Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Message for Senior Housing Officials

Since I created my Twitter account, I have seen an uptick in the number of Residential Life-related accounts (BitterHD, LousyRA, etc.), and I have to wonder if this is a sign that the voices of ResLifers are being silenced or at least being ignored. Is the reason that there are more Twitter accounts being used as venting outlets because we are not getting the same support at our home institutions? What does this mean for the field? Are we unhappy? Are we unsure of our professional direction? Why do we search the Internet for a place to complain, decompress, and receive affirmation that we are in the right career field?

In my humble opinion, I think it stems from the ideal that Residential Life is a utopian world wrapped in a rainbow sprinkled on top of an ice cream sundae, and any disruption to this perfect vision is seen as an attack (and a personal one at that). Of course, there is no job or career that is perfect and without problems. Every paycheck we receive in any field will be accompanied by grumbling and the occasional feeling of dread when the alarm clock blares. This is normal. I get it. Nothing is perfect; however, when a field, in general, makes it tantamount to murder to complain about your job, it creates an environment of secretly miserable workers.

If we are not permitted to have the rare bad day and have an honest conversation about why we are unhappy at this moment, we will learn to channel it in other areas—healthy or not. It may be drinking alcohol, bitching and gossiping with fellow HDs, or turning to the Internet for anonymous venting. Although therapeutic in the short-term, none of these stress relieving methods reach the root of the problem: we are not happy right now and no one wants to listen. My supervisor would rather call me a negative influence on the staff than to identify the issues within the greater Residential Life system. He would rather reminisce about his past HD experience through rose-colored glasses than to admit maybe he had a bad day or two.

Dear Senior Housing Officials, Do you want my unsolicited advice? (Too bad, you’re getting it anyway) Supervisors of live-in professional staff—and their supervisors—need to cultivate a Residential Life department that encourages proper ways of developing work/life balance and actually encourage it! Just saying you want your staff to be balanced does not make it so. You have to actively create that atmosphere by both words and your own actions. Plus, it needs to be okay to complain about a bad day without the risk of your live-in staff feeling like they are the worst employee since Peter Gibbons at Initech.

When I was a newbie HD, I sought out my supervisor for feedback on how to handle the bad days; however, I quickly learned that his vision was obscured by his own experiences that he defined as the “perfect, good ole days”. In his mind, there were no bad days in Residential Life. How could I have an honest and supportive conversation about noise in the lobby at 3am when he bragged about the three-bedroom, two-floor suite he lived in for four years as a new HD? My boss refused to leave himself out of the equation, which made me unable to seek his assistance from that point forward. He may label me as a “bad role model” for the other HDs, but I know that I speak the truth—the truth he is unwilling to acknowledge. Now, I just vent to the few co-workers I trust, my spouse, and as BadHallDirector.


  1. Whoever you are, you speak to my soul. Thank you for sharing what I am constantly feeling.

  2. You sir/maam are preachin!

  3. #truth, which is why I LEFT!

  4. Even as an RA I feel like this is true. We are expected to be professional in everything we do at all times. Its tough.

  5. I just found your blog, and this entry was SO TRUE. RHDs are never allowed to complain, look tired, let a swear word slip, or do anything that will indicate that Res Life is ANYTHING but a shining utopia of rainbows and puppies and kittens. I also started my twitter account just so I had someplace to vent.

    I also agree with the supervisor comments. Every time I comment that I am going away to a nearby city for the weekend to see some friends, my supervisor makes comments about how I seem to be "on vacation" all the time. Um, I'm pretty sure that as long as I'm not on duty or required to be there for a big campus event, that's not a "vacation," that's a "weekend." Work/Life balance, my ass!

  6. and then the SHOs wonder why everyone keeps leaving and not encouraging others to come work at your institution.

  7. I've been reading your posts and they remind me of a point in my life when I was a very unhappy hall director. I actually was a professional hall director at two different institutions. Here are a few things I learned...
    1. Focus on the things you can control. If you can't control it directly or influence it in some way, don't worry about it. It's not worth getting wrinkles over.
    2. Find an institution that fits with your values and beliefs. It sounds cliche, but it's so true. In my second RHD job, I flourished, mainly because my values were in sync with the organization's.

    I look back on my first RHD job with great regret. I let a negative mentality take over to the point that it consumed me. I couldn't see anything positive. Don't let that happen to you. If you aren't feeling good about your job, seek another one for everyone's sake.