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May 24, 2010


Okay, objective observer here: you got a fabulous evaluation with one little complaint about not being too bossy! And you say: "So either FGS has its very own tall poppy syndrome, or I'm a truly unpleasant person whom others don't like, or both."

No! One or two or maybe a few people think you're a little bossy! They don't (it sounds like) think you're truly unpleasant - they just think you're not perfect. This is not a big problem. Truly, how many people do *you* think are perfect? Relax.

WN! You are a VERY pleasant and likable person! I know whereof I speak. I'm sorry about your irritating chair, though. I hope that she won't be chair forever--it sounds like she's not the most effective of leaders.

Oh, and being commended for not talking in meetings? What is *that* about? That is NOT constructive or useful feedback, I must say--at least, not how it was presented. Yikes.

Do you need to tell Mr Z that you reported he attacked your character? What about something like "in my annual review meeting, interpersonal difficulties came up, and I let them know about our argument, and they'd like us to sit down and clear the air since we are working together next year."

WN! First, big hug! I know how difficult it is to not see all the good stuff in there because the bad just seems overwhelming. Whatever resentments the chair may have stored up for you, I do think that from your description, the chair is trying to really honor the fact that in working on listening you are really trying to do something really difficult. After all, she did agree that you are brilliant and smart AND that you DO usually know the right/best way to do things -- and even so you're trying to work on listening to others. That's huge!

About screw-up Mr Z: I don't know that I would consider an annual review gossiping. If you were the very nicest person in the world, you might go and tell him that it came up in your annual review meeting. But I think he just might be a total a**hole, and it would just allow him to go into his meeting charging. If I were you, I'd let some other people -- maybe people he feels are more in his corner -- put pressure on him to address these things with you.

I don't know that my plan is the best one, but it would allow you both to meet, feeling sort of put-upon by the powers that be. If he feels sheepish rather than justified, he might be easier to deal with. I don't know. I happen to be very bad at this stuff, but maybe if other people talk to him first, he'll have more motivation to just deal with his crap!

Try not to get mired in the paranoia. The best you can do even if ALL of them are talking behind you're back (which you know not to be true) is to be the great teacher and thinker/colleague you are. You can't spend all your time thinking about how a**holes receive you. You've got to be you and do what you think is best. Be your best you. Anything less would be inauthentic. (Now if only I could follow my own advice and turn off my own tenure paranoia! Let's both try!)

Ack. I mean I know how difficult it is. Oy!

Keep the faith.

Okay - that does suck. I'm really sorry it happened and I know how hard it is to get rid of the small iota of criticism in an otherwise stellar review.

First off, I don't think that comment should have been included in the review at all - it's petty and stupid and the chair was dead wrong to put it in a formal (and sloppily written document). It sounds like several of your colleagues (and I doubt it's several - probably just Mr. Z.) are totally insecure about how smart and capable you are - it also sounds like the Chair is insecure about the same thing. For her to actually applaud you for trying to keep your mouth shut in meetings suggests that she gives credence to other people's pathetic insecurities. It's annoying that she probably tells her daughter to shut up, too. The gender politics of this aren't fun. What needs to happen is not that you change the way you are, but that you deal openly with people with whom you have problems. I know it sucks, but I think it's good to have a tete a tete with Mr. Z via the chair and/or the Dean (who seems to be totally on your side) just to show that you're not going to capitulate and shut of for an aggressive asshole.

But then I'm seen as a pushy bitch by some of my male colleagues, I'm sure - especially for a junior faculty member. And they may suck it.

My comment was also sloppily written, but I'm on my way to make enchiladas downstairs.

The main thing I forgot was:

Hugs to you!!


From what I understand about annual evaluations, they always have to include one thing to work on, even with the best employees. And this one thing hit you emotionally hard but it's not something that you should take to heart.

You're a good teacher and a good colleague but even the best of us occasionally fumble here and there. I think the chair fumbled this meeting a bit, for one thing, but I'm hoping that you've come away from this with a plan to, in future, have a little more mental armour in place when reviews are scheduled. It's not productive, for you, to be wearing yourself out like this, emotionally!

Regarding Mr. Z, I might be even more circumspect than dance suggested and just say that this issue was pointed out to you at your review and you were directed to come back to anyone with whom you felt this had bearing and you figured your situation with Mr. Z was an area where this was applicable.

I'm so sorry to hear this--I would have felt ambushed too--but at least it must be comforting to have your dean's support? I wish I had some words of wisdom regarding the potential Mr. Z conversation (which makes me want to vicariously throw up just thinking about it!), but all I have instead is commiseration. Thinking of you, friend.

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Who is this What Now?

  • I'm an English teacher at Fabulous Girls' School (FGS). I'm a convert to Judaism. I am partner to D. We live in an adorable, messy little house in Adventure City. Two cats -- the Muse and the Contemplative -- live with us and keep life at home plenty adventurous.

    Email me at whatnowblogger at yahoo dot com.

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