[A recent commentator responded to the post below with the question of whether I do any of these things. I am pretty sure that I do not. I am not as outspoken as I once was but it has nothing to do with strategic behavior designed to advance my own interests. Instead, as a friend advised me, I was just spitting into the wind.]
It's not an official term but what I use to describe those with working class backgrounds who end up in the world of academics is "socioeconomic displacement." In other words, your parents did not go to college, you are the first in the family to do so and your natural career path might be middle management somewhere. Instead you end up is a strange world. The big advantage of the displacement is to observe the behavioral traits of those born to privilege and choose whether to imitate them. If you are willing to imitate, here are some sure fire tips some of which have appeared before in this blog.
1. Be careful not to overuse "please" and "thank you." These are words of weakness. They suggest you are asking for something to which you are not entitled or have received something that was not rightfully yours all along. So you write to a college and ask, "Could you explain the difference between Marx and Ted Koppel." When the careful answer comes back do not instantly write. "Thanks. That really helps!" No, say nothing or if you feel really pinned down when you see the person say "Thanks for your response." This does n0t mean that the response helped -- that would be too much to concede -- but gets you off the hook from expressing any sense of obligation.
2. If you do anything ever, no matter how greedy you were about it, remember to express it as "volunteering." You know. "I am volunteering to let you pick you the tab for lunch." Or, "I volunteered to fly to Paris for the law and fashion conference." Volunteering means someone owes you, not the other way around.
3. Never oppose the administration on behalf of someone other than yourself. A faithful employee gets fired, not your problem. The dean says he is giving his buddies a raise and asks you what you think. It looks good to you as long as you were not eligible for the same raise.
4. Take no position unless you have a great deal of company. This is important. There is no right, wrong, good or evil. It is all about protecting your options. Even if you teach professional responsibility, talk about ethics or attend church or temple. Lying, half-truths, nondisclosure are all permitting in service to yourself no matter how low the benefit to you or high the cost to someone else.
5. If you take a position, show that it does not matter that much. If you show passion or caring you show weakness.
6. Use information strategically. If you have information that someone else wants it is of value to you if only because someone else wants it. Even if it seems worthless to you, hang in there. Some one may ask you and instantly your importance increases.
7. If you are in a discussion and feel you are not convincing the other person, quickly pull out one of the old favorites -- incivility, bullying, offensive behavior. Forget the fact that overuse of these words minimizes real instances of cruelty and inequity.
You are on your way to being a true "professional."