It has been a year of change and dramatic shifts in how we receive communication and information. In today’s politically charged atmosphere it is important to be careful when confronting staff. You don’t want to come off as overly aggressive or sarcastic. Teachers can go to their union and register a complaint about hostile work environment. They can also use social media as a weapon of mass disinformation tarnishing your reputation. Unless you’re just denoting facts, in most cases you don’t want to deal with staff issues over email. The tone of an email can often be misconstrued. What you do want is to handle the situation as professionally as possible. To do that follow these three timely tactics.
When it happens: Respond
Just like disciplining children you want to have the conversation around a negative situation as quickly as possible. Looking for a more ideal time is a way to avoid the personal discomfort of confrontation. There isn’t a better time. You will be just as uncomfortable later and you won't have the benefit of the issue being fresh in your mind.
I recently dealt with a staff member who, in his frustration, tossed a notebook to a student who didn’t have theirs. The student in his frame of mind interpreted the toss as a throw and was right in doing so. The student left the room without permission and made his way down to the office. I recorded the event and during that teaches next free moment addressed the situation. Responding immediately when the situation is fresh in everyone's mind is the best way to get a full picture. If you wait too long details get lost.
Repetition . . . don’t do it
If you find yourself repeating the same words you are caught in a feedback loop. In this scenario neither party is listening to the other. Take a breath and instead of repeating yourself, paraphrase what they’re saying. This lets them know that you understand what they’re saying. You can also ask them if they have any questions. If they are upset they might say no. In that case you can ask if they have any suggestions on what they can do next time in a similar situation. This will reveal to you how well they were listening.
In the above scenario I did find myself in this feedback loop. Part of it was because I was uncomfortable disciplining an adult. Getting to the point where I was able to paraphrase his explanation and ask him to write an incident report took longer than I would have liked. Getting to a point in my practice where I’m not repeating the same thing and the staff member isn’t caught in a similar feedback loop is something I will continue to work on.
This is key. Make sure you’re only addressing the particular issue that occurred that moment. Don’t bring up other scenarios that you’ve observed but failed to address in a timely manner. That way your staff member has only one area that they are concentrating on changing or improving.
In addition, keeping the staff member focused on the issue that you’re addressing and not allowing them to bring in other situations that have nothing to do with the current events is also key. Both you and the staff member need to stay focused on the that moment.
As the incident of the thrown notebook was discussed the teacher did bring in other events that led to the frustration which resulted in the action. I did have to remind the staff member that those other incidents with the student, while absolutely frustrating, had nothing to do with this particular incident. Keeping focused on the singular incident is key when confronting a staff member.
These three simple tactics can help ease your anxiety when confronting teachers and the larger staff and help them be more better teachers. As the instructional leader you don’t want to muddy your message by not addressing issues in a timely manner, repeating yourself t or by failing to focus on a single situation. Using these three tips will help you handle the problem in a professional manner.
What are your go to tactics when confronting staff? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
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I'm a Principal and an Entrepreneur. I'm an owner of a new food venture Hustling Hoagies, the author of the children's picture books Detective Dwayne Drake and the Alphabet Thief, Detective Dwayne Drake and The Case of the Mathematical Misfit and the ebook Making it as a Male Model in Michigan. I've worked professionally as a model and commercial actor......