Wednesday, April 18, 2018

It's my time, and I'll do what I want

Oft I have travelled in the realms of gold. Or maybe just traveled. And then traveled some more.

But recently everything feels out of control, or, more accurately, I feel as though I am not in control of my time. Incessant emails, demands for information, writing tasks, more emails, more meetings--sure, it's standard drill for an administrator. It has to be done when it has to be done, and if your own writing suffers--with consequent damage to grants, writing, awards, etc.--that's just too bad. No one twisted my arm to do this, and I believe in what I'm doing.

Figure 1. Still the best technique.
You can only feel pushed so far, though, before you want to reassert control, which I did in three ways recently. If you don't want to read about petty triumphs, this isn't the post for you.

The first is the end-of-semester anger management technique I wrote about--surprise!--at the end of the semester a couple of years ago: "Take your hands off that man!" 

"You want it to say X, even after I explained the problems with that? Fine. X it is then." Take your hands off that issue. Let it go, and don't look back.

Figure 2. One of these things is . . .
The second is this: A couple of weeks ago, one of my collaborators--you know, the ones from The Good Place--asked about something in my area of expertise; I spent some time on research and a careful answer, which ze ignored, as per usual.

In recipe terms, I said something like "You know, Worcestershire sauce and vanilla extract may look the same, but if you use Worcestershire sauce in your chocolate chip cookie recipe, you're in for a world of hurt." Today I received an email saying "full speed ahead with the brown liquid for the cookies, yes?"

Figure 3 . . . not like the other.
I wrote back and said, "So glad that we're going to go with any old brown liquid condiment for all the cookies without checking to see what it is; much easier to find than figuring out, as I recommended two weeks ago, whether it's actually vanilla extract or not."  Collaborator: "What? Oh, no."

The third one is reaching a breaking point with a passive aggressive colleague who concern-trolls and challenges every single decision I make. Ze will argue for A, and, if I do A after due consideration and input from others, Ze will ask why I didn't do B instead.

There's a particular kind of passive aggression that mistakes my friendliness for weakness and a willingness to be Instructed and Corrected, like Grady in The Shining. I've experienced this before and finally figured out that that's what was happening here: I was being friendly. That was a mistake, and I Corrected it, though not with an axe.

Figure 4. Grady explaining "correction" to Jack.
Let's just say that if you (while still courteous) drop the friendly demeanor, sit up straight, and speak forcefully and in definite terms, calling the person out on zir contradictions and staring intently at the aggressor while doing so, it will do your heart so much good. I'm pretty much done with the semester, but I am definitely done with this nonsense, and for once I let it show.

And maybe tomorrow I'll turn off email and do some of my own scholarship for a change. 


gwinne said...

Yup, yup, yup. We seem to be living parallel lives. I love the brown sauce example.

xykademiqz said...

"There's a particular kind of passive aggression that mistakes my friendliness for weakness and a willingness to be Instructed and Corrected, like Grady in The Shining."

Oh God, I get so much of this. I am around far too many men. I feel like I am constantly absorbing everyone else's shit--the products of their inability or unwillingness to be kind, civilized, respectful humans--and I'm supposed not to mind.

Undine said...

gwinne--parallel lives indeed! I've about had it with the collaborators (who would totally have put the wrong brown sauce in), with all the people suggesting even more admin work, and with all the seat-warming activities to watch people get awards that are happening right now. I'm happy for my colleagues, of course, but right now I feel like one of those comedy scenes where everyone enters a party and drapes all their coats over the host--they go into the party, and I'm left with a heap of coats that I have to manage. Another FB fast is a partial solution, once I've finished posting congratulations on everyone's posts before getting back to managing the coats.

xykademiqz--I get this from men, but most recently I'm getting this from women--having to absorb their snarky remarks. I'm supposed not to mind--because I'm senior in rank? an administrator?--but I am completely done with it.

Undine said...

Also hoping that this will help: instead of "consulting" on every decision, announce the decision with a perspective of "you got a problem with that?"

Undine said...

Still can't let this go and am hogging my own comments. Yesterday--still doing NONE of my own work--I made a decision and immediately thought of the passive aggressive colleague's likely reaction. When the passive aggressive colleague's possible response is distorting my own judgment and I anticipate the dismissal of collaborators, I need to get a grip.

And practice:

1. Escalating. "Do. you. have. a. problem. with. me."
2. Better (stronger) body language and, yes, more formal clothes.
3. Spending more time on research than on the tasks about which people challenge me for no particular reason. (I'm always ready to listen to constructive criticism, though.)
4. Ignoring emails.

I feel better already!

profacero said...

Good for you and yes, parallel lives.

Undine said...

Thanks, profacero!