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I wonder if any of you can help me with a problem I have with a staff member?

I inherited the management of the playgroup I work at last year when the previous leader left suddenly. Most of the staff are great and have accepted that we had a lot of work to do to get things up to a suitable standard.

However, one of the women is a problem. She has been working there longer than I have and she has done a Level 2. However, she has problems with dyslexia and now will not consider any sort of writing, no observations, nothing. Will not go outside as she has hayfever most of the year. Now she has asked not to do snack as she has lost confidence in herself and cannot really be trusted to talk to parents as she told a childminder that she thought the boy in her care was autistic when there was no question of that!

Despite all this she is a caring woman who genuinely wants to do the best for the playgroup and the children. She has dreadful problems in her personal life which she brings to the playgroup and talks about quite freely with everyone, even the children sometimes!

Any suggestions would be very welcome.

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Firts things first.................she needs to be told, today and quite firmly, that she must NOT, discuss her personal life with the children.Or at least, not her problems, that's really not on.

Observations can be done with a camera, which would not be affected by her dyslexia, and she could add notes to those pictures at her leisure, on a pc if necessary, so she gets her spellchecker on the go.

Can she not take hayfever pills to sort her out for outside play??

I don't understand what confidence it takes to do the snack??And she will need to talk to parents, as she is presumably a keyworker for some children ?If so, she can keep her comments to generalisations, and if she has any concerns about a chid, take them to you, as leader, for advice on how best to talk to parents about them?

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Praise for her achievement on gaining a level 2, how did she overcome her dyslexia to achieve this? Transfer those skills to complete observation work.


Outdoors, this is a requirement of job description, empathise, ask her to consider hayfever pills / sprays from over the counter, say you will excuse her of outdoor work only on receipt of a doctors certificate which states outdoor work is detrimental to her health, and that this would have to be reviewed on a regular basis, as to whether she is fit for her job.


Agree with Narnia about NOT discussing personal issues. This may need to be addressed under disciplinary policy and procedures.


In service training on partnership with parents, maybe have a whole team training meeting on this, and as a team produce some ground rules of communication with parents, with clear, agreed consequences if these ground rules are broken.


Observations, again as Narnia says, photographs, or she could use a dictaphone, then type up her comments later.


Snack bar lack of confidence - This, plus all the other difficulties indicates to me that maybe she is suffering from depression.


I have had experience in the past of employees who are more 'needy' of the staff & children in the preschool, compared to being a 'functioning' (for want of a better word) member of the staff team. This is really difficult, we all want to support our staff but on the other hand if they are 'dependent' on extra support, moral, from the others, it does cause a strain on the team dynamics and working relationships, and on the quality of the provision.


I think you need to have a supervision meeting with her, be upfront and honest, yet sensitive, and tell her your concerns.

Review her job description with her and any part of it that she feels she cannot do, she needs to agree with you how she is going to overcome / address these. Maybe seperate the issues under two headings;

1/ Health

2/ Job performance


Set agreed targets and time scales for addressing each issue, stating in what ways the preschool can support her, ie: training, fair outside work rota with other staff etc, and state clearly what areas are her responsibility to overcome, possibly with outside support from doctor etc.


These targets will hopefully give a focus on what needs to be addressed, and just importantly a time scale to do it.

As she manages each target this may help to improve her confidence, taking responsibility for herself rather than being dependent on the setting to 'carry' her in areas that she is quite capable of succeeding in.


I would give a short time scale, maybe to half term, or end of term. She needs to know the consequence of not meeting her job description, the effect that has on the setting meeting it's legal requirements under it's registration.


I know it's really difficult and in my 20 yrs experience I have found that this type of work can 'attract' people who are 'needy' and dependent on the 'caring ethos' of a setting To 'pander' to these needs will endorse their 'needy' behaviour and as you have seen, can increase this behaviour. Depression is manageable, professionalism is manageable, small health issues and learning difficulties are manageable, given an environment where clear expectations of work responsibilities alongside 'practical' support systems to address these needs, are in place. Cruel to be kind and she will get the proper, professional outside support she needs.


Good luck, state all the concerns, then agree to address each one, one step at a time, but within a realistic timescale for change.



