A new model for U leaders

U faculty should develop new methods of mediation between employees and management.

Owen Dunkley

Being in a leadership position can be demanding in todayâÄôs society compared to how things were a decade or two ago. Supervisors, managers, directors and department heads are all challenged to get more done with fewer resources. Technology is advancing at a pace hard to keep abreast with, and our workforce is smarter, more diverse and more socially complex than before. The University of Minnesota is missing an opportunity to adjust the âÄúpolitical environmentâÄù in our workplaces. Staff is often resigned to accept ineffective management styles, choosing to leave rather than confront a manager who is behaving inappropriately. We all have a responsibility to do more, but more importantly we need employees in leadership positions modeling appropriate behavior in the work setting. I am proposing that when the University hires or promotes someone into a supervisory position, they should immediately be entered into a training program to facilitate that the new hire obtain the necessary tools to succeed. One way to reduce ineffective behaviors in the workplace would be for the University Board of Regents to create a policy making it a requirement for all employees in leadership positions to enroll in a training program within 30 days of their start date. In addition, employees who are already managers would also be required to enroll in this same program within 30 days of the effective date of the policy. The training would include but not be limited to developing interpersonal skills like empathy, active listening, creative problem solving and thinking toward win-win outcomes. At the end of training, employees would be required to take and pass a competency test before returning to the office environment. Each department would be responsible for enrolling their managers into the program and notifying human resources, payroll, central accounting and the appropriate union where applicable. Departments would not be permitted to enroll more than one manager at a time to ensure adequate management staff in each unit. HR would provide notice of a pending sanction for notifications not received after the initial 30 days. The department would have 30 additional days to respond to HR and enroll their employee. If this deadline was not satisfied, the union would be obligated to file a grievance against the department. HR would then have five business days to instruct central accounting to penalize the offending department $1,000 per day for each day after 60 days of noncompliance. These measures may seem excessive, even harsh, but a lack of effective leadership in the workplace negatively impacts the health and productivity of employees, revenues, reputation and our ability to retain talent. Without empathy, leaders at best co-create an environment that is cordial, but one which encourages unproductive, disruptive behaviors. In fact, some employees in leadership positions become liabilities to the University and often fail at their own interpersonal relationships. In conclusion, all employees should be held accountable to be respectful stewards to one another. If managers are not capable of mirroring effective leadership skills, then the hierarchical behavioral model will be seriously compromised and so will our mission of becoming one of the top three public research universities in the world. One of our recently adopted logos is âÄúdriven to discover.âÄù We have an opportunity to embody the mantra of âÄúdriven to discoverâÄù by applying it not only to scientific research but also by demonstrating a commitment to invest in our employees. Owen Dunkley University staff Please send comments to [email protected]