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Higher Education: Working through intra-department conflict

A liberal arts college history department was embroiled in ongoing conflict that affected its reputation within and outside of the institution and its ability to serve its students. The conflict grew from lack of clarity about leadership, authority and responsibility in addition to old hurts and rivalries. These dynamics played out in department meetings which were marked by a caustic undertow, a lack of shared understanding and which resulted in little action despite everyone’s desire to have a different environment and outcomes.

I worked with the faculty to clarify their purposes as a department, to develop a code of conversational behavior, to articulate the ways that they hoped their meetings would serve their purposes and then to re-design meeting structure and process accordingly. They also inventoried the responsibilities that needed to be met by member faculty and leaders and developed a shared understanding about: a process for making decisions, who would have responsibility for what tasks, and who they were accountable to.  In the end they were able to address long-standing issues and move forward with clarity.