Recently, I received news of a senior female colleague moving to a high administrative post. This same colleague told me years ago that I was not cut out for administration. I don’t think she was wrong, but it still stung, and I still begrudge her for it—who the hell is she to tell me what I can and cannot do? In hindsight, the above comment of hers, which she made when I was an assistant professor, did erode my confidence in my administrative abilities, and consequently the opportunities I sought or didn’t; we should all be careful when we wield discouraging words, even if—or perhaps especially if—we think we know better.
It is, however, true that I have no intention of going into administration. I might do it if I absolutely have to, but not for any longer than necessary. (Maybe I wouldn’t feel this way if the colleague hadn’t made that remark, but I guess we will never know.) The thing is, I find working with people to be emotionally taxing, seemingly much more so on me than on many others, including those who successfully hold administrative posts for long periods. I don’t know if these individuals are naturally even keeled, or they are just good at disengaging their emotions from the job at hand. I can compartmentalize, but only for a limited time, and couldn’t do it for days on end.
I prefer to be boots on the ground, working with students through teaching and research. It is also probably good for everyone involved that I keep doing the things that both utilize my strengths and benefit the core mission of the university.
What say you, blogosphere? Do you covet or avoid administrative posts?