Dealing with Difficult and Resistant Staff

Every faculty has difficult and/or resistant people. I think that most supervisors would agree that dealing with them is the most challenging aspect of their job. Being a difficult person is a personality trait. Difficult people come in several varieties. They are often whiners, judgmental, opinionated, and negative. Resistant people do not like change. Resistance can range from being fairly subtle, such as avoidance or passive aggressive behavior, all the way to outright defiance, hostility, and sabotage.

To better understand and then deal with difficult and resistant staff, let’s make some assumptions: (1) Being difficult and being resistant are not the same; however, one can be both difficult and resistant. (2) Almost everyone comes to work each day with the belief that they do a good job and try their best. Now that’s what they believe. (2) Being difficult and/or resistant doesn’t necessarily mean that they are bad teachers. (3) What is most relevant is that the supervisor’s most important job is to assure that every member of the staff measures up to the highest professional standards. (4) As a supervisor, you have a responsibility to treat all staff members with respect. Supervisors should never get sucked into looking and acting like bullies by using your position to be punitive or by threatening others. (5)  The faculty is made up of intelligent people who see naysayers for what they are and most don’t want to get involved with petty school politics. (6) If you give naysayers more energy than they deserve, it is like fertilizing weeds, the weeds will likely grow, and you don’t want to squander your energies in unproductive ways. (7) Deal with conflicts privately. Do not avoid confronting negative behavior because it will grow if it is not addressed. (8) Supervise to the evidence, meaning gather data and artifacts as they relate to teaching and learning, and holding staff accountable to procedures and policy. (9) If there is evidence that someone is under-performing, then deal with the under-performance as an opportunity for staff development. (10) We all learn best and change our behaviors by reflecting on our own practices and deciding that we need to make corrective actions. As a supervisor, your job is to hold up valid evidence and data to your staff member like a mirror and help them to reflect upon their own actions and the results of those actions.

In short, the supervisor is the professional, is a role model and never acts like a bully.

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