Here’s some suggestions that have been compiled from several cautionary tales.
1. Don’t let students walk all over you. One colleague was always available to students. From 10am to 6pm there was a steady stream of students in her office. And she still got terrible evaluations, including on “availability” because any time she wasn’t there, they’d be upset. The year that I taught another section of the same class, I set boundaries on the first day of class and every day I met, and I’d answer “I have just one quick question” with “Did you ask it on blackboard?” and “You should ask in class! You’re not the only one confused!” and “If it’s about the homework, my office hours are X– think about it some more (or: that’s why you should start your homework earlier)” I got the same marks on availability *or better*. Her students praised me for my availability because I would answer their questions for her class during my office hours (on the rare occasions she wasn’t in), but never outside of them (when I would laugh and say no, are you kidding?). If you give students complete availability and aren’t always there, they will complain more than if you give them strict times and keep to them.
2. Don’t let service walk all over you. Another colleague was always on every committee and would do the bulk of the work and complain about it. She even got herself locked into additional service from another (interdisciplinary) department as the outside committee member. Many of us do a little bit of service for this other department, but she was on multiple search committees in the same year on top of grad committee obligations, even when the search wasn’t for something related to her area of specialty.
3. Don’t make extra work for people. One irritating colleague spent one year organizing service that nobody wanted or appreciated. For example, telling admissions that they needed to set up individual appointments with every single faculty member to obtain faculty input. And so on.
3a. Don’t be interpersonally obtuse. That’s the problem with item 3 above, and likely some other items too: tone-deafness to department culture.
4. Don’t start the book route and then change your mind midstream to the article route with a different topic then change your area of study to yet a third topic the year before your tenure packet is due. Become an expert in something so that people can write you good letters.
5. Don’t get a reputation for blocking hires of people that you think are more research active than you are. Hint, if you’re blocking a hire for “personality” or “arrogance” (especially of an accomplished woman or minority, especially without previous evidence of any problem)… the problem is probably you.
6. Don’t ask for help on your research and then get angry at reasonable suggestions. Especially don’t speak condescendingly to racial minorities and to women, explaining to them why their reasonable suggestion just won’t work for you.
7. Don’t make arguments that all that matters is the students if you’re at an R1. The students matter 33%, give or take (and if take, then take from service, not research). If it’s really all about the students for you, you need to be at a community college or a teaching college with little or no research expectations or else just off the tenure-track in a teaching role.
8. Don’t just give up on research. You need to make time for it every week, preferably every day. Even a little bit can keep you connected during the busy times.
Live and learn, grumpeteers. Or don’t, it’s up to you. What “don’t do this” advice would you have for someone who wants tenure?