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Mar 13, 2023

This is embarrassing

In higher education, there are certain matters that are handled with more sensitivity and discretion than others. One of the main reasons for this is the strong emotion of embarrassment. When faculty members feel embarrassed, it can have a negative impact on their performance and well-being, and it can set up powerful defensive mechanisms that make matters worse.

Therefore, when it comes to giving feedback on performance problems, it is important to do so in a private, quiet, and supportive manner. This allows the faculty member to save face and maintain their dignity, while also receiving constructive criticism that can help them improve their performance. This is how evaluations are set up, on both unionized and non-unionized campuses.

Some faculty members prefer to keep their own personnel matters confidential, while not minding exposing others. This is not consistent and can create a double standard that undermines trust and respect in the workplace. If you do not want to be embarrassed, it is important to treat others with the same respect and confidentiality that you would want for yourself. This rule does not change if you one is motivated by urgent matters, related to social justice. If we give up on due process, the struggle for equity and justice is undermined rather than enhanced.

Transparency standards do not always apply in higher education, especially when it comes to personnel matters. However, this does not mean that accountability and fairness should be compromised. It simply means that sensitive matters should be handled with care and discretion, in order to avoid causing unnecessary embarrassment or harm.

By recognizing the power of embarrassment and taking steps to minimize it in the workplace, higher education institutions can create a more supportive and empowering environment for their faculty members. This, in turn, can lead to improved performance, job satisfaction, and overall well-being for everyone involved.

Ultimately, the key to handling sensitive matters in higher education is to strike a balance between transparency and discretion, accountability and support. By prioritizing the well-being and dignity of faculty and staff members, while also maintaining accountability and fairness, institutions can create a workplace culture that is both productive and empowering for all.

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