Who's my real boss, the department chair or Dean?

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The department chair is the person who hires and initiates firing of faculty. He or she is closest to the faculty and most schools realize they know the field and potential candidates better than deans and should therefore do the hiring. The department chair's role is conflicted between being an evaluator of faculty and an advocate for faculty. Good department chairs are fair but have high expectations. Deans often establish expectation targets across entire business schools. At least annually, deans get an accounting from all department chairs about each faculty member's productivity, including teaching, research and citizenship. If the deans perceive that a particular faculty member isn't carrying his or her part of the load (i.e. doesn't have a full plate), the deans will hold department chairs accountable to increase the faculty member's load or productivity.

At tenure and/or promotion time, both deans and department chairs provide evaluations. In fact, at most schools, there are six independent evaluations of a faculty member's productivity--department committee, department chair, college committee, college dean, university rank and status committee, and president and academic VP. Any one of these six evaluations can be negative and can result in a faculty member not being promoted/granted tenure. Because these reviews are multi-dimensional, no single person, whether a dean or department chair, can guarantee a faculty member ultimate success and promotion/tenure at a school.

The best strategy for a faculty member to follow is to have internal standards that exceed both the standards of the department and college so he or she is far above the bar when being evaluated. You never want your performance to be so close to the bar that the evaluators can determine the outcome.


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