Seven Ways to be a Positive Light in your Workplace

Posted: July 23, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

I’m starting off at a new school in September and I’ve been thinking a lot about the staff, how I will fit in, and ultimately how people will see me.  I know I shouldn’t care what people think- but I see this as a fresh start- a chance for people to really see me at my best.  I remember a few months in to my first teaching gig, and I said “Hi ________, how are you?”  to a staff member as she walked by me at the photocopier.  She stopped and stared at me and said, “Why are you so nice?” not in an accusatory way, but in a curious sortof way- like she couldn’t understand my kindness.  It was my first year teaching and over the years I feel like I’ve gotten a little jaded, a little more cynical, and a little bit negative.  I want to be that positive person that makes people wonder, why I’m different.

I had a friend in teacher’s college who always said, “it all comes down to group dynamics.”  A teaching staff is like one, family.  Each member has something to contribute and we should be there to support each other.  I was amazed at the staff I found at the school I taught at for most of my career- they have been so supportive, kind, and welcoming and I consider them my “family.”  But, over the years I’ve seen people who haven’t been as kind- and I have seen it be toxic to the work environment.

But you can only control yourself.  And who knows, maybe your positive attitude will be contagious!  These are seven things that will help build an environment ready for collaboration and encouragement.  I don’t have it all figured out- but these are things I’m going to try and do come September!  These tips are specific to teaching, but I think they can translate into any workplace!

 1. Greet/Acknowledge people- the simple act of saying hi to someone and asking how their day is makes a world of difference.  I got into the habit of doing this after I saw an episode of One Tree Hill (the one when Jimmy holds them hostage- he goes on about how hard his life was and how not one teacher or student said anything to him the day he returned after being gone for a month).  After that, I felt challenged to say hi to as many students as I could, because it broke my heart that someone could go a full day with no one talking to them.  I automaA Not So Positive Environmenttically do it with other staff members and the relationships I’ve built over the years (and the “cold” secretaries I’ve won over) is amazing!  And, use their name, “Hi ____, how’s it going?”

2.  Speaking of names- learn them! I heard a story once of a teacher who had taught with another for over 10 years and asked “what’s your name” after he asked her to sponsor his child for soccer or something.  Not cool.

3.  Join Staff Traditions- at my school we have a cake tradition.  Those interested put their names in and then there is a draw for those people’s birthdays.  On their birthday, someone brings in a cake for them.  Most people participate, but some do not.  It’s important to get involved with your staff- even if you think they are silly.  Bring a pot of soup for Soup Friday, and take them time to be a part of the staff Christmas video!

4. On that note- go to staff events!  Whether it’s drinks at the local pub, ladies outlet mall trips, or events put on by the social committee, make an effort to be there. The connections you make with people outside of work are amazing- there is no pressure, people can let lose and how else do you foster a positive work environment then to get away from the busyness of the office and the stress of work?

5.  Make an effort to be involved- One thing I did not like about our renovations and expansion of our school was the creation of more work spaces.  Before, everyone ate in the staff room at one large table, the older math teacher forced you to play shuffle board, and people didn’t have set seats- they just sat with anyone.  Since we’ve expanded a lot of people choose to eat elsewhere, or are busy doing other things and it’s impacted our staff in a big way.  I know people get busy with marking and lunch time help- but it is so important for your own sanity and to help collaboration to make an effort even once a week to each your lunch with you colleagues and not just your buddies.  I’m going to try to have one day a week that is my staff room time- that’s what the science and math people started doing and it was always so nice to see them!

6. Make people feel welcome- This is especially key for people who are new or visiting the school.  Notice them at the lunch table, and skooch over and talk to that supply teacher who is sitting all alone.  Also, make an effort to sit with those people who aren’t your friends, especially if they are by themselves.  By doing this I have made some great friendships with some really cool people.  They may not be the loudest or the “coolest” but it’s often those quieter, shyer types that are often the kindest. See the Positive in Everyone- This is the one I need to work on the most.  Drama and negative energy is built on how you perceive other people and their actions.  We assume someone is slighting us by not talking to us, that someone is purposely not returning something they borrowed from you, or we gossip about every little thing someone does.  I’m resolving to see the best in everyone and not get caught up in the negative cycle.  Instead of reading into everyone’s actions and assuming the worst- I’m going to assume the best.

7. See the Positive- in Everything!   This is the one I need to work on the most.  Drama and negative energy is built on how you perceive other people and their actions.  We assume someone is slighting us by not talking to us, that someone is purposely not returning something they borrowed from you, or we gossip about every little thing someone does.  I’m resolving to see the best in everyone and not get caught up in the negative cycle.  Instead of reading into everyone’s actions and assuming the worst- I’m going to assume the best.

My mom always said, you can’t control other people, but you can control how you react to them. Some people are stupid, some people are petty, unfriendly and mean. But, that doesn’t mean you need to be stupid, petty, unfriendly and mean in return.  People often respond to others in the same way they were treated and I’m sure the effects of being a positive member of your staff will inspire others to do the same!

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