Kay. C. Dee
I once announced to a psychologist that during that day’s session, we were going to play a game called “That’s Perfectly Normal.” I would tell him something that I was thinking or feeling, and he would respond with “That’s Perfectly Normal!” and then describe why. It was a reassuring (and entertaining) game, and I recently found myself playing the other side of this game with a colleague who has been leading a major curricular change effort.
In this short blog venue, I can’t fully describe the amount of energy, effort, collaboration, communication, and social/political capital that my colleague has invested in this change effort over the past two years. As I am writing this post, their institution’s faculty assembly is preparing to vote on whether or not the change will be implemented. As a change agent navigating their way through a great deal of peer judgement about their project, my colleague has been thinking and feeling a lot of Perfectly Normal things right now. For example:
- My change project is being held to standards that are far higher than are expected of any existing project. I resent that. Some of the people calling for additional assessments, information, and review processes sound hypocritical to me.
- Others are using my change project as political leverage or a bargaining tool to try to achieve their own goals. I am bewildered by this. My project has nothing to do with Program X’s ability to hire an administrative assistant, or whether Program Y’s proposal for a second major is likely to be approved. Why is my project being dragged into these discussions?
- People with no expertise in the subject matter of my change are challenging my experiences in and mastery of that subject matter. This makes me feel resentful and disrespected.
- I’m being told that people who I thought supported me and the broad goals of my project are saying negative (and untrue!) things about me and my motivations for undertaking this project. This is disappointing and painful. I don’t want to get involved in gossip, but at the same time, I want people to think well of me and to understand my actual motives for this change.
- People who aren’t aware of all the constraints I have been working under, and who have never championed a similar magnitude of change, are telling me that I should have handled things differently – and that if I had done so, I would not be experiencing the current level of consternation over the proposed change. This frustrates me. I think it’s meant to be helpful constructive criticism, but I guarantee that I did the best I could with what I had to work with. At this point, I kind of just want these people to shut up!