All professors really want is for you to be nicer to them

To improve faculty retention and satisfaction, a new study shows that simple gestures can go a long way. 

Researchers from the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education surveyed 3,600 recently tenured associate professors, who collectively hailed from 50 doctoral-granting institutions. Jeraul  Mackey, a doctoral student in education at Harvard University, then analyzed how professors responded to certain statements that characterized how they felt about their workplace climate and their commitment to it.

Respondents ranked positive employee-to-employee interactions above everything else for improving their commitment to their institutions. The professors overwhelmingly supported ideas such as one-on-one dialogue and mentoring. Large-scale initiatives, such hiring a greater number of diverse faculty, were not as popular.

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Professors who were even slightly happy with their work climate were more likely to stay at their job, Mackey also found. The way employees treat one another one-on-one appeared to be a huge indicator of professors' job satisfaction. This can be a simple and cost-effective strategy for universities to improve faculty engagement, Pat Donachie writes in Education Dive.  

"It is the degree to which I want to come into work every day. It is the degree to which I want to interact with other people," says Andy Brantley, president of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, adding that there is no excuse for employee behavior that is not supportive. However, Mackey did acknowledge that non-tenured faculty may not feel the same as those surveyed, who were all tenured (Donachie, Education Dive, 5/1; Schmidt, Chronicle of Higher Education, 4/28).

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