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Actually the Director

09 Mar 2022 5:00 PM | Anonymous

Dear Sophia,

My boss is no longer in her position. She was serving an interim role as Director in my unit. A permanent Director role won't be hired for another several months at least. As the senior-most person in the office, I will now have to take on more responsibility, especially since the head of our department (who on paper will now be doing the Director-level tasks) is new and not knowledgeable about very much. I was offered a small one-time bonus as recognition of my increased workload, but I am still undercompensated for this level of work, and will not have any change in title. How do I advocate for myself and my compensation when the department head claims he can do all of these tasks but I know it will all fall on me?


Actually the Director

Dear Actually the Director,

The combination of the reduction in force and great resignation over the last two years across so many industries means increasing workloads being laid on fewer employee’s shoulders. In some instances, the significant employee shifts have resulted in a new awareness that an employer has to act to stave off more employee departures. Often, employee transitions create opportunities for new leaders to step into leadership roles not previously accessible. If you don’t advocate for yourself, no one will! 

While the small “loyalty” bonus you received clearly isn’t likely enough to retain you long-term, consider it as recognition they need you. Developing a strong relationship with the head of department early on is key. Don’t miss an opportunity to acknowledge the Interim Director’s departure will change workload both up and down the organization. Showing compassion toward others positively impacts our own and others psychological well being. Are there ways you can convey compassion with each of your colleagues, including the head of the department? Don’t wait, ask for a regular bi-weekly or monthly meeting, with the department head to be sure you have consistent face time during this transitional period. In the meantime, make the time to reflect, document, and (re)-establish realistic expectations with your constituencies regardless how much other work is piled on to position yourself to manage up and advocate for yourself. 

First, take time to reflect. Ask yourself, is my work satisfying? If you’re burned out, unmotivated, uninspired, take time to identify the root cause(s). Are you overworked? Or after reflecting have you identified that there’s another type of work that excites you? Write notes down or record a conversation with yourself, a close friend, or a professional to help you to sort through your thoughts. You’ll benefit from focusing here before you move ahead with actions to improve your work conditions.

Then after you’ve made time to consider your investment in your current role, make the time to complete a thorough audit of your job responsibilities. List in bullets what were you hired to do in one color and added responsibilities in another. Highlight essential responsibilities that are unlikely to change to differentiate those from lower priority responsibilities that could be paused, re-allocated to another team member, or transferred to or fulfilled in collaboration with another unit. By identifying the creep of scope of work and quantifying what you see as the most important responsibilities you are preparing yourself for any opportunity, planned or spontaneous, to engage in conversation and show leadership by communicating tangible information and solutions. Do not miss opportunities to seek clarity with the head of the department and develop clear documentation of what your role is, and the role other team members (up and down the chain of command) will play in this transitional period. While all work is teamwork, in the short term, it benefits everyone to have a clear understanding of their scope of work and minimize unnecessary work or overlaps. You’ll also have the information you need to communicate misalignment or re-allocation of responsibilities and compensation with the Sr. leadership and/or Human Resources.

Finally, you won’t be able to maintain sanity through this transitional period if you don’t ensure your campus partners, students, and external stakeholders have a clear understanding of what they can expect from you and your team members. When workloads are higher response time will naturally be slower. Communicate with constituencies so they know they can expect the same high quality but staff constraints result in an additional few days to produce the work. If you look around any industry this is the reality everywhere. It may not be easy at first, but with consistency and a coordinated plan, your constituents begin to adjust by removing some pressure. A critical skill that isn’t often taught and like many skills strengthens over time with practice and good mentorship is managing up. Now more than ever you are in a position where influencing those more senior to you is paramount. Having done the work above, you’re establishing yourself as a leader who has the information and capacity to do just that.

Confidentially Yours,


P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.


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