perform many routine tasks daily (e.g., running meetings, supervising staff
members, etc.). However, there are other duties (e.g., unanticipated tasks with
immediate deadlines, unexpected change in faculty/staff employment,
faculty/staff illnesses, etc.) that infrequently occur and that require special
care. While it is very possible that you may not have encountered similar
situations before as chair, you can still be prepared to recognize special
issues and to address these issues in a reasonable manner.
before you react. Gather
pertinent information about the special issue, but resist the urge to make a
snap decision or to provide a hasty response (with either the spoken or written
word). Sometimes it is best to just “listen”, and then reflect on what you have
calm and positive. Unexpected
tasks/issues/emergencies will arise. How one behaves in potentially stressful
situations may say as much about us as leaders as what we ultimately do to
address the situation.
and understand the academic handbook and other college policies. This is not particularly scintillating
reading, but may make you aware if there already is a policy in place to
address your particular situation. Ask questions if you don’t completely
understand college policies or procedures (few of us probably do for every
situation), as the special issue may fall in an area that requires
advice. In particular, talk to
staff in Academic Affairs, Human Resources, and/or other offices around campus.
In addition, you may consult with your area chair or with an experienced
colleague (perhaps a former department chair) with whom you feel comfortable
discussing the situation. Before discussing the issue with anyone, you first
should consider legal, confidentiality, and privacy concerns as well as any
college policies that might apply.
a plan to address the issue. Devise
a means of addressing the special issue (as necessary). In doing so, it may be
important to revisit some/all of the previous “What to do” steps. It is
essential to identify what outcomes are desired, what steps will lead to those
outcomes, and what deadlines/time constraints exist. By keeping these key
components in mind, your resolution is likely to be more effective.
for the unexpected. It
is virtually impossible to anticipate and prepare for every possible scenario
that you might encounter. However, you might learn about possible types of
situations by listening to other chairs, area chairs (or colleagues) discuss
special issues. Be careful to realize that their approaches might not be
correct or even applicable to your situation (each issue may have its own
that you know what to do, but not checking to make sure that you do. It is much preferable that you
double-check to make sure that your approach is the appropriate one.
well meaning advice that might be incorrect, rather than checking. Similarly, if a chair obtains advice from
colleagues that is incorrect or not applicable, you run the risk of making
matters worse. It is worthwhile to discuss possible solutions with your area
chair or the Provost to get their feedback on your approach before it has been
afraid to appear incompetent and not asking for help. As with many aspects of being chair, it
is far better to worry about doing the right thing, rather than trying to save
wanting to “bother” anyone in administration. The administration is here (and wants) to
help. Make use of their expertise and experience.
- Thinking that you can handle the problem yourself. Sometimes special issues have more
far-reaching implications than you considered, so it is important to discuss
the special issues with the Provost before acting.