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Don’t Speak and Forever Hold Your Peace

The current academic year is ending for most institutions, which means many presidents and administrators are reviewing their performance over the previous nine months, and counting wins and losses for their various initiatives.

This year, I am seeing an uptick in the number of people who want to set a few things straight before faculty leave campus for the summer. What they are viewing as benign communications to campus are red flags to us. The end of the semester is not the time to say “I told you so” or “because I said so.” And, to be honest, there never is a good time for those approaches.

I like to think of myself as an optimist and a realistic optimist’s viewpoint is often what works best in these situations. I encourage those who want to send a message that could be interpreted as less than collegial to stop, take a deep breath and ask themselves how to assert a positive alternative.

Here’s what I mean: Rather than pointing out to the faculty that you think their behavior has driven a wedge between them and the administration, point to where you think you have worked together well this year and how you look forward to improving upon your relationship in the coming year. Rather than pointing out that the dragging of feet has slowed the implementation of the strategic plan, review work-to-date and suggest how expedited action next year gets you back on track to meet the plan’s timeline.

As those yearlong wins and losses are being totaled, I’m also seeing more people adding an additional column to their tally sheet. This year, more and more administrators are telling me that they don’t feel liked on campus. My go-to response to this type of response is to ask “are you doing your job well? Are you focused on what is in the best interest of the institution and its students?” If the answers are “yes,” then know you don’t always get the luxury of being liked. You have a responsibility to be a leader; doing your job and being liked are just the best-case scenarios.

Administrators and faculty don’t have to be at loggerheads and at times of disagreement it is important to remember that we must work together in the future despite our past grievances. Even though we get to start a new academic together, we don’t get the luxury of a reset of our relationships. For that reason, I’d encourage everyone to spend time appraising their performance during the previous year and then recognizing what to let go of and what to rebuild in the coming year.