Is anyone winging/phoning it in while waiting for changes?

Started by GuyRien, September 19, 2023, 04:17:33 PM

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GuyRien

So I'm at a big R1. I've had a successful career and am one step below a distinguished professor. Lots of grants, publications, accolades blah blah the point is I'm not "dead wood" as the deans say.

Well I've hit a bit of a speed bump in my career. Going to distinguished professor needs landing a center level grant. Not hard to do, but lots of work and I need to think about this carefully to get the area right and even if I want to do it. Further, I'm a few years from the magic 55 years when the retirement option kicks in so I can go emeriti. Again, may do that or may not.

So I'm thinking why not just wing/phone it in until things become clearer for me? To be frank, I'll still teach well, do my research, but won't go flat out. Instead of having 8 PhD students I'll hire 2 or 3 really good ones. Instead of volunteering for service, I'll just do the things I'm asked off etc.

Is anyone doing anything similar? Curious how it is working out for you.

Kron3007

That sounds like most of my department!  Your calling it in sounds like most people's standard effort.  You may not get the accolades you otherwise would, but otherwise it sounds like you would be doing your job. 

The only thing I would expect is that they may ask more of you on the service/teaching front if your research program shrinks.  I think it would take a while for that to happen though, if it did.

You are basically joining the youth with the whole quiet quitting thing, or "acting your wage".

Caracal

That anyone ever describes this as a form of quitting is a sign of how screwed up American work norms are.

I was talking to a colleague the other day about how I had thought about trying to make some significant changes to one of my classes, but had decided that both because of life stuff and upcoming curricular changes that may force a lot of reorganization in coming semesters, this wasn't the semester do any of that and I was just going to "phone it in" and go with the lectures I have without trying to do anything new. She pointed out that as a responsible person, my phoning it in was going to be fine. I'm not switching my exams from essay to scantron, nor am I going become unavailable to students, or uninterested in teaching them.

GuyRien

Quote from: Caracal on September 20, 2023, 04:45:10 AMThat anyone ever describes this as a form of quitting is a sign of how screwed up American work norms are.

I take it you are not at a US institution?

I should have mentioned part of why it's hard to slow down is that you are paid handsomely to be in top gear. I mean really well. As well as a very generous 9 month salary we can pay ourselves a further 1/3 of our salary from our grant, can buy out teaching from grants etc. Further the teaching load is already fairly low.

GuyRien

Good point about quiet quitting. I never thought of it that way.

We are paid very well so most of our department doesn't do the minimum and we have lecturers to do the extra teaching and service.

Quote from: Kron3007 on September 20, 2023, 03:33:58 AMThat sounds like most of my department!  Your calling it in sounds like most people's standard effort.  You may not get the accolades you otherwise would, but otherwise it sounds like you would be doing your job. 

The only thing I would expect is that they may ask more of you on the service/teaching front if your research program shrinks.  I think it would take a while for that to happen though, if it did.

You are basically joining the youth with the whole quiet quitting thing, or "acting your wage".

Kron3007

Yeah, here we are o. 12 month contracts and can't pay ourselves extra from grants.  Theoretically we can buy out some teaching, but that seems rare (but our teaching load isn't bad). 

We also don't have any merit based raises,  so for me there is really no incentive to perform above and beyond.  I still do (I currently have 9 grad students and lots of grants/proposals), but I would say that is internally motivated.  As a result, I see a lot of faculty that seem happy to coast along.

GuyRien

Ah so you must be on a soft money non-tenured position hence the 12 month contracts? That's tough and I wouldn't go overboard if I didn't get merit-based improvements.

Quote from: Kron3007 on September 20, 2023, 09:36:29 AMYeah, here we are o. 12 month contracts and can't pay ourselves extra from grants.  Theoretically we can buy out some teaching, but that seems rare (but our teaching load isn't bad). 

