College of Arts and Sciences
Chair Leadership Development Workshop

Workshop #2: High Performance Staff Management

The College of Arts & Sciences hosted a chair leadership development workshop on staff management, April 5, 2012. Prior to the workshop, CAS chairs and directors participated in a survey to identify staffing priorities and issues within the College. Click on the topics below to view survey results and staff management tips.

Special thanks to

Stan Hyland, Head, School of Urban Affairs & Public Policy

Frank Andrasik, Chair of Psychology
Joy Clay, Associate Dean of Interdisciplinary Studies
Ann Harbor, Director of Administration, Academic Affairs

Recommended reading: (Available on-line through UofM Libraries)
Clay, J.A., C. M. Hultquist, and R.A. Quinn. "Who's managing whom?" The Public Manager: The New Bureaucrat 23.1 (1994), pp. 41+. Gale Document Number:A15544077
Manzoni, J.F., “A better way to deliver bad news” Harvard Business Review 80.9 (2002), pp. 114-119.
Spreitzer, G., and C. Porath. “Creating sustainable performance” Harvard Business Review 90.1/2 (2012), pp. 92-99.


Setting performance expectations based on organizational needs and priorities
  • Develop detailed job descriptions for each staff position and document protocols for critical functions. Update annually! You don’t have to do this yourself. Staff can do this better than you can. They should submit the documentation to you for review and approval.
  • Cross-train staff on critical functions. Not everybody has to know how to do everything, but there should be a backup person for every function that would prevent your department from operating properly if a staff member is unavailable. Be sure that faculty and staff know who has the lead on what responsibilities.
  • Meet regularly with staff to plan for upcoming projects and events and to discuss any challenges that have come up since the previous meeting. To clarify expectations, get agreement on short term and longer-term deadlines.
  • Hold a special staff meeting at least once a year, preferably away from the office where distractions and interruptions may occur, to discuss long-range plans for sustaining and improving operations over the academic year.
Monitoring progress and giving feedback
  • Create a safe environment for frank conversation during staff meetings. Staff meetings provide a great opportunity for the office team to review operations and give/receive feedback collectively. What is said in staff meeting stays in staff meeting!
  • Make note of action items identified during staff meetings and assign responsibility for each task and set a timeframe (even when it is just a “soft” estimate).
  • Deal with individual performance problems privately and promptly. Be clear, have specific examples, and be ready to discuss strategies to overcome the problems.
  • Focus on the problem not on the person when delivering negative feedback. Bad example: “Why don’t you ever get anything done on time?”
  • Good example: “Faculty are concerned that travel claims aren’t being processed as promptly as have been in the past. What can we do to get back on track?”
  • Remember to take into consideration the entire year, not just the most recent Incident, when preparing annual performance appraisals, provide positive feedback with specific examples of accomplishments and address areas for improvement, also providing specific examples. When there are areas for improvement, be sure to inquire as to the source of the performance problem, e.g., time, competing demands, training, etc.
Building and maintaining relationships
  • Set a tone for civility and respect in the workplace. Employees will see how you handle interpersonal communications and will follow your lead. Be clear about your expectations regarding how student, staff, and faculty communications are handled.
  • Make your office a safe place for employees to talk when they have work-related concerns.
  • Familiarize yourself with the University’s policies leave policies. Staff with serious medical problems which necessitate frequent or lengthy absences should always be directed to HR Benefits for assistance. This protects the employee and the institution.
  • Encourage staff to work out interpersonal problems themselves, but be prepared to step in if you sense they are unable to have a civil conversation. Sometimes difficult conversations are best facilitated by a neutral party.
  • Praise excellent behavior when you see it happen! Be sincere. False praise is worse than ignoring the accomplishment!
  • Create opportunities for employees to let their hair down and have a little fun together. Have a departmental cookout or potluck.
  • Acknowledge birthdays and other special occasions.
  • Celebrate Administrative Professionals’ Day—candy and flowers are always welcome.
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