Friday, July 11, 2014

Day 545 - Revenge of the ego @work

So I am facing another peculiar situation at work. After finishing my recent proposal, I have another project proposal that I am now starting to shop around. In the first instance, I took my idea to a professor at my university. This is a different approach because for my last proposal writing effort, no one else from my university was involved, all my collaborators where from other universities.

When I started to investigate who would be suitable for the project idea two people recommended a professor to me whose line of research fits with what I would like to do, and this was confirmed when I studied his profile. Now, I have never met this guy before and so anything could have happened and did. I did not prepare myself from the starting point of "what if….?" Because I did not want to create a negative or positive attitude within myself instead I manipulated myself with this thought:  "how bad could it be, I am bringing an idea to him - that's the mana of each professors' existence".

And when we finally met almost two weeks ago, we clashed...

It turned out that he was hired into a new chair at the university and that he is eager to show what he can do now. After a few minutes of talking with him, I realised that he would go quite far to make sure he gets the most credit out of the project.

Our life trajectories are also pretty much in opposition, he has stayed within in a 100km radius of the small place where he was born and has always worked in the vicinity. I, on the other hand, have lived all over the world and have lived in places that are quite tolerant what concerns traditions and rules. 

I explained to him that I see us equals in this endeavour if he chooses to collaborate with me and from his answers I saw that he did not agree because to him I could not be an equal as I am not a professor. I then tried to explain to him that my life prior to academia has to be taken into consideration and that I am not an unexperienced researcher because my professional trajectory prior to academia is tightly related to my research topic and so I bring a lot of experience to the project.  

With this and some other experiences I finally realised that I was like a fish in a different water at this university. Where I had studied and lived prior to coming to the current place of employment - those were "modern" places, where professors where not seen as someone 'untouchable',  they had open doors, and I was treated like a person not like a title. 

Where I work now, it's a bit like going back 70 years in time, professors don't even say hello to those who are not professors, regardless of other credentials or experiences these people might have. There are many "unspoken" rules in what someone in my position can and cannot do. 

I realise that I was actually quite fortunate initially when I came to the university, because through my research unit switch I now see the difference, now that I am part of the faculty.   In my prior research unit, I was at an independent centre that is loosely connected to the university and operates a bit more like US and UK universities. There I already noticed a difference but dismissed it as unimportant because it did not affect my basic communication.  If I had not dismissed it I could have paid more attention to the rules and maybe figured out what they are. 

So at this stage, I am facing myself in a few ways:

a. Fear of my idea being appropriated by a professor who will not give me credit. 
b. Fear of having created an enemy because of my straightforwardness and not submitting to the rules. 
c. Dislike of the professor and regret for having addressed him with my idea.
d. Dislike of the university environment because it is so outdated and backwards.
e. The desire to leave instead of staying put and working through the points.
f. A kind of in limbo state about what to do, whether I should proceed with finding partners outside of the university or just write out the points with this professor and pursue the idea with him further. 

ad f. Yesterday I have sent him an email for a follow-up meeting and if he does not respond then I have to make a decision on what to do.

In my next post, I will work on the self-forgiveness to release myself from the constraints and self-limitations and see where the root of my 'evil' stems from. 


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