Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Question: What are the characteristics of a failed administrator?

Answer: This essay is entitled “How to Destroy an English Department” at the college level. Some of the characteristics of the failed administrator could apply to any principal, supervisor or above.

.First, accept the position while loudly expressing your thorough disdain for the job and your deep resentment for having to take it.

. Express scorn for ‘administrators’ generally as sellouts or failures; use that attitude as the basis for your relationship with your dean.

. Act as if your department is the center of the universe, and accordingly consider the needs of other units on campus as inconsequential or laughable.

. Seek revenge for past grievances.

. Dispense resources as a reward for loyalty.

. Weed out the weak by pitting colleague against colleague in a grand Darwinian struggle.

. Be suspicious; everyone really is out to get you.

. Ignore problems that bore or confound you; this is especially true for financial problems.

. Never hold department meetings; your job is easier when you don’t have to answer any questions (but if anyone does attempt to engage you in dialogue, talk so long that everyone is too tired to respond or follow up).

. Delegate every decision so no one blames you, but then micromanage all delegated tasks to make sure everything is ‘don right.’

. Always tell people exactly what you think of them.

. If you know people are gossiping about you, then by all means, gossip about them.

. Yell at your staff; that is what you are there for.

. Finally, never train anyone else to do any aspect of your job.

Comment: Does any such monster exist?

In my book, Teaching English, How To…. Xlibris, 2004, I suggested four characteristics of successful supervision: Listen—to everyone, parents, students, teachers and administrators. Encourage innovation. Model for teachers the techniques you want them to use in their classrooms. Supervise as if you had no authority. These characteristics worked for me. RayS.

Title: “How to Destroy an English Department.” Donald E. Hall. College English (May 2011), 538-547.

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