Friday, September 08, 2006

Suspicious Minds (A Job Market Post)

Since the new semester began, I've felt a subtle shift in colleagues' attitudes towards me, a shift that directly correlates to the fact that I've had a bunch of publications accepted/come out in the past couple of months. (By "a bunch" I mean around 5, and no, not all of them are fancy, but in English that's a lot of productivity, especially at an institution like mine, as we don't do collaborative work. I should note, too, that in some respects the fact that all of this is happening right now is the fruit of the labor of like 2 1/2 years, of waiting on things to appear, etc., and so it's not like I have this kind of a burst regularly. Oh, and the colleagues know what's going on with me research-wise because we're supposed to tell an administrator in our department who sends acknowledgment of accomplishments out to our dept. listserv and to administrators higher up. I suppose I could just not follow that convention, but it does help the department to seem like it's productive, and I want to be helpful.)

In a few cases, the shift is entirely positive. Excitement that I've been able to achieve so much. Pride that somebody like me is in our department. Interest in what I'm actually working on.

In other cases, the shift is kind of positive, or even negative, but always characterized by suspicion. "Wow, you're really getting a lot done," said sarcastically. "I'm actually surprised that you're going to stay here," said with a raised eyebrow. Or then there's the worst, when they say nothing at all, but somehow are a little less friendly, a little less likely to chat at the copier, a little less likely to pop their head in my office door and say hello.

Have you ever been in a romantic relationship where the other person goes on and on about not being good enough for you? Where that person sees anything positive that happens to you that is unrelated to him/her as evidence that he/she can never make you happy? Where the person is always wondering if you're cheating on them, asking around to people who might know to try to get inside information? And then you begin to believe them - you begin to believe that you can do better, and you begin to resent their insecurity. You begin to wonder why you cared about the person in the first place, or whether you ever really were happy with them.

That's how I've been feeling lately. And it sucks.

I want to work at the kind of institution that regards productivity or success not with suspicion but with excitement. I want to work at the kind of institution that sees what I'm doing as a model for faculty achievement instead of a threat. I want to work at the kind of institution that believes it deserves me, that believes it is worthy of me.

That is how it is with some people at this institution, like Very Supportive Colleague, and Really Wonderful Mentor. The problem is, those people feel few and far between right now. I feel like if I stay here, I'll always be with the insecure boyfriend that can't realize that my success is a good thing not only for me but also for our relationship, that I want my success to inspire us to greater heights and not to threaten him. You know what? I've had that relationship. I lived in it for three years, from ages 25-28. It ended. Thank god. I've been in this relationship with my institution for three years as well, from ages 29-32. Will this relationship go the same way? Who the hell knows.


Greg said...

That is really unfortunate, but anecdotally I think it is not uncommon. Actually, I've mostly heard it from people who left and went elsewhere.

helenesch said...

First, congrats on all the publications! The relationship analogy makes a lot of sense here, and I can see that it must suck to be treated that way by your colleagues--people who should be supportive of you. In my own department I've found a mix of people--supportive folks and a few who seem threatened by others' success and spiteful about the fact that junior faculty now get a one-semester research leave pre-tenure, which wasn't true in the old days when these folks came through the process themselves(of course, the demands on them to publish were far less than they are on us).

So, yeah, there are always a mix of folks in any department, but if that's the general atmosphere, it's hard to not let it get you down. Hopefully your job search will result in other more promising possibilities.