Feline followers and “umbrella carriers”: Department chairs’ influence on faculty job satisfaction and quit intentions – Research Policy

Management quality at the department level is central to research and teaching performance in universities. This paper investigates the influence of department Chairs (hybrid middle managers) on faculty job satisfaction, satisfaction with job characteristics, and intentions to leave. Using UK and Swedish data, we provide the first evidence that faculty who rate their Chairs as being distinguished researchers report higher overall job satisfaction, satisfaction with job characteristics, and lower quit intentions. The perceived research strength of the Chair has the single largest statistical influence on faculty job satisfaction. This result holds after controlling for a large number of other influences and after employing a range of methods to correct for issues such as a potential single-rater bias. Although the primary contribution of this paper is empirical, we build on the expert leadership literature, appeal to social identity theory, and utilise the newly established concept of “umbrella carrier”: we suggest that Chairs who are strong researchers may shelter subordinate faculty from excessive managerial spillovers, and protect academics’ research time, thereby creating more favourable job characteristics. The paper’s results highlight the benefits of good management in universities at a time when job satisfaction is in decline.

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