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Thank you all for your advice, a lot of it is things I was considering but found it hard to be sure. She is depressed, there is no question of that and it is unlikely she can take very much on board, at least in the short term.

Because she has been here longer than I have and I only have a few months of experience being in charge, it seemed a bit difficult to be as firm as I need to. However, I know that things cannot continue getting worse for everyone's sake.

Again thank you for your answers. X


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Hi Jane


This is the most difficult part of your job! I have struggled and struggled with staffing issues since opening my nursery and have made a lot of mistakes and learnt a lot of lessons over the past six years.


Firstly, it is essential that you talk to her about all of the issues that concern you, the best way, as mentioned before, would be a supervision meeting. This will be the hardest bit, but will become so much easier from then onwards.


Secondly, you can set targets together regarding how she will work towards meeting your aims and a realistic timescale can be attached to this. This will become motivating for her when she reaches each target.


I always feel alot better when i have spoken to the staff member, things go round and round in my mind for so long that i build it into such a big issue, but when it comes to the crunch it is so relieving, just to air my thoughts!


She will need a lot of support in the beginning however this should decrease with time, so worth putting the effort in!


Not sure i explained my thoughts well! Hope it helps a bit!

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I had a member of staff who was in exactly the type. We tried to get her to do the things that she said she couldn't do and in the end it came down to the fact that its a hard world and you are there for the children, not some one who can't do the job. I think that you have to look at it from a different view. If you had a nurse that didn't like the sight of blood and couldn't give injections and found bed pans made her sick you would advise her to look at a change of career!!!!!!! you are not in the job to cater for her problems I'm afraid I would be a bit tougher than the other suggestions and tell her directly she has a peiod to put things right and if she can't do what is in her job description then she is not capable of doing the job.

Maybe I'm getting hard but I am fed up of people coming into the job who think that the carrig profession is all about caring for them. It's not, its the children we care for. If she can't care for them properly then the job is not for her.


Reality is hard and the world isn't fair but that the way it is she might find a job that she like even better and more suited to her if she looked.




Sorry had a tough week so feeling sorry for some one who needs a jog in a different direction doesn't sound right

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I don't think that any of you are being hard. I think that she and I deserve it.

I feel that I have been a bit crippled by knowing about her personal life. However, sympathy is not good enough.

I can't tell you the number of problems I inherited from the previous leader!

Problem staff.

Poor planning.

No proper observations.

No certainty of a location.

Nobody trained in child protection (she said we weren't suitable for that!!!)

People not police checked.

No talking to parents about almost anything (except her)

HUGE financial problems (we had been robbed by a member of the committee and leader never noticed!)

Basically we were lucky that she left or we would have closed down.

This year has been about the most stressful of my life but we are finally getting things together and I am very proud of most of my staff and even a bit of myself.

Reading this forum has helped as well.

Jane x

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Jane, I was shocked by what you have already had to endure but know that if you have overcome so much already you definitely can sort this one out too! The advice you get here will really give you so much help too. Keep going, you can do it!

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sorry i am with Steph on this one, if she is not capable of fulfilling all aspects of the job role then she needs to look at a career change




I have had two staff who suffer with dyslexia and do so myself, however the first young woman had severe dyslexia and had not had support either from the LEA or her parents. she had the most fantastic rapport with the children, their parents, staff and visitors. Most things had to be shown or told to her and then she carried out her duties to the letter. She was bright happy and charming, filled with ideas , totally unable to complete written obs., but verbally fine, so we did the writing. When she left she was sorely missed, but she felt confident to go and try for her NVQlevel 3 which she passed with the help of a scribe.

The second person had been supported by the LEA and her parents , went to college had a scribe passed her CACHE diploma ,BUT , what a difference, after the initial "honeymoon" period, cracks appeared , no she didn't like being in the garden, why did she have to do this or that? She became sulky, deliberatly slow when completeing routines and more important only focussing on the children she liked. She left us recently and none of the children have asked about her. This person is felt by her parents (Who are paying) and a local college that she is suitable to enrol for the EYPS, I can only assume that a box will be ticked by having her on the course, now is that a Friday night thought and I'm tired or am I being cynical ?.


I agree with the others who say persuade the woman to find other employment, it isn't fair to the children.



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