I’m a college instructor, teaching in one of the institutions in the University Belt in Manila. I have been in this academic level for eight years now while my batch mates had been promoted to assistant professor or even to associate professor. I know my subject matter and can communicate it effectively to my students. I get above average ratings in the course evaluation by my students and in the peer evaluation by my colleagues. I have an MA degree in my field. I’ve been attending seminars in my field of specialization to keep up with my professional growth, and do research in my field. These are all requirements for promotion.
The source of my frustration is our department head who obviously doesn’t like me. I am definitely not one of her few favorites. I made a mistake of telling on her (a.k.a. “sumbong”) to our Dean about the short hours she spent as an administrator. She would put in only about 1-2 hours of work daily. The reason for this is that she has also a business on the side and this interfered not only with the quantity of hours she put in for work, but also on the quality of her work as department head. When students wanted to see her, or when faculty members wanted to consult with her, she very often was not available in her office, physically and even mentally. As a result of the feedback I had given to our Dean, the latter called her attention to her shortcomings. She now renders the minimum required number of hours as administrator. But she has taken it against me for telling on her. Some of my peers had also been talking against her behind her back but they didn’t have the courage to bring the matter to our Dean. Her low evaluation of me shows her vindictiveness; she has not submitted my name for promotion in academic rank. She also does not talk to me, ignores my presence at department meetings, and downplays my inputs during these meetings.
I don’t know what to do. I had already gone to our Dean who told me to take up the matter of my promotion with our department head. I know I have to see her but I hesitate to do so because I feel discouraged. I don’t know how to go about it.
Please help me!
I can empathize with you in your current situation. You are happy that the results of your talking to your Dean about your department head had produced the desired results but it has backfired on you in terms of strained relationship with your boss whose evident low appraisal of your performance as instructor has derailed your promotion to the next academic rank.
I have always maintained that one’s boss is his/her #1 customer who must be pleased according to professional standards. In your case, both your students and your superior are your #1 customers. That she had been remiss in her administrative role did not justify your going “over her head” and going directly to her own boss to report her deficiency. She was justifiably hurt by this. She is now taking you to task by ignoring you and, worse, by not recommending you for promotion.
What options are there for you? One, ignore her and just continue to do a good job of teaching and hope that she will eventually see your value and recommend you for promotion; two, continue to talk about (a.k.a. against) her to the Dean and to your peers and to others; three, take the risk and talk to her. The first option may not give you the desired positive results. The second option will all the more hurt and anger her and widen the rift between the two of you. I suggest you take the third option. However, in taking this option, you need to plan what you will do and say. As in any plan, you must have a goal. In this case, your goal in seeing her is for her to see you in a positive light and for you to understand her and see her view point. To do this, you have to set aside your preconceived notions about her and open up to her by active listening.
I suggest the following plan of action:
1. Have your copy of summaries of student and peer evaluation.
2. Make an appointment to see her.
3. Prepare what you will say. Use an I-message feedback like:
“I came to see you because I am very much bothered by my non-promotion to assistant professor which I believe I deserve.”
Listen to what she will tell you.
4. Apologize to her for having told the Dean about the number of hours she used to render. For your apology to be sincere, put yourself in her place. How would you feel if one of your subordinates would “go over your head” and complain about you to your boss? Don’t say that some of your peers had also felt the same way. Don’t bring other people into this issue. Bring this issue out into the open rather than keep it “under the rug.”
Example: “I apologize, Ma’am, that I had gone to the Dean to tell her about the number of hours you used to spend in the office. I’m really sorry about this. I know I have hurt you.” Don’t give excuses for what you did. Listen to what she has to say.
5. Then ask: “What shall I do to be promoted to assistant professor?” Again, listen to her. If at this point she mentions about student and peer evaluation, then you can quietly show her your copy of these summaries.
The important thing is for you to be conciliatory. Allow her to talk while you accept what she says. Accepting what she says as true for her is different from agreeing with her. Don’t antagonize her further by refuting what she says. You can clarify but leave it at that. Make her feel you understand her by labeling her unexpressed feelings.
Example: If she says “The trouble with you is that you went ahead and gossiped about me behind my back to the Dean with out telling me first.”
You can empathize by saying: “You are angry with me because I went directly to the Dean rather than to you and you felt hurt that I didn’t take the matter directly to you.”
The general principle is that when your boss or peer does something wrong or fails to do certain things (i.e., commission or omission), and we are bothered about it, the right thing to do is to go directly to the person and give an I-message feedback.
Example: “I am bothered that you dismiss your class several minutes before the bell rIngs. The noise created by your students disturb me and my class.”
If you don’t have the courage to go directly to the person concerned, then you just have to endure the frustrating situation and hope your superior learns about it thru another source. Telling on/about your boss to her boss is unprofessional.
Majority of us Filipinos are non-assertive. We keep our negative feelings to ourselves rather than express them openly to the person concerned. Worse, we tell others about the person. The latter is thus deprived of the opportunity to become aware of his/her negative behavior and to correct it. The rule in communicating feedback is to identify your feelings for the person’s negative behavior, and use the I-message in giving feedback. Example: “I felt disappointed, Ma’am, that on two occasions, I had wanted to talk to you in your office but you were not there. I wanted to consult you about an important matter.” And tell this to her in private. Admittedly giving an I-message feedback face-to-face with the person concerned is not easy to do but it is the right thing to do. It takes practice. Practice gives you self-confidence and enables you to learn the skill.
I wish you success in your effort to establish a positive and professional relationship with your superior.
God bless you.