Roles and academic vitality



WHAT does one do after formally being designated to a position in one’s institution? Formally means that one must have earlier accepted the position offered when one was called by a higher-up for a consultation after which one awaits the written memorandum order of higher management for the position. Whether some problems to be attended to or specific goals to be attained are part of the higher-up’s consultation, the new appointee would likely have referred to the HEI’s Administrative Manual after such a consultation. Even while the memorandum order of designation is on its way, one would begin drawing up one’s conception of the role tied to the position. What would be one’s accountability and responsibilities? In the organizational hierarchy, who would be one’s role partners? What would be their expectations? Are role alters amiable or indifferent? These terminologies call for some clarification.

Position, role, function, super-ordinate, subordinate. The hierarchy of positions in an organization constitutes the organization’s authority structure, usually represented by an organizational chart. A position is a specific place in the organizational hierarchy with a specific role. This role constitutes “a set of rights, duties, expectations, norms and behaviors that a person has to face and fulfill” to discharge the function of a role arising from a position. This function is what one is solely accountable for. A role occupant reports to a superior (a super-ordinate) and some others (subordinates) report to him/her. They—above and below in the hierarchy—are the role occupant’s role partners. Other role occupants occupying the same position titles (example, academic department chairs) in the various colleges of an HEI are role alters. Only the future can tell whether an appointee’s role embracement would be a source of one’s role frustration. In role research, the focus of study, is termed as the role occupant.

Accountability, delegating responsibility and authority. Whether in business or non-profit organizations, academic, healthcare institutions, etc.—the meaning of accountability and responsibility boils down to a key difference. Accountability imposes on a person something that he/she agrees to accomplish and for which he/she is “also ultimately answerable for his/her decisions or actions.” < ability.html>.A person accountable for something has actions imposed on him/her by virtue of a position he/she has accepted. In formal settings, taking an oath of office symbolizes role embracement—a formal manifestation of a person vowing to do what he/she is supposed to do and is answerable for the consequences of his/her actions. Student body organizations officers, academics as officers of professional organizations or as presidents of chartered universities and colleges take an oath—a formal vow to 1) discharge the function of the position, 2) accept accountability for role enactment of the position and may, 3) share the responsibilities through delegation to subordinates,4) giving them the necessary authority to enable them to perform well and punctually the delegated responsibilities. “Delegating responsibilities does not exempt the superior from accountability for the performance of his subordinate/s.”

Role expectations, role conceptions. A person accepting a designation to a position would have his/her own role conception attached to the position. For example, an academic accepting the position of department chair, would have his/her own role conception of a department chair. Similarly, role partners (the college dean and the departmental academics) have their own role expectations of the department chair. In my experience in studying roles, role frustration could occur when role expectations of role partners and role conception of a role occupant are not congruent in some or on all aspects of administration. For example, deans’ expectations and department chairs’ conceptions in dispensing the departmental budget were found to have a greater degree of congruency than those between the department chair and the department academics. This reveals that deans and department chairs have similar minds as to the disposition of the budget. While role expectations of academics were far in agreement with those of their deans and of the role conception of the department chair in dispensing the departmental budget. It would be an interesting research as to what administrative aspects (such as ranking and tenure, etc.) tend to have less or more congruency of role expectations with role conceptions among role partners. Extending expectations/conceptions congruency research among role alters would guide higher management in ways to foster better collaboration, more initiatives and increased academic vitality among stakeholders.

Lessons: One, a person accepting a position becomes a role occupant and has a function to discharge arising from the role. Two, as a role occupant, that person has role partners—a superior, to whom the person reports and subordinates who report to him/her. Third, superior and subordinates’ role expectations of what the role occupant is supposed to do should jibe with the role occupant’s own conception of his/her role. Fourth, the role occupant imposes on himself/herself the full accountability in discharging the role. Fifth, accountability cannot be shared; the role occupant is answerable for the consequences of his/her actions/decisions. Sixth, the role occupant may share the responsibilities of the position by designating/assigning and giving the necessary authority to subordinates to accomplish their duties satisfactorily and punctually. Seventh, holding dialogue sessions would foster role clarification. Eighth, congruency of role expectations and role conceptions of role partners (superior and subordinates) prevents role frustration, fosters harmonious relationships for collaborative undertakings and more drive to carry out an organization’s mission and vision. Ninth, collegiality among role alters helps draw best practice from among them. All these contribute to academic vitality.



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