Saturday, February 12, 2011

Voicing Opinions at Work

It's sad to see how some people's obsequiousness and brown-nosing force them to transform even the best kind of a job into a pathetic and powerless experience. I always say that being an academic means that you get paid for having opinions and expressing them. Some academics, though, are willing to sacrifice their right to speak their mind to a baseless fear of unimportant hierarchies. See, for example, the following bit of wisdom I just discovered on an academic's blog:
Faculty Meeting Rule #1. No matter how many times a senior faculty member insist that it is okay, if you are junior faculty do NOT voice your opinion at faculty meeting.
As some of the regular readers of my blog must have already guessed, I always speak my mind. If colleagues decide to ostracize me or castigate me in any way because I say what I think at a faculty meeting (or anywhere else, for that matter), I will realize that this is a weird group of people and the best thing I can do is get away from them as fast as I can. 

I am lucky in having the kind of colleagues who don't expect me to shut up just because I'm considered "junior." We don't really spend any time discussing who's senior, who's junior, and who is entitled to the largest mug of coffee by virtue of their importance. If I want to vote against while everybody else votes in favor, that's exactly what I do. If I want to argue, insist, or disagree, I always do it, and nobody seems to hate me for that. I have worked very hard for many years to earn my doctorate. For me now to act like a temp at Walmart who is terrified of saying anything my "superiors" might dislike would mean that I have wasted my life. 

And you know what's really funny? I can pretty much guarantee that the hapless academic I quoted above would not have been punished in any way for speaking out at a faculty meeting. People who insist that they don't voice their opinions because they are terrified of mean, nasty colleagues and bosses are trying to conceal the sad truth that they don't really have any opinions of their own.


Anonymous said...

Truth being that they have no opinions, this is possible, I hadn't thought of this and it explains a lot.

I think the rule does apply, especially for women and minorities, at many Ivies, SLACS, and state flagships. Elsewhere they really do want one's opinion right away. These are my observations on life so far re this ... I don't appreciate it of course, since I'm outspoken. But I've had a hard time in academia because of this.

Pagan Topologist said...

I spoke up (a lot, and on very controversial hot-button issues) my first year as an assistant professor, against everyone's advice. I recommend it, unless a person is marginal in terms of research, in which case the "keep quiet until you are tenured" advice may be prudent to follow.

Clarissa said...

It's good to have the thoughts of experienced academics on this.