Should I Stay or Should I Go? A Three-Pronged Approach to Managing Interpersonal Conflicts in Academia
Untenured faculty member, Raymond Patrick, exited a meeting with Frank Burns, School of Management Assistant Director at Bay State University (BSU). Patrick had now reached a breaking point. Since Burns had the authority to make classroom assignments, Patrick asked Burns to add four desks to his classroom to accommodate new students registered for Patrick's course. Patrick's request infuriated Burns, and he pointed his finger within an inch of Patrick's face and shouted, "As someone who will vote on your tenure, you better not pull any of this weighted credit hour crap with me" (Authors’ Notes, 2020). Burns believed instructors with high-weighted credit hours were often viewed as more popular with students. Patrick thought Burns's latest comment was over the top; his recent and past behavior ranged from severe mood swings to deliberate slights and threats, constituted as bullying, and was intolerable. Patrick was happy at BSU but felt he had to decide whether to leave BSU for a tenure-track position elsewhere. If Patrick decided to stay, he believed that he could adopt a three-pronged approach to deal with this conflict: manage his interests, adderss the power imbalance with Burns, or pursue a formal grievance.