Dignity at work and #mismanagement at #UBC #ubcnews #bced #ubysseynews

by Stephen Petrina on October 8, 2016

There have been questions about what we mean by “mismanagement” at the University of British Columbia? What is meant by claims that at key moments in the past two years, there was evident mismanagement by the Board of Governors? Some faculty members juxtaposed the BoG’s failures against the University Act and best practices or Nolan Principles.

What do we mean by suggesting that UBC’s Committee of Deans establishes a bad model for the campus (i.e., mismanagement, e.g., no agendas, minutes, etc.)? What is meant by mismanagement by omission of a policy to regulate the appointment of Associate Deans?

Or, what is meant by charges that specific programs, such as UBC’s Master of Educational Technology program, a proverbial digital diploma mill, are mismanaged? What is meant by the mismanagement of a Career Advancement Plan?

So here’s a clarification and why good management matters:

Workers tend to have a keen sense of mismanagement when they experience it and academic workers are no different. Academics have a keen sense of academic mismanagement when they see it.

The sense used here is not the common legal definition of gross mismanagement, e.g., “a continuous pattern of managerial abuses, wrongful or arbitrary and capricious actions…” Nor is it used in the sense of financial mismanagement (e.g., p. 274).

Rather, mismanagement in most UBC cases refers to simply a failure to adhere to best practices (of accountability, equity, governance, hiring, etc.). The concern is with omissions. Of course, omissions may be intentional and this does not preclude arbitrariness, deception, or a destitution of integrity, etc.

In Dignity at Work, the key text on the topic, Hodson (2004) articulates in detail the short and long-term effects of mismanagement. The basic thesis is this: “Working with dignity is a fundamental part of achieving a life well-lived, yet the workplace often poses challenging obstacles because of mismanagement or managerial abuse” (frontispiece).

In the first paragraph then, Hodson prefaces: “Even where abuse is commonplace and chaos and mismanagement make pride in accomplishment difficult, workers still find ways to create meaning in work and to work with dignity” (p. 3). We see this in the most exploited workers at UBC: Sessional Lecturers.

“The first hurdle in the quest for dignity at work, Hodson says, “is thus the possibility of mismanagement and abuse” (p. 83). Indeed, “mismanagement and abuse have a central role in generating resistance and undermining citizenship in the workplace.” And he emphasizes, the buck stops at the top:

Chaotic and mismanaged workplaces undercut workers’ pride and erect barriers to quality work. The consequences of poorly organized workplaces can also spill over to coworker relations, further undermining organizational effectiveness. (p. 109)

Hodson concludes: “significant denials of dignity remain in the workplace. Chief among these are mismanagement and abuse” (p. 273).

Helps explain the state of working conditions in various programs and units at UBC, doesn’t it?