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Staff Gossiping And Negativity


tuffspot
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The nursery I have taken over has over the last year and a half had a rough time. Inadequate ofsted, poor management, high staff turnover, etc etc.

For the last month since I've started I've been A) sorting out the managerial mess left behind and :o trying to boost staff morale and C) recruit staff in order to have enough staff to enable a more efficient working environment and take the pressure off the others.

 

This week I had two new staff starting- both dynamic and exciting and raring to go. One in particular really hit it off in her room and the room started to come alive with ideas and activities.

EYFS pop into see me and comment on how they get a good feel from the room now etc etc...

 

I get home to find a text from the new girl saying she wasn't coming back in on Monday! When I phone it's not because of anything I or the nursery has done but because "staff" have been telling her how bad the nursery is, that its going to close soon, that its being sued by an ex member of staff, that there are real problems etc etc. None of which is true.

 

So now I feel I'm back at square one. I've done what I can to reassure the girl pointing out to her that it was funny that the "staff" concerned weren't actually looking for jobs, that the "sued" by a member of staff was rubbish and that the nursery had a solid future- why would a nursery close to closure be investing heavily in new staff? Pointing out that she was being paid over the odds in order to get good staff. I've given her the weekend to think about it and to let me know on Sunday and that I really want her to come and work.

 

What pisses me off most is that the staff were telling me on Friday how they feel really good about work at the moment and that things are feeling better. We have a staff meeting Monday night, what would you say??

 

I just want to slap 'em all right now.

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Tell 'em you feel like slapping them! and then tell them how proud you are about how things HAVE changed for the better, the good, positive comments that are coming in, how you see and feel things improving; what a brillaint set of staff they are; what do THY think can be improved for the long-term benefits of the group??...and then take them out for a drink!

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Hi tuffspot

Oh dear, try not to get too worried you are doing the right thing putting your engeries into improving the situation.

I think you do need to speak to the staff team, about this new begining and lay down the law that bad attiudes and negative behaviour will not be tolerated. Not only does it send bad vibes to new staff , but also contines the "theres no point we arnt going to change" line either.

Being aware that changes will cause staff to feel anxious and negative attitudes is important. If they see new people coming in (maybe know they gettig paid more) is not going to make them feel very good about themselves. So yes lettting them know that they are doing good job also is importnat in raising esteem.

Can you use room leaders/staff team to look at future goals/vison for nursery? So they feel involved in turning over a new leaf?

At the end of the day , if you have people that constantly moan, bring other people down and dont pull their weight they are going to negatively impact on other people, especially new people. Hope you do manage to keep your new staff member, hopefully your vision, enthusiam and drive will keep them going till they can see if for themselves. Good luck!

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thanks everyone. I'm feeling calmer and more rational about the situation now. I've covered my staffing for Monday just in case. At the staff meeting on Monday night I'm going to allay or at least try to, any fears or concerns they have about the long term viability of the nursery. I'm also going to point out the effects of negativity. In my school that I've just come from we had a "staff attitude and bad mouthing" policy (god knows what it was called but its at work and I'm looking it out on Monday!) that spelt out the inappropriateness of this sort of thing and the consequences, I knew of at least two staff who were severely disciplined for inappropriate "chatter"! I'm seriously considering putting one of these policies in their grubby little mitts as well!

And then I'm going to get back to all the good things that are going on and what we are achieving!

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thanks everyone. I'm feeling calmer and more rational about the situation now. I've covered my staffing for Monday just in case. At the staff meeting on Monday night I'm going to allay or at least try to, any fears or concerns they have about the long term viability of the nursery. I'm also going to point out the effects of negativity. In my school that I've just come from we had a "staff attitude and bad mouthing" policy (god knows what it was called but its at work and I'm looking it out on Monday!) that spelt out the inappropriateness of this sort of thing and the consequences, I knew of at least two staff who were severely disciplined for inappropriate "chatter"! I'm seriously considering putting one of these policies in their grubby little mitts as well!

And then I'm going to get back to all the good things that are going on and what we are achieving!

I've been thinking and thinking about this one tuffspot - being on the other side of the 'inappropriate chatter' issue myself. Like you I joined a group which was experiencing difficulties - although not as severe as your group's - but I became the subject of the backbiting myself. Rather than raise the issues the member of staff had with how things were going in the group, she talked (or do I mean moaned?) about it to her friends and so something that could have easily been dealt with grew into a huge issue. The owner spoke to all the staff members about how they were feeling, and together we made changes where necessary but ultimately they had to accept my authority and the changes that were necessary (which was the reason for my appointment in the first place).

