A school owner-administrator too lenient? Yes, some are; and “uncontrollably” so. The problem is that been too lenient has repercussions, negative ones – for the administrator, staff and the organization. So, when a school owner-administrator is too lenient; what is the right thing to do? In this post, I discuss just that. In addition, I briefly discuss the possible reason for a school owner-administrator being too lenient and the negative effects it has in your school.

Why a School Owner-administrator may be too lenient

Answering the question, “what cause a school owner-administrator to be too lenient?”, may require deeper analysis. But one or two of the reasons is not far-fetched.

For more than two years, a team of five organizational behaviour researchers conducted research into leniency at work place. The team included Marie Mitchell from University of Georgia; Kate Zipay from University of Oregon; Michael Baer from Arizona State University; Hudson Sessions from University of Oregon; and Robert Bies from Georgetown University. The team published the report of their research in 2021 in the Academy of Management journal. This report provides insight into the likely reason a school owner-administrator may be too lenient.

According to the research, people who are lenient at the place of work are more likely to experience pride. In order words, you are too lenient because you want your employees to regard you as a kind person. It not necessarily about being kind. Instead, it may be about what they think of you. If you “punish” them for bad conduct, they will think you are wicked. As a result, you let them have their way every single time – this is what being too lenient means.

But what’s in it for your school? No doubt, Ryan Holiday made a compelling case for empathy at work place. But Robert Kiyosaki once spoke on the brutal nature of the work place. Without throwing out the validity of the former, the later is proven in the negative effect of being too lenient as a school owner or administrator.

Effect of being too lenient as a school owner-administrator

Some of the negative effects of being too lenient as school owner or administrator include:

  • It causes conflicting emotions at work
  • Encourages misconducts
  • Lowers standards
  • Kills business

Conflicting emotions at work

Firstly, the earlier research showed that being lenient with misconduct leads to conflicting emotions at work. On the one hand, there is emotion of pride; then on the other, emotion of guilt. This is an unnecessary burden you carry as a school owner-administrator being too lenient. And with this, you cannot appropriately handle issues the right way. It is like when you are angry with someone but cannot talk it out. It fractures relationships and limits collaboration.

Encouraging Misconducts

If you do not discourage misconducts, then you encourage it. By failing to enforce the rule, you say it is ok not to break it. Therefore, it is no surprise that school owners-administrators too lenient experience frequent employee misbehaviours.

Being Too Lenient Lowers Standards

How does being too lenient lowers the standard of a school? It is simple. Standards are in themselves rules of what should be done and attained. So, if school staff have no reason to keep rules, it means they will not do what they ought to do. By extension, if staff do not perform their duties, then standards cannot be attained.

Leniency Kills Business

Lastly, a school owner-administrator too lenient has pronounced death sentence for his/her school. How? Majority of people patronize businesses for the quality they deliver. This is especially true for school business. Quality school attracts quality parents and students. This is one of the undeniable rules of sustainable school growth. Therefore, consistent drop in the standard of the school – due to the school owner or administrator being too lenient – leads inevitable loss of quality population.

Over the last three months, more than about eight school owners and administrators have reached out to me. They have battled with the negative effects of being too lenient for long. Two of them said their staff usually take advantage of their leniency to misbehave at work. So, they sort advice on what to do in managing the situation.

If you are a school owner or administrator who cannot help being too lenient, below are some suggestions for you.

School Owner-Administrator Too Lenient? Things to do

  • Change your perspective on how you believe employees think of you
  • Create unique school policies
  • Delegate supervision and demand report

Change your perspective on how you believe employees think of you

According to the earlier research, the reason why some school owners-administrators are too lenient is because they believe it makes employees to think well of them. Such school owners/administrators believe that they do an erring employee a favour by helping them escape the responsibilities of their misconducts. Thus, they believe that in return of the favour, the employee should respect them.

This may not be the case for every school owner or administrator that is lenient at the work. Some cite their temperament while others, their faith. Again, establishing what cause some school owners and administrators to be too lenient at work requires deeper analysis. But one thing is sure. This is the fact that you cannot attain genuine respect by being too lenient. It is rather ironical that you should expect an employee to obey you by encouraging him/her to break existing rules. Isn’t it? Well, things do not work that way.

Common knowledge reveals that people respect the man of integrity more than they respect their accomplice. This is the first perspective you must change. If you are lenient because you believe your employees will like and respect you, you must understand that the opposite is the case.

In addition, if you must command your employees’ respect by doing them favours; there are many right ways to do so. Compliment and reward their hard work, give them day(s) off or buy them gifts. These are more honourable and they will love you for it. But don’t be too lenient. Don’t be too quick to waive penalty for misconduct. Rather, always let the rules take its course.

However, you should note that this does take away the place of empathy. There are one or two occasions where rare misconduct is excusable. Occasions such as when that punctual staff is late for a day in a blue moon; or when the most regular staff asks to be absent for a day, the natural thing to do is to be empathic. Find out what is wrong and help them through it.

Create unique school policies to keep workplace misconduct at bay

This is the one most important solution to the problems of being too lenient as a school owner or administrator. Good school policies are unique, that is, peculiar to your school. They contain what employees should do, procedures for doing them, what they cannot do and the repercussions of breaking rules.

Talking of school policies, the problem is that many school owners and administrators tend to buy policies instead of drafting one. This is a bad practice. The policies you buy are often the product of another school. And while your school may have some things in common with other schools, it is also different in its own way. Policies are as complex and simple as the organization. Thus, it makes no sense for a simple school to buy the policies of a complex school. This is why some schools have challenges implementing policies.

Draft policies that work for your school. It should carry the members of your staff along. Your policies may be working documents. Call a meeting. Table the misconduct you want to regulate and let the staff suggest the rules and regulations. Your duty will be to channel the discussion to what you want them to do. And you should do this intelligently. You shouldn’t do it in a way that seems like you are dictating for them. Let the staff feel they are part of the policy-making process. This way, when they default; they wouldn’t blame you for the penalty.

The result of this is that it lifts the burden of guilt from you when you implement the rule. However, be sure that after making the policy; you see to its strict implementation. In doing so, bear in the brief talk on empathy.

Maybe it is “your nature”. You just can’t let people bear the repercussions of their misconduct. It is a dilemma. You don’t want your staff misbehaving. But if they do, you also can’t punish them. So, how do you stop staff from misconduct? The next point is for you.

Delegate supervision and demand report

If you cannot enforce policies because you are too kind, you should delegate the responsibility to another worthy employee. It is not out of place to even hire an external supervisor, one of proven skill and character.

The supervisor checks in from time to time to appraise the performance of the staff. However, if you can afford a full-time supervisor; it is all the better. The supervisor enforces the policies and furnishes report for you on periodic basis.

Should any staff meet you with complaints, refer them to the supervisor. This is a pretty way of lifting the burden of guilt from yourself.

Just these three ways, a school owner or administrator too lenient will be able to manage every situation.


Melancon, M. (2021, October 21). Showing leniency with misconduct at work leads to conflicting emotions. Retrieved from Terry College of Business, University of Georgia: https://www.terry.uga.edu/news/stories/2021/showing-leniency-misconduct-work-leads-conflicting-emotions

Zipay, K. P., Mitchell, M. S., Baer, M. D., Sessions, H., & Bies, R. J. (2021, April). Lenient Reactions to Misconduct: Examining the Self-Conscious Process of Being Lenient to Others at Work. Academy of Management, 351–377. Retrieved from https://journals.aom.org/doi/full/10.5465/amj.2018.0123

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