Alienating the Inner Circle: When Academic Leaders Anger Their Stakeholders

Make no mistake about it: any job that requires you to say “No” to people from time to time will cause you to meet resistance. Our lives would be far easier if it were possible to grant every request, waive every rule, and fund every desire. But fiscal realities—not to mention the best interests of our programs—make that approach impossible. We sometimes end up angering individual stakeholders because we feel obliged to turn them down for a promotion, oppose them on an issue they care deeply about, or confer on someone else a benefit they strongly desire. In most of these cases, however, their anger is only temporary. The disappointment is expressed by only a single stakeholder, not an entire group of constituents. But what do you do when you, as chair, dean, or vice president, make a decision that’s bound to alienate not just one person, but the entire upper administration, every faculty member in your unit, or all your colleagues?

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