Crisis ManagementManagement & LeadershipPremium Member Content

Crisis Leadership as a Higher Ed Employer

By April 15, 2020June 15th, 2020No Comments
Paula Brantner

By Paula Brantner

We live in extraordinary and uncertain times. Your decisions now are virtually guaranteed to have unintended consequences. There will be a ripple effect, even from making the best informed decisions that you have the capacity to make. Now is not the time to focus on liability and risk prevention, or to act conservatively in providing assistance to those acutely dependent on it. 

Institutions of higher education typically play key roles as major employers — sometimes even the single largest employer in some cities. This article will focus on what higher ed institutions should consider as an employer during the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically emphasizing the following:

    • Unemployment & Paid Sick Leave
    • Worker Safety for Essential Workers
    • Work from Home/Telework Policies
    • Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI) Considerations

While the COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly force some fundamental changes to the employer/employee relationship, prioritizing these particular considerations will make it easier to maintain the mutual bonds of safety and security on which we all critically depend.

As a leading local employer, how well you protect your workers will not only determine your institution’s reputation as a good neighbor, but will almost certainly play an outsized role in determining the local community and economy’s health and vitality, and how quickly the community will recover following the pandemic’s most acute stage.

While this pandemic will undoubtedly impact enrollments, endowments and investments, you cannot singularly focus on economic consequences while neglecting those who make it possible for your institution to be an academic leader and community pillar. You must consider your institution’s most medically and financially vulnerable members to ensure their safety and stability. By keeping the following in mind, your goal is to lessen the grave harm everyone now faces and do everything possible to ensure it does not have the typical outsized impact on the most vulnerable.

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Paula Brantner

Paula Brantner

Paula as the president and principal of PB Works Solutions builds harassment and toxic workplace prevention systems that reflect your values and transform your culture. She works with nonprofits, small businesses, unions and political organizations on training, reporting and policy development to ensure objective reporting and a harassment-free environment. She is also working with a national political organization to build a nationwide harassment reporting and grievance program that is the first of its kind, and was the coauthor of model anti-harassment guidelines for political campaigns released by the organization Ultraviolet. Last year, Paula wrapped up 18 years (including eight as executive director) with Workplace Fairness, a legal nonprofit that educates workers about their legal rights in the workplace, primarily through the award-winning website An employment lawyer for over 27 years, Paula has degrees from UC-Hastings College of the Law and Michigan State University’s James Madison College.