The Briar Patch:  Thorny Challenges for Directors
Watch out - those guppies have teeth!

Vic Pantesco, Ph.D.

Nibbled to Distraction
    Some days are worse than others, and often for me what adds pepper to them is getting nibbled.  Nibbles come in many forms and often in battalions as opposed to single spies.  Nibbles (well, OK, some of them maybe are bites or chomps instead of nibbles) were not anything we studied formally in our doctoral programs.  They don’t appear in the usual list of provocations of the Adjustment Reaction diagnosis.  And, they take up way too much time and emotional energy on days when I am sleep deprived.  They can propel me into the impatient land of snark, and I might be overheard muttering to myself about was this why I got a doctorate?
    Here are some of my “favorites”: getting buttonholed in transit in a corridor to make a decision or sign a document when it is clear – to me at least – that I am on my way to something else; field a request from a student that despite the clear language in the manual, they need (deserve!) an exception to take a day off and go to their best friend’s bachelor/bachelorette party; a student in high dudgeon offering that they did not know they were supposed to take responsibility for something (that was clearly in the manual); a supervisor complains about an unclear procedure that to me at least was and is clear from both conversations and written material.  Or, I have to justify the extra $50.00 for supplies I inserted into the new budget.  On such days even the little Dove dark chocolate bite sizes don’t help much.   I just want to go hide in the paper recycling dumpster.

Dulling the Thorn
    I wasn’t kidding about the sleep.  Hey, this is the stuff Erica Wise talks about in Self Care as an ethical responsibility.  When I do get to bed and not “reward” myself with the Blacklist (on at 10 PM Eastern), the next day is much better.  Also, talking with my Administrative Assistant about having a set time each day in which the various nibbles will be addressed so I don’t get collared in the corridor (duh!). Asking the student(s) to tell me briefly about their concern and then letting them know I will email them with a time we can talk (double duh, and very helpful: gives both of us time for perspective- taking and cooling).  
    In the supervisor matter, our supervisor group is tight and good, having been together now for over 12 years.  So, I told them that our monthly supervisors meetings I designed years ago were for the purpose of our being with each other in collaboration and talking of our challenges and enjoyments with supervising.  I found that these meetings were becoming more system focused in which I had to retain the hat of administrator addressing problems.  The message was received well and we adjusted focus and timing of procedural matters.  As for the budget, I have come Vic Pantescoto see it as a similar process to accessing my own or private clients’ medical benefits.  There is an inherent wear-down dynamic.  Just recognize that and ALWAYS before a budget  appeal do 15 minutes of Larson cartoons (I got as a gift years ago the double, leather-bound versions of all of his cartoons, which also featured assorted letters his editors received demanding that his cartoons be banned  and that he was insane).
    The Clinic Director by definition swims in troubled waters often.  I find, if I actually do things differently, I can shield or escape from some of the nibbling fishies.