Thursday, January 11, 2007

Space Hogs

I'm so pissed.

Back at the beginning of the year, I wrote about the difficulties of having to share office space with someone. It turned out to be okay, in the end. She set a schedule that saw each of us here four half days a week - I went along with this because I was trying to be easy to work with, and I didn't really care that much. It turned out she almost never came in. Literally. Except for one day a week, she wasn't using the office when she said she was going to. And she stopped letting me know she wasn't coming in. So I would dutifully spend chunks of time in the office of a colleague across the hall, for no reason - she just wouldn't come in. I realized halfway through the term that her not being there was a function of her absolute, chaotic disorganization, as well as of the fact that she lives one hour's drive away. She couldn't get it together to get in to use the office before she taught, for example - she would literally always be flying onto campus 3 minutes before her classes. It was working fine, though, overall.

Not anymore. Yesterday, I sent her a very friendly email suggesting some revised hours for use of the office, taking into account our slightly different schedules this term. She wrote me back the nastiest, most passive-aggressive note. I was shocked, shaking with anger. I closed my office door and just swore. Judging by the tone of this note, she has been harbouring some resentment toward me for, uh, using our office. When she's not here, and has no intention of being here. Go figure.

I don't know how to convey what she said without getting into really boring details of our schedule. But the part that bothers me the most is this veiled accusation that I have been inattentive to her needs. When she has never, not once, told me her needs beyond that she needed the office for at least one full day a week. Which I then offered to her. In fact, I looked at my old emails and when I began the conversation about sharing the office, my initial proposal was that we have full days, not half days. She turned that down, and is now passive-aggressively accusing me of not accommodating her need for that. Uh, okay.

The larger issue here is that this is very clearly a territory-marking thing. She's pissing on the territory of this office just because she can. She is demanding a full day in here on a day that she doesn't even teach - a day that I do teach. So I don't get access to my office on a day that I prep and teach, and she's proposing that she - disorganized as she is, and never once having come in on a day that she doesn't teach - has the office on that full day. The thing is, she'll probably never make it here. And yet she has to stake her claim. And push me out into someone else's office, away from my books and papers and an Internet connection - all of which I use when I prep.

Don't mistake me; I fully intend to give her half the week in here (even though she doesn't use it). It's just that I think it is ridiculous to push me out entirely on a day when I teach and she doesn't, just because she can't get her act together to get here before class on a day when she actually does teach.

What is worse is that this insane territory-marking bravado comes from this person who styles herself as a giving, loving, motherly, sweet feminist type. Give me a break.

(I guess the honeymoon with my department and colleagues is over, huh?)

The larger issue here is space and territory-marking in general at this university. There is a space crisis here - that's why we have to share this office. But I have learned that there are several fancy people who maintain multiple offices at different locations on the campus, and never use them. There is all this office space sitting empty because people are being greedy and protectionist. Bah. Piss off, all you space hogs.


medieval woman said...

Grrrr! Just tell me where and when and I'll open up a can of "whoop-ass"!! That makes me SO mad too. It's the pissiness of people over the "little" things (like sharing an office and being nice about it) that get under my skin the most. Plus, her being a jerk means that you have to take the high road and be nice but firm. If you devolve to her level, then she's the kind of person who would call you on that and accuse you of being nasty to others (I'm, of course, just assuming what your reaction and course of action will be - sorry!) But that's ridiculously uncool. And I know you're tired of having to break your life-space up over several different places and having to accomodate others for the most part. I know that most of your living pals are great, but a bad office mate can really bite!

I hope that you get it (and her!) straightened out soon and she will leave you alone!

What Now? said...

Oh geez -- isn't it amazing what people choose to get themselves worked up over?

I do hope that you feel free to insist that you have the office on the day you're teaching and she is not. That is in NO WAY an unreasonable expectation for you to have, and I'd stand firm on that one. If need be, this may become an issue for the department chair ... but how ridiculous that this woman is so petty that it would even come to that!

Pantagruelle said...

I agree with What Now. You are absolutely, 100%, fully entitled to use the office on the day you teach if she is not teaching that day. It's simply ridiculous for someone who isn't teaching a class to claim a greater need than someone who is. And not only do you have to prep, but presumably you have to hold office hours for your students too, right? That need alone makes the office yours on teaching days. I don't know this person, but if I were you I would politely respond that you need the office on teaching days to prep and meet students, and if she continues to be passive-agressive and weird, perhaps it is a matter for the chair. But with everything you are already going through, being pushed out of this space too is just not fair and I don't think you should have to put up with it. You can't put up with it; it wouldn't be good for your own well-being over the course of the term to let her step all over you now. If she is passive-agressive though, perhaps you could be too--simply occupy the office in her absence. If she's not there on the days she says she is, how is she to know if you're in there, and why should she care? But there's no reason you should have to move to another office when your own is sitting empty.

Earnest English said...

I agree with What Now and Pantagruelle. It is not at all reasonable for her to take the office for the full day when you teach and need to prep and perhaps see students. In fact, I'd go you one further. You really can't let her get away with it. Even if she is tenured and established. The most immediate use for offices is to support teaching needs. Though people may not like it, research can be done in other spaces. Teaching prep and conferencing cannot. I think this person will continue to try to walk all over you if you give in to this now.

Hilaire said...

Thanks, all, for weighing in. Ulp...unfortunately, I did a stupid thing. After closing my office door and swearing for a few minutes, and venting to someone about it on the phone, I actually wrote her back a curt note saying, "Fine." I just had that "don't get in with the petty" argument...don't go there. Rise above it. But because I did that, it's stuck in my craw. I have now had time to think about the ways that it really interferes with my work, and I have gotten angrier and angrier about her refusing to use the office on a day when se actually does teach - I kid you not - so that she can take one of my days. So I think I'll have to re-open it with her. It just pisses me off that, as you say, WN, someone could be so petty - and yet I have to waste my time and emotional energy fighting it out with her.

And you know what she did yesterday? She was supposed to have the office from 2pm on, after she taught. I vacated it, and had 3 1/2 hours with nowhere to work - the colleague whose office I use is there that day. I had coffee with a student for 2 hours, and then just messed around at the library. Well, at 5:30 I went back to get something from the office, and it turned out she hadn't come in because she was sick! NOt so sick that she couldn't let other people know, and her students. But she hadn't let me know. Unbelievable!

Earnest, you suggest that I have to put my foot down even if she's tenured and established. She's not - she's here in the same situation as I am. In fact, she's an older woman, and has no PhD, and I have the distinct feeling this is in part about feeling threatened by me, as someone much younger, with a PhD, and with things happening for her. Things suck for her - she doesn't have security, and never will. That's bad. But damn, I don't like bearing the brunt of that resentment that's not actually about me at all.

Anyway. I've totally hijacked my own comments! Sorry!

MaggieMay said...

I have nothing much to add to what has already been said, but GRRRRR! I am so sorry you have to be subjected to this idiocy right now.

dbm/gaa said...

Keep her emails - they may come in handy if this has to go to the Chair.

What a twit she is.