Higher education has been under a great deal of scrutiny over the last few months, particularly for financial reasons.  I have yet to hear any conversations that address the quality of education students are receiving in higher education today.

I have spent the last fifteen years in academics as a faculty member and have witnessed first-hand the changing landscape in higher education.  The academic rigor that universities and colleges once had has now gone to the wayside in order to retain students to meet the growing financial costs.   The expectations of faculty have changed as class sizes and workloads increased and academic accountability has decreased.  Grade inflation is at an all-time high and student academic accountability is plummeting.  As such, many higher education institutions are not adequately preparing students with the necessary skills and abilities to be an effective member of the workplace.  We are preparing students to participate in workplace aggression rather than to be exceptional critical thinkers and good communicators. 

Higher education institutions are not adaptable to the needs of the changing workplace and as such, much of the information provided students is outdated.  I am not negating the importance of history and understand that knowledge of the past is important.  I am suggesting that curriculum is not updated or modified as often as it should, particularly in professional fields.  This is because curriculum changes take a significant amount of time, faculty are not trained how to do curriculum development, and because of academic freedom, many faculty balk at any suggestions of curriculum modifications in their classes.  The result leads to students who are not prepared to deal with the current knowledge and skills that their professional lives demand that they know. 

Students who graduate without proper preparation for the workplace often revert to workplace aggression in attempt to cover up their own lack of skills.  Higher education did not hold them accountable for even basic work skills that are necessary to be successful, such as attendance, meeting deadlines, critical thinking, listening to other people's opinions, and writing adequately.  These basic professional abilities become problematic for the worker who then lashes out at others because they are not equipped. 

Higher education reinforces poor workplace behavior by adhering to the students who demand or threaten faculty who did not give them an A due to low academic performance.  Faculty are not supported when they attempt to hold students accountable but are often encouraged to change the student grade, pass the student, or make an accommodation for whatever the student is demanding.  This increases student retention.  This has becomes the standard of behavior for many students in higher education and unfortunately, this becomes the conduct that is replicated in workplace and may turn into workplace aggression. 

Higher education faculty should be role models for students.  However, academics frequently engage in workplace aggression themselves.  Academic aggressors are frequently rewarded in universities and colleges and end up in positions of power.  As such, bad professional behavior is reinforced for students and students develop an understanding that treating others poorly in the workplace gets good results. 

Higher education is an institution that needs reform.  However, we need to do a thorough examination of what kind of education and professional skills future students will need to meet the demands of the changing workplace.  Once we do this, we can begin to make the necessary improvements that will help everyone become a better and more effective professional.  Hopefully, eliminating all workplace aggression.

If you or someone you know is experiencing persistent workplace aggression, please contact me at jankircher@jankircher.com or at (320) 309-2360. You can also visit my website at jankircher.com. Help is out there.



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