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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Attributes of a Positive Work Environment

One reason I write is to coach myself forward, to find ways to improve my craft and effort. Teaching remains an isolated activity in many ways due to the structures and support available during a school day. Many teachers still spend most of their day with large groups of children with little time for collaboration. This situation has improved a bit, but there's still room for greater development in this regard.

Work places and focus have changed over time as well too. As our work lives become more complex, diverse, and sophisticated, our need to employ professional skill and collaboration grows too. When I started teaching, the climate was much more relaxed and family-like, and now it is much faster paced and corporate. This change demands greater attention to the skills and attitudes that contribute to positive, collaborative culture.

I found many positive elements online to frame the activities and expectations of good culture. It's a good reference list. As you read it, if you have ideas for additions, let me know.

Acknowledge, Support, and Recognize Good Work and Achievement
Too often good work is not recognized in schools. It's imperative that we make the time to recognize the good efforts and work of students, colleagues, and leaders regularly.

Respect for Individuals' Lives, Choices, Interests, and Hobbies
Our diversity makes us more interesting and stronger. It's imperative that we respect every individual in the work place, and seek ways to know and relate to one another.

Polite Tone, Language, and Communication
This too is imperative yet it can be challenging when situations are challenging, but nevertheless it's a mainstay of professional work and effort.

A Sense of Humor, Levity
One wise colleague would often say, "This is not the emergency room." That's a good perspective. Another wise colleague stated, "I try to keep it light and happy." A sense of humor goes a long way.

Transparent, Inclusive Communication and Share
When critical information or opportunities are withheld from individuals, it puts those individuals in a challenging, demeaning professional place. Good communication is not only advantageous to an organization, but it's also supports work place respect, dignity, inclusion, and collaboration.

Reasonable Expectations
When the expected work equals far more than the 40-hour work week, oppression reigns. It's integral that work expectations are reasonable and doable. Overworked employees struggle and suffer in any workplace.

Expect Error and Mistake, and Learn from Them
Cultures where responsible risk is invited are professional cultures that develop well. When mistakes are looked upon as failure and points of ridicule, then those professional cultures suffer.

Autonomy, Purpose, and Mastery
Micromanagement limits autonomy, and lack of autonomy leads to frustration, less investment, and diminishing self esteem and good effort. When you hire good people with good credentials, then trust them to make decisions and do their jobs well. Also develop work with purpose and support mastery. 

Build trust with those you work with. Do not conjecture or jump to conclusions without justification or proof. When in doubt, ask the individual. Earn trust too by following through with promises. 

Tell the truth.

Work with colleagues to make events, decisions, and efforts inclusive rather than exclusive. Establish diverse teams and invite diverse points of view. Regularly communicate with transparency and inclusion too so that everyone is getting the same message. 

Stay clear of rumors and gossip, and instead seek out the truth of situations. Cultures of secrecy create disharmony, distrust, and disruption.

Share Your Strengths
When you have something of value to contribute, contribute. 

Do Your Part
Make sure you contribute to the overall team in fair ways.

Recognize and Respect Challenge
We all bring our strengths to work, and we bring our challenges too. It's best to recognize and respect individual's challenges, and help out when you can. 

Update: Note that I now work with an amazing collaborative model that institutes most if not all of the attributes above. It's made teaching more enjoyable and successful--an approach I fully support.