Education, in most people’s minds is different to just any old ‘J-O-B’ in a company. Being responsible for the education of children is something fundamentally different to selling insurance or manufacturing widgets. However, most educators will share my view that that doesn’t change certain innate aspects of human nature when you look at schools as workplaces where people come together, charged with responsibilities to achieve certain ends individually and collectively as teams.
This ‘Fast Company’ article is written about companies, but I’ve known characters that matched all of the toxic stereotypes listed working in schools, and a few others besides;
Somehow, when people behave in the kinds of ways described in a school it feels worse – because there’s a kind of moral dimension to the work. I’m often left with a feeling that if they wanted to be that way, behave in such manners, they should have gone and taken jobs in environments where they wouldn’t be harming children and their education.
The ‘more understanding’ side of me, reminds that often these people are blind to what they’re doing and there’s a degree of needing to seek to understand them first, before setting out to have them understand that what they’re doing is wrong in educational environments.
Tackling such people takes courage and often is far from easy. In my experience, staff will complain incessantly about such people, behind their backs, but won’t tackle or confront them directly. The perception is that this is very much a responsibility for the management. Ironically, if the confrontation or challenge, when it comes, leaves the toxic individual feeling hurt, those same staff may even side with the hurt feelings of the individual and accuse the leadership of callousness! I stress here, I’m not looking for sympathy for leaders – just pointing out that teachers can be so empathic at times that they’ll even feel sympathy for a hurt trouble-maker!
However, almost always, these situations must be tackled and leaving them to get worse has far more serious implications for the school.
Of course, we know that human nature is such that nobody is going to read these 5 portraits and identify themselves – it will always be someone else!