Wednesday, May 22, 2013


I'm very happy with "what I do for work" in a broad sense; I generally get to set a research agenda myself, define my own interests in both research and teaching, and work extremely flexible hours (although I agree to a certain extent with my former US professor colleague who says "we are so lucky, we get to schedule our 80 hours* of work per week, whenever we want!"). What I'm less happy about is my work place. Most of the time my day (or week) is saved by a few amazingly nice and reasonable people, as well as my next door neighbor who is always available for discussing the less reasonable people in our department. But other days my inbox overflows with toxic and uncooperative replies to simple requests. Today was one of those.

If there is one thing I'm allergic to it's people insinuating that I don't do my job properly or that I am not a good teacher. I have pretty amazing teaching reviews throughout my 12 years of teaching experience, and I do a pretty good job as a researcher and colleague. I might not win the nobel price any time soon or get the University's teacher of the year award but I'm above average, particularly at the university I'm at right now. And why do I even need to point this out? Because I have a colleague who is making it his quest to belittle me and counteract the work I do with advising and teaching students. Without going into details, this is the guy who wrote to me, when I ran the seminars that were supposed to be question and answer sessions, more like extra lectures going through the material again, that "I made the other teachers look bad and I could not run them this way". All I knew was that the students didn't understand all of the material solely from the lectures and that I was happy to go over it again. The communication soured even more through the semester and I was happy not to collaborate on any teaching again with this guy until now. Today, however, I was told that the final bachelor thesis I had advised could not be accepted for final review because it was not using the standard template. In reality this would mean that the students could not proceed with related activities and basically would be delayed with their graduation until September. For missing out on a template. But this was not the main issue to me (because there is no way in hell I would let anyone do that to my students), the issue was the structure of the communication: from me asking a favor, telling him that I knew I hadn't followed the procedure to a T, but also giving a reason why, to him sending several emails explaining again exactly where I had gone wrong, copying in directions from the internal website(which I am obviously intimately familiar with), to claiming that I had failed numerous times to receive get-go from reviewers (here professors are not allowed to advise bachelor theses without reviewing) because I had not used the useless web-system for this. All in all his aim was clearly to point out clerical errors that would reflect badly on me and prevent the students from graduating any time soon.

At this point I had it. I turned him in to the director of studies for harassment and said I am not willing to continue working with this guy. Getting accused for not doing a proper job when I know I do my best is detrimental to overall work ability and mental health. Nobody has ever made me feel inadequate in my job like this, and this guy certainly should not have the right to do so. I might have overreacted but this ticked me off like nothing before.

*This is probably an exaggeration of numbers but I am quoting him verbatim

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