How Do I Deal With An Undermining Supervisor