Stop Being so Nice

Stop Being So Nice | New Faculty



I’ve got a grad student who is a real tool. He’s not mine (thankfully) but someone else’s who I take to collect data. The super glamorous part of my job, NOT. This student has had a problem with me since day one. For reasons that I cannot fathom, he doesn’t seem to like women. No, that’s not an assumption, he’s got the balls, and was so bold to say it out loud. Then, he got pounced on by the other faculty.  Hello 1900, welcome back, I’ll go and bake some cookies…

I did the ‘wrong’ thing first. I tried to be nice to this character. DON’T MAKE THIS MISTAKE!! I didn’t know what his problem was so I tried to talk to him, make conversation, ask about his research. That got me no where. Then, I discovered that he didn’t like me due to the fact that I had ovaries. Now, if you want to hate on me because you don’t agree with my research or opinions, fine, you’ve got your platform, but because I’m a female–suck it kid. Suck it hard.

This fall (I took the summer to reflect and strategize), I quit being so god damned nice to this succubus of human. I greet all of my students, I mildly say hello to him. He needs things from me, I deliver minus the smile and warm pleasantries. He wants curbside service to his car from the van we drive, I dump all of the students closest to the dorms, where MY students typically reside and farthest away from HIS car in the commuter lot. He starts in about how great his program is one week and two weeks later he’s saying he’s going to be here another year because he is two years in with no prelims or data, I smirk from the drivers seat. My favorite interaction with him from this semester:

him: “can you drop me closer to G lot (parking)?”

me: “nope, i’m making one drop tonight, i have another mtg in half an hour & still have to return this vehicle.”

him: “i’m going to be late for a meeting if you don’t.”

me: “well, i guess you’ll just have to move a little faster then, thanks for your patience.”

It’s hard sometimes to be nice. I like students, I like kids, I like teaching, but I really detest assholes. My morning advantage from HBR came through and the short graphs hit a high note with me:

“Being liked is overrated,” writes Jessica Valenti in The Nation. She’s primarily writing about women — for whom likability is negatively correlated with success — but her advice is useful for the yes-men out there, too. Valenti, the founder of the blog Feministing, admits to wasting hours online responding to every commenter, giving equal time and attention to both the thoughtful people and the snarkiest trolls. “It pains me to think of what I could have achieved if I had that time back.”

When we adjust our behavior to be more likable — withholding our most deeply held opinions so as not to offend, agonizing over every bit of negative feedback, eventually “tempering our thoughts” as well as our words — we stunt our selves, our careers, our impact in the world. “The truth is that we don’t need everyone to like us,” she writes, “We need a few people to love us.”

I’ll give Valenti the last word: “Yes, the more successful you are — or the stronger, the more opinionated — the less you will be generally liked. All of a sudden people will think you’re too ‘braggy,’ too loud, too something. But the trade off is undoubtedly worth it. Power and authenticity are worth it.” It’s a piece worth “liking.”

I’ve had to work at being mean in general and I feel bad because my behaviors toward this student make the others suffer. I go out of my way to ask specific students how they are, what’s new with them, and generally work to avoid this student. The other thing that really annoys me, he doesn’t seem to grasp my name. I have a first name. I generally ask people to use it, the WHOLE name. If I wanted someone to shorten it, I would say, “just call me ______.” Generally, I say, “please call me_______ and what name do you like to be referred too?” It’s a pretty standard exchange. This dude, he just doesn’t get it. I’ve had the “please call me ______” talk with him about a half dozen times and out of pure spite, he can’t seem to muster my three syllable name. Not because he doesn’t know, but because he lacks the ability to see beyond his misogynistic ways. The best part is that I’m the phd in the crowd and he’s the one lamenting that his program will take a year longer because he produced so little his first two years as a grad student. Jokes on you dummy (channel Dennis from 30 Rock)!

So, this new faculty is seeking advice. How would you handle the current state of idiocy that is in front of me each week? Thankfully, it’s only one day a week, and each week I practice being as un-nice as possible. The correct people have been notified, the student was warned last year, but he still fails to see the big picture. Thoughts? Suggestions? Coping mechanisms? I’m done for the semester looking at him, but usually just have to smell his heavy cologne when he’s in the building 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Stop Being so Nice

  1. Rob says:

    Perhaps it’s time for him to learn one of life’s hard little lessons. Stand your ground and make sure he understands who is in charge. Ovaries or balls aside, the PhD and faculty position always trump a grad student’s misguided ego.

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