For school leaders, sometimes you might find yourself in awkward situations. As an unavoidable part of the job, you have to tell someone they will not receive a promotion, give out disciplinary actions, write a negative teacher evaluation form, or even fire someone.
According to Kim JooYup and Nam SangHoon (1998), in Vietnamese culture, sometimes receiving negative feedback in a straightforward manner can cause your employees to “lose face”. In the case of education, teachers can feel demotivated when they are publicly penalized because of their behaviors. So, what can we do with this elephant in the room? You can either avoid talking about these difficult topics, but over time, unaddressed problems will cause more damage to your team. Or you can start to develop some techniques to conduct a positive environment for your staff meeting.
Start off with positivity
Well, nobody wants to hear complaints and complaints at the start of every meeting. You will gradually have to talk about the disciplinary actions you are going to take; however, avoid doing that at the beginning of your staff meeting. Don’t jump into the meeting with “You are doing this wrong and you need to fix it right now”. Try level your way into the issue at hand “I feel like there is an important topic. I want others to see this situation and we can discuss ways to proceed.” As school leaders, you should let them know that acklowledging the problem at hand is the first step in their process to become a better teacher. Make sure teachers know that the school administration will do whatever they can to help them with their professional development. At the end of the day, pointing out their mistakes is for the best of our students so they should not feel that they are being personally attacked.
Even when you are very mad, do not lose your temper. This seems like common sense, but it can be very difficult to actually talk professionally when you are under pressure from parents or higher authority. Keep your reprimand straightforward and professional.
Keep it away from students
If you find yourself in a need to urgently discuss these matters with your staff, try to keep it away from students. Children can be negatively affected by the bad workplace dynamics they see of adults. We don’t want our kids to worry about these tidbits. Also, if children see you scolding your teachers, they might lose respect for teachers and refuse to listen to the instructions in the future.
Be compassionate and Listen
When you give out constructive criticism, make sure you give the other person space and time to compose themselves. Everybody makes mistakes sometimes and our teachers are no exception. It is important that we are compassionate and put ourselves into teachers’ positions. Before you leave the conversation, make sure you have listened to their thoughts. Ask for the reasons of their behaviors. Sometimes, teachers underperformed and lost focus because their family members have gone ill. They might want to do some explaining work with you, and it is important that you take your precious time to listen.
After you talk to your staff about ways to improve their performance, you should follow up with them regularly. This will ensure people do not take your criticism personally and they feel valued as your employees.
I want to end this piece with one small piece of advice: Try your best to hear your staff’s voice. Make sure that even when you have to criticize them sometime, they are valuable assets to the school. The teaching workforce is under constant stress because they have to deal with multiple parties: from students and parents to administration. They look up to school leaders for advice and ways to proceed because you are the heads of the school.
The most important feature of a healthy organizational culture is that staff do not feel like things are being done to them, but with them.
Therefore, you should establish your intention to comment with them in a colleague-to-colleague manner, rather than giving them the bossy attitude.