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to coast in my job or a bit ... maybe forever!

(62 Posts)
BigBoris Fri 15-May-15 09:55:18

Just a bit of context, I'm an academic/university lecturer. I feel like I have busted a gut since I finished by Phd seven years ago. I've got somewhere. Well, I've got a job. But I haven't been promoted, ever. I am just scraping by, meeting the minimum requirements.

And I've been feeling terrible and inadequate about that for some time, in what is a very very competitive, egotistical, back-stabby world. And at the same time, I feel as though I have let my kids down by always working, not being there for them as they start school, not supporting their learning, being distracted, and generally being a bit rubbish. Classic working mum dilemma.

But now, I want to feel different. I can't give up work for lots of reasons not least money, but I think the demands that are made on me by work are just too much (this is a common complaint in academia!) I just want to be able to say to myself that it's OK just to coast, to be a bit mediocre basically. Do what I have to do, but no more. Say no to more things. Carve out time for the family and let the rest go.

Has anyone been there already? How has it worked for you?

cailindana Fri 15-May-15 10:00:14

Is there any option to change jobs? Coasting in an oppressive environment is not good for you at all.

Dublinlass Fri 15-May-15 10:13:29

I think its okay to coast sometimes if it means more time with your family. They are only young for a small time. I admit I don't challenge myself in work. I work in civil service and I avail of all the family perks, term time, flexi time, unpaid leave. I have worked my way up to a respectable grade but won't be pushing myself to go.any further. I also only work part-time. I've four kids and they're the most important thing to me. Sometimes I'm bored in work and would think about moving to a more challenging position but then I may have to work later or come in earlier and it just doesn't work with kids
God I should like a lazy shite, I'm really notblush

applesareredandgreen Fri 15-May-15 10:20:00

Honestly, I think coasting at work is fine if you work in an office or shop yes just do what you get paid for but as a university lecturer or teacher I.d be concerned as to the possible impact on the young people who take your classes - its their future too.

cailindana Fri 15-May-15 10:21:46

I don't think the OP means coasting as in letting her students down. Teaching is actually a small part of a lecturer's job and isn't really the hard part, although it does take up a lot of time. The pressure in a Uni environment comes from having to bring in funding for research and having to "prove" yourself constantly.

sunbathe Fri 15-May-15 10:23:11

Could you take a sabbatical and reassess?

morage Fri 15-May-15 10:24:59

I used to be very ambitious. When I got ill I had to learn how to coast and not feel guilty. Yes I think it is fine to.

cailindana Fri 15-May-15 10:28:26

To add, I agree that there's nothing wrong with coasting but I'm worried that coasting in that environment will wear you down.

MyCatIsAGit Fri 15-May-15 10:31:47

I had the dilemma recently of whether to take a job that would be the same grade but would give me more exposure, be more intellectually challenging and more stimulating and be more likely to get me the next grade up. But would be more stressful and more hours.

However, while I am fundamentally bored in my job and have zero interest in the topic, I do it to a good standard, get paid very well, have very little stress and mostly manage my own time. It's public sector so I have flexi, good annual leave allowance, no restrictions on when I can take it, pay increments and a decent pension.

So that is that work life balance, if its a nice day I can leave early and I'm paid well enough to meet my needs. I've given up on the promotion or thinking that I need to find an interest in my work.

To be honest its been a bit of an adjustment and I still haven't quite worked out a life outside of work, it used to provide a social life, topic of conversation etc. But that's better than stress.

I spent a number of years working very hard, putting in a lot of effort, and have now got to a management position. But since my son was born (he is now 4) work isn't the be all and end all for me.

I've feel that I have been coasting, as I have not been actively trying to go 'above and beyond' nor chasing promotion.

We do a yearly prefromance review, where you get assessed against 5 levels. Last year I was on a 3 - very middle of the road. This year it was a 2 - better but by no means an 'exceptional' 1. The way the system is set up we are all meant to be chasing the elusive 1 - trying to get in a position to be rewarded for our efforts and get a promotion.

