Decision Making Strategies Among Academic Department Chairs

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Decision Making Strategies Among Academic Department Chairs Pamela Strausser, PhD Cornell University 2020 ABSTRACT Making decisions requires balancing the need for efficiency with the need for participation. This becomes more challenging given the role ambiguity common in the academic context and constant in the typically temporary role of department chair. Although chairs play a large role in higher education decision making, little research has been conducted to learn how they make decisions in the face of such ambiguity. The literature provides much evidence about the negative effects of role ambiguity and the possible influence of other factors on how chairs enact their role but little about the decision-making processes chairs use. This study focused on the chair decision-making process to learn about individual strategies and factors correlating with or contributing to the choice of a particular strategy. I conducted in-person interviews at two very different institutions with 37 academic department chairs. The sample was highly representative of fields, range of experience in the role, and department size. Chairs talked about their significant decision-making experiences and provided a snapshot of their perceptions about their own behaviors in the chair role. I found that chairs make decisions using one of four distinct strategies differentiated by the locus of decision making and the direction of communication about the decisions they make. Their choice of one strategy over another is motivated by one or more of four factors (role ambiguity, insights from experiences, their own view of the chair role, and the culture of the department).

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133 pages


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chairs; Decision-making; effectiveness; grounded theory; role ambiguity; role preparation


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Union Local


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Sonnenstuhl, William James

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Tolbert, Pamela S.
Peters, Scott

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Industrial and Labor Relations

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Ph. D., Industrial and Labor Relations

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


dissertation or thesis

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