My Pet Peeves as an Academic and Professional

This post is my attempt to begin to voice my challenges that I have experienced as a professional, most recently as an academic. Many people may assume that I have no problem speaking my mind based on my posts and personality, but those who know me best, know that I am very introverted, non-confrontational, and often get my feelings hurt. Below, is a list of some of the things that frustrate me beyond belief, and that I struggle with in the workplace.

  1. Not adhering to due dates: Whether formal or informal due dates, I have always strived to meet deadlines. I have never asked for an extension, have never missed a  hard due date, and generally complete work ahead of time. While I understand that people have “different working styles”, I adhere to due dates for my own mental health and self-care, and when someone ignores due dates, it not only screws up my work schedule, it jeopardizes my wellness. When you don’t finish something by an agreed upon date, you send my very full work professional schedule out of control. I have had more issues with people not adhering to due dates for articles, committee work, projects, grants, etc. in academia than in any other arena of my career.
  2. Not pulling your weight: So, you agree to work on an article or project, and you want the credit, but don’t have the time? Do your colleague a favor and don’t accept it. It only leads to work/life strain, because if you don’t do your fair share on an article or project, the other person or people must do extra work that they did not anticipate doing, which impacts other work assignments they have to complete. I have written articles thinking that I would have way more help than I ever received, and when it’s not reciprocated back, it leads to resentment.
  3. Grudges: Look, we might disagree at a faculty meeting or about the frame of an article, but when you don’t talk to me for the next 3 weeks or longer, because I hurt your feelings, and you want to teach me some sort of lesson, it benefits nothing, and just makes me think twice about ever working with you in the future.
  4. Overburdening me with busy work: So, you say that you want me to head this committee or take leadership on X.Y, or Z because you know I will do the work, adhere to deadlines, and do it well, and because the next person won’t do it. Well, what you are really doing is penalizing me for working hard, while reinforcing other colleagues poor time management and workplace values. Instead, talk with those who you can’t depend on about this issue, and help build their capacity and sense of responsibility by giving them tasks to do.
  5. Keeping me busy with incidental time intensive tasks without any real power: So, I am on 8 committees, heading up several task groups, but I have exactly 0 decision making power. You say that you are saving me work by not putting me on the “major committees” or since I am not “tenured”, I can’t be on decision making committees, but I am doing the time intensive work for all of your major committees, without having the benefit of an increased voice or power position.
  6. Telling me what to do: If the provost, dean, or even director tells me to do something, I will likely do it as they are my superiors. As a senior faculty member, program director, etc. you are not my boss, so stop giving me orders. Frame things as a request, and I will likely go out of my way to help you, but stop giving orders.
  7. Stop the weekend, after hours, and vacation e-mail requests: I need to get better at this one myself, but I never expect people to respond to e-mails during off time. Why do people send e-mail requests when I am not being paid? No summer e-mails asking me to do something for free, no weekend request for a last minute emergency task that will fill up my weekend.
  8. Stop all the workplace “Solicitation”: I find it uncomfortable to get 10 requests to donate for school funders for people’s kiddos, scouts, or sports teams. No, I don’t want to pledge to walk 1000 miles with the staff this year, I am ok with being fat, Maybe if I wasn’t covering my work duties and yours’, I would have time for health and wellness. I don’t want to sign birthday, graduation, and wedding cards every day for people I barely know. I don’t want to donate for another gift. I am also paying back 6 figure student loans, and many people have big families, so let’s limit how much employee giving we do each year, or at least don’t guilt me, when I don’t give to the annual canned food or adopt a family drive. We all give in different ways, and I choose to give my money and time to different causes.
  9. Stop all the not-mandated, but mandated functions: Stop with all the holiday parties, end of the term parties, mixers, after work socials, etc. that you say aren’t mandatory, but you guilt faculty/employees into feeling that they mandatory. I have GAD and Major Depression, and it takes everything out of me some days just to go to work, please don’t guilt me into attending events outside of my normal schedule.
  10. When I need help, stop pointing me to a website or 300 page manual: Folks, I love technology, but websites and online manuals do not replace training or mentorship. Usually, by the time I bring a question to someone, it’s because I am super frustrated and have tried to find it in the same places that you have sent me to without success. What I need more than anything is for someone to help me find the answer or tell me the answer if they know it.
  11. Stop with all the meetings: Not everything requires a meeting. Have a purpose for the meetings that you do have, and please come prepared for them. If you’re heading up a committee, send out an agenda ahead of time, if you’re supposed to bring something to the meeting, do your homework and bring it.
  12. Learn to take Cues from Colleagues: Assertive people always say, you need to be more direct or more assertive, or learn to say no, but not everyone is wired like that. Learn to take subtle cues. For instance, when I say that I have a ton of grading to do, three revise and resubmits to do, and a wedding to attend, please don’t ask me to do something else; i am trying to tell you that I am overwhelmed in my own way.
  13. Just because we are colleagues does not mean we must be friends: I tend to prefer keeping my personal life and professional life separate, so please don’t take offense if I don’t accept your friend request on Facebook, attend your kiddos’ birthday party, or want to hangout after work with you. It’s nothing personal, but from my experience, I prefer to keep roles and boundaries clear.
  14. Pick-Up after yourself: It seems like the higher you move up in career, the more people forget their manners. I can’t tell you how many colleagues leave dirty dishes in the sink, let food explode in the microwave, and just leave clutter all over the place with no regard for the hardworking janitorial staff or their colleagues.
  15. I am not you, stop with all the unsolicited advice: I get it, you’re going to retire soon and at that generativity stage of your career. You have good intentions and want to stop me from making mistakes that maybe you made. You have been around a long time, and want to protect the culture of the workplace. I understand it, but if I want advice or wisdom, I will definitely ask for it. It’s not that i mind the tips that folks who have been at it give me, it’s that they are always giving out advice, see the world through their lens, and don’t know when to stop and listen.
  16. Just because its always been done a certain way, doesn’t mean it always has to be: Academics are often scientists who preach about evidence, and yet they are ALWAYS rationalizing processes, rules, norms, etc. by saying, “well, we have always done it this way.” Often times, there are many ways to do something. Just because something didn’t work 10 years ago, doesn’t mean it won’t work today. Just because the University of  (Insert your nearest competitor) does something a certain way, doesn’t mean that we have to do it that way. Trust in innovation and allow for new folks to try out some things. Work together to blend existing knowledge and history with new innovation and evidence.
  17. Stop being late for everything: We ask our students to be on time, yet we tend to over justify our own absences and lateness for meetings or events to account for our own time management issues. I can’t tell you how many extra meetings that I have had to attend because key people were late to the last one, and we wasted time catching them up to speed or weren’t able to cover what we needed to.
  18. Stop preaching, and model good professional behaviors: We reprimand students every day for being late, not turning in assignments, texting on their phones, interrupting one another, and many other things, but have you ever really observed a faculty or workplace meeting  or training? People violate all of the very things that we teach students not to do, so let’s stop being hypocrites folks.
  19. Put your technology down: This one fits into modeling good professional behaviors, but because this is one of the worst offending behaviors that I see, I can’t help but point it out again. We are always on our phones, lap tops, tablets, etc. So we tell students that they need to pay attention in class, but somehow we are the multitasking queens and kings of the universe; somehow I doubt it.
  20. Be kind: Sometimes I feel like I go weeks without hearing please or thank you in the workplace. In some places, kudos mean nothing anymore, because people get them for just about any and everything, yet in other places, kudos are never extended. Take time to tell a colleague, good job, or thank you for something they did for you. If you know someone is having a rough time, maybe you hold back your critical comment at the meeting or reframe it.

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