Workplace Drama - How do I choose/do I have to?
October 23, 2016 2:17 PM   Subscribe

Work part time (eg, no full time contract) in academia. Currently split between two departments, with most of my time spent in Department A. Department B gave me a promotion. Now Department A wants me to only work with them. Dept B wants me to eventually be full time with them. Added complication: there is growing bad blood between the two departments, and both sides are smearing each other.

Keeping this slightly vague, just in case anyone I know stumbles across it...

I like to think I am a catch (well, when my sometimes crippling self doubt/depression/anxiety isn't in full force). I work hard and I work well with people. But two departments causing a mini war over me is not working, for any of us.

The split arrangement started when Department A's funding was running low. Director of Department B approached my manager in Dept A about having me to some some work for Dept B. Their subject areas overlap in certain realms, and the fit has worked out generally well. Everyone was happy for a year.

Queue promotion. At the end of the summer, Dept B promoted me and a colleague. The idea was that I was still only part time, but with a higher profile/different responsibilities. Director of Dept A got upset because he hadn't been consulted. I spoke with Director of Dept A, and all seemed good, until all of a sudden it wasn't/ Apparently Dept A had been planning on *finally* (after 2 years), offering me a full time position, and now didn't like the arrangement (despite Director of Dept A saying he was ok with it). To add salt to the situation, my manager in Dept A seems to have painted Director of Department B in a bad light.

Now there is Taylor Swift level bad blood between the Director of Dept B and my manager in Dept A. Bad mouthing each other across the school, involving administration... I have been not directly involved in most of it (and I am not supposed to know about most of it), but it seems like they are using my position as a battlefield to assert themselves. My manager in Dept A seems to be the greatest troublemaker in this situation.

I could potentially end things by just going with one department. Both Departments have their pros and cons. Neither of them are ideal work environments. Neither of them have ideal bosses. I think that Dept A might be a better one for long term/transition in the future, given that its subject area is a bit more in line with what I want to do/easier to explain. But it might be self imploding, and my boss is manipulative. The Director of Dept B is a nicer person, but not a good manager, the department may be out of money, and the department's purview is not as directly related to what I am interested in. Though it might be taking over some of the subject areas I want to work on. Nothing is certain.

In an ideal situation, I would like to keep working in both departments. Intellectually, I enjoy it. And it ameloriates the imperfect managers/bad bosses.
Also in an ideal world, I would have been able to use the past two years to write, publish, and build my network so that I could leave easily for another job. Depression/anxiety made that a challenge. Needless to say, this drama is making it harder to manage my mental health. I just want to get to work. Down with drama.
I want to stay one more year in academia to try to make my transition out. So what I need is a strategy to get through another year.

My options (not mutually exclusive)
- Pick just one department. Phase out of the other one
- Continue to stay out of it all
- Something else...

To be honest, I am just sick and tired of this, and the man children who seem intent on this poor excuse to exercise their egos.

Any advice? Any tips?
posted by troytroy to Work & Money (5 answers total)
Best answer: I would have been able to use the past two years to write, publish, and build my network so that I could leave easily for another job. Depression/anxiety made that a challenge. Needless to say, this drama is making it harder to manage my mental health.

This makes me think:
Two years is nothing - both the past two years and the next two years! Stick it out at both departments and try to side-step the drama as much as possible for the time being. Get help for your anxiety issues. Begin now (hey, first day of new week tomorrow!) with writing, building your network, and publishing (in this order). Quit both departments after two years from now with a nice, fresh and thick portfolio under your arm.
posted by Namlit at 3:06 PM on October 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, the flashbacks. I could have written this almost word for word a few years back. I opted for "start job hunting, leave both departments as soon as possible" and my life has been much better for it. I would recommend doing the same at some point, if that's feasible.

Meanwhile, stay out of it as much as you can, but be prepared for the moment someone is going to try to make you an offer to go full time for their department. Figure out what it would take to make you say yes: You don't want to be caught off balance and end up in a bad position because of it.
posted by Stacey at 3:29 PM on October 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

Can you just keep doing both? It sounds like they hate each other regardless of whatever happens with you, and it sounds like you are getting the most experience and the best networking by being involved in both. Maybe there is a way you can just make the split situation work better.

Maybe, since manager A seems to think he has ownership over the split arrangement and got all huffy when you got promoted, there is a way for you to assert this as your choice and something you can handle managing? They "share" you but is there any reason one has to be involved with the other at all where you are concerned? If there is some sort of schedule or something, or communication between them as it relates to you? Maybe you can take ownership of coordinating that and splitting the time as it makes sense to you. In the long run, I don't think this drama will matter, and it also isn't about you. It sounds like they will fight about anything.

Do what is best for you. It sounds like you want to keep doing both, so I'd find the best way to do that. Plus, if one department does lose funding, you'll be positioned to avoid losing your position, or gets some sort of windfall and offers you a dope position, you'll be positioned to take advantage. As difficult as it is, I'd keep your head down and try to stay out of it. You do you.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:59 PM on October 23, 2016

We really need to know if you are in the USA or somewhere else (queue=britain?) and if so, whether it is a state university or private one.
posted by lalochezia at 5:14 AM on October 24, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the advice, everyone. It has been helpful just reading your thoughts. The situation has stablized a bit, so for now, I am able to continue in this split role.

laochezia - am in the US at a private university. And your catch of queue - now realize I should have used "cue".
posted by troytroy at 7:58 PM on October 25, 2016

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