Work when you want

Here’s a shocker for some: people are different.  Some people need 40 hours to get work done, some only need 30 hours, some like to work as much as possible to maximize output, and some like to get the bare minimum done.  Some can only get the bare minimum done.  I appreciate a job where I can work 80 hours a week whenever I want.  Realistically, (ignoring the time to answer a text, call, or quick email) I put in about 50-60 hours a week while classes are in session.  Occasionally more, but rarely fewer than 50.  I have always thought that a job shouldn’t be about the hours, but about the productivity.  When I was in industry, I almost always did the 50+ hours because I like doing a thorough job, but there were the times when I just didn’t want to be there.  I had to put in time, get it approved, etc.  I fucking hated that.  I like taking off in the middle of the day for a long lunch if I want, or leaving early, or showing up late without having to tell anyone.

When I became a group leader, and now in running my academic lab, I fostered a ‘work as much as you want, but also reap what you sow.’  I despise that the culture is, at minimum, work 40 hours, and at maximum, work until you can’t anymore in most areas.  I do get annoyed when I don’t see students around, but ever since the recent bad student I had, I do have contracts where, barring any crazy circumstances, I will not fund students past 5.5 years.  So they know they need to work or they’ll be out of the job.  I only demand that they’re around during set times for meetings, and so I can drop in (1000-1130 and/or 1400-1530).  Other than that, they can work early mornings or late nights if I’m not around.  I do demand to see progress, since that’s the only thing I care about, and I’ve been pretty blatant when I haven’t been happy with progress.  I feel this gives the students the freedom to work the way they wish while keeping them all on track.

I got to thinking about this because I have a new student that always tells me when they’re taking off like they’re asking for permission.  I always tell them to make sure they’re around when they’re supposed to be, and that’s it.  They can take off all they want and don’t need my permission unless they’re taking off for large swaths of time.  I know that I would’ve appreciated that, and I definitely appreciate that now.  Just a bit of gratefulness to write about….

Dear admins,

Leave me alone.  I appreciate you have had a part in my relative success here at the University.  But I hate being paraded around as your little showdog.  At first, I have to admit, I was honored that some guest was coming in town to give a commencement speech or that wants to buy some wing and you want to show new research.  But I just don’t have time to be going across campus for a couple hours to help you win over some dickhead that can cut a big check so long as we look diverse and appear to be solving some kind of problem.  A big check that most likely won’t even be seen by students in the form of better instruction or facilities.  Now, if they want to cut a check that gets my department some new fume hoods or some more TAs then sign me up.  But, why the fuck you brought me in on a meeting with someone that wanted to expand the practice field for the football team I won’t understand.  I get it, you want to show diversity, and one breed of person isn’t enough, but I don’t want to be a showdog.  I want to be a dog that works for a living.  There are a lot of annoying things you do, but this is near the top.



Summer break baby!

Not that kind of baby. Though lately I have been feeling good. Before, I had a ‘fuck everything’ kind of attitude. Now I have a ‘fuck most stuff attitude.

I’m referring to the excitement that comes with summer break. My students don’t have classes, SO and I have some free moments, and the weather could not be more beautiful. Stepping outside and sneezing, I mean, breathing with all the flowers in bloom and everyone getting over the constant overcast and gloom of winter is great. Spring arrived so late this year, but I really prefer it this way. Putting on some shorts and sunscreen is upon us, and it’s wonderful. No partying for me, but enjoying a book (I mean writing a grant and reading manuscripts) on the grass while listening to the birds is amazing. I love that I can get so much done without anyone on campus. Also, I don’t feel as bad about leaving early or showing up late and doing work outside or at home. At the start of the semester, I love the sound of the students and the liveliness, but eventually, I get tired of it and just want my peace and quiet again. I’m grateful that I have students around to keep me young, but they don’t overstay their welcome. The larger thing is I have all these grand plans of what needs to happen during the summer from a personal and lab standpoint. Summer rocks.

Retention risk

In industry, we had a term called “Retention risk”.  I know there are other terms to describe this, but basically it’s the concept of some employees are more mobile than others.  One can always get a big raise or promotion if they’re willing to switch between companies.  I knew many people that did this and in industry it’s the norm.  People need to do what’s best for themselves as the company would drop you at the slightest hint of needing to provide a boost to the shareholders.  So when we, as management, see that an employee is behaving differently we have to think about how critical the person is to the business and if we should go extra lengths to preemptively stop them from performing a job search.  Once the call was made that someone was critical to the business then a promotion would be set up, or at least a large raise.  I had to do this at times, and I notice this happened with other departments pretty frequently.  And if the manager was too slow to act, the person would frequently be gone.  Side note: women employees were less mobile, in general, but also managers just wouldn’t think they’re as critical.  Ladies, be mobile, remember that the company owes you nothing, and let your managers know when you’re not happy.  The people that were rooted were usually less likely to be rewarded with promotions because managers knew their efforts were better spent on keeping the retention risks.

When I was an undergrad it seemed that all my professors were very well-established and were going to be staying their whole careers at my school.  In graduate school, I realized that some profs see an opportunity elsewhere and jump on it.  Especially if they’re not getting the support from their current school.  This went very counter to how I saw academia: stable.  I don’t know if this is a recent trend, or if I’m just noticing it right now, but I see a lot of professors switching between schools.  I mentioned in a recent post that this is happening with a mentor of mine, my PI recently did it, and a handful of friends, as well.

So this brings me to last week where the department head was asking me if I wanted to expand my lab space and asked which class I want to teach next semester.  I brought this up to my old PI and he said that there’s word on the (nerdy) street that I’m interested in this one particular school that hasn’t even contacted me.  I’m always open to new opportunities, but only if it’s actually an opportunity.   This is clearly just some shitty rumor maybe to get me to leave?  I have no idea how it could have started.  I have no intention whatsoever to leave in the near-future.  I always had the mentality that a company would drop me at the smallest sign of a market swing, so I had as much loyalty as they had to me (very little).  I don’t feel like that here, but I’ll take what I can get, I guess.