People may not understand what is meant by workplace culture, but they certainly can feel it when they walk into a school or an office. Workplace culture is the general overall atmosphere inside an organization. Workplace culture is made up of two basic concepts: How do people behave? How do they treat each other?
When school administrators walk around their school and interact with students and teachers, they have a good idea of the workplace culture of their school. The trick is how to improve that culture if it isn’t very healthy.
There are important reasons to try to improve workplace culture. Reducing teacher turnover is the first important reason. Administrators should focus on the fact that good workplace culture will keep good teachers coming back. A teacher who comes into a school and finds that teachers don’t treat each other with respect will try to find a different school for the next year. The most talented teachers won’t waste their time at a school that has a toxic environment.
Another reason to work on improving workplace culture is to improve the school. If the school culture encourages teachers to speak up, the whole school improves. A workplace culture that values and encourages teachers’ ideas makes the entire school run more efficiently. Teachers who know that their ideas will be taken seriously are more likely to speak up about processes that need to be changed.
How to Improve
The first thing administrations should think about is the top-down philosophy. If the principal of the school is overly critical and demeaning, then the teachers under that principal are likely to behave in the same way. It is worth it to invest some time into dealing with the attitudes of the principal.
The principal may have legitimate reasons for his or her sour attitude. But maybe these concerns can be addressed and corrected. This change to a positive attitude will be shown in his interactions with the staff. It won’t be quick, but every time the principal chooses a positive interaction, it will encourage other positive interactions and therefore improve the workplace culture.
The principal isn’t the only one who sets the tone of the workplace culture. One teacher who is dissatisfied and constantly undermining other teachers can destroy the workplace culture for everyone. Burned-out teachers become difficult to work with and that spills over into their classrooms.
Teachers who are burned out are one of the most difficult problems to solve when trying to improve workplace culture. After many years of teaching, they may become jaded and think that nothing will ever change. They have forgotten the idealism that brought them to teaching in the first place.
Sometimes burned-out teachers may need counseling from employee-assistance programs. Another idea some principals are trying is to encourage mentoring. When an older teacher is paired with a freshly minted, just out of school, first-year teacher it can give the older teacher a new lease on life. They can possibly remember what it was like to be young and hopeful.