Understanding The Landscape
In your new role, you will need to get to know the workplace landscape. Even if you have stayed in the same workplace, your new role will bring a different view of the same landscape. What is the mission of your unit or department? How do you fit into the larger organization? What are the culture and norms of your workplace - and how do they fit with your views of the work and your supervision expectations? You will need to discover (or re-discover) your answers to these questions. We encourage you, as a new supervisor to explore, observe and understand the landscape of your workplace. This will help you to develop relationships with your employees and managers, supporting your success as a supervisor.
- Access: For all qualified students, paying special attention to meeting the needs of students from varied social, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds.
- Excellence: Maintaining a range of academic offerings comparable in quality to those offered at AAU universities.
- Innovation: Creating new knowledge with a broad program of distinctive research.
- Economic development and global competitiveness: Supporting the economic development of the Commonwealth.
- Public service
- Quality of Life: Developing the human and cultural quality of life for the region.
- What is your department's mission?
- Whom do you serve?
- What do you produce or what services do you provide?
- Do the employees you supervise see the department's mission the same as you?
Uniqueness Of Working In Higher Education
Every Organization Has A Culture
Culture defined: Culture is a set of rules - both written and unwritten - by which people live. It's the "way things are done around here." Rules include laws, policies, habits, behavioral guidelines, and etiquette.
The University of Massachusetts Amherst:
- Is in the business of creating and distributing knowledge.
- Is a large public institution with more than 5000 employees.
- Has a unionized workforce represented by more than seven different unions.
- Is located in a semi-rural environment.
- Is a large institution. Things sometimes move slowly.
- Has many rules and policies to guide supervisors.
Ways We Differ From For-Profit Businesses
We are a land grant institution. See the Report of the Task Force On The Future Of UMass Amherst [PDF].
The Land Grant Heritage:
We employ faculty and student workers
- Have long term security if they have tenure.
Have academic freedom to create knowledge that can be controversial.
- Are short term employees. We want them to graduate and move on to other positions.
- Work to support their education. Often, their studies are a higher priority than their job.
- Are a crucial part of our workforce - the University could not operate without them.
Income (where $'s come from):
- Our revenues come from several sources including taxpayers, students, research grants, and donors.
We are a mix of centralized and decentralized organization.
Technology and systems often differ from place to place in the University.
For Example: Acknowledging personal events
Some departments keep birthday calendars, and make time in the workday to celebrate everyone's birthday with staff taking turns bringing a cake or organizing the event. In other offices, this is not an expectation. As a new supervisor, you may have an idea of how you think personal events should be handled. You will need to understand the current norms before you consider making changes. If you think change is needed, consulting with staff and discussing your reasons will most likely make it easier.
- What are some norms of your past work environments?
- What are some of the "unwritten rules" in your new work environment?
Learning the "lay of the land"
- Understand the mission of your department and how it fits into the larger University mission.
- Learn about your department's culture and norms.
- Explore and understand the channels and methods for communication in your area:
- Is it a flat organization where staff communicates across supervisory lines?
- Is it a more traditional organization where ideas and concerns get vetted up through the reporting lines?
- Do staff tend to communicate via email or by talking in person?
- How quickly do people expect you to respond to requests, whether internal or external communications?
- Are meetings planned ahead of time with a set agenda, or are they scheduled as needed?
- Who needs to be in the loop for information sharing?