In my work at George Mason University Korea, I’m in the unusual (or maybe not so unusual) position of having two sets of administrative leadership – the deans at Mason Korea and the directors at INTO Mason, my home department on the main Fairfax campus in Virginia.
As the situation here in Korea has been developing, with the rapid spread of COVID-19 throughout the country and the decision to move all instruction to an online format for the first half of the semester, these two sets of leaders have had very different ways of expressing their concern and care for us, their faculty.
- One group has been focused on the practical – getting tools and resources to us to facilitate our move to online teaching. For many of the faculty, this has been their first experience with online instruction, and it can be overwhelming.
- One group has been focused more on the personal care side – asking us how we’re holding up and offering emotional as well as practical support.
It would be easy to look at these two groups and think this is a gender-related response; the practical group is all male, the personal group all female. However, that would be overly simplistic, especially in light of my own reaction – I am a highly task-oriented female!
When a few of the faculty got on a Skype call with our directors in Fairfax, they asked us how we were doing, and my first response was related to how I was adapting to online instruction. The other two faculty on the call responded with their emotional concerns. Even with my students, I have to be very, very intentional about asking how they are doing before diving into the course work for the day.
If it’s not gender-related, then I would suggest it is personality-related. The DiSC model of human behavior identifies two personality types that are primarily task-oriented and two that are primarily people-oriented. I have learned the hard way to be more people-oriented than I am naturally inclined to be.
Which expression of care and concern is better? I would argue that we need both – the practical and the personal. We need both – from all our leaders.