Opinion: A sensitive promotion system fosters loyalty and trust among academics
Systems that higher education institutions use to promote and reward their deserving academics can make or break the institutions’ reputations. The systems can either foster or destroy the loyalty and trust of academics. Although different institutions may have different grades, the common ones are teaching assistant or tutor, junior lecturer or assistant lecturer, senior lecturer, associate professor, full professor, distinguished professor and professor emeritus.
There are various rules and regulations that determine how individual academics are promoted from one grade to the other. In some institutions, the rules and regulations are so stringent and insensitive to the scholarly work that academics produce. Literature reveals that academics who work hard and apply for promotions to any grade and are not successful due to the obvious weaknesses in the promotion system, lose trust in the institution. As they get frustrated, they also withdraw their loyalty to the institution and often their performance declines drastically.
Some of the weaknesses identified in the literature include delayed feedback to the academics, in some cases taking up to two years before academics get information about whether they succeeded or not; bureaucratic nature of some systems; favouratism; insensitive and stringent rules concerning new academics who have to spend some years before promotion despite having the requisite number of publications; and general dereliction of the duties because some institutions put the wrong people in the wrong places. Any one of these weaknesses in the system is capable of demoralizing and demotivating hard-working and committed academics whose loyalty to the institution will diminish. When this happens, the frustrated academics leave the institution in search of alternative employers who are willing to recognise their scholarly work for promotion. In an interview with some academics recently it was revealed that even highly paid academics have left their institutions for lowly paid positions because they are not being recognised for what they are worth academically. What this shows is that money alone without recognition of academic achievement is not enough for self-actualization in academia.
The loyalty of academics plays an important role in the stability and reputation of higher education institutions. Lack of loyalty of academics to their institution is capable of causing an exodus of academics from the institution. In his research on loyalty, Hirschman (1970) said, “Loyalty causes individuals to stay with a system, to save and improve it rather than leave it and serve … elsewhere.” Although they may be aware of the benefits of academics’ loyalty to the institution, some institutions violate academics’ right to fair treatment as far as promotion is concerned.
Explaining the importance of loyalty further, Clark (1972) stated that “The genesis and persistence of loyalty is a key organizational and analytic problem. Enduring loyalty follows from a collective belief of participants that their organisation is distinctive. Such a belief comes from a credible story of uncommon effort, achievement and form.” In other words, when academics are loyal to their institutions, they identify with their institutions and they are highly motivated, and work for the achievement of its goals. They feel that they are part of the institution and wholeheartedly contribute to its effectiveness. Related to promotion procedures is the is the awarding of meritorious awards to academics.
Meritorious awards can be used to motivate academics to stay with the institutions. In cases where there is competition for recognition, and the system is seen to be favouring weak academics wrong people, discontent arises. The displeasure can have disastrous results for the institution. Feeling disadvantaged and discriminated against by the system, the deserving awardees may withdraw their efforts in subtle ways, or even sabotage systems in the institution. When academics withdraw their full support of the system, students suffer. It is advisable to investigate why students in certain modules always complain.
The answer might be that the lecturer is not happy about how he or she was treated by the system. Transparent meritorious award systems recognize deserving scholars at every level without favour. They nurture talent in the institution and promote the spirit of healthy competition.
There is need for higher education institutions to do an introspection that will review systems that they use to promote academics in order to increase academics’ loyalty. Institutions must treat all academics equally and fairly, and promote and reward them accordingly. There is nothing frustration and demeaning as to witness one’s juniors and weaker academics being promoted and receiving accolades when more deserving academics remain in the cold for one reason of another. This has caused friction among academics and between academics and management. In some cases, the damage has had far reaching effects. Institutions must implement procedures that will promote their goals and objectives without segregation.
* Professor Jairos Kangira is the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Namibia. He writes on his own accord. E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
2019-11-29 08:54:45 | 9 days ago