Hey y'all, with the start of the school year in full swing, it's been a minute since I've been able to share my heart and thrive in this space. Let's fix that, on this rainy labor day, I'm here to chat about workplace culture and our place in cultivating one that is productive, encouraging and ultimately, healthy.. not just for us, but for our students.
About a month ago, I asked for suggestions on what to blog about. I got a response on instagram that purplexed me, "how to deal with rude coworkers." SKKKRT. I get it, our jobs get stressful and hard, people like to talk about other people, and it can quickly turn into a place where we feel unsafe to be our true selves. But, the first thing we need to remember when walking on the pile of eggshells that is workplace culture is this, people are not things to be dealt with. That is not, will not ever be in our job descriptions. We have to quickly grasp the fact that gossip, (chronic) rudeness and hard to love behavior stems 100% from something going on inside the heart. Rachel Hollis says it best, "the best way to change people is to change yourself."
So, what to do? You are tired of being a doormat, a punching bag, or the butt of every "joke." I get it, I've been there multiple times in my own life, not even just at work. Let's chat about a few practical ways we can combat negativity, thrive in a toxic environment, and play a part in shifting the culture in which we work in.
1. Take Inventory of Your Space:
I've talked about this before, but I don't think we realize how often we, ourselves, complain and contribute to a negative workplace culture. Even in the last week, I can recall at least 5-6 times where I whined about a student's behavior, gave my 2 cents about how I think something should have been handled, or made a snide comment that probably was unnecessary. (I know, y'all are shocked that I'm human..) But, it's true. If we want the culture to shift, we ourselves need to make the shift, first. Students are challenging, people think differently than us, and life gets busy and stressful. We have to live with the mindset that, no matter what, there's never an excuse to gossip, be a jerk, or set others up for failure. We have to develop the discipline to rise above those behaviors in our own lives. That's our first step. Be mindful of how you spend your down time throughout the day. Refuse to bond with others through gossip. Refuse to let your questions turn into harsh criticism, and force yourself to practice the behaviors you wish to see in your coworkers. You will be shocked at how much work you have to do yourself, which is totally okay. Nobody here is perfect. It just might help to channel your frustration with others into a more productive space by taking inventory of your own business.
Are you allowed to quote yourself from twitter...? because that's what's about to happen....
2. Create Opportunities for Culture Change
Going back to taking inventory, one of the ways that helps me correct these toxic behaviors in myself is by creating constant opportunity to be a better human. Think about the best version of yourself, how do you talk about others? How do you treat them on your best day? Take these opportunities to plant seeds in your coworkers on your best days. Write them random encouraging notes, go out of your way to compliment them on something they're great at, bring them their favorite goody. Pour, pour, pour into people WHILE YOU ARE ON GOOD TERMS WITH THEM. Because, when conflict arises (I say WHEN, because it inevitably will...) you will have laid a foundation with the people you work with.. allowing for more space for grace. If I know someone respects me as a teacher AND a human, I am much more willing to hash out conflict with them when it comes up. Ask your principal, or the head of your "sunshine committee," how you can collaborate with them to develop staff wide initiatives to help build up a culture of respect. Find THOSE people who have the same passion for building others up and work with them to do that. You cannot change culture by yourself, there are people in your building who feel the same way and want to know how they can play a part in the transformation. Find them, brainstorm and change the world together.
Now, building relationships with people does not always mean that you have to become best friends with them. Lemme say that again, so the people in the back can hear, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE BEST FRIENDS WITH YOUR COWORKERS. You can encourage people, compliment them, and work well with them and still go your separate ways when the work day ends. That's totally okay, and in some cases, totally necessary. *I will get on my soap box about having friends outside of work at another time...* Investing in relationships comes with one thing, opening up your heart to be disappointed... which leads me to my next piece... *tswift voice* are you ready for it???
3. Do NOT Take Conflict Personally...
Unless someone directly insults your mama, don't take it personally. Take your heart out of it and approach conflict objectively. What is the problem? How can we solve it? Stop trying to decipher other people's intentions, stop using the phrases "I bet they did that because..." and stop talking crap about other teachers because something they did annoyed you. If it's that annoying or detrimental, have enough respect for them to talk directly to them and hash it out. If you don't have the guts to do that, build yourself a bridge and get the heck over it. Stop losing sleep over stupid crap. If you find yourself walking into the hushed room where everyone was just discussing you in a negative light, ask them how their day is going, compliment their new crocs, grab your coffee and go keep up your hustle. (This next sentence is important so pay attention.)Because here's the deal, if you're constantly keeping yourself in check and you're putting forth a constant effort to build relationships with others, what they have to say about you... it's really not that important and probably isn't that true. The sad fact of the matter is this, some people are just miserable. Some people thrive on being dramatic and gossipy. Some people will just always target people like you, because your hustle makes them uncomfortable. That's a heart issue with them, not you. Be such a light in your environment, that even THOSE people are drowned out by you.
Okay Mads, let's wrap this sucker up.
So, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you just can't change other people and if you find yourself constantly beat down by them and their negativity, you probably aren't doing EVERYTHING you can to be a solution to the problem. Culture changers worry less about changing people and focus more on trying new things to build them up, help them find their gifts, and being a cheerleader for them. Always be mindful of where you stand in the progress of your school's culture, work hand in hand with other people in your building to focus on your coworkers, and stop taking petty behavior personally.
Have a great, short week! Go and love some people.