The Dean-Chair Relationship: An Examination of Conflict Management Styles and Relationship Quality

Lorraine Towns, Fordham University


Conflicts occurring in higher education continue to rise. To date, there is limited information regarding the conflict management styles of administrative leaders in academic programs. Since department chairs and academic deans are often at the forefront of conflicts when they arise, the topic of conflict management style and the quality of the leader-follower relationship should be assessed. Frequently in the literature, chairpersons’ conflict management styles have been studied from the viewpoints of faculty, whereas deans’ conflict management styles have often been assessed from the perspectives of faculty and non-faculty subordinates. However, little is known about perceptions of leader-follower relationships in shared-governance organizational structures. This study, therefore, investigated conflict management behaviors that department chairs and deans engage in with each other by administering the Rahim Organizational Conflict Instrument (ROCI-II A or B). To further define the attributes of in-group membership among leaders, their perceptions of the quality working relationships were assessed with the Leader-Member Exchange Version 7 (LMX-7) questionnaire. Seventy percent of administrators in this study were more likely to use the integrating style of managing conflict, and 91% of this sample reported they had satisfactory working relationships with their dean or chair. Gender, age, tenure status, years of administrative experience and time spent in mid-level partnerships were unrelated to administrators’ predominant conflict management style or perceived quality of their working relationships. This research is intended to add to the existing professional development literature and to improve the current understanding of administrative careers in higher education.

Subject Area

Higher Education Administration

Recommended Citation

Towns, Lorraine, "The Dean-Chair Relationship: An Examination of Conflict Management Styles and Relationship Quality" (2023). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI29996334.