Thursday, September 27, 2012


Ask the Administrator: How to Respond to Opacity?

A new correspondent writes:

My boss, the director of [campus office], told me in February that I was going to be promoted. A month later, the vp told me I was getting a raise. A month later, my boss asked me what I thought about being assistant director and told me to name my price. The next week, he and the vp told me I was going to be re-classified. The president has called two private meetings with me to thank me for my hard work and tell me they are looking for a place for me. The paperwork for re-classification has been slow. I turned in my final portion last week and my boss still hasn't acknowledged it. It's been 7 months. 
I am a program assistant taking home less than anyone in my department and working well above my classification, and I am often leading my entire department on projects. I have talked to my mom, who is a successful business woman, and she is telling me I am too young to expect anything (I am in my twenties and planning to finish my masters degree next summer), but I am discouraged about what I have been told and the lack of clear communication. 
What would you expect from an employee as an appropriate response to this situation?

I'd start by asking your boss for an update.  It sounds like you're in a union environment; if that's true, the processes and rules for reclassifications can often be pretty byzantine.  That's especially true if the title for which you're being considered doesn't exist in the system yet.  At my college, a new title has to be bargained with the union, as does it pay level, scope of responsibilities, and the like.  If it's a non-unit position, there may be issues that have to be impact bargained, such as if you have people suddenly reporting to you.  

If you get the runaround from your boss, I'd check next with HR.  I know HR departments have awful reputations generally, but they're usually the keepers of process.  Honestly, it sounds to me that the wheels are actually turning, but they turn slowly and nobody is keeping you apprised.  I'd start by just asking about the process and timeline for decisions, rather than pleading the merits of your case.  Some colleges only do reclassifications once a year, for example; if that's true in your case, then the delay may have nothing to do with you.  Keeping a calm and professional demeanor when you ask, and focusing on process, will make you look professional.  That can only help.

There could also be funding issues, equity issues with people in other offices, or, yes, discriminatory attitudes.  But I wouldn't leap to that last one until you've investigated the others.  

Good luck!

Wise and worldly readers, what do you think?  Is there a better way?  Am I missing something?

Have a question?  Ask the Administrator at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.

Sounds like your new correspondent is being “teased”. The possibility of being offered a promotion or a new position is being dangled before their face, and everyone seems to say encouraging things about the future. But nothing is ever put in writing, no one ever makes a final commitment, the paperwork always seems to be stalled somewhere, and the new position can snatched away at any time. Perhaps the funding for the new position is uncertain, perhaps the key person in charge Is uncertain about the future and has delayed signing off on the final approval, perhaps there are problems with the union, or it might actually be rather uncertain whether or not the new position even exists.

I would be very angry at being treated like this. I didn’t like being “teased” when I was a teenager—I like it even less well now:-)

A lot of new adjuncts and part-timers are often confronted with this sort of behavior. They are often “teased” by the administrators or HR people at their institutions during the hiring process. In order to encourage them to sign on as a part-timer, all sorts of entrancing future possibilities are dangled in front of their faces--perhaps there will be salary raises in the future, perhaps benefits will someday become available, perhaps the position will eventually converted to a full-time gig, or perhaps maybe a new full-time position may eventually open up. But nothing is ever put in writing, and it inevitably happens that the money and the position never appear.

I would take what your mom said with a grain of salt. There is no reason that just because of your age that you shouldn't get the raise/promotion etc. If you are as talented as your managers have noticed, then why wouldn't you get promoted. I was relatively young (25) to step into my current position as the director of several regional campuses. But it's about ability not age. Or at least it should be about ability.

Like DD said, follow up with your boss and then HR.
If you still get nowhere after exploring your options at your current place, finish up your master's and start quietly looking for new opportunities. The 20's and 30's are the best times to leapfrog into better jobs. If you haven't done so, join a local chapter of professionals in your area of work, and volunteer for them if you can. I have found that to be a great way to network. (That's how I found my second job job, and I am still here, 12 years later.) Other ways are to attend conferences in your line of work, and join LinkedIn.

At any rate, don't burn any bridges at your current place. And all this extra networking etc. will help you to get different perspectives even if you don't end up changing jobs.
If this is a union situation, can the union hierarchy ask some polite questions on behalf of the writer?

Why burn your own credibility and power when you can use the credibility and power of those you pay to support you?
This is the sort of stuff that happens to those WITHOUT union protection.
I remember witnessing an offer of a bonus to a co-worker,it was never put in writing, and, when no bonus was given upon completion of the project, the co worker was grudingly give one half of the amount promised, she appealed using me as a witness and eventually she got the bonus.

Having worked both in academia and private sector, these are techniques of exploitation. When younger, I would change jobs, this time it has proven more difficult to find a job.

I took a demotion and paycut to stay away from Cruella the Dean, and now the requests for uncompensated labor have intensified. What shocks me is that the requests do not include acknowledgement that my expertise is needed, and the hints "someone else will pick it up", "we will engage someone from the outside"-i.e., I am only worth it to them if I work for free.

In 6 months, they have yet to find someone to carryout the project for the compensation they offer.

Does not matter, academic administrators pretend to work by having us elaborate proposals for which there is no funding or human resources in sight.

You are young, look for a better opportunity.

I am place-bound, and have to put up with the crap.
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