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Advice- low staff morale

Discussion in 'Headteachers' started by Elbows, Dec 3, 2011.

  1. I'm head at a medium sized urban school. High FSM, SEN, CP, etc, etc. We've just emerged from under the floor standards but it's been very, very hard going and there's still a long, long way to go. We all feel under a great deal of pressure.

    Staff morale is currently very low as a consequence. Loads of grumblings about all sorts of stuff. Eg. some staff don't like my two Phase Team leaders who they feel are too strong (longer standing staff members seem to have been left to get on with things in their own way in their rooms and don't like the shared approach I'm trying to develop through these colleagues), a new appointment has proven a disappointment and is irritating other staff members, some parents are unhappy that I'm not extending a temporary teacher's contract (don't ask how they know- that's another saga), a group of parents are threatening to ring ofsted about a child who was found with a knife in his bag, some staff pursuing grievances about the support staff reorganisation we had to make because of budget reductions, another seeking compensation after being punched by a pupil, another complaining of stress via her union, I could go on.

    I want some ideas as to how I can improve the atmosphere and bring a little more harmony and professionalism to our work place. There are lots of muttered conversations the minute people leave the staff room and it all feels really unpleasant. The sheer weight of stuff to be resolved is leaving me feeling physically ill and the volume is impossible to manage. My Governors are drawn from the local community and are quite new to their roles. They aren't sure how they can deal with all of the issues that need resolving. I don't want to talk to the LEA because I'm worried they'll still see us as a "vulnerable" school again.

    How have you worked through similar periods? Help!
  2. marymoocow

    marymoocow Star commenter

    What was your relationship like with staff before all the changes and pressures, what was moral like, relationships between staff etc like? You could hold a whole staff meeting and lay your cards on the table with your concerns about moral etc. Be prepared to be very open yourself about your feelings and stress and prepare yourself for some personal attacks and take it on the chin whether you feel they are fair or not. You could reassure staff that you are wanting to listen to their concerns and have individual or small group meetings to get to the bottom of it. There may be other issues you are not aware of and they maybe the bigger issue than the ones you think are the problem. Make sure you feed back to staff and ask for their solutions to the problems.
    If you are stressed and under pressure, can you hand on heart say that you have been praising and thanking staff for their efforts as much as you should? Have you been around and visable as much as you should?
  3. Dragonlady30

    Dragonlady30 Star commenter

    I'm speaking from the position of a chalk face worker for 37 years, now retired. What made me feel valued during those years?
    Not being kept in the dark and just told it's this way. I could cope with that if the comment went onto include 'because......'
    When a successful outcome ( sorry, I refuse to use the word 'vision'. Visions should be kept firmly in the RE faculty!!!!) had been achieved, being recocognised as playing a part in that achievement.
    Being lead rather than herded. Knowing what the expected outcome should be.
    Being thanked!!!
    In my experience, teachers are brilliant at noting and celebrating the successes of our kids. Surely this could be transfered up a stage to the staff themselves?

  4. breadmaker

    breadmaker New commenter

    Avery obvious thing and if teachers weren't doing it with children enough they would be criticised, but are the staff praised,encouraged and thanked enough or is the impression they are given that what they are doing is just about good enough/acceptable and if so, why should they want to go along with any changes when all it means for them is a short sigh of relief until the next demand- do they really part of the change process or just the ones who are expected to deliver it and who are damned if they do and the results/changes don't have quickly enough for SLT and damned if they don't.

  5. It's a long old term and by the end of it most problems seem worse than they did in September. I am in my first headship and was lucky enough to work in a job share for the first year of it with a woman who was nothing short of brilliant at staff motivation and team building. What I impart here is what I picked up from her!
    1. You need your team more than they need you..Headship is role without ego. That's not a criticism btw its something that I often have to repeat to myself.
    2. Pour on the praise publically, and keep your admonishments for a private forum and even then keep them positive.
    3. Be democratic in your approach to staff meetings. We have actually begun running ours as a Staff Council, which may seem a little hippy dippy but actually has made a huge difference. Someone runs Council (not you or your two assistants [​IMG]) and everyone raises hands, doesn't interrupt etc. Somehow this as a forum seems to bring out more honesty because it really does level the playing field.
    4. Try to remember how scary change is and how your actions can be misconstrued. For example I have taken over from the founder of our school and although I am not making huge changes I am planning for future expansion due to our success (pats on the back all round). One of the projects I have in mind is a distance learning centre for school refusers as a method of slowly bringing students into the school community in a managed fashion (we are SEN). Frankly its one of my better ideas [​IMG]. We have some unqualified teachers here (we are also independent) who have been with the school since the beginning and are really good at their jobs. Because we have to provide home tutors with QTS and this was mentioned at the meeting one or two of the staff thought I was going to get rid of them because they did not have QTS. It was my ***-up and I had some serious reassuring to do TWO WEEKS later when it finally came to light why they had been acting so off! That was quite a serious learning curve about managing the deepest darkest fears of your staff.
    5. Stamp on coffee machine gossip by encouraging your staff to come to you with their fears. The more open and welcoming you are the less gossip you get..with the added benefit that the more teanciously rotten apples who continue to gossip will do so with less support from the rest of the team and will eventually isolate as well as reveal themselves.
    6. Finally a random thank you card with a gushing heartfelt message in it goes a long way. As does the occasional huge box of choccys in the staffroom for more general thankyous.
    7. Asking for help and getting staff to sort out their own problems. <u>I use this gem all the time!! </u> I will just give an example for this one, a student has dropped a subject because they don't like the teacher. You know in your heart of hearts that this one lays at the teacher's door. They have misunderstand or condemned the student unfairly. The situation is touchy and if you approach it directly the barriers will come up from that member of staff...what to do? Lets call him BIll "Bill I.." (not we..let him help you) "have a problem and I could really do with your help on this one..." (big up the ego) "... I think I have got a lead on this subject dropping business. Apparently they think you hate them, which I know isn't the case. I know they have not been perfect..." (lifts any blame) "....but I wonder do you think you could extend the olive branch here and have a sit down with them? I need you to be the bigger man here, but do tell them what they need to do too..obviously!" I cannot emphasise enough how much this works and it makes everyone feel good. It allows staff to be part of the solution not the problem without feeling that they are being crticised.
    Not trying to teach egg sucking here so if this is all being done already ignore it. It just works here, but then the team here are just brilliant.
  6. I have also have staff morale issues this term and some advice given to me was:
    • It takes time, but people will come round
    • plan something nice to do as a team
    • have an open discussion as a staff
    • focus back on the teaching bit - eg a good inset day that inspires people - maybe at the beginning of Jan?
    Good Luck!

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