others up to speed, so that a number of people are qualified to help students in this way?

  5. I'm too fucking jealous that you make enough money to buy Jimmy Choos and I don't that I can't even get beyond that fact. :o)

    If it's something that just gets her out of doing the work and you get no glory for doing it, then I'd find a way to at least get acknowledged for the task by your chair so she doesn't then turn around and get glory for it or keep using you in this way...

  6. If you have tenure: blow her a raspberry.

    If you don't: use this for your maximum benefit, in a manner that would make Machiavelli proud. If there's anything I can't stand, it's senior faculty who abuse their seniority, particularly for no reason other than to get their jollies, as if this is some sort of fraternity gazing.

  7. Since you're new and she's a veteran, she's got you in a tough spot. That you realize it's probably helpful for the students tells me you've already made your mind up to do it. You come across as a nice person, Darla, so do what you think feels right. That way you won't beat yourself up afterwards. It's too bad someone is clearly trying to advantage of you though.

  8. Stella and Cassandra and others here have pretty much given you excellent advice already.

    The only way I can see for you to get out of it is having too much work to do already. Stella's idea about deadlines can work. Try to create a deadline in some other area of your work that would conflict with this project.

    If you don't have too much work/opposing deadlines and end up doing this, I love Vanfur's idea about forming a committee to do the work. At the very least, you can insist the person asking you to do this help, for the very good reason that she is herself saying she lacks the appropriate skills needed for it and could use this opportunity to learn, but I am wondering if that would make it hard for you to get full credit for the work you'll be doing.

    It is hard to walk the fine line between taking on too much, thereby starting a precedent that you're a pushover who can be overworked without too much trouble, and maintaining your sanity and some semblance of fairness. At the CCs, there are clear rules for tenure, and if you follow them, you'll get it. But my friends at R1s and SLACs have had to work their heads off for years to get tenure.

    I am rooting for you, whatever you end up doing!

  9. One last thought, in line with Ben: get your quid pro quo up front. Schedule the classes she will do for you Or at the very least get her glowing recommendation of your invaluable help on paper... To go into your tenure portfolio.