Staff Relations

I’ve gotten involved with a committee on “staff climate” issues at my university. I’d thought this would be mostly about how rude faculty and students are to staff. And this is a real issue. Staff are often treated as part of the furniture (i.e. ignored as people) or as the targets of abuse by faculty or students who want something done and don’t  care about what else the person has to do.

But I’ve also learned that a huge issue is the relation between department staff and central administration staff. Department staff have many different kinds of paperwork to do, do some of them only rarely, and make mistakes. Central administrators are seen as failing to recognize their own inconsistency in how they want things done and as being unhelpful, hostile and even abusive toward department staff. I chatted with a friend about this and learned that he (as a dean) says these issues are endemic, but at his institution they pay central administrative staff well to fix mistakes made by department staff. There is an underlying structural cause of this conflict: faculty and students want decentralized staff who are available to meet our needs in a personalized way, and department staff typically prefer jobs that involve a lot of variety and human interaction.

Another staff issue at our place is frozen [low] salaries and limited career paths.

What about your school? Do you know how the staff feel about their working conditions? And specifically department vs central administration — do you know how that works at your school? Are the relations good or bad? Do you recognize structural/organizational features that help or hurt the situation?

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Author: olderwoman

I'm a sociology professor but not only a sociology professor. I keep my name out of this blog because I don't want my name associated with it in a Google search. Although I never write anything in a public forum like a blog that I'd be ashamed to have associated with my name (and you shouldn't either), it is illegal for me to use my position as a public employee to advance my religious or political views, and the pseudonym helps to preserve the distinction between my public and private identities. The pseudonym also helps to protect the people I may write about in describing public or semi-public events I've been involved with. You can read about my academic work on my academic blog http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/soc/racepoliticsjustice/ --Pam Oliver

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