Early Years Diary: The Management Divide
Anna McCallum, in the latest edition of her Early Years Diaries, explores how managers can bridge the gap with their staff and ensure that important ongoing conversations are able to be had.
Throughout my years of employment, in a variety of industries, there has been one common grievance from fellow teammates: the division between management and staff at a subordinate level. The same gripe is also commonplace within the early years, and I think it mostly comes down to misunderstanding and miscommunication, but there are ways to cover come this.
I have worked in a number of early years settings and all too often I have heard complaints from employees claiming that managers “don’t understand what it’s like being in the group” or “they just sit in the office all day”. If these sorts of things are being said inside a workplace it is often a sign that something needs to be resolved, and quickly.
Staff members often keep these thoughts between themselves instead of airing them to management, because they feel it will fall on deaf ears; this risks a toxic atmosphere developing. Room staff may have an issue, but they assume management will not relate to it; therefore room staff don’t feel they can address the issue, the issue goes unresolved, they feel more and more frustrated, management are left in the dark and so on and so on.
The best way to resolve this unhealthy cycle of poor communication is to create a workplace which empowers people to feel that they can open up to senior staff members.
One might assume everyone who works in childcare has a warm, open, compassionate demeanour, however this is not always the case. In any workplace you will find a wide range of personalities, and not all people are confident in voicing their concerns, and some people are not great at hearing them. Making time for staff members, of any level, and letting them know that they have been heard can inspire confidence in others coming forward in the future.
It is important to remain realistic and not give false hope, so if a staff member came forward with a request or issue that has a low chance of being resolved, tell them as such without being 100% dismissive. Let them know that they have been heard and understood, but give an honest response and explain why it is unlikely to be resolved. People appreciate honesty and are likely to be less disheartened if they understand why something is happening, rather than just being told “no”.
It is easy to forget that many nursery managers started their careers working in rooms and so room staff can feel like management have no idea what they have to experience every day, when the truth is that they know all too well the struggles of working in the room. It is good to remind staff of this, so share experiences and anecdotes with them to let them know managers can relate, listening with interest to any stories they share back.
A good way to let staff know that management really understand their role is to do it themselves. Being part room based or spending a few sessions a week in the different age groups is a brilliant idea for multiple reasons. Staff will appreciate management getting stuck in, a clear picture can be formed of what is happening in the rooms and a clear example can be demonstrated of how management expect staff to work, not by barking orders but by being an active role model.
By seeing the day to day running of each room, managers can see first-hand anything that doesn’t work smoothly and address it before it becomes an issue. This should hopefully resolve most issues before they get to the point where staff feel the need to complain about them, leading to fewer grievances overall.
It is also good practice to hold regular staff meetings to allow employees the opportunity to voice any concerns and provide a platform for ideas to float around, getting everyone involved when trying to come up with resolutions. Some may find it easier to raise a complaint when they can remain anonymous, so having a suggestion box or something similar can be a great way to ensure all issues can be raised, rather than people holding them in a becoming more and more frustrated.
Make it a regular occurrence to simply ask your teammates if everything is ok. We can usually pick up on body language, or a tone of voice to sense if something is wrong, but not every time, so by simply asking and giving everyone a chance to voice their concerns can really go a long way. Perhaps during the weekly room visits would be an opportune time to ask the room staff how they are feeling.
No matter where people work there can often be a sense of division between management and other staff members but there is no reason for this to be the case. Employees should feel confident that their managers know what is happening at every level of the business and respect their knowledge and decision making. Staff should feel comfortable going to their management team for support and advise, knowing that they have been heard, feeling proud in their decision to come forward to try and better their working environment.
How do you feel your setting tries to overcome any division between staff? Join the conversation using the hashtag #mynurserylife