I get the sense that some of my colleagues find their current workplace environment to be quite crappy. Whether it’s the classroom, the staff-room or the meeting room, the atmosphere is one of toxicity as it is perpetually contentious. I therefore take this opportunity to share with them some points gleaned from an article that I read about a decade ago. Although it was written for the corporate world, I have taken the liberty to make a few minor adjustments to make it relevant to our situation.
Tobak’s 10 Rules of Management Conflict
1. Stay calm. Never react in anger or blow your stack. If you’re so pissed off that you can’t trust yourself to be calm, then go away and come back when you can. The staff-room, the meeting room or indeed the classroom, is no place for that kind of behaviour, period.
2. Attack the problem, not the person. When you criticize or attack someone personally, you risk burning a bridge. Focus on the real issues at hand.
3. Be open and honest. The second you grit your teeth, cross your arms, and close your mind, you give in to stubborn childish behavior. But if you remain open and keep your wits about you, you’ll manage to do the right thing in a tough situation.
4. Don’t lose perspective. Try to remember that you’re being paid to do a job, not to fight a war. The workplace is about business. You know, clients, customers, products, service, that sort of thing. It’s not about you … or him.
5. Try to be empathetic. Put yourself in her shoes and try to understand her perspective. If you can’t or you’re not sure what it is, then ask; you’re assumptions may be wrong. If she does the same, next thing you know, you have detente.
6. Take the high road. That doesn’t mean be quiet when something needs to be said. It means say it at a time and place and in a manner that’s reasonable and respectful of all present. If you kick yourself afterwards, then you probably didn’t do it right.
7. Have faith in yourself. The workplace is no place for yes-men or yes-women. You were hired for a reason, and it’s not to blindly march along with the pack. If that’s what management wants, you work with a crappy place.
8. Don’t go at it in public. If you do, be prepared to apologize in public and, worst case, be fired or transferred for insubordination. Accomplished leaders, managers and really do not like to be publicly eviscerated. Would you?
9. Then let them have it. As long as you follow the preceding eight rules, then it’s okay to go for it. Just try to be civilized.
10. Disagree and commit. Keeping your mouth shut when you disagree isn’t being a good soldier. But disagreeing, losing the fight, and committing to help the winning plan succeed, now that’s being a good soldier.
As Tobak concludes, following these rules will do wonders for your career. I have made every effort to follow them with some success. As he further astutely points out, If you’re angry at your boss or disagree with management and I add colleagues, and feel the need to speak up, ignore this list at your peril
A Call for Collegiality among Members of the Teaching Profession in SVG
Over the years I have had the honour and privilege of attending several interviews for the position of principal in one of our secondary schools. Indeed, they have been so many I cannot even count. Nevertheless, for every single interview, this question was at the top of the list: “How do you get along with the rest of the staff?”
Of course, my response was always in the positive. I simply assured the panel that I got along “very well” with my staff. I never even stopped to think what “get along” meant. Further, I thought that the panel did not really care. It was just a question they must ask.
I thought that I generally got along well with the people I worked with. Yes, I have had disagreements with a few colleagues here and there. I am known to express my strongly held views with passion and vigour. And, the more passionate I get, the louder I become. Some mistake my posture and demeanor for aggression. However, I never get personal or bitter. Indeed, whenever I think I may have crossed a line, I am quick to profusely and profoundly apologise. In essence, I endeavour to be cordial, caring and collegial with my colleagues.
Now, back to the question that featured so prominently in those interviews. As I was invited to and attended more and more of them, for the same position, over the years, the question was posed again, again, and again without fail: “How do you get along with the rest of your staff?”
Fortunately or unfortunately, my answer never changed. What changed, however, was the manner in which I expressed it. I was a bit more studied and reflective. In my last interview, I can recall telling the panel that teachers have changed. They come in all forms with varying outlooks about life and the profession.
In light of this observation, I thought that it was my role as a veteran and aspiring leader to find a way to engender a spirit of collegiality among staff. I further let them know that that it was a role I have been playing within recent times particularly as it related to the younger members of staff. I even made the panel chuckle when I said that these days, young teachers “know everything and their students know more!” I think I was suggesting that playing the role of guide and mentor to young colleagues was critical.
So, how do you get along with the rest of your staff, your colleagues? This is a question about collegiality. It is a question that every teacher in our system must face squarely and honestly. It is a question to which I shall return in a subsequent post.
Oh, by the way, I was never successful in any of those interviews. Clearly, I did not impress the panel!
Philbert J. John