what to say to whom

Dean Dad gives excellent advice to folks who have applied for other positions but not yet received offers:

If you’re in a setting in which being ‘found out’ would be awkward but not fatal, I’d adopt a two-pronged strategy of “need to know” and “strategic evasion.” Tell only those folks you would need as references, and stress to them that you consider the matter confidential. When it leaks – which it will – simply don’t answer the question directly. Don’t lie, but don’t compromise yourself, either. “I have no plans to be anywhere else next year” is technically true, since you don’t have an offer in hand. (Administrators and politicians can do this in our sleep.) If your skeptical interlocutor keeps pressing, change the subject. Think of it as cultivating an air of mystery.

As far as I know, my dean doesn’t know that I’ve applied elsewhere, although ever since I finished my Ph.D., she’s been saying to me, “You won’t be around here much longer.” So she certainly suspects.

Dean Dad’s correspondent found him/herself in an icky situation when his/her chair, who knows of the job search, apparently mentioned it to another colleague who mentioned it to correspondent. This happens all the time. Many times I’ve told my dean something in confidence and been asked about it later by a colleague who apparently spoke to the dean. I don’t know if this kind of breech occurs in other workplaces, but it seems to be rampant in academia. As I said in my comment on Dean Dad’s blog,

I think it is extremely unprofessional for [the] chair to have mentioned [the job search] to a colleague and extremely unprofessional for the colleague to have said anything about it to [the job searcher]. But this is exactly what would happen at my institution. People can’t keep their mouths shut. The colleague should have said to the chair, “That is none of my business. I am going to pretend I don’t have this information,” and then should have erased it from his mind.

It’s called professional courtesy.

Published in: on January 26, 2008 at 10:26 pm  Leave a Comment