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3/1/2013 12:00 AM

Dealing with Problem Faculty

by R. Kent Crookston

From The Department Chair Insider – August 2011, Vol. 1

What should be a chair’s first step when confronted with a problem faculty member?

A. In my research on this issue I have come up with an answer that is both insightful and disturbing: The place to start when confronted with problem personnel is with us.

Rethinking how we view or talk about a problem is actually taking a measure of control over it; I am in complete control of how I view others. So, how do I feel about the problem faculty member? As I consider the answer I need to realize that the person knows very well how I feel. I might deploy a dozen personal-effectiveness techniques from the bestselling books, but my opinion of the other person will never be masked by even the best of these.

Research has shown that problem faculty almost always feel isolated and misunderstood. Let’s see it differently. I am a chair who sincerely cares about my misunderstood and isolated colleague. She’s my professional partner with deep wants and needs. As I seek to truly understand her I sense that I am beginning to earn the right to possibly have a sustainable influence over her. But until I can see it this way I’ll fail with her just like the chairs before me have done.

R. Kent Crookston is professor and associate director over academic administrative support at the Faculty Center at Brigham Young University.