Handling Difficult Conversations/Managing the Unexpected

Handling Difficult Conversations/Managing the Unexpected

What are the goals of the module?

The goals of this module are to prepare faculty leaders to appropriately handle difficult conversations and manage unexpected situations, such as bullying, personnel issues, conflicts between colleagues, harassment, conflicts of interest, accusations of misbehavior or illegal activities.

Who is the audience for the module?

Faculty administrators.

Why is the topic important?

Faculty administrators must deal with situations that can have significant consequences for students, staff, or other faculty, as well as the department/unit/center or campus. Sometimes the consequences can have legal implications if not handled correctly. But many faculty who step into administrative roles are uncomfortable and unprepared for these types of situations. 

Suggested options for module delivery

  • In-person workshop with discussion, role playing, and feedback, including opportunities for faculty to discuss current challenges
  • Online session with reading and case examples

Scenarios for discussion

  • You learn that a faculty member in your department has a reputation for yelling at students and staff he supervises. A staff member comes to you and demands that you “do something” about his “verbally abusive and harassing behavior.”
  • You learn that the Dean of another College appears to have a conflict of interest that could have a potentially significant legal consequence for the University.
  • Faculty on a search committee complain that one of the other committee members is not reviewing candidates fairly, and clearly has already selected a favorite candidate.
  • Add scenario on sexual harassment

Resources for developing the module

The College Administrator’s Survival Guide, by C.K. Gusalus. Harvard University Press, 2006.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High, by Kerry Patterson, et. al., McGraw-Hill Education, 2011

OR https://www.vitalsmarts.com/crucial-conversations-training/

Recommended prerequisites

UC Policies:


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