Upon starting my new job last year, I noticed some things that seemed strange because they were different and gained a renewed appreciation for the mentoring I received at my previous institution. Nearly everything about my new position is an improvement from my last, but even though I’ve become more comfortable speaking up I still miss the department culture of my old institution.
This is not to say that the relationships within the department are bad. I seem to get along with everybody and everybody seems to get along with each other. The department as a whole, though, does not seem to do much together. For example, at my previous institution, it was common for several of us to walk to faculty meetings together. At my current institution, everybody heads over on their own.
Another small difference that I’ve noticed is that only a few of the other faculty members in my department say hi when walking past our doors. I’m sure that there are a variety of factors contributing to this: the desire not to interrupt colleagues when working, the division of our department among several areas of the building limits passing by the doors of others*, colleagues who are thinking about what they need to do as they walk to and from their offices, etc. Most egregious, however, are the colleagues whose offices are next to mine and who must walk close to my open doorway to approach their own office doors.
This is unacceptable, so I have made efforts to change it. Whenever I notice somebody approaching their office I now make it a point to say hello. When I am leaving for the day I make it a point to say goodbye**. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to have affected the behavior of anybody other than me, but it was either this or starting a tally of how many days I could go without one of my colleagues speaking to me and that seemed like one of those “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” situations.
So I will continue to say hello and goodbye and if I can get tenure I may be able to outlast some of these colleagues and say hello and goodbye to new hires and, eventually, change the department culture. Seriously, people, you can do better!
*When my external mentor asked a colleague in my department how I was handling the transition she replied, “I don’t really know, he’s on the other side of the hall.”
**When telling one colleague to have a good night, he frequently replies, “Okay, thanks.” For the record, the correct response is “You, too!”
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