I care about my job, and I'm quite good at it. I do what I need to do, and people respect me. But I'm not chasing the 1. I'm not desperate to exceed and go above and beyond what I need to do for my job.

However, you mention that you think the demands made on you are too excessive. This sounds like a different situation. Like you wouldn't be meeting all of those demands. Maybe it would be better if you had a discussion with your managers about those demands and how your time is being used to address them. Or is it that you are putting pressure on yourself to meet certain demands that aren't what is expected of you by your superiors?

however Fri 15-May-15 10:33:59

I think one of my kids' teachers is doing that. It is infuriating. You can really tell when someone who is in the position of educating others doesn't give a shit.

BigBoris Fri 15-May-15 10:36:52

I really do take teaching very seriously, and get good feedback scores. But in our job we are expected to teach, support students via pastoral care, raise funds, write and publish papers in good journals with high rejection rates, give numerous talks and attend conferences, build networks, manage various admin jobs, etc. All at the same time. There are massive advantages to an academic job including flexibility around where I do my work, and I used to think that when academics complained perhaps they were being a bit grumpy. But a few years in I realise that it really is impossible to meet every expectation and have a life outside work. Well, it is for me. And it is no surprise that there are few women at the top and even fewer who have children. So when I say 'coast' I just mean that I can't and won't meet every expectation. This means that I won't get promoted, and will have to field humiliating questions about why I am not more productive, etc. But I guess I just want to feel at peace with that!

Figmentofmyimagination Fri 15-May-15 10:38:07

Gosh your post resonates with me! I "should" still be a city solicitor like my university contemporaries. Instead my wages are less than one of their secretaries would earn. But I love my job - as a policy writer in the voluntary sector - which is stress free and allows me to read lots, listen to lots of interesting people and take time off when I need to be with the children - but everyone is different - I would have bitten my own arm off btw to have been able to do a PhD! Out of bounds now sadly. But as to coasting - well I think the secret is to give the narrative of your life a sense of purpose. Find something that makes you feel worthwhile - maybe get involved in a small academic issue that really does drive you - something you can feel expert and knowledgeable about that gives you a sense of internal purpose and intrinsic motivation even though it is not externally rewarded. Then just keep your head down and carry on!

balletnotlacrosse Fri 15-May-15 10:38:46

I don't think there's anything wrong with coasting, as long as you're doing the work you're paid to do and not letting colleagues or clients down.

Your career doesn't have to be the be all and end all. There's lots of other important things to focus on in life and not everyone is ambitious and wants to climb the career ladder, work long hours and sacrifice other parts of their lives.

Nettletheelf Fri 15-May-15 10:39:25

You don't sound as if you want to be mediocre, which is how you have defined coasting. If you did, you wouldn't be feeling inadequate, or bad about only meeting minimum requirements.

Don't turn into that type. I find the self-proclaimed 'coasters' at work supremely irritating. 'Coasting' is usually a euphemism for clock watching, box ticking, avoiding hard work and saying, "that's not my job".

People who behave like this are usually keen to defend it, but end up sounding like throwbacks to the 1970s. They are also usually the first to whine when people are 'promoted over their head'.

You'll also know, because you're in a more competitive environment, that people who behave in the way I describe above are usually the first to be offed when headcount is reduced.

My feeling is that you need a different job in which you can shine. You'll be very unhappy if you purposely underperform. Incidentally, is your husband/partner worried about not spending enough time with the children, and is he considering 'coasting' in his role? If not, why should you?

morage Fri 15-May-15 10:42:05

however - I don't know your DCs teacher. I do know others like me who have been too ill to work flat out, and not ill enough to get money so that we don't have to work. Sometimes all you can do is get through each day.