We also don't have any merit based raises,  so for me there is really no incentive to perform above and beyond.  I still do (I currently have 9 grad students and lots of grants/proposals), but I would say that is internally motivated.  As a result, I see a lot of faculty that seem happy to coast along.

apl68

I've always had a strong conviction that employees owed employers their best possible work, and employers owed their employees the best wages and treatment possible in return.  It's why I spent years campaigning for better wages for the staff at our library.  If the employers don't treat and compensate the employees fairly, it doesn't exactly excuse employees slacking off...but the employers have no right to be upset when it happens. 

On the other hand, if the employer is paying high rates in expectation of high performance, and is delivering on the compensation, then the worker should keep delivering on the high performance--assuming the expectations aren't just ridiculously high.  If the high-performance, high-paid worker gets tired of working so hard, then one would suppose such a worker could find options to downshift with a different employer.
If any will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.
For how does a man profit if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?

Parasaurolophus

#8
I phone it in.

My institution is awful to us, and we don't have anything like merit pay or even ranks to be promoted to (there's no tenure here). We just advance up the salary scale based entirely on how many courses we've taught, and once you hit the top step your salary is about what it is for VAPs elsewhere in the country (where the cost of living is significantly lower). So I do the absolute minimum, even on the teaching front. I choose service tasks that make a difference for the department, and which others don't want, but which are actually pretty low on the time required (e.g. IRB, updating courses/passing new ones through the Senate).

I do plenty of research because I'm heavily invested in my subfield and its community, so I do it for fun, and to engage with them. It counts for nothing here. But I also only do it for an hour or two a day while my toddler is sleeping. Even so, my output is in the 99th percentile for my subfield, so it doesn't look like I'm lazing around, just playing with the toddler all day. But that's exactly what I do.

As I see it, I just have to make sure it looks like I work harder than the next laziest faculty member. I could be wrong, but I think it probably looks to everyone like I work pretty hard. But I don't.
I know it's a genus.

GuyRien

"As I see it, I just have to make sure it looks like I work harder than the next laziest faculty member."

You need a bracelet: WWALBD, "What Would A Lazy Bastard Do?" :-)

Seriously, your at a place where there is no tenure and they expect you to do lots of research? How does that work with the grants and all.

Quote from: Parasaurolophus on September 20, 2023, 10:49:21 AMI phone it in.

My institution is awful to us, and we don't have anything like merit pay or even ranks to be promoted to (there's no tenure here). We just advance up the salary scale based entirely on how many courses we've taught, and once you hit the top step your salary is about what it is for VAPs elsewhere in the country (where the cost of living is significantly lower). So I do the absolute minimum, even on the teaching front. I choose service tasks that make a difference for the department, and which others don't want, but which are actually pretty low on the time required (e.g. IRB, updating courses/passing new ones through the Senate).

I do plenty of research because I'm heavily invested in my subfield and its community, so I do it for fun, and to engage with them. It counts for nothing here. But I also only do it for an hour or two a day while my toddler is sleeping. Even so, my output is in the 99th percentile for my subfield, so it doesn't look like I'm lazing around, just playing with the toddler all day. But that's exactly what I do.

As I see it, I just have to make sure it looks like I work harder than the next laziest faculty member. I could be wrong, but I think it probably looks to everyone like I work pretty hard. But I don't.

GuyRien

This is our situation. Excellent salary and conditions (i.e. pension). But it's not all perfect. A lot of admin work has been pushed down onto us so we are highly over-worked.

Quote from: apl68 on September 20, 2023, 10:11:39 AMOn the other hand, if the employer is paying high rates in expectation of high performance, and is delivering on the compensation, then the worker should keep delivering on the high performance--assuming the expectations aren't just ridiculously high.  If the high-performance, high-paid worker gets tired of working so hard, then one would suppose such a worker could find options to downshift with a different employer.

Kron3007

Quote from: GuyRien on September 20, 2023, 10:09:51 AMAh so you must be on a soft money non-tenured position hence the 12 month contracts? That's tough and I wouldn't go overboard if I didn't get merit-based improvements.

Quote from: Kron3007 on September 20, 2023, 09:36:29 AMYeah, here we are o. 12 month contracts and can't pay ourselves extra from grants.  Theoretically we can buy out some teaching, but that seems rare (but our teaching load isn't bad). 

