OD Chatter: My New Executive Director is Abrasive


Dear OD Chatter,

I am a schoolteacher at a private and rather elite school – I am so proud to be teaching these young minds and I have been teaching for many years.  Our school is a non-union school.

Recently we got a new Executive Director and her methods of communication are abrasive.  She doesn’t trust the staff, for example she mandates that we allow her to review our spelling and grammar for each note we write to the parents of our students!!!  She said it is all a reflection upon her but I take my writing as a reflection on my own professionalism!  We are as educated as she is and our writing abilities are on point.

She is dismissive of our abilities to the point of being rude and will often disrespect our time.  For example, she calls meetings with no advance notice.  We will get an announcement, maybe right after lunch, that an important meeting will begin after the school closes.  While she states that the meetings will only last 30 minutes, in reality the meetings begin late and often go well beyond 90 minutes.  This happens often.  As a staff, we share ‘knowing looks’ with each other as we endure the pain caused by these meetings.

I wish I could tell you that the content of the meetings rises to the level of important or critical but they just do not.  I want to get up and leave because I have a life of responsibility outside of the school and these unscheduled meetings cause me a reverberation of problems.

Some of the faculty members have started talking about creating a petition but I am cautious of participating in that manner, it seems too negative.  Do you have any advice on how to handle this situation?

Signed, Happy to be a Teacher 

Dear Happy to be a Teacher,

Thank you for sending OD Chatter your workplace question.  I can respect that the Executive Director (ED) of a school is working with intelligent and well-educated faculty and staff.  While working in higher education, I enjoyed the robust conversations with my peers and the reward of working with people who are at the top of their field.

Relationships based on partnership are critical to the success of your school – or any organization for that matter.  As your ED, she has access to resources that you need to complete your mission as a teacher.  Your ED is accountable for the business side of your school and if I am correct, leads the choice on who receives contracts each year.  Building this relationship is good for your career and for the school that you love so much. 

Have you or any of your coworkers spoken with your new ED to address your concerns?  I would start there before creating a petition.

I agree with you that a petition is a very negative move and it is aggressive.  I do believe in petitions when they are necessary but in this case, there are so many steps to try before that happens.

Due to space limitations, please log into the OD Chatter site (free with your email address) at www.odchatter.com to read the conclusion of this answer.  

OD Chatter (www.odchatter.com) is written by Debra Dee Bradford, CHRO of ODL Business Partners, Inc. (www.odlbp.com) an HR consulting firm specializing in organizational development and leadership training. To reach Debra, submit questions, or make comments please email dbradford@odlbp.com.

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