Job Stresses and How to Cope with Them

New faculty typically encounter several common stresses. Click the caption links below to see a short description of the stressors and ways to manage them.

Not Enough Time

Not Enough TimeWhat: This stressor afflicts new faculty not only in the first year but in all the years leading up to tenure. As a first-year faculty member, there are many competing demands on your time. Preparation for programs and activity outputs can’t be put off, so what usually suffers is attention to other tasks like grant writing, research, and scholarship.

What can you, as a new faculty member, do?

  • Talk, talk, talk to your mentors, other new faculty and to senior faculty about how to manage all the details of your work.
    • Talking with colleagues will give you insights that enable you to adopt new time-management and time-savings habits and to feel more in control of your work-week.
    • Talking will help you reach out and build new relationships with colleagues reducing the sense of loneliness and isolation.
  • Set-up a task-management and time-management system for yourself that maintains balance among your programming, grant writing, research, and scholarship.
  • Do something every day that you enjoy. This will nourish your physical and mental health.
  • Seek help from the UMaine Employee Assistance Program, the UMaine Wellness Program or a life coach who can help you stay focused on what is important to you. They provide an objective and confidential environment that supports you.
  • Resist becoming a workaholic. If you keep your head down, frantically work every waking moment, sacrifice your private life, don’t cultivate new friendships and mentoring relationships, neglect your intellectual networking with colleagues near and far, then you are positioning yourself to be counter-productive.

Unrealistic Expectations

Unrealistic ExpectationsWhat: New faculty feel a great deal of self-imposed pressure to do well on every front. Hard work propelled by perfectionism does not guarantee that you will thrive — this is the most typical mistake made by new faculty.

What can you, as a new faculty member, do?

  • Listen carefully to the “self-talk” going on inside your head. Are you pushing yourself inhumanly? Are you berating yourself?
    • Try to change what’s going on in your head.
    • With the help of your program administrator and mentor, try to construct realistic expectations for yourself.
  • Acknowledge yourself daily for all the talent and work you have done so far. Start a ‘gratitude’ journal listing 5 things you are grateful for every day.
  • Setting priorities for yourself, with the help of your program administrator and mentor is a necessary move. With their input, create your “official” game plan and pursue it.
  • Concentrate on important tasks that are part of your game plan and resist being drawn off in the performing of urgent, but frequently trivial tasks.
  • Using your calendar, set aside time to devote to your game plan and treat these as if they were important meetings or appointments.

Balancing Work and Life Outside Work

Balancing Work & Life Outside WorkWhat: Work lives “negatively spilling over” into personal lives can severely hurt both your family life and your social and recreational activities.

What can you, as a new faculty member, do?

  • Make it a habit to ask admirable people how they are managing to balance their public and private lives.
  • Become clear about what balance looks like for you and what is needed for you to sustain the balance.
  • Make sure the people in your private life are always on your calendar.
  • Share information about your family and personal interests with colleagues.
  • Talk with your family about your work. This helps them to understand and appreciate your professional commitments.
  • Talking with both your family and colleagues will help them understand how there will be times when one set of demands will take precedence over others.
  • Seek help from the UMaine Employee Assistance Program, the UMaine Wellness Program or a life coach who can help you stay focused on what is important to you. They provide an objective and confidential environment that supports you.
  • Getting yourself on a schedule may help you manage career and family without shortchanging either one. Find and sustain the balance without feeling guilty or making apologies.
  • Resist, above all, the temptation to slip into perfectionism and workaholism.
  • Protect and tend lovingly to your personal life which can sustain you in both good and successful times.

Lack of Collegiality

Lack of CollegialityWhat: Loneliness and isolation can easily and quickly undermine your enjoyment of the job. Extension’s presence in different counties and departments on campus can make it more challenging to seek out help, advice and mentoring from colleagues with similar interests and programming.

What can you, as a new faculty member, do?

Inadequate Feedback and Recognition

Inadequate Feedback & RecognitionWhat: For new faculty, mystery enshrouds how to get all of one’s demanding work done while keeping some sanity and joy and balance. Essential knowledge needed to succeed is unclear. This leads to insecurity and stress.

What can you, as a new faculty member, do?

  • Proactively connect with your Extension and University mentor. You must take the extra steps. Don’t be shy — you need mentors so reach out to them.
  • Connect with your peer committees members early on and design the working relationship that will provide the feedback and recognition you need. Go to the link Reappointment/Promotion Peer Committees and read the section ‘What can I ask of my Peer Committee Members’.
  • Schedule regular check-ins with your Program Administrator. Engage them in helping you develop a five-year plan that will guide your progress as an Extension faculty member. Share this plan with your mentors and your peer committee members. This positions you to receive systematic feedback and get you thinking early on about how to successfully navigate the tenure process.
  • Keep records of your accomplishments and activities. Data Gathering and Analysis Tips (Powerpoint) (you may be prompted to log in to myCampus Portal; use your Gmail user name and password) offers tools and techniques to create your record-keeping system. Keep copies of anything written for publication or public presentation as well as reviews of your work.

Special Stresses Faced by Non-Majority Faculty

Special Stresses Faced by Non-Majority FacultyWhat: If you are a non-majority person such as a white woman or a person of color taking on your first professional position in a predominantly majority setting, then you may have some additional stresses.

  • Chilly Climate: While new faculty feel frustrated and hurt when there is no welcome wagon to ease their adjustment, non-majority new faculty may feel these more intensely. There may be undercurrents of racism, classism and sexism. Non-majority faculty are at times treated as invisible and at other times as super visible.
  • Excessive Committee Assignments: There are times when non-majority faculty will be asked to serve on committees that are seeking to have diverse perspectives represented.
  • Internalizing Success or Failure: Self-talk such as “It’s my fault because I’m not intelligent enough” or “I got lucky and really don’t deserve this” are common ways that non-majority faculty interpret success or failure.
  • Being Undervalued as an Affirmative-Action Hire: Some members of the traditional group may belittle non-majority faculty, implicitly or explicitly, as political additions who were hired for what they represent rather than for their abilities and credentials.

What can you, as a new faculty member, do?

  • Reach out again and again to colleagues in your new setting, because sooner or later you will succeed at cultivating new allies both on and off-campus.
  • Ventilate your hurt and confusions to your close friends, colleagues, mentors, and peer committee members.
  • Don’t be shy about bringing the situation to your Program Administrator.
  • Try to remain outwardly calm. The more the minority group person is able to separate the self from immersion in self-consuming rage and a need for righteous vindication, the less is the personal distress and the greater the chances of self-defined success.
  • Choose open struggles carefully and selectively. When you choose to confront, an effective strategy is to use “I” messages instead of “you” messages. An “I” message will usually provide valuable lag time and psychological room for the two people to discuss and negotiate.
  • Keep in touch with whatever brings you joy. Engage in positive and constructive self-talk and give yourself credit for all that you are doing and being.
  • Fight against isolation and succumbing to non-stop hard work. To succeed and to keep enjoyment in what you’re doing, proactively network with others and learn how to be interdependent rather than solo and independent.