If you ask others to comment on an aspect of your work (research, teaching, or service), some people will think that you are being collaborative and others will think that you are showing a lack of confidence or an inability to work on your own.
For a recent professional service activity (for which I volunteered), I sent a a draft of a document to a small working group associated (by choice) with this project. I came up with the idea for this project and have done all the work (as agreed), but I wanted to show the others what I'd written, and, if these colleagues were so inclined, to get their input and have a discussion. I made it clear that advice was welcome but optional.
I was pleased to get rapid and interesting comments from some of these colleagues. Although I didn't agree with some of their suggestions, in all cases their advice was phrased as "See what you think about this, but ignore it if you don't like the suggestion." Their advice was mostly constructive and some of it was useful. I was already happy with the document, but now it is even better.
A colleague not involved in this project said "Who cares what anyone else thinks? Why did you even ask them? By asking for advice, you are being their flunky. Just do what you want." He thought it was a sign of weakness that I sought advice. Am I afraid to make decisions on my own?
No, in fact I am not, and what I want to do is seek input and encourage discussion. I do this because I think this will produce the best results.
My colleague who made the flunky comment noted that I am the only Female Science Professor involved in this project. He asked "Would any of the others have asked for input if they were in charge of this project?". In other words, is my inclination to seek advice a female trait?
Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. Does it matter? It's just how I like to work.
As Eleanor Roosevelt once sort of wrote (but that I have somewhat modified for the occasion): No one can make you feel like a flunky without your consent.
Or, how about this: One man's flunky is a woman collaborating.
8 years ago