Dana Mitra offers consulting for faculty who need a confidential space to discern how to address problems in the workplace. Often these issues relate to inequities–microaggressions, being discouraged from taking leave, bullying, gaslighting, and toxic relationships among faculty. She helps faculty to understand the structural spaces for getting support within their institution and she considers which colleagues might offer safe spaces to gather information and to share concerns. At the same time, she works with these clients to shore up their own sense of purpose for why they do their work and to consider whether their current place of employment remains a good fit for them.
A client of color came to me after receiving a negative performance review. While the committee expressed some concerns about the quality of his work, they were equally concerned about what they described as his lack of collegiality. The client felt attacked and a victim of racism.
I coached him to identify his allies within his organization. He had to seek out formal channels for redress but also to learn about supportive and sympathetic leaders. He also needed to seek out colleagues who might be having similar struggles to identify possible patterns of behavior occurring.
He also was losing his purpose as these accusations swirled. He also needed to look within to reaffirm his own sense of worth and purpose related to his work to remain true to his ethics and quality within his work.
Through a process of finding his own identity within himself while also mapping out formal and informal support structures in his organization, he found a pathway to communicate concerns while also discerning if he wanted to stay at this organization or move to another opportunity.
Other faculty are now in positions of greater power and are ready to enact change.
Mary was highly discouraged from taking maternity leave by her department chair and older male colleagues because it would inconvenient to then. The faculty was short staffed and did not know how to cover her classes. Being pre-tenure, she felt obligated to heed the pressure from her chair and not take the leave. Making such choices however, impacted not only her quality of life and research output but also women after her who then want to take leave but do not have the example and history of previous women making use of the policy. She therefore suffered the pressure of doing what she felt was necessary politically in her immediate situation while going against what she believed was just and could also support other women.
Now post-tenure, she chose to come to me to make sure that pressure never happened to another person. We brainstormed the spaces in her university where she could assume formal and informal roles to help other women. I asked her questions about how this work might align with her values and sense of purpose. We also considered when to strategically speak up to draw awareness to these issues and when she might choose to actively speaks up against such behavior and mentors junior female—and male—faculty to take the leave that they are due.