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Due to become HoD next month. Dreading it.

79 replies

aridapricot · 20/07/2022 23:02

I have posted in the past here about not feeling valued for my research achievements in my department and about applying for jobs elsewhere (unsuccessfully so far after two applications).

Earlier this year I let myself be persuaded to become the next HoD, which is now due to start in a few weeks. I resisted the offer for a while. The main reason for that was my department's culture - basically it is completely accepted and assumed that some people are entitled to do less than others, or to do only a very narrow range of things they specialize in, and if you're not one of those God-blessed people then tough luck, you just have to work like a donkey and let the weight of our UG programme rest on your shoulders. I didn't feel I'd have the energy or authority to tackle that, nor the pragmatism to just accept it and keep it going. Eventually my current line manager and their line manager were able to find my weak spot and use it to talk me into it - they talked to me about how no one really wants to be HoD, but it's an honor system and other people don't buy into that but aridapricot you're so so honorable and so kind and SO MUCH BETTER that these other bad people (= who get ahead quicker than you in promotions and research but anyway they're NOT HONORABLE) so you'll do this for us won't you.

A few months later I chickened out, I said to my current line manager that I didn't feel I could do this. Specially, I was worried (and told them so) about my uneasiness with the department's culture sending me back into depression - I was in treatment for depression under lockdown, and although I have recovered I feel my MH isn't as solid as it used to be. They gave me the honor system story again, but this time with a bit of a threat too - they said that refusing the HoD job would be seen as "uncollegial" and this would practically guarantee I would bomb my chances at becoming a professor in the near future. (Interestingly, there were 3 other people who were eligible to be HoD, and they refused to even consider it from the beginning but apparently they aren't uncollegial, only I am). So I gave in again (yes stupid me... I know).

The HoD job is starting in a few weeks and I am a mess. This has been aggravated by the fact that a promotion I applied to in the meanwhile has only been partially successful (don't want to give too many details so as to not out myself, but it was a bit of a bummer). I am not worried about the parts of the job that people tend to get scared by (dealing with students, budgets, timetables, etc.), I am pretty good at getting things done and navigating bureaucracy even if it's not my favourite thing to do. But I'm realizing that I harbor a lot of resentment, stronger than anything I've ever felt, towards the colleagues who created and perpetuated the culture that I find myself inheriting - those who were HoD before me and burdened me with lots of donkey work while allowing others to flourish in research or in glamorous admin positions; I am resentful at those in department who systematically refuse to do their fair share and have no qualms in seeing the rest of us completely overburdened - and even make jokes about it at staff meetings. I thought the holidays and a bit of rest would make me see things with more perspective, but even now I think about the job situation sometimes for hours at a time and I feel consumed by resentment. I am very concerned about becoming petty, vindictive and dictatorial as soon as I sniff a bit of power - I cannot say I've ever behaved like this, but then I've never really had a position where I had power over others. I have had some conversations with colleagues in the last few months and they say things like "when you'd HoD we need to do this and this and this"... I think they're expecting me to be this sweet girl who lets herself be manipulated and doesn't have ideas of her own, and what enrages me is that for the last 10 years I have really been this weak person, and I don't know how to reverse this or whether I even want to do it. Earlier today I was working on a restructuring of administrative roles that I feel would do away with some inefficiencies... and then I found myself thinking: No way my colleagues are letting me away with this, they'll say "but I don't like this job you've given me" or "but this isn't how we've done thing before" and I'll give in again.

Has anyone been in a situation like this? Should I just resign myself to starting the antidepressants (which I was lucky worked quite well on me) again for the next 3 years? I keep looking for openings and will apply the moment anything suitable turns up, but my field is small, the work I do isn't fashionable, and jobs are few and far between... I am supposed to receive some mentorship for the HoD, but would I feel confident in discussing the roots of my resentment with a mentor... Luckily DH is extraordinarily patient and supportive (he faced a similar situation at his job a while ago) but I feel completely lost...

OP posts:

aridapricot · 25/08/2022 17:25

In my department the HoD has always done this. We are not that large a department so I don't think it's the kind of thing that needs massive admin support (other than the paperwork of course).
I am also happy because I've discovered there's a pot of money at my uni that I can apply to to visit not one but two departments where I have some contacts and where really interesting research work is being done that could complement my own! Research-wise I've had a spring and summer where I've got quite a lot of external recognition and contacts for my work, so I am thinking that I should build my profile there and forget about my department's popularity contest...

OP posts:

poetryandwine · 25/08/2022 17:52



aridapricot · 26/08/2022 09:00

Another thing I've realized the last couple of years, and realizing more and more now, is how much we go above and beyond all in the interests of catering to students. We are teaching proportionally many more courses than other departments (the Faculty management is actually desperate for us to teach less, not more!), we apparently cannot follow the (rather reasonable) university processes for mitigating circumstances and instead students have to be given extra opportunities again and again and again, and coddled into following the processes. If this meant better results in USS I suppose it wouldn't be bad, but our results are very average most years and maybe slightly above average on a good year. Could be good to use the worlkoad model to identify these things and minimize them, although some people have made a whole identity out of the idea that no other department sacrifices itself for its students more than us (although in many cases this means offloading the sacrifice to other members of staff).

OP posts:

reader12 · 05/09/2022 16:53

I don’t know the world you’re in, (not sure why I’m even on this thread!), but, don’t try to smother or ignore your anger. Listen to it, honour it and let it be your guide for what changes to make.

They want to give you this role, so this is your chance to claim your power and set right old wrongs. With justice on your side nobody can legitimately prevent you from changing things for the better. It sounds like you can see very clearly what needs to be done and your challenge now is to trust yourself, ignore any moaning and make it happen. Good luck!

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