This time of reimagining what work can—and should be—is the perfect time to begin to shift this culture of elitism. While cultural change is slow and takes work, there are three simple ways you can begin turning the tide and creating a more equitable workplace.
- Seek input. Faculty and college leadership can be out of touch with some of the daily realities of life on campus. Decisions that shape the future of your school will benefit from perspectives from all levels of your organization.
- Share stories. Often front-line workers at your college work for your institution for decades. They are invested in your mission and are valuable sources of institutional knowledge. Use your campus newsletters to interview these key members of your team and introduce them to your community.
- Say “thank you.” The small moments can have the greatest impact. When you infuse respect and appreciation into your relationships, the benefit will ripple outward. Have you ever stopped to pass the time with the mail worker or express your genuine appreciation to the housekeeping staff? Don’t underestimate the importance of our daily interactions with one another.
This change must start from the top. Dr. Stefanie Niles, President of Cottey College, shares that earlier in her career she worked for a college president who modeled respect on her campus community. Dr. Niles recalls, “She was highly accessible—to staff, students, faculty, board members, alumnae, and the public. I was often copied on responses to different constituents, particularly staff members throughout the institution. She was very gracious, never missing an opportunity to thank individuals for their contributions. I asked her one day why she took this approach, taking time out of her very busy schedule to thank people just for doing their jobs. She shared with me how important she felt it was to express gratitude, respect, and appreciation for others and their efforts. Recognizing the accomplishments of individuals encouraged them to give their very best effort, and enhanced their connection to the institution when they felt valued and respected.”
This shaped the kind of leader that Dr. Niles herself has become. She shares, “‘Treat others the way you wish to be treated’ was an important lesson to learn as a leader, and one I continuously aspire to realize in my own interactions with others.”
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