Wednesday, April 22, 2020

To resign or not to resign from admin? that is the question

I don't know. Maybe I should quit this admin job. Maybe it's time. (If you don't want to read complaining about something that's not covid, look far away from here.)

 It's not about the work, even though it has taken over my life because as Dame Eleanor said in the comments of my last post, those tasks are easy to knock off.

It is kind of about the hours, because they're eating up all my time.

But really, it's about this. The people I'm working with are good people, but we definitely have different approaches:
  • I'm a systems person, in that I like to have things set up so that they're fair for everyone. With a system, you can point to a way that things work so that they're fair and work within it. It frustrates me when others say "but what about X person?" and don't consider how decisions are going to affect Z and A. Thinking about the individual isn't bad--I don't mean that--it's just that operating in the moment like that leaves a lot of fallout for someone else to consider, and that someone else is often me. It's just a different way of operating, but for me it's exhausting.
  • Also in being a systems person: if you believe that something is going to be a clusterfail, do you let those chips fall where they may? Can you do that and be a good person? I guess I don't think you can, because I keep giving my opinion about how to fix certain things that I know about when asked. The person whose job it is to answer these questions is off doing scholarship or something, and I'm putting out fires that are not my fires to put out. 
  • Or sometimes I'm trying to put out fires but failing to do so. Example: being asked "How do we solve A?" and answering "well, we can do B and C," only to hear "I guess there's nothing we can do about A, then." I can see problems or barriers and explain them, but if people aren't listening to that, it really is a waste of time.
  •  It’s invisible and thankless work. Sure, I can look in the mirror and say "problem solved--well done, you!" but that's about it. It seems petty, and it is, but there you have it. This is the only thing that's brought me to tears in these many months, and while I know there's a lot of displacement here (my mother's death, covid, etc. etc.), that's still saying something.
The other conclusion I've reached is that maybe the problem is me. Do you remember the "it's a mystery" exchange from Shakespeare in Love?

Henslowe: "Strangely enough, it all turns out well."
Fennyman: "How?"
Henslowe: "I don't know. It's a mystery."

Maybe it'll all turn out well in ways I can't anticipate. Maybe I could "unhand that man" and everything would still be okay.

And maybe I could ignore my email until noon every day at the very least, since that's a practical step in the right direction.

Edited to add: And this is why I love blogging and all of you. I can't share this with anyone else.

Edited to add: it’s completely understandable that no one would notice the work because they have much bigger things on their mind right now.


Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Systems are the ONLY way. Play by the book. That is, first there needs to be a book, and then you follow the rules. Otherwise all principles get lost in a mess of ad-hockery. If you’re working with people who don’t believe in playing by the book, then quit. Unless the younger ones do and you have a chance of protecting them from older non-book people and winding up with a changed culture when the dinosaurs retire.

gwinne said...

I think you know I quit my admin job and then restarted the same job under a different chair, once some circumstances had also changed? The circumstances were critical. I was doing a job that was important for students and the functioning of the program but which was not only undervalued/unsupported by higher ups but actively being undermined by my colleagues. It wasn't sustainable and it would have required me taking xanax in order to continue.

I'm in a similar moment of reckoning now but mostly because I'm no longer the only person who can do this job, have done it long enough, and accomplished mostly what I want to (and all I can do under our current circumstances). I don't think I'd give up admin entirely (what my job search opened up for me) but THIS job isn't doing it anymore.

That's a long winded way of saying, I hear you. If your impulse is to quit, it's probably a good one...

xykademiqz said...

It seems that the job is one in which you are often frustrated and underappreciated. Ask yourself: Is there a really good reason to keep doing it? If it has to be done, does it have to be done by you? I am guessing no is the answer to both questions, in which case I would definitely quit.

Btw, I too am frustrated beyond belief by people's myopia, selfishness, and general ineffectiveness. Academic administration seems to be rife with people whose traits above make it very hard for those who want to do some good to actually affect positive change. I have to admit that, after a chair role on a big-deal committee a few years back, which left me psychologically devastated, whatever impetus I had to pursue administration has been extinguished forever.

undine said...

First, thank you all so much! It means a lot to me that you answered.

Dame Eleanor--I got into this so that I could protect. Let's just say (vagueblogging) that travel funds used to go to whoever could best schmooze the higher-ups. I made a system--there's that word again--where they were distributed more equally. Maybe with this and other improvements my work is done?

gwinne--I do remember that you quit your admin job but not that you had restarted it under different circumstances. Agree--the people you're working with make a huge difference. I like the people I'm working with now, but they don't share my sense that systems are important. I keep having to step in and say, "no, if you do X, the budget will be in the tank for years to come" or similar things. I'm left playing Cassandra.

xykademiqz--Those are great questions. The reasons for doing it: I like to stay involved, and I genuinely want to do well by students. Secondary: I like the course release. Does it have to be done by me? Great question. No one is irreplaceable, and if it weren't pandemic times, I might not hesitate.

I am sorry that the big-deal committee left you psychologically devastated and not wanting to pursue administration. Part of what I like about admin is knowing what's going on and being able to make a difference, but that kind of inability to effect change could drive anyone out of it.

undine said...

And again: the problem may be me. Maybe it'll all work out fine if nobody fills out those reports, plans ahead, checks on regulations, etc. I have seen this happen before, where a systems approach falls by the wayside but things go on pretty much as before.