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help, i'm a bad manager!

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by blizzardboy, Mar 23, 2017.

  1. blizzardboy

    blizzardboy New commenter


    ok, took over as a new Hod in a new school in Sept. I was told when i arrived that there was a number of issues in the department, i've introduced a few new things(like dept marksheets) and some ignored it completely until i had some serious conversations.

    since then things have been up and down. I think the main issue is that i've never really been the best "people person". I can work harder than anyone else in the world, but it's getting people on side that i struggle with.

    I've managed to make "friends" with one member of staff who I work together with, but the rest feel fragmented. I introduced cakey-Friday and brought us together, but that has fallen apart due to busy schedules, i need to try and figure out a day when nearly everyone is free (there is no day when everyone is free). When we had ofsted and after they had gone i bought the dept a box of chocs to say thanks for hard work and a bottle of wine at xmas. I've got easter eggs for next week.

    Becuase it is a large department and fragmented across the school most of the stuff is done by email(which again doesn't help things), and there is a distinct lack of dept meeting time(staff are reticent to give up time outside of hours for more meetings). and i think sometimes that the way that i put things across can come out the wrong way. I also recently had an issue with coursework where i had to report a member of staff, which obviously destroyed faith in me as some said that we should of just "fixed it internally" which i disagree with. I've talked to those staff and put across my point, but its still now climbing that hill again to build trust.

    So...what am i ranting for? have you had a new Hod in your department/school, how did they inspire trust and motivate? what did you see that made them a "good boss"?

    I don't think i'm bad at this, but feel like i just need ideas of how to motivate and get people on side.
  2. harsh-but-fair

    harsh-but-fair Lead commenter

    Hmmmmm ...
  3. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    You're trying really hard. Lots of bonus points.

    Be honest with them. Tell them you struggle with being a people-person.

    You knew better than to make massive changes all at once. You've picked your battles. New HoDs nearly always face a bit of suspicion and resistance. It's change. Change (even if the previous incumbent wasn't popular) can be tricky.

    Declare an amnesty. How do you like to be managed? What do you want from me? Here are some blank pieces of paper. Don't put your names. Don't put anything if you don't want to. Just give me some pointers. Be gentle with me but I promise I do want to do a good job. And I will try to listen.

    It's still early days though. And you can't be popular with everyone anyway. You have good intentions.
    lizziescat, phlogiston and sabrinakat like this.
  4. schoolsout4summer

    schoolsout4summer Lead commenter

    Bad manager? Don't worry, you are in good company.
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  5. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    Oh, I know that was meant with irony, but I don't think the comment helps.
    We all know managers who display the traits OP describes-extremely hard working but lacking in rapport. That particular combo is the source of so many teachers' unhappiness, and some people leave because of it.

    However I have just about never seen somebody working with that conflict who then asks for help with the people side of things. Many others see their hard work as an excuse to beat people with if they don't immediately gel. And others are genuinely oblivious to lack of cooperative thinking. But OP has identified the issue as a essential to being effective, which is such an elusive issue to many HoDs. It's a really good query to post.

    OP, just a small suggestion-I've mentioned this here before. The best HoD I ever worked under was the best because she would thank us on the way out of the building for all our hard work that day. She did it every day to every one of us, and sometimes if she missed us, she would pop in again the next morning and say "I forgot to see how you were yesterday, everything ok?" That was a really powerful injection of humanity, made me leave on a high after the darkest and hardest days.
    bevdex, suzuki1690, strawbs and 6 others like this.
  6. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    You really don't sound like a bad manager to me, just one having a tough time of it.

    Bad managers
    Speak badly of their department in leadership meetings
    Tell off members of the dept publically at dept meetings
    Introduce pointless tick box exercises and report those who don't do it
    Never answer emails from their dept
    Never, ever show appreciation or say thank you
    Never even bother to think about how they can create a team

    You don't sound like you are doing anything wrong at all, just in a tricky situation.

    Keep valuing their input, give credit for their ideas and work and buying the chocs and you'll get there in the end. It is often two steps forward and one step back, but it is still forward overall.
    bevdex, blizzardboy, wanet and 4 others like this.
  7. scienceteachasghost

    scienceteachasghost Lead commenter

    If the last manager was a laissez-faire type that left everyone to their own devices (and perhaps this led to issues) people may be a bit reluctant to accept change etc.

