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.