Can you manage staff behaviour?

28th September 2007 at 01:00
As a middle manager responsible for behaviour, one of the most challenging aspects of my role is changing peoples' attitudes. That's tough enough when it's some lippy 14-year-old with dodgy facial piercings, but with staff, that's a different matter especially if they fall into that "I always know best and don't need advice from some trendy young do-gooder" category. You know the sort I'm talking about?

No doubt you do, for as sure as there will be pupils who think school uniform is optional, there will be teachers who don't like change. And yet, they will be the first to moan about the way things are, which is a shame for me because I'm currently invigorating the behaviour policy in the belief that we should carry on doing what we do well, only better, harder, faster, more thoroughly and more consistently.

Ah, that word: consistency the very essence of the behaviour management soul. By and large, the staff are good at it, but anyone who's ever struggled with an Ikea wardrobe will know the damage that one loose screw can do. Apply a little pressure and the whole thing collapses.

I have learnt to deal with such "individualism". I start by accepting that I simply have to trust that the majority of the staff are playing on the same team, then I gently home in on the defiant few "softly, softly" because these characters tend to dislike direct challenges to their expertise, a reason for them to dig their heals in deeper. I go for the "honest but friendly chat over coffee" approach lots of active listening, paraphrasing, asking for suggestions and opinions, letting them think that the ideas have come from them.

Effective? Usually. Manipulative? Yes. But hey, that's behaviour management for you.

Louisa Leaman

Behaviour co-ordinator at a London special school

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