A colleague posted this article on dissatisfaction in the academic world, where it found that Associate Profs are the most unhappy. This seems surprising since these folks are mostly tenured, and the stress of the job falls mostly on those seeking tenure. Not so surprising really.
First, as the article notes, whatever protections one has from additional work (and this varies among institutions) while pre-tenure, these drop away after tenure. One ends up doing far more service to the profession and the university, one usually does far more supervision especially of grad students, and the toll accumulates. Studies of gender and academia (that I have read but not read myself) indicate that the service problem is worse for women who get more requests to do this sort of stuff. This is especially the case where there is uneven burden-sharing--where Full Professors pass on responsibilities because, well, they can.
Second, and, critically, where you stand depends on where you sit in time. My colleague pondered whether time in rank might matter--that is, there are two kinds of Associate Professors--those that are on their way to promotion to Full Professor and those that are going to be Associate Professors for the rest of the their career. Those who find themselves stuck at the same level for too long may become frustrated and bitter, even if their situation is a result of declining productivity post-tenure (or getting tenure despite not having a strong trajectory). So, you might find that folks who have been Associate Professors for less than seven years might not be that displeased as opposed to those who have been in that status for more than a decade. To be clear, there is a third kind of Associate Prof--ones who deserve to get promoted to Full but do not for reasons of politics, personal politics.
I will not get into the details about how I fit into that third category. My friends know only too well as I do not suffer in silence. Clues abound in my three years of blogging. To be clear, I would be leaving McGill this summer anyhow as the opportunities at Carleton are just too good, that my Canada Research Chair was ending in any case, and Montreal, well, wore me out.
The bad news is that the folks who thwarted me have no learning curves (I also might have become Leeroy Jenkins). The good news is that time will ultimately end this problem as the accomplishments of those behind me are too great to be denied for too long, and the Fulls are getting mighty old. The best news is that doing right by the profession (publishing in leading journals, getting cited, doing interesting research, placing graduate students in good tenure track jobs) is its own reward. Moreover, by doing those things, I was able to get a great job offer. As a result, my blogging this month will be spotty as I prepare for the move while reading three dissertations and finishing one book.