Help With Tricky Boss in New Job
February 3, 2007 2:49 AM   Subscribe

Please help ensure the success of my friends new school teaching job. It looks like an excellent job in many respects, but there are two stumbling blocks: 1. The boss is tricky, likely a corporate psychopath. 2. staff are expected to work approximately 30% longer than regular school on-site hours, for no extra pay or compensation. more inside ...

My impression is that the Head Teacher is a bully with less than the normal amount of professionalism. Expectations of staff, however, are extremely high. Rules for students are unusually strict, and this makes life difficult for staff, who have to field complaints and uphold standards they didn't agree on.

Lots of things get dropped on staff at the last minute, for no apparent reason. All of the staff seem to have been flamed by this person, who appears to lead through fear and by "divide and rule". No-one seems happy with the boss.

There's no genuine reason for the long on-site hours. Teachers expect to take work home with them, and in most schools it's the norm to leave after classes. However, the Head seems to want people where they can be seen.
What to do, unionise? go to the board executive, threaten to leave a month into the job or what?
posted by singingfish to Work & Money (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Resolving these questions of conditions in the face of aggressive management is why the good Lord invented the trade union. Expert advice and experience is available from these folks.
posted by By The Grace of God at 3:14 AM on February 3, 2007

It's quite hard to tell if he is deliberatedly being "bossy" to achieve some objective or if he is just _trying_ to manage and doing it in all the wrong ways.

If he is deliberate, then I think that concerted , determined resistence by 80% of all the teachers/staff whatever will show him he needs to change way and to learn how to work with you. When possible it is better not to exacerbate and polarize conflict like us vs you.

I am not a big fan of unionization as usually the group gets tired and gives all the job to few representative that usually end up getting special deals from boss...but you guys gotta remain united, not unionized ; you should be cooperating for _your own interest_ and not to attack the boss..the target isn't destruction of anybody, the target is creating a strong agreement, get to know each other, plan for the fact somebody may decide to quit. It is more difficult then just assaulting somebody, but it pays.

If he is just an unreasonable guy and not a deliberate asshole, then it may be more difficult to get him to stand off and reason, but he could probably be leaded into demanding absurd things and fall into evident contradiction that would show he is incompetent to everybody. Don't try to make him look incompetent, SHOW he is (if he is)

As for the 30% unpaid overtime..well it seems completely unreasonable and that will be quite a point everybody will agree on.
posted by elpapacito at 3:15 AM on February 3, 2007

singingfish posted "staff are expected to work approximately 30% longer than regular school on-site hours, for no extra pay or compensation."

This is normal.
(3 teachers in my immediate family)
posted by blag at 4:48 AM on February 3, 2007

blag, not on site it isn't (in my experience).
posted by singingfish at 4:53 AM on February 3, 2007

my ex is a teacher at a comprehensive college in England. She always complained about the long hours and there is no recourse for them. I am guessing you or your friend did a PGCE and are now going into the real world of teaching. Well, be sure to join a union. My ex managed to survive two years without joining a union (and without hearing any of my pleadings to join one). If your friend is NQT then they're going to have to put up with this stuff in order to teach. I hope that at the very least you're not in an inner-city school.
posted by parmanparman at 4:56 AM on February 3, 2007

parmanparman: actually my friend is a fairly experienced teacher who knows their way around the job pretty well.
posted by singingfish at 5:04 AM on February 3, 2007

The whole thing about long hours/strict rules/psycho boss sounds a lot like my job. At my school it's not that the supervisor is a bad person, really, it's just that the school is one step away from an NCLB-inspired takeover. They're trying to make the school acheieve.

Maybe she should see if there's another reason for the strictness and meanness aside from psychopathy. If she could give her supervisor the impression that they're working to address the real problem, maybe the supervisor would lighten up.

Otherwise, yeah, unionize.
posted by christinetheslp at 5:39 AM on February 3, 2007

collective action is the only answer
posted by A189Nut at 5:44 AM on February 3, 2007

On the face of it, the story of the tyranical school principal sounds all too familiar. The best thing to do it seems is just try to make the best of it. Hm, that sounds like boringly familiar advice, too. But seriously, in the classic case of the demanding boss, there are really only 2 responses (besides unionize): 1: Try to excel so they have nothing tom complain about. Or 2: Just try to survive by being sneaky, i.e. bring a good book to read while sitting behind the desk "after hours."
posted by markhu at 7:16 AM on February 3, 2007

Does the school have extra curricular activities? The 30% can be easily achieved by taking them up. At the schools I've attended or worked with with, almost every teacher is involved in one.
I'm assuming this school is in the UK. Furthermore, it sounds like a private school. I don't know about the UK, but in in the USA, private school and unions don't always mix very well.
posted by jmd82 at 8:05 AM on February 3, 2007

Honestly, I'd just keep the resume fresh and keep looking. It sounds like an escape plan wouldn't be a bad idea.
posted by DenOfSizer at 8:45 AM on February 3, 2007

My number one advise for your friend: Accept and shrug off the bullshit as bullshit. Don't take it personally. Focus on the students.


What country is your friend in?

What grade/age is your friend teaching?

What subject is your friend teaching?

Does your friend have a contract or job description?

Is a "head teacher" like a mini-prinicipal?

Is this a public school or a private school?

How big is the school?

Does your friend have teaching credentials?
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:37 AM on February 3, 2007

croutonsupafreak: I'm a bit wary of providing too much extra info - I don't want my friend or their school to be identifiable in this post, but here's a shot.

Country: An english speaking one not in Europe or the USA.

Grade - high school

Subject: one with a critical shortage of qualified teachers.

The job has a standard union negotiated contract as is normal in this country.

The boss is the principal, also new in the job. The school is too small to have more junior supervisors at this stage.

My friend has excellent teaching credentials - far better than average, and a track record of getting students to perform well.
posted by singingfish at 1:05 PM on February 3, 2007

Your friend needs to be internally clear on what they are and are not prepared to do to keep this job, keep in mind what they agreed to do when accepting the position, and make an assessment of how much work would be involved for the bully boss in finding an adequate replacement.

If there was no mention made of an unusual on-site time requirement before your friend was hired, I recommend simply ignoring this requirement. If called on it, say something like "If you want me to stay on-site for an extra two hours a day beyond a teacher's normal attendance hours, offer me an extra two hours' pay and we'll negotiate. I'm a teacher, not a security guard, not grounds maintenance staff, and what you're asking me to do is unreasonable. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have lesson preparation work to do at home."

As for dealing with a psychopathic boss: when being abused, remain internally calm, get up and leave the room. Don't buy in to the bullshit. Make it so that the only way the boss can communicate with you at all is to do so in a civilized way. If that means never being alone with the boss in the boss's office, don't go into the boss's office alone.

The only way a psychopath can gain power over you is by finding a way to make you take their bullshit seriously. In a school setting, there is no way the boss is going to offer physical violence to staff, so the worst that can happen is termination of employment. It sounds like your friend is good enough at what they do that this wouldn't be the end of their world.

Never underestimate the power of working to rule.

And join the union.
posted by flabdablet at 4:12 PM on February 3, 2007

I spent the last 3 years working in a K-12 school district. What you describe sounds pretty "normal" to me.

Well,..minus the "psycho boss" part.. most of our Principals were pretty good people.

And people wonder why the turnover rate for teachers is so high..
posted by jmnugent at 6:28 PM on February 3, 2007

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