No 34. Dealing with a difficult person with the word ‘feel’

difficult conversations

Unfortunately from time to time in the world of teaching you can encounter another member of staff that seems to be making your life difficult. This may include

  • talking to other people about you behind your back.
  • deliberately putting your ideas down during a meeting.
  • criticising you by e-mail and copying other people, often senior people into it. The cc and bcc are rarely used carefully.
  • greying matters by telling half truths.
  • talking to the students in their classes about you. A false and wholly inappropriate way of them gaining respect.

If you think this is happening to you then the worse thing you can do is to do nothing. You must confront the person directly and take the following steps

  1. Ask the person that you would like to talk to them privately – don’t do this by e-mail, keep it all face to face.
  2. Tell the person how they are making you ‘feel’. The key word here is ‘feel’. They won’t be able to argue with a feeling but can argue with facts which they can say are not true.
  3. Say that you would like it to stop otherwise you will be taking it further. Stress that you wanted to deal with the matter informally first.
  4. Keep things short and to the point. Keep it firm but friendly.
  5. Keep a record of it yourself in writing with a date but don’t send it to anyone.

I think it is really important to deal with the matter yourself. Don’t tell other people that you are going to do it or discuss extensively with other colleagues. You may end up being as bad as them! Make sure you are professional at all times.

difficult conversation 2


The images in this post are from here and here.


5 thoughts on “No 34. Dealing with a difficult person with the word ‘feel’

  1. No Cost, Low Cost Ed Tech

    Another fine post. Although I agree with minimizing the number of people involved in the discussion, I would suggest having one other person present during the face to face meetings with this type of student. This would provide a level of protection should it escalate into a formal complaint. This would be particularly true if the problem student is of the opposite gender.

  2. Marylin Warner

    Excellent post. When my daughter was in 3rd grade, she learned how to express emotions and specifics: “When you_________________, I feel____________________, because______________. It’s never too early to get started.

  3. Melisa

    Very helpful post. The situation can also be translated into other fields; only, in the academe, it seems that it’s a lot worse because your environment involves students that you should have been influencing positively, not the other way around.

    Isn’t it that the school administration should also be responsible for handling situations like this? I mean, it might also be that the toxic staff member has a deeper personality problem and should be given some help.


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