Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Meeting, exceeding, far-exceeding expectations

Originated in a comment thread over on Dean Dad:


I would agree with several posters who have commented that a negative performance review or promotion result should not come as a complete surprise. If it surprises the candidate's immediate supervisors, then those supervisors, in my view, have been negligent in maintaining some awareness of--and responses to--the candidate's record of productivity and effectiveness. If a similarly negative result surprises the candidate, then s/he has been negligent in the pragmatics of self-assessment and "timely progress toward promotion".

We anticipate that undergraduate students may not be aware of, or sensitive to, the specifics of self-assessment, and so we provide frequent benchmarks, feedback, grades, models, mentoring, etc. I would certainly be unhappy if a new hire, a 3rd-year review, or a tenure candidate was anywhere near as naive--I would argue that part of professional competence on the part of a candidate is being able to assess his/her ratio of success, just as it is part of the supervisor's professional competence, as several have said, to provide tools of assessment for the candidate.

Something I have not yet seen in the comments, however, is something I have taken to include in all my own mentoring, both in-house and remote, at both the graduate - student and the not - yet - tenured professional levels. That is, simply put, the candidate's responsibility to be effective, approachable, collegial, advocate for his/her teaching, service, and creative activity. In the world of academia, almost no-one has time to keep up with colleagues' achievements in a consistent or informed way: not their awards, their new creative works, their grants won, their students' accomplishments. We are all simply too busy to keep track of our colleagues' professional development, no matter how much we might wish to. Yet it is essential, for our own individual professional advancement, that colleagues (on tenure, promotion, and budget committees, for example) should be aware of our accomplishments.

This means that each candidate must take time to develop skills at conveying his/her achievements. There are a lot of different ways to do this, and many are even tactful and un - self - aggrandizing. In mentoring, I make sure to talk about, assist with, and demonstrate such "outreach to colleagues" (examples of how here) I have found it not only fosters a much friendlier collegial atmosphere, but also makes it much easier for committee members and superiors to arrive at accurate, well-informed, and positive evaluations. YMMV

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