    Departmental night out maybe? Many HODs would not buy cake/chocolate so youre not THAT bad!
    Dragonlady30 and grumpydogwoman like this.
  8. schoolsout4summer

    schoolsout4summer Lead commenter

    Irony? I meant it.
  9. katykook

    katykook Occasional commenter

    I'm with sbkrobson - a little appreciation goes a long way.
    Dragonlady30, ViolaClef and sbkrobson like this.
  10. hhhh

    hhhh Lead commenter

    Think that the more schools become email based-and fail to 'expect' staff to chat together at lunchtime in the staffroom, the more this will happen. Maybe discuss ways to make this happen with other managers?
    When I started, the outgoing HOD (wasn't called that then) used to take everyone to the pub on Friday lunchtimes. I don't THINK they got drunk...

    Maybe do a day out-ask staff for suggestions, depending on how many have partners/kids you could do bowling or something?Laser?
  11. meggyd

    meggyd Occasional commenter

    No! In a department where there are tensions the last thing I would want to do would be a night out in my precious free time!
  12. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    It's not easy if your department's scattered across a large site.
    Put the case to SLT that you need more departmental meeting time in the directed hours budget. I used to work for an SLT that was sometimes forgetful of this. You need to do this now, because the calendar for the year is probably taking shape.
    Can you get some time at the end of summer term after exams? (I know that the whole of the time plus a bit has probably been filled with other stuff, but it's worth a try). If you could get the whole department together for a working session to establish priorities for the next year you might find the priorities easier to implement.
    Another suggestion is having a day when you encourage people to meet together for lunch. Don't fret if not everyone comes all the time, but it may be a way of establishing communication, even if folk can only make 10 minutes of it.
    SundaeTrifle and sabrinakat like this.
  13. rachelsays

    rachelsays New commenter

    I became a HOD for the first time this year and it’s been a real learning curve for me. Managing people is difficult and doing it well sometimes feels impossible! I think it’s great that you are recognising that you have room for improvement and want to be the best manager you can be. It's brave for you to admit that you're struggling and I can promise you that you are not alone!

    Some key lessons I have learned so far, through making plenty of mistakes! are –

    1. Do not have the same expectations of others as you have of yourself.
    2. Do not assume because someone works in a different way to you that their way is inefficient/ineffective/wrong.
    3. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Meet regularly. Make sure everyone knows what’s happening and when - especially important for part time staff who can feel out of the loop very easily. If something new is going to affect a member of your department, they should hear about it from you first. If you are planning on instigating something new, discuss it first and agree on an approach together rather than surprising people with a load of stuff they haven’t had a say in and expecting them to get on with it.
    4. Delegate and appreciate. Allow teachers to grow by giving them the opportunity to take the lead on projects and use their strengths to best advantage. Take the time to get to know them and what they enjoy doing and are good at – then allocate work accordingly and make sure they feel supported and valued by recognising and praising what they have done. There is nothing worse than slogging away at a SOW for weeks/organising a trip/sorting out lunchtime revision sessions and then not even getting so much as a thanks.
    5. Set clear expectations and give realistic time frames for work to be done.
    6. Listen. Be open minded to feedback. Do your best to provide solutions to the problems your department are telling you exist – even if you don’t think it’s a problem. If your department are telling you it’s a problem, then it’s a problem. If it matters to them, it needs to matter to you.
    7. Support your team. Defend them. Stand up for them. Head is pushing for a faster turn around on mock marking, but your dept is already on its knees? Then say so. Don’t take no for an answer if you know your dept needs something. Don’t throw them under the bus.
    8. Never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself, under conditions that you wouldn’t be willing to be placed under.

    I would say from what you’ve said that your main issue is the lack of face-to-face meeting time. You need to insist on a meeting at least once a fortnight, and everyone needs to attend. Your school should have allocated time for department meetings within the directed time hours for the academic year - so it's perfectly reasonable for you to ask people to attend these. Though, as time is always tight when there's a million and one other things to do, have an agenda and be strict about keeping it to 30 minutes - your department will definitely thank you for this! Meeting together is vital to building a sense of community and to ensuring that all of the concerns that crop up during the week get reported and discussed and solutions are found. Email is great for general info but you need discussion/problem solving time together as a group.