Eltonjohnsflorist Fri 15-May-15 10:42:24

I think one of the biggest secrets in life is that getting the maximum return for minimum effort is what life is all about. I had a lecturer who used to say he wanted to see 53% results- anything more is wasted effort (with 3% for safety)

BigBoris Fri 15-May-15 10:45:44

Hi Figment, Your job sounds interesting. I am definitely very lucky to have squeezed in a PHd, after a first career and before I had children and a mortgage. I think you're absolutely right - I do focus on an area of research that is meaningful to me, and that I care about. And am becoming a bit of an expert on it, if that's not too much of a boast. This area has impact, and I am involved in advising government on it. So that gives me a lot of purpose, but it also takes up a lot time and because I am not currently fulfilling all the other metrics set by my employers (especially publishing a lot) its considered that I am not doing well. I guess the trick is trying to find other ways towards self-worth other than the indicators set by the university.

BigBoris Fri 15-May-15 10:50:02

Nettletheelf, perhaps coasting is the wrong word. I want to do what I do really well, and I don't want to let colleagues down (although to be fair, many of them let me down all the time - as I said, it's a fairly ruthless and selfish profession that I am in, where most people are out for themselves). The trouble is, I can do some things really well, but I can't do everything that is expected of me, all the time. If I did, I would not see or know my kids or my DH, and life would be crap. So that's what I want to make peace with.

Mistigri Fri 15-May-15 10:50:46

What is your field? Is there any chance of a move to the private sector? For a highly educated person in a sought-after field, your conditions of employment are likely to be substantially improved by moving out of the public sector. If you work in a technical field, it doesn't even necessarily mean moving into a commercial role, the company I work for employs lots of PhDs in technical roles.

But to answer your question - coasting is actually a perfectly reasonable response to having too many demands on your time. I started coasting the best part of 20 years ago when I made it explicitly clear to management that I didn't want to progress and that I was happy being a technical expert in my field. They love me because I always get done what I say I will do (since I am a fundamentally lazy person I never over-promise and I'm good at delegating and saying no politely).

balletnotlacrosse Fri 15-May-15 10:53:12

I think you're missing the point Nettle. The OP is not feeling forced to hold back on climbing the career ladder. She wants to prioritise other aspects of her life. Not everyone wants to be a high flier, or to work over and above the call of duty, or put in extra hours, and there's nothing wrong with that.

UptoapointLordCopper Fri 15-May-15 11:08:32

BigBoris Haven't read everything in detail (in the middle of exam marking grin) but also an academic here - went part-time after DC and "coasted" in the sense of not seeking promotions. It worked for me until recently when I realised that people simply assumed I did not want promotion! Which annoyed me so much that I actually went for promotion and got it ... Still, I think it's OK to coast. How old are your DC? Things do change. As long as you don't burn your bridges I think it's OK to coast until you want things changed. There's a chat thread for academics too if you want to have a look.

UptoapointLordCopper Fri 15-May-15 11:10:19

I so agree with "I can do things very well, but I can't do everything that is expected of me, all the time".

Stuff that. I spent years doing exactly what I want and NOT getting promoted but I think it was worth it.

Momagain1 Fri 15-May-15 11:23:35

If you cannot prioritise the extra stuff that means recognition and promotions just now, then don't. It's not coasting. It is managing your time. Coasting is when you carry on like that after other circumstances have changed, because it is easy and everyone has gotten used to you filling that little niche and expect no more. Coasting (at work) is when you no longer pay attention to the long term, not when you consciously pay attention to the short term.

RandomFriend Fri 15-May-15 11:34:23

I work in an academic environment. Trying to publish is time-consuming and soul destroying. If, by coasting, you mean just not doing

raise funds, write and publish papers in good journals with high rejection rates, give numerous talks and attend conferences, build networks,

for a bit, that is fine. The children won't be small for long. So long as you do the teaching and admin, etc. as required, you'll be fine. If you can also keep up with the latest research in your field, you'll also be ready to resume networking, giving talks and writhing papers in due course.

Alternatively, if you are really good at the academic admin, there are positions as deans, etc, in which publishing naturally takes a back seat.

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