 

I agree with what Akire said about new beginnings and recognising how distressing change can be. There's a challenge here that can be laid down, also. Sometimes difficult situations can be quite comforting when they've gone on for a while. It can be all to easy to wallow in how bad things are - and gossiping and backbiting between each other can build up a kind of 'comrades in arms' situation. When the situation begins to get better it can challenge old ways of thinking and move us out of our comfort zone. Perhaps this is how staff are feeling and they don't quite know how to react.

 

Perhaps our grievance procedures should place an obligation on staff to raise issues they are concerned about with the relevant person (giving a couple of options to take account of personality differences). That, and with advice to individual staff members that if another member of staff begins to bitch about something, they should simply reply "then you should report the issue so that something can be done about it" would effectively stop the backbiter in their tracks.

 

Having just read this again, another thought came to mind. I'm not saying that staff shouldn't be able to moan to each other - its a necessary part of the day sometimes. The trick is to recognise when a one-off moan becomes a campaign and to stop it before it goes too far.

 

I'm glad you're feeling more positive. As everyone else has said, retain your vision (and your sense of humour!). Don't be afraid to tell them how hurt you are feeling too - you've invested a lot of emotionally in the group and it must at the moment make you wonder why you're bothering.

 

I hope it goes well tomorrow - let us know how things go at the staff meeting!

 

Maz

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Oh NO how annoying!!!! Poor you, least you can tell your staff now, look what you have done!! Am sure you will have more luck next time, you will get over this, even if it takes time and more money. Hope all goes well, good luck talking to your staff.

p,s yes breathing is good

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right, she's not coming back. Great! Having paid for ad and turned down other good candidates I now want to slap her.

breathe breathe breathe

Oh dear! As Akire says, at least you can explain in a factual way why she hasn't returned - much harder than going to your staff meeting and explaining why she was unhappy with her in the room! Small comfort, I know.

 

If I was the member of staff who had blabbed I would feel pretty rotten about what I'd done when I found out the newbie had taken it to heart and left.

 

Let this be a lesson to us all.

 

Good luck tomorrow

Maz

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Poor you, so much time and effort goes into recruiting doesn't it! Such a shame she couldn't have given you all more of a chance to prove the potential of the setting, that she could have been a part of.

 

Could you contact, one of the other suitable candidates to see if they are still available?

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That did cross my mind deb, but I've thought about this- for most of the weekend- and is there any point in getting new people in again whilst all this negativity flying around! We can manage on what we've got- will be tight with holidays etc- but manageable.

I'm going to tell them that I'm not prepared to pay for advertising and spend time on recruitment if I don't have their full support. I'm going to lay down in front of them the consequences of their actions both financially and with regard to parent confidence and their own "comfort" at work.

 

I'm fairly confident who the "main culprit" is although can't prove it. She feels she should be being considered for responsibility positions so I'm going to use that one as well and talk about how management needs to be made up of reliable committed staff and that at present no one is coming up to the mark.

 

And today is going to be spent finding someone to come in asap and do "team building" activities!

 

I'll let you know how it goes tonight!

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I feel it is very important that the staff are aware that this person was employed, not because you had to, but to help cover holidays etc.

 

You wanted to make their working lives happier and less stressful during certain times, but they have ruined that :o

 

Please let us know how the staff meeting went.

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Oh, Tuffspot :o ! I feel so sad for you. This all sounds like jealousy from the part of that old staff member. If this person has been trying to get any 'higher' positions, she might have felt 'afraid' that this new member... who was showing great creativity... might later get what she has been wanting.

 

I hope it goes well with today's meeting and, yes, be clear with all those points. Best wishes and let us know how it goes.

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thanks everyone.

I've prepared the following to give them at the staff meeting along with reassurance about some of the issues. Somehow i feel putting it in writing also gives me leverage should I need it and makes it more formal. Tell me if you think its too much!

I always provide supper at staff meetings and tonight I so want it to be bread and water....

gossip_letter.doc

Edited by tuffspot
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Guest tinkerbell

Tuff spot you do make me giggle 'bread and water' he he he

Your letter does look fine...on the second paragraph you mention you valuing staff. Could you also add staff valuing each other and the different qualities each brings to the nursey which makes the 'team' ??

 

Just a thought

Good luck Tinkerbellx

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It's never the children is it??!!