    I would also say, from what you've written, that you seem to do a lot of ‘talking to’ people about issues, and I am wondering whether your approach with your department is a bit too unintentionally teacher/pupil in tone? I could be totally off here but it might be something to think about in terms of whether you have made the switch from teacher/pupil to colleague/colleague when you communicate with members of your department.

    Hope some of this is useful. Being HOD is not an easy job and I for one certainly learn new ways of doing it better every day. Don’t beat yourself up about things that haven't gone well or mistakes you've made - it happens to everyone, and the most important thing is that you are open to feedback and to doing things differently. Far too many people are rubbish at managing and never realise it, and make everyone’s lives hell as a consequence. You are not that person, so you’re definitely not a bad manager!

    Best of luck!
  14. frustum

    frustum Lead commenter

    Tip for cake day - make sure next year's cake day is decided before people say which day they want for their duty day. We used to do that, and also make sure that we requested duty days for new staff that fitted their timetable and did not clash with cake day. We moved it occasionally - it was often the same day as the local market as some people liked to buy their cake from the WI stall on the way in, but I remember that one year someone suggested that we would need it on the day when we mostly had double year 10 and double year 9 before break.
    FollyFairy likes this.
  15. Crowbob

    Crowbob Established commenter

    Stop with all the cake and the wine and the chocolates and the Easter eggs. It is a poor way of earning respect and loyalty. You may end up as friends with members of your department but that is not your aim or role. Friendly is a different matter.

    Face to face interaction through meetings is essential. Emails do not encourage dialogue and come across as instruction. Emails are easily misinterpreted with intentionally or unintentionally.
  16. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    Cake is useful for bringing people together but management is about more than a box of chocolates. Focus less on rewards and more on what you and the department want to achieve together. Your job is then to give your colleagues the space and support to do their job as best they can.

    Rachelsays makes very good points above. I'd echo the one about supporting them. They will feel undermined about the coursework thing but now you have to show you support them and will fight for them - back them up in public no matter what and deal with problems in private.
    FollyFairy and phlogiston like this.
  17. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

    I don't know if it will work if people are scattered everywhere, but when I was a primary head, I made a point of going to all the teachers preparing their classes before school just to say 'good morning, how are you?'. No ulterior motive, no 'oh, and by the way....'. If they wanted to talk, raise issues, that was fine, but for me it was a way of making them feel welcome and noticed each day.
  18. mkl

    mkl New commenter

    I'm a secondary school teacher and I want to be left alone by my HODs as far as possible. I prefer to see them only in departmental meetings and when I need help.
    DIrectorStudies likes this.
  19. bobtes

    bobtes New commenter

    @mkl, I can't imagine that. Occasionally a very hectic day may go by where I don't talk to my HoD, but not often. Not sure I could work somewhere where they didn't want to talk to me or I wanted to be left alone by them.
    @chelsea2 - that sounds a great atmosphere that you had created at your school. It's sad when some schools have HTs who don't even know who half the staff are and lock themselves away in their ivory tower. Can't imagine working anywhere like that either, and fortunately I don't.
    sabrinakat likes this.
  20. saluki

    saluki Senior commenter

    Cake days - not popular if you are ruining everyone's 5:2 diet. Not needed weekly, keep goodies for team training days or whatever. Make these as relaxed and friendly as poss. I know one school where team training day takes place partly in the pub - a very long working lunch.
    Was your predecessor a bit of a laid back person who let everyone do it their way? Including something strange with coursework? I've worked with laid back managers and on the ball managers. Personally, I prefer on the ball, lots of people prefer laid back. I hate to see things left undone, sloppy practice. Some people prefer leaving it until the last minute or not doing it at all.
    You need to know what your individual members weaknesses are and how you can 'support' them. Not beat them up over it. As others have said a 'Thank You' goes a long way. If you are not a people person this may not sound sincere, even though you are, you may need to work on this
    Happyregardless likes this.

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