How to speak to leadership about problems you are encountering

With talk of recruitment and retention so prevalent in the education media at the moment, it’s not surprising that we may be focusing on our wellbeing at work. When issues arise that refuse to die down, and that risk affecting our enjoyment and effectiveness at work, what is the best course of action to take?

Without doubt, all issues and problems should be raised with the appropriate people. But often, things aren’t that simple. There may be blocks to communication, a lack of opportunity for informal chats, a fear of consequences, fear of being labelled and so on. Yet addressing potentially negative issues as they arise is essential for our wellbeing at work and our ability to undertake our teaching responsibilities effectively. Raising concerns in a timely way also helps to prevent issues from becoming intractable. Being prepared is essential. These ideas may work:

Don’t rely on an “open door”

Open door policies can work well, but it’s still worth mentioning to the relevant person that you’d appreciate a chat and asking when would be a good time. You may be more likely to get a positive reception that way, and sufficient time to discuss, adequately, what needs to be discussed.

Prepare what you will say

Aim to distil what you need to say, so that you are succinct and unambiguous. Be clear about how concerned you are; how would you rate it on a scale on 1-10? What are the implications? Why are you concerned?

Think about the solution you would like

You may not have thought of a solution, but there will most likely be some next steps that you’d like to take towards a resolution. Suggest them; that shows that you desire to be an active part of what happens next and may help to guide the solution in the most desirable direction.

Act with utmost integrity

You’re not asking for the moon, but you do need action and cooperation in order to work to the best of your ability now and in the future. Take your concern to the person who can deal with it. If you need to take it further at a later stage you can.

Be clear about the potential benefits of change

There are consequences of inaction and benefits to be gained from making changes. What are those benefits? What impact will they have?

Be open

The response to any concerns you raise may require changes in your behaviour as well as those around you. This may mean listening to, and acting upon, constructive feedback.

Focus on effective communication

You should feel listened to, and that your concerns are taken seriously and will be acted upon. If this isn’t the case, your focus should remain on communication with the appropriate colleague.

Once you have raised concerns you should be left in no doubt whatsoever about the next steps and who will be involved. Make notes as soon as possible after your meeting and keep track of progress. If your concerns are not ameliorated, raise them again. You may want to seek the advice of your union at this stage.

If your concerns are such that you’re considering whistleblowing, there is a procedure for maintained schools that can be found here. You should also be able to find out more from your governing body, including how whistleblowers are protected at your school.

The more we discuss issues that are impacting our working lives, the more likely we are to see improvements across the board. The chances are you won’t be alone. Change can, and does, happen. Keep your eyes on the prize!


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Author: Elizabeth Holmes

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After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.



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