 

I've just done a staff meeting (like the one in my last nursery) about this. I went through the grievance and disciplinary procedures and made it clear in no uncertain terms what was and wasn't acceptable.

 

So far so good.

 

Good luck with it all - what a nightmare for you.

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well, that was interesting! I spoke to the staff in her room first thing in the morning and explained her absence, which was greeted with stunned silence and tears! (And I hadn't even looked cross)and then I knew there were mutterings down the corridors all day! But you know what, I was as nice as pie all day and said "we'll discuss it further in the staff meeting". At the staff meeting I spoke about how it affected us as a team and stressed that negativity spread far and wide without any help whatsoever. I bigged them and the nursery up and then told them the way forward was to learn from this and make sure that we spread Good News (I felt a bit like Jesus at this point!). The letter was met with a stunned silence-

And then we moved on. I think pointing out that it could be seen as "gross misconduct" actually hit home. They asked about replacing her and I said that I could replace her- but I felt it was too soon to advertise again AND it was important to me to make the staff I have feel confident and secure in their jobs. I said we can manage without the extra staff (using me :o ) and the next couple of months are going to be spent feeling good about ourselves- They looked slightly miffed about that! I kept emotions out of it and only spoke of how it affected them and the nursery- decided they didn't need to know I'd had evil and wicked thoughts about all of them all weekend. That seemed to work. The reassurance about the issues they had gossiped about went in but I think they knew all that anyway- it's a mindset they've got themselves into- negative thoughts about their workplace. So a bit more bigging up and then moved smoothly into "Sports Day Arrangements"!

 

And then I poisoned them with the McDonald's they requested for supper.

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Guest tinkerbell

You must be glad the meeting is over Tuff spot, well done

Time will tell as to how the staff handle themselves now.

 

Tinkerbellx

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Thumbs up! You managed it well. Also, if you just get a new replacement, they won't get the grasp about what it meant having that extra pair of hands helping the rest of the team. They will be sure to not scare away the next person who will make it easier for all of them and the Nursery. The pity is that the girl just listened to them and didn't give it a try this week. Maybe she was not the right person at the end.

 

And.. keep spreading the Good News :o !

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And then I poisoned them with the McDonald's they requested for supper.

 

McDonald's! That was below the belt :o .

 

Seriously, well done for keeping your obviously strong emotions under wrap and tackling the problem professionally. Let's hope they espond in kind and behave professionally too.

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thanks everyone- needed that little bit of support- ok that big bit of support! time will tell Maz, time will tell!

 

And it's official "I'M SUITABLE"- I tried pressing for VERY or even OUTSTANDINGLY but she wasn't to be swayed!

 

 

Thanks for the help and support xx

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Guest roopal

Hi Tuffspot

 

I agree, i sounds like you did brilliantly, let's see if they respond as professionally in the longer term.

 

I am in a very small setting so have only had two staff plus volunteers working for me but have been in a similar situation and sometimes whatever you say and however positive and apprpriate in your responses you are, it doesn't help because others may not share your high regard for acting in a professional manner. I think someone else mentioned it becoming comfortable and almost enjoyable for some people to gossip and be negative. At the end of the day I try and remind myself in these situations: I am the grown-up here.

 

Does anyone have any examples of their disciplinary or grievance procedures they would be prepared to upload onto here? I would really like to see what they say; I'm sure ours need to be tightened up.

 

Keep your chin up - well done!!

 

Roopal

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well handled! Did you do the "stoney mum face" on them?

 

I had a situation similar to this last year and to put a big full stop on it I created a questionnaire and gave it to them as a "staff development" fact find. Obviously it was a very passive aggressive way of pointing out the good deal they were getting in reality. Not one came back with any negative feedback! The questions were very very tongue in cheek such as... "are you happy in your role?" "Is there anything you would change?" "do you feel your salary reflects the work you do?" blah blah blah.

 

I think after they commited their thoughts to paper they would have felt silly and childish to continue with the back biting if they hadn't been big enough to speak up when given the opportunity. I'm happy to say we haven't had a situation like it since (touch wood)

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One exercise we did at staff development was - write all the problems on post it notes/ flip chart - these may be staffing, children, environmental, ethos - then we did the same for the things we do well then we looked at what we would need to do to change all the negative comments into possitive ones - where appropriate we decided who would do what, what was possible short term - medium term - long term - with a plan in place things didn't seem quite so bad.

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