Turf Wars

One thing I saw (and see) a lot of in higher ed involved fights over “turf”–either physical, virtual or conceptual.  Professors will fight over space, over what kinds of classes their department or individuals within their department are allowed to teach, or the hot potato issue of who is responsible for the department web site and/or course management classes.  If a faculty member feels that someone has invaded their space, they will often “freak out.”  It can get quite ugly.  I experienced this a number of times on the staff side.  Faculty didn’t want me in their classes because teaching is their thing, even though they didn’t understand technology pedagogy.  They did want me to scan documents and upload them into their course management system or edit their web site, which I didn’t want to do because just because there’s technology involved doesn’t mean it’s my role to manage it.  Would you ask the person who manages the email system to respond to email for you?

I also found myself on the receiving end of this, where I felt people did things that were “my job” and I felt threatened.  So I understand why people react the way they do.  In the end, most of my experiences, specifically, had to do with a mismatch between what I considered my job and what almost everyone else (within and without of my department) considered my job.

I have come to a completely different place on this issue.  Recently, I’ve had a couple of people do things that are kind of my job.  My job is so broad and the needs here are so great, that almost anything aside from managing the email server and maintaining hardware could be considered my job.  Both people said something to the effect of, “I hope I didn’t step on your toes . . .”  And I didn’t feel that way at all.  I was grateful that they picked up the ball and ran with it.  Instead of feeling like it needed to be me that did these things, I got behind the people who did them and supported them.  I was grateful.  As I told one person, “We’re all in this together.”  And I think that’s the culture here.  We are educating kids.  Whatever tasks need to get done we do them.  Obviously, it’s not good if someone is always dropping the ball, but we work pretty collaboratively here.  It mostly feels like joint effort.

And that is four million times better that going to battle every day over whose job it is to teach writing or technology, or who should maintain a web site, or who gets to use a particular space.  Whoever can do the job does, and when people ask for help (and sometimes even when they don’t), they get help.