people. I also like people to like me. So when it comes to sharing
difficult news with staff about them, news that I sense is likely to be badly
received, misunderstood or unwelcome; I don’t usually relish the
situation. I have, however, learned over the years that having these
courageous conversations is not only character building but crucial for the
development of an individual and an organisation.
This kind of news
that we have to deliver to someone in our organisation can be about their
character, their capability or their connection with others. These can
overlap, but the distinction is useful.
Almost all people
accept that their capability can and should be discussed. As a principle
most would also feel that any connections with staff, students or parents that
aren’t working should also be addressed. But an individual’s character is
trickier. If we make a technical error, spell a word incorrectly, forget
to enter some data or miss the start of a staff briefing, we know that we will
be spoken to about it. If another member of staff is upset by something
we do or say we would also recognise the right of management to address
it. But no-one really likes to be called unprofessional, unethical or
And yet, if
character education is part of the holistic development of students, then
speaking to staff about the way they behave, their attitude, the language they
use and their demeanour is vital. If we really want to develop our
staff, then we have a moral responsibility to help them to be the best they can
be. We owe it to them to try and help them see their potential weaknesses
in all areas.
We also have a
duty to others. If we know of a situation that can affect others in our
workplace: staff or pupils, then we need to do something about it.
Theory of employee engagement makes it clear that failing to address these issues
has a serious impact on other employees too. They see the inappropriate
behaviour, attitude or language; they dislike it and if it is not addressed,
they may wonder why they bother.
So for everyone’s
sake: your own, the teacher concerned, the victim and the bystander, make a
point of having courageous conversations and try to be clear, fair and kind as
you conduct them.
CEO, LIFE Education Trust