TITLE: The One Where Eugene Feels Like Chandler
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: August 29, 2005 8:00 PM
DESC: Chandler found that being boss separated him from his colleagues. Some separation is unavoidable in asymmetric relationships, but we have some control over the size of the gap and how we all perceive it.
my favorite early episodes
of the American sitcom
has a subplot focusing on
as supervisor at work. When
comes to work part-time as his secretary, he learns that
he is no longer "one of the guys". His charges talk
about him as boss, imitate his idiosyncratic speaking
inflections, and generally don't like him anymore. At
first, his feelings are hurt, and then he just feels
separated and a little lonely. Of course, Phoebe falls
in with the gang and even takes to calling Chandler
"Boss Man Bing".
Could it be any more obvious where
I'm going with this?
There are moments when I know just how Chandler felt.
Moving into a supervisory position creates a separation
that can hardly be avoided. The
Big Office Downstairs
is, well, downstairs, out of the regular action that
is a usual day among the faculty. Especially in these
early days, while we become accustomed to our new roles
relative to one another, it's almost unavoidable that
some awkwardness will intrude on what used to be
comfortable or even close relationships. And where
relationships were already a little tense, tension
becomes even more palpable.
That said, I am in a pretty good situation, at least
compared to Chandler. I work with a pretty good group
of people, and we all seem to be adjusting pretty well
to the new situation. One of the things that made this
job worth applying for -- in the presence of whatever
problems the department may face -- is that, at bottom,
we are a group of good people who have our sights
on goals that we can all aspire to. We socialize
well together and even play well together, as yesterday's
department picnic and post-dinner volleyball game
Besides, as far as I can tell, no one has developed a
good Boss Man Wallingford impression yet. (Actually,
I am the most likely mimic in the department, and you
should hear me do me!)
However, in moments of dispiritedness -- brought on by
the bad breaks of a day, by the fatigue of long hours
and a deluge of new tasks to learn and do, or by my
sagging biorhythms -- it's easy to feel left out.
Sometimes the best thing to do is to seek out a friend
and colleague just to chat. It doesn't matter about
what, though talking about our latest classes or the
minutiae of daily academic life bridges the gap quite
Academic departments have an advantage over many business
environments in this regard. A department head is more
"first among equals" than supervisor or manager, which
means that in the long run it seems possible to drive
the gap to epsilon, for a very low value of epsilon.
There will always be certain decisions that the head
has to make, but strong relationships and an understanding
on the part of all that such decisions must be made
can minimize the separation that these decisions bring
All of this requires some effort, though. Not the frantic
denial that Chandler wants to execute on Friends,
but simply working together, building trust in communication
and decision making, sharing ideas, information, and --
whenever possible -- control over the department's course.
But then I
already knew that.
I can only determine how I behave and contribute to these
relationships. That what I hope to do.
Ultimately, Chandler came to embrace the new relationship
with his former compatriots, even playing along by giving
them imitable material. I hope in my situation to create
an environment in which we all feel like contributors,
with me doing what I can to help the faculty take the
department in the most productive direction possible.
Okay, somebody's gonna be working... this