Warning: this was written in something approaching a fit of pique in an attempt to derive some sense of catharsis. The rigorous peer review and editing processes and standards to which Academic Rambling posts are normally subject have not been applied. Apologies in advance. Anyway, here goes …
Well, it has been an interesting couple of weeks in and around Rambling Towers, the upshot being that, having served over 12 years in my current ivory hutch, I have decided to inflict my own particular brand of academic incompetence and caustic wit on a different, unsuspecting HE institution. Yes, I have resigned. Well, at least I have tried to … but more of that in a few hundred words time.
So, I hear you ask (well I don’t, but I’ll imagine it) how has this momentous event come about? Well pretty bliimin’ quickly is the answer. I had a phone call from a Head Hunter … sorry “Recruitment Agency” (HE’s equivalent of Estate Agents in my view, but therein lies another tale for another day). Might I be interested in a new challenge, broadening my portfolio, blah, blah, blah? As it turned out, this one did in fact sound quite interesting, so having mumbled a few words of interest to HH man, I bashed off a quick CV and covering letter. Next thing, I’ve got an interview.
Well, when I say ‘interview’, what I mean is ‘car crash’. You know, the kind of thing that starts badly and gets increasingly worse for 15 minutes? I then spent 45 minutes contradicting or correcting everything that had gone before. I took the train home. My mobile rang a couple of times on the way. I ignored it because I really couldn’t face HH man telling me quite so quickly after interview that I was unappointable. I got home. The mobile rang at 7pm. I ignored it. It rang again at 9pm. Again I ignored it. Then the landline rang straight away. Ignored. 5 minutes later, the mobile rang. Ignored. The landline rang yet again. At this point my good lady wife, somewhat fed up with me, answered it. It was a rather exasperated Vice Chancellor ringing me to offer me the job.
And so, armed with my news, the following day I tentatively entered the office of my current Dean. An almost completely accurate transcript of the conversation follows:
Dean: Why would you want to leave?
Me: Well I’ve got as far as I’m going to get here
Me: You said that really quite quickly.
Dean: did I? Ha! <slightly nervous laugh>.
There followed a brief hiatus, whilst my prospective new employer and I discussed Ts & Cs and, what I believe are called ‘hygiene issues”. And then, there it was, a nice shiny contract for me to sign. Time to resign, I thought.
And, at that point, two things happened: firstly, I received an email from my Head of School, and secondly, I failed to resign correctly.
Taking these in order; on Saturday morning, at 10:14am, I received an email, part of which I have copied for you below:
“In terms of trying to get ducks in order, can you please:
- Send me all teaching material relating to Module X, Module Y and Module Z (i.e., notes, handouts, coursework etc.). I appreciate that you will be returning to deliver your element of Module Z and would therefore appreciate having any examination questions and solutions for this module in advance of the deadline that has been set, i.e., before 30th
- … (boring, irrelevant stuff) …
- … (boring, irrelevant stuff) …
- Create a depository [sic] before you leave of all relevant information relating to your impact case study including but not restricted to the underpinning research, examples of impact, any relevant text that you have written and a list of outstanding actions and relevant contacts.
- Let me have access to the above depository [sic] once it has been created.
Apologies if the above comes across as formal, it is not meant to read that way.”
Well, at least he has apologised for behaving like a knob; that’s one plus point I suppose. So basically this is an email instructing me to do my job for the next 2.5 months. I don’t know why he didn’t title it “Reminder of Contractual Responsibilities”. It’s interesting to note that he (for he is a he) is the first Head of School who has found it necessary to remind me that I need to do my job. In 12 years of teaching preparation and delivery, I haven’t missed a deadline. The thought that, because I am leaving means I will eschew all professional responsibility towards my colleagues and students shows a complete disregard for my values. I think the best description of my mood at 10:15 am on Saturday was “insulted”.
I then tried to resign. Today I dug out my contract; the one that talks about the complete absence of holiday entitlement and the need to live within 20 miles of the University to safeguard the health and wellbeing of my horse (if that makes no sense, click here), and found that I needed to write to the Director of Staffing Services announcing my decision to leave. And so I did just that. I scanned the signed letter, attached it to an email and sent it off to said Director, with a note saying hard copy in the post. To be fair to said Director, she replied almost straightaway to acknowledge receipt. But, it seems that since 2005 systems have moved on and a simple letter is no longer either appropriate or sufficient. No; if one wants to resign from my current tower of ivory one needs to (and I quote) “log onto the portal and raise a ticket”.
“Log onto the portal and raise a ticket”.
Sorry, I think there has been some sort of misunderstanding here. I want to resign my position at this university; I don’t want to order a printer cartridge or book a train ticket.
But it was to no avail. It seems that managerialism and flow process have now reached even the most personal aspects of employment at a university. No longer is one required, or even allowed, to craft a lengthy missive describing the difficulty of the decision, the balancing of personal and professional issues, the memories garnered over the years and the thanks to all with whom one has worked. No, it’s simply a case of logging in, clicking a few items on drop down menus, save and send and then within five minutes an email to tell me that (and, again, I quote):
“Dear Staff Member ID Number 123456
Your request Reference No 123456 (Resignation from one or all of your posts at the University) has been assigned to FACELESS HR KEYBOARD JOCKEY.
You can track the progress of your query and send us updates using the HR Service Portal or, alternatively reply to this email.
If this query is urgent, please call us on 01** *** ****.”
Seriously, that is the resignation process at my university. Don’t you just love the personal touch? The care that must have gone into drafting that script knowing that it will be received by hundreds of people each year, some of whom will have given in excess of 25% of their working lives to the institution.
So, my experience of resigning can be summed up in two emails:
one from a Head of School who is pooing himself so much fretting about the possibility that I undergo some character transformation and leave him in the lurch;
and one from an utterly faceless HR department devoid of any human emotion.
Yes, I know I’m a dinosaur who is being dragged into, rather than embracing, the new world. Someone who remembers when Human Resources was actually called Personnel. But even so, is it too much to ask that I’m treated (a) as a professional, rather than a slacker and (b) as a person rather than an irritant.