Career lesson: I had to win over an angry team member

We’re looking to publish teachers’ experiences of a difficult working situation or career dilemma - and their tactics for dealing with it. We’d love to hear how you resolved a problem and any lessons learnt along the way, so that other teachers can benefit from your experience. In this account, a head of department turned around an explosive relationship with a team member.

The situation
As a head of year, I hold regular meetings on a weekly basis to deliver information and also to discuss student issues, school policies and generally to have a short social banter. At one of these early meetings, only two out of six teachers turned up so I went looking for the missing teachers. I came across only one of the new teachers to the team (whom I shall call Teacher A), who said “I will be at the meeting soon”. In a professional manner, I told “A” that meeting was already 20 minutes overdue and that I hoped they would be there soon. ‘A’ duly arrived, but a few minutes into the meeting, something triggered a reaction in “A” , who rose from their chair, shouted s and accused me of rudeness. After this outburst, "A" left, and the two remaining teachers and myself, were left in shock.

My ‘mistake’
I believe that my error was in not getting to know Teacher A on a personal level, which might have prevented the outburst. I also believe that my personal dislike of Teacher A at the beginning did not help. I found Teacher A rather bossy and loud and found this difficult to deal with.

How the situation was rectified
My line manager had a word with Teacher A who continued to be of the opinion that I was at fault. I decided to take action: if Teacher A was going to ignore me and insist that it was my fault that they had the outburst, then I had to sort this situation out as soon as possible because the needs of the students had to come first. I apologised to A and told them that whatever I had done, I was truly sorry that it had led to their getting angry with me. This didn’t bring an immediate result and so I continued by using encouraging words with A, giving praise when it was due, and speaking well of Teacher A with the students. Slowly, my relationship with Teacher A improved and our working relationship became one that was mutually acceptable to both of us.

What I have learnt?

  • Build relationships: with new members of staff by getting to know them, by offering them assistance and getting them involved in the decision making process. Make them aware that they are valued members and offer praise when this is due.
  • Put aside personal feelings: I have learnt to put aside any personal dislikes and to be professional at all times: as a middle manager it is my duty to show a professional but at the same time a considerate attitude towards all members of staff, in particular those who are in my team and managed by me.
  • Don’t be slow to apologise: I believe that there is more strength in admitting you are at fault or in apologising, then in insisting that we are always right. A humble attitude is also helpful.

What would you have done in this teacher’s shoes? Please post any ideas or feedback below. If you have any ideas of how these career curve articles could be improved, please don’t hesitate tocontact me directly on