Positive Environment

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St. Thomas University School of Law
St. Thomas University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-01

THE DEAN'S ROLE IN BUILDING A POSITIVE WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT Douglas E. Ray

Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2011129

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THE DEAN’S ROLE IN BUILDING A POSITIVE WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT Douglas E. Ray* UCH of a dean’s job involves reaching out to various communities. We reach out to and build relationships with alumni and donors for needed financial support. We reach out to and build relationships with members of the bench and the bar to help expand employment opportunities for our students. We reach out to and build relationships with members of the University community to ensure cooperation and access to resources. We reach out to and build relationships with our students. This essay is about reaching out to and building relationships with our most important communities: those who work within the law school. In these difficult economic times, most law schools face the challenge of doing more with less. Budgets have been reduced, staffing levels have fallen, and there are limits on how much we want to raise tuition in light of the economic conditions our students face. To do well in this environment and to provide the most effective legal education and student services we can, we must make identifying and fostering the “people potential” of our institutions a high priority. This essay is about treating people the way you would want to be treated and setting a tone of professionalism and mutual respect. Although most of the discussion deals with professional and hourly staff relations, many of the principles also apply to relations with faculty and students. Some of these ideas may seem simple, but our fast-paced work environments and complex schedules make it very easy to overlook them. I think they are more important than most people realize. As a former labor lawyer and labor arbitrator, I have studied the world of work for my entire career. I have seen countless examples of problems that could have been avoided with timely communication or demonstrated respect. I have learned that job satisfaction comes from:     knowing that you make a difference; knowing that you are appreciated; knowing that you are part of a group doing something that matters; and knowing that you can continue to learn and grow.

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* Dean and Professor of Law, Saint Thomas University Law School of Law. Former dean, University of Toledo College of Law (2006-2010) and Widener University School of Law (19992005).

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Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2011129

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UNIVERSITY OF TOLEDO LAW REVIEW

[Vol. 42

As a dean, you have a unique opportunity to influence how people feel about their work and to engage them in setting the institution’s direction. The better you help them achieve these four goals, the more job satisfaction they will have, and the better they will be at serving students and helping us create more effective law school communities. The advice I share is also founded on my experience as a law professor and a dean beginning his third deanship. I have learned certain lessons from my mistakes. Others, I have learned from watching others. Additionally, I have learned lessons from heeding the advice of wise colleagues and co-workers. We all talk a better game than we play, and I will admit that there have been times when I have not followed this advice. This is an area of continuing growth for all of us. I. CREATE A COMMUNITY OF TRUST AND POSITIVE ENERGY We need a secure and stable environment to do our best. A dean can help build this environment by helping people feel safe, trusted, and respected. A. Model a Positive Outlook with a Personal Touch

The dean is uniquely situated to affect the tone of the law school. By walking the halls, greeting people, and stopping by their offices...
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