Q. My husband and I are both teachers with master teacher/leadership positions at our school. We find the younger teachers often refuse...
Q. My husband and I are both teachers with master teacher/leadership positions at our school. We find the younger teachers often refuse to treat us with respect by greeting us in the classroom using Mr./Ms./Mrs. in front of our last names. What do you suggest we do to encourage such respect?
A. Start by realizing that you have a recipe for “respect” not shared by the younger teachers. I’m not saying your recipe is wrong. I am saying you won’t get anywhere if you can’t see that people bring different points of view into the workplace.
If you want the younger teachers to change their behavior, you’ll give yourself the best chance of success by not talking about “respect” anymore. For instance, you could say, “I’m pretty traditional and really enjoy using the formal titles Mr./Ms./Mrs. when I’m around the kids. I find these titles help the kids listen to me and do what I say. I don’t mind using first names when we’re not in front of kids. Could you help me out by using a title in front of my last name in the classroom?”
You’ve now avoided an entire power struggle with a younger colleague about “respect” and who gets to be right. The younger teacher will not feel insulted or controlled.
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If you stop describing the use of first names as “disrespectful,” you’ll find many co-workers will cooperate. For the teachers who still refuse to change the way they address you and your husband, you’re best off asking for a policy statement from your administration requiring titles and last names.
Most changes you want in the workplace will occur more quickly and less painfully if you can keep your focus on effectiveness, not on labeling behavior or winning power struggles.
The last word(s)
Q. I have a co-worker who hates me, although he barely knows me. What did I do wrong?
A. Nothing. People who hate us when they don’t know us are messed up. You didn’t create your co-worker’s problem and you can’t fix it.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube