Life Lesson 1 – Stop entrusting care for your mental health and well-being to your employer

WARNING: I may sound like a brat. If so, please roll your eyes, leave polite verbal scorn, and keep it moving.

So…while this is not really debt/money related, it kinda is because there are costs associated with poor physical and mental health.

University B, my current university, is very wealthy. Despite this, they have some of the lowest paid student services/affairs positions I have seen in the region. Don’t get me wrong, unlike a lot of folks in the current moment (COVID-19 pandemic), I have not been furloughed, so I am very grateful to University B for my continued employment. However, one of the traditional “benefits” of working in higher education, to compensate for the substantially lower pay you make than if you worked in the private sector, is that during the summer, you generally have less work and/or the ability to take meaningful vacation time. (NOTE: I actually make less now, with a M.A. and several additional years of work experience, than I did five years ago in the private sector job I had). Because of the particular type of work I do, this benefit is even more important as I am often found working into the evenings and on weekends. Despite the fact that many of the colleagues in my department are now planning for the fall but also taking time to recover from all of the long days and weekends we put in during the fall and into the spring, my team is not in a position to do that. Despite verbalizing “take very good care” and “take time as you need it” my team lead has essentially poo pooed any staff plans to take time off during May or the summer.

The verbalizing one thing while passive aggressively enforcing another has been a rub for me since I began working here. The rub is even further challenging because while she is my team’s lead, she is not actually my supervisor/boss.

What prompted this post…there is a online conference happening this weekend. We were strongly encouraged to attend despite the fact that it is over the weekend and we are not compensated for this time. While this sounds like a regular salaried person grievance, what is especially annoying is that this conference plans to release the presentation slides and presentation recordings next week. My team lead did not disclose this and consistently tried to encourage folks to give up their weekends. Why? For what? Ugh. Working from home is still work. We haven’t been vacationing. I have been called on to do endless writing for end-of-year reports and grants, while also serving on newly formed university committees.

I wasn’t having it today. After reviewing the conference materials I discovered the above and shared it with other team members…you know, people with children, spouses, and other family members who also want their time and attention on the weekend. My team lead seemed…a bit upset that I shared the information. No doubt she had already been aware but hadn’t shared it for fear people would not attend.

In that moment, and now, I don’t really care. I am under-compensated, but worked hard all year (late nights, weekends, etc.) with the expectation that at some point there would be time for a breather. Despite the fact that there has been time for our team to take a breather, my team lead has given us tons of busy work and acted passive aggressively against folks who want to use vacation time to take time off (something University B is actively encouraging to get some of the financial liability off the books). However, now that I think about it, it isn’t her fault. It is my fault. I have to finally stop entrusting that my mental health and well-being is a priority for my employer. It’s not. But it has to be my priority.

2 thoughts on “Life Lesson 1 – Stop entrusting care for your mental health and well-being to your employer

  1. 💖 I know that if anyone gets it, you do. I think it becomes even more insidious at colleges and universities and at non-profits because the constant sacrifice of employees (all the unpaid hours, under compensation, etc.) is cloaked in the language of service to our students and the community. As always, thank you for helping me feel a little bit less alone.


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