Highly Classified- 9/93

Collegiality, Motivation, and Professionalism
It’s late September and I’m trying hard to start the new school year right, every year, after Labor Day, I start thinking about what I do for a living, and why I do it. Maybe it has to do with steeling myself up for the next two semesters or maybe it just has to do with Labor Day. Am I a laborer? Do not labor? If I don’t, then, what is it that I do?
This year I recalled that after twenty years, my own mother hasn’t the slightest idea of what I do. When other relatives ask her, “What’s Johnny doing now? “, she responds, “He works at the college!” I suppose that is a complete enough answer for her, and maybe it’s complete enough for me. I’m certain that I work, not that certain that I labor.
Even the word college sends me down convoluted thoughts. I wonder about the word “collegial”, and what it means. It’s truly a great word. It describes an attitude about interpersonal relationships that is simply amazing to me. The word suggests an open, honest, sharing attitude, mutual respect and task oriented. In other words, collegiality describes a reality that us beyond work groups, beyond project teams, beyond teamwork. I take extreme pride that such a wonderful word comes from the atmosphere surrounding a college. Other professions did not create this word, we did!
The issue I suppose, it whether or not that we live up to this word. Does it exist across the board. Does it exist only for faculty, and not management? Does it exist between faculty and classified staff? It is real between individuals regardless of position? Is it earned and conditional, or is it expected? Hard questions with varying answers.
I know that my personal challenge for this year is that I intend to make collegiality a reality in my life. I intend to do this across my classified support group, as well as across faculty and management. It’s a good word, I plan to take ownership for myself, regardless of other group views.
That still leaves me with the unresolved definition of labor. At first, the connotation was something that was just plain hard work, but then I realized that wasn’t true at all. Some of my labor was extremely easy work, some of my work was extremely hard. I was finally able to define labor as a state where my motivational was only based upon the salary obtained. I labored at those jobs where I was removed from the product, distant from the mission, and monetary compensating was my only reward. I remember labor with no fondness, but I admired those that sacrificed for their time for their families.
There are complicated theories on work motivation. Some espouse ” hands on”, direct supervision as the key, some believe just the opposite, some believe that providing the latest of tools, and only a very few believe that more money provides more motivation. (That’s not true but it would be okay to try it.)
Management does not provide motivation, motivation comes from the individual. Management can, however, hinder motivation. I think the best examples of motivated staff is where management fosters and encourages. We are motivated to work here because we believe that education is a noble goal. We live in the community and we see first hand what poverty and ignorance creates. It isn’t a theory from some socially aware enclave, it is a reality that we face every day. Where does our motivation come from? Walk our streets.
We are professionals because we see direct relationships between our functions and the mission of the college. During the recent budget cuts we were told not to worry, we would all have jobs. Again, they are clueless. I don’t have a job, I have a profession. I’ve been told that this is not realistic, that reduction in staff is an ugly reality that no one favors. I believe this to be true, but I also believe that this is exactly the time that our perceptions of collegiality is being put to the test. I understand that even professions get laid off, and that sometimes professional compromises are made to avoid layoffs. The issue here is whether classified staff are perceived as professionals, or just workers that need to go find somewhere else to work.
Well, September is almost over as I write this, and perhaps I ponder too deeply for my own good. I know this…despite my occasional ravings, I intend to foster collegiality, across the board, assuming the best of intentions, because I am a professional. And, I suppose because I work at the college. Perhaps my mother was right after all.