Friday 13 April 2018

School Leadership and Civility

In a recent post I argued that both procedural and interactional justice within schools are  essential components of promoting teacher and organisational well-being.  Indeed, thanks to a retweet by Jill Berry @jillberry102 this post generated some traffic on Twitter, the vast majority of which was supportive.  However, the post was interpreted by some as 'SLT bashing,' which was never the intent.  Ironically, the post was designed to be supportive of SLTs by identifying evidence-based strategies which could be adopted and which may reduce both staff turnover and teachers leaving the profession.

In this post I'm going to continue to look at strategies which can support interactional justice within schools.  In doing so, I'm going to look at the work of Christine Porath (Porath, 2018) on how promoting civility can have an important role in developing interactional justice.   Porath argues that if you want colleagues to be 'civil' to one another it is important that leaders engage in conversation with team members to establish precisely what civility means.  By doing this, Porath argues that it then becomes much easier to generate support for 'civility' as a way of doing things, and at the same time empowers colleagues to hold each other to account.

Porath then goes onto describe a law firm's (Bryan Cave)  code of civility which has 10 elements.

Bryan Cave's Code of Civility

1 We greet and acknowledge each other.

2 We say please and thank you.

3 We treat each other equally and with respect, no matter the conditions.

4 We acknowledge the impact of our behaviour on others.

5 We welcome feedback from each other.

6 We are approachable.

7 We are direct, sensitive, and honest.

8 We acknowledge the contributions of others.

9 We respect each other's time commitments.

10 We address incivility.

However Porath then argues that it is not enough to define cultural norms of civility, they need to receive specific training which examines

" What civility looks like
" Situations where colleagues may act with a lack of civility
" Techniques to maintain civility when under pressure
" Opportunities to practise being civil

So what are the implications for school leaders?

If you accept the notion that how you behave has an impact on others, and that  school leader civility may be an important part of a school's strategy for retaining staff, the following may be worth considering.

1. Keep a  daily civility diary and record where you have may behaved in way which lacked civility - and reflect on what might have triggered that behaviour.
2. Ask a colleague to observe how you behave in meetings and other settings - and whether they can identify occasions where you have acted in a manner - which could be described as disrespectful to others.
3. See if you can spot when colleagues have acted with a lack of civility towards one another and ask the following:
a. Did you intervene?
b. Is this behaviour new ?
c. What are you going to do about it?

And finally 

Am I holding myself up as a paragon of virtue when it comes to civility, absolutely not.   What I do know is that as a senior leader I could have done a better job at being civil and I should have been more proactive when  colleagues displayed less than 'civil' behaviour towards colleagues.  In future posts I will begin to explore the role of trust within schools.


PORATH, C. 2018. Make Civility the Norm on Your Team Harvard Business Review. Cambridge, : Harvard Business Review.

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