In a post about having responsibility but no power in a new service task, Bardiac writes:
I’ve been asked to consider taking on a new responsibility here. It’s a responsibility that comes with a lot of responsibility, and relatively little power, though it’s very important that the job be done well and ethically. It involves working with folks who have tenure, organizing them to get certain tasks done.
. . . . . .
So, as a responsible person with relatively little power (I can’t fire these folks, affect their pay, or withhold special treats/privileges), what do you do when someone says “no” to doing their share of a group job?
In general, it’s a good policy to avoid assignments in which one would have all of the responsibility, but little or no authority. I have taken on major service tasks in which the responsibility-to-authority ratio was a little more evenly balanced–for example, I served as Graduate Studies Chair, and I served on the program committee of a major conference. (These jobs also kicked my butt–that was the responsibility side!) But in both of those jobs–as on the search committees I’ve been on–I got relatively immediate gratification. We hired a fine new colleagues/admitted some promising new graduate students/or put together a great conference program–and so I got to see what all of my work added up to within a year or so–and then it was done.
We all know that service tasks undertaken by the faculty are hardly ever recognized or rewarded with respect to our annual salary exercises or with respect to tenure and promotion. And yet, someone’s got to do the jobs in which the authority : responsibility ratio is all out of proportion. There are a few exceptions for which I’d consider breaking my general rule–such as, is the task one I think is important and whose goals I believe in, or one I might even enjoy? That would make the work easier to bear. But (for example) feeding the bureaucratic beast is not my priority.
Bardiac’s commenters have a lot of good ideas: for example, it helps if you’re someone who always pitches in, or if others are in your debt. Someone also suggested flattery. Finally, one commenter’s brief (and I think humorous?) suggestion was simply: “I have two words for your consideration – Tonya Harding.” (Does anyone under the age of 30 or so get that joke?)
What do you think? Which have been your service tasks from hell, and which have worked out okay, or even (to your surprise) have been enjoyable?