I am a new faculty member at George Fox, but this is actually my sixth year of full-time teaching. I feel pretty comfortable being new and navigating carefully higher-ed politics, but I was directed recently to THIS EXCELLENT LITTLE ARTICLE FROM INSIDE HIGHER ED (“Advice for New Hires”). Read the whole article, but here are highlights that stuck out to me and served as very helpful reminders.
1. Don’t take anything personally, especially not at first. People will often treat you as insignificant. This is not because they don’t like you, but because they are socially inept. Most of us are comfortable with the people we already know, and are not good at being friendly to new people. The old-timers ought to go out of their way to be friendly and inclusive to someone new (you) but they probably will not, and you should just chalk it up to poor social skills.
3. Your best friends are likely to be the other assistant professors, but do not avoid the senior people. Treat them with friendly respect. If they treat you as an equal, treat them back as an equal. Some older people prefer mild deference, even if they do not acknowledge that they do; others hate to admit that they are older or established, and want you to treat them as buddies. Try to respond to their cues in this. The safest stance is one where you think well of yourself, but give mild respect to someone senior on the grounds that they have more experience.
4. Do NOT attempt to reform ANYTHING for at least a year, preferably two or three. No matter how stupid the curriculum or other things seem, leave them alone until you have been there long enough to know why they are there and whose interests are at stake. Similarly, try to avoid being drawn into factional disputes. Do your best to be friendly to everyone and to establish good working relationships with everyone you can. Most people will respect a stance of, “You really sound reasonable, but I’m new here and I need to get oriented before I go out on a limb about something like that.” Also, avoid challenging anybody for at least a year, again until you learn who is who and what the real issues are. Some people have abrasive personalities or are so shy that they will seem “out of it” who actually are quite reasonable people when you get to know them. Conversely, some sociopaths are friendly at first.
8. Many people have culture shock or hate their jobs in the first year or two. This is normal. […]
12. Keep your job in perspective. Work hard, but don’t let it ruin the rest of your life. Take care of yourself and your relationships. In some department cultures, you’ll be aware of other people’s families, relationships, hobbies, and politics. In others, the public department culture makes it appear that everyone is always working and people hide their personal lives. So you have to learn the culture before you decide how much to disclose. But regardless of how much you let others see it, seek to develop a sustainable lifestyle that involves enough sleep and exercise, human interaction, meaningful activities, and fun.