Friday, July 27, 2007

Do You Hate Your Boss?

An interesting story appeared in the careers section of today’s Globe and Mail. Entitled “Sorry, boss, but everyone hates you,” it discusses an analysis of a decade of surveys representing the opinions of 50,000 employees in Canada and the United States. It is probably no surprise that the majority expressed varying degrees of antipathy toward their bosses. Particularly instructional, however, and I would think pertinent to school administrators, are the reasons for their ill-feelings:

- 66% said that management doesn’t listen to their concerns, and 67% said management doesn’t act on their suggestions.
- 56% felt that management doesn’t accord them respect.
- 40% felt they don’t have sufficient authority to discharge their duties properly.
- 52% felt that if they make known their opinions, they will face retribution.

While I realize this in no way describes every work environment, in my teaching experience the survey elements were present in sufficient degree to frequently contribute to low staff morale. Ultimately, of course, the solution can only come when the bosses realize that they need the goodwill of the staff in order for the organization to run properly. Unfortunately, not everyone who becomes an administrator is temperamentally suited to discharge his/her duties effectively.

Perhaps in the future, school boards will consider the use of a battery of psychological tests before promoting people to positions of additional responsibility.


Stargazer said...

As a new teacher embarking on a second career, I find your comments to parallel many of the faults that I have observed since I have started teaching.

1. First, why do teachers become administrators? I believe, in the majority of the cases, it is because they want the additional income they can earn as an adminstrator. Those are, for the most part, benign to excellent in their performance. Other want to assume power and authority. Many of those become the stuff of nightmares.

2. How do we qualify our administrators? The education community is under the mistaken belief that the most important part of being a school administrator is having had experience as a teacher. Administrative credential programs seem to concentrate upon interactions with students to the exclusion of the skills that an administrator really needs. I had 25 years of experience as a commissioned officer and a program manager before I became a teacher. Administrators need to be able to operate the school, evaluate their personnel, maintain their facilities, and manage projects on their sites. Typically, you also need to have one administrator to manage student discipline issues. Little that a teacher does in the classroom addresses the first four skill sets. And certainly a single course in a credentialing program is not going to be sufficient to teach these skills.

3. Communications are terrible. In the Navy, as officers, we learned to get out on the deckplates to see our men and to get to know them. Adminstrators do not seem to do so, and are often times difficult to access. In my high school, vice principals took over counseling responsibilities as a budget initiative. This has resulted in students having better access to the administrators than the teachers. In this set-up, the ill-feeling are going to be engendered.

4. Part of the problem also lies with the teachers. Those that lack a work environment experience other than school often have an over-valued opinion of their suggestions and opinions. Just because an administrator has listened to one's suggestion does not mean that they have to adopt it. An administrator is being paid to make decisions. Someone is always not going to like a decision. But the administrator is the boss. If you don't like the decision, hit the road and stop sabotaging the school. In a non-union environment, many of these immature people would have been fired, or at least disciplined.

5. On the other hand, the lack of professionalism that I have observed in many Districts with regards to administrator professionalism is astounding. Districts are small cap companies with small budgets and limited work forces in most cases. The evils of small companies (cliques, favortism, gossip, etc.) are all found, compounded by a lack of accountability and the lack of a need to make a profit.

I would like more dialogue on this issue, but will let it go for now.

Lorne said...

Thank you, Stargazer, for your very thoughtful and well-balanced comments about administrators. While I agree with you that an entirely different set of skills are required for administering a school, I do think it is important that principals have an extensive teaching background, if for no reason other than it gives them a perspective on the realities of the classroom, thereby increasing the chances of having a good relationship and credibility with the staff. In my experience, it was those who never forgot what it is to be a teacher who made the most effective leaders. Conversely, those with limited experience or who donned a mantle of superiority and arrogance once they achieved administrative status were the worst.

Your point about communications is excellent. Once an administrator becomes office-bound, he or she has surrendered the best way to make a positive impact on the school’s students and staff, by getting out and about. I have seen some adopt a siege mentality where their door is always closed, and access can only be gained by currying favor with the secretary.

I found your point about teachers having an over-valued opinion of the worth of their suggestions interesting. While I agree that decisions are ultimately the principal’s job, what I objected to in my career was when an administrator would go through the motions of soliciting opinions and, when they didn’t accord with his own, routinely rejected those opinions. It would have been far more honest if staff input hadn’t been solicited than go through a cruel charade of democratic practice.

Once again, many thanks for your comments, and I hope you will contribute more insights in the future.