Staff reactions to interim leadership in a student affairs organization

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University of Alabama Libraries

Interim leadership appointments in higher education are a common strategy used to fill leadership gaps in executive positions. Because student affairs executives are particularly vulnerable to high turnover rates, interim appointments are becoming more widespread. Even with the prevalence of this trend, little attention has been given to the ripple effect that the appointment has on the professional student affairs staff. Building on Farquhar's (1991) framework of organizational dynamics during interim administrations, this single site case study explored the interim executive appointment on a student affairs division at a mid-sized, public, four-year university in the southeastern United States. Fifteen interviews were conducted during the winter of 2011 of professional staff members who were directly affected by the turnover. In addition to the interviews, the staff was observed during regularly scheduled department/division meetings. The university's web site and campus wide email communications provided supporting documents for analysis. Many of the findings were consistent with framework used in this study. However, in addition to Farquhar's concepts, the interim's charge was found to be a significant issue for the staff in that neither the interim leader nor his staff clearly understood the goals of the interregnum. The ambiguity of the charge created circumstances within the division where expectations were mismanaged, productivity decreased, and factions arose between individuals in the division. Recommendations for practice include clarification of the interim's goals and improving communication with and among the staff.

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Higher education administration, Educational administration, Educational leadership