We also don't have any merit based raises,  so for me there is really no incentive to perform above and beyond.  I still do (I currently have 9 grad students and lots of grants/proposals), but I would say that is internally motivated.  As a result, I see a lot of faculty that seem happy to coast along.

No, I am a tenured.  A 12 month contract is standard in Canada, and use of grant funds for faculty salary is prohibited.  We are paid relatively well and the position is good in many ways, there is just no real merit based incentives (apparently there was before faculty unionized, but that was before my time).

We can consult for extra cash, and our IP policies are good.  So there are ways to make more money in my position, but they do not really involve going above and beyond for the department or university.

 

Parasaurolophus

Quote from: GuyRien on September 20, 2023, 11:09:53 AM"As I see it, I just have to make sure it looks like I work harder than the next laziest faculty member."

You need a bracelet: WWALBD, "What Would A Lazy Bastard Do?" :-)

Seriously, your at a place where there is no tenure and they expect you to do lots of research? How does that work with the grants and all.


Oh no, there are no expectations at all for research. Most faculty here do none at all. If you happen to get a grant--which is rare--then you fulfill its terms on top of your teaching load. You can't buy out of it. Technically, there's nothing to buy, since nobody is guaranteed any of their sections.
I know it's a genus.

GuyRien

Sounds like Academic Hell or at least Purgatory. Sorry to hear you are in that situation.

Quote from: Parasaurolophus on September 20, 2023, 02:08:14 PM
Quote from: GuyRien on September 20, 2023, 11:09:53 AM"As I see it, I just have to make sure it looks like I work harder than the next laziest faculty member."

You need a bracelet: WWALBD, "What Would A Lazy Bastard Do?" :-)

Seriously, your at a place where there is no tenure and they expect you to do lots of research? How does that work with the grants and all.


Oh no, there are no expectations at all for research. Most faculty here do none at all. If you happen to get a grant--which is rare--then you fulfill its terms on top of your teaching load. You can't buy out of it. Technically, there's nothing to buy, since nobody is guaranteed any of their sections.

AJ_Katz

It's interesting, I was just talking with my partner about what I will do once my 10 years as department head are over.  I'm in my third year in the role managing a complex department, while also teaching a light grad class this fall and advising four grad students.  But the conversation came up because this past year has been probably the most professionally stressful year of my life, having had a staff member pass away unexpectedly, going into work overload to compensate, and now having their replacement on track for dismissal (I was so hopeful when they were hired too!).  Once I complete 10 years, I will have the option to go back to the faculty, and in another five after that, would become fully vested in the state-sponsored retirement healthcare subsidy plan and retire. 

Obviously, I have some time to make that decision about what's next, but one of the big reasons the idea of going back to the faculty is not appealing is because I'm afraid it will get boring not having so many different tasks going on at the same time.  For me, that boredom is "the kiss of death" on a job and turns it into my own version of Bill Murray's Groundhog Day.  On the other hand, I am not going to dismiss that as an option because it could provide an opportunity to start the transition to retirement, in which I am investing less time on work and more time on activities that I'm going to do post-retirement.  I've heard one of the biggest mistakes in retirement is that you should not be retiring from something but retiring to something. 

Do you have a vision for what you will retire to?  If not, maybe this time when you dial it back a little is an opportunity for you to start investing more into your own personal life so that you will have something to retire to when the time comes. 

Or if you dial it back in the grants and grads, might you consider taking on more time mentoring junior faculty?  It could be a way to gain more fulfillment out of the hard work that you've done.  I think there are several options for a more senior / experienced faculty member to modify their tasks in a way that reduces the workload but is not detrimental to the unit.

What not to do.  We had one faculty member in his last semester before retirement ask to teach his class remote and then he just never showed up to work at all.  The junior colleagues that are also running that program suffered greatly because he wasn't there.  They took on his student advising and he rarely responded to emails, even when it was something important like students needing their grade input so they can graduate.  He sent his retirement notification three days before his retirement date and gave us just three weeks to find someone to teach his 65+ student class.  It was not a classy way to go out, especially for someone who had previously been highly invested in the program.