Student Affairs

Responding Effectively (and Calmly!) to Complaints and Criticism Date

Duration: 1 hour
Facilitator: Amir Baghdadchi
Price: $50.00

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Signing up to do student affairs work means signing up for criticism — and with good reason: students, families, and the public entrust us with fundamentally important things, so it stands to reason that even doing our best, we will generate some complaints and angry email. Not to worry: in this webinar, we will learn how handling unhappiness in our line of work is different from other kinds of service, and how our student affairs background actually holds the key to de-escalating a situation and rebuilding trust. We will look at real life examples and learn some tried-and-true recipes to composing your response.


In part one, we look at how receiving critical emails can “raise the temperature” and lead us to a space of trying to refute the criticism — and why this is not a productive place to be. We look at the proper role of a response email: not to eliminate the issue to but to a build a bridge and regain trust.

In part two, we talk about the unique challenge for student affairs: how to respond to a complaint when the writer takes issue not with a mistake, but with an intentional policy? We learn a technique for establishing a rapport, finding common values, and for affirming our point of view without contradicting the writer’s.

In part three, we talk about how to present ourselves in a way that builds credibility, and how to understand that even when you can’t do the specific thing the person wants, you can still be of service and leave them with a positive attitude towards the institution.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Learn to evaluate realistically what your response needs to achieve.
  • Learn to get out of the “defend the castle” mentality so you can de-escalate and have a real dialogue.
  • Find out how you can turn even a scathing critique into a win-win moment.
  • Discover the underlying structure behind a good — and effective — response.
  • Get tested tactics, tips, and phrases for crafting your response.

Who Should Attend:

Any Student Affairs professional that uses any form of communication.


 Amir Baghdadchi is the director of communications and public relations in University Housing at the University of Michigan and has often been on the front lines of managing responses to public feedback. With a career spanning academic teaching to commercial advertising, he brings a unique tool set to student affairs work — and is a two-time Moth GrandSLAM storytelling champion. He holds a bachelors in Classical Studies from the University of Michigan, a masters in Ancient Greek from the University of California, Berkeley, and a doctorate in English from Cambridge University in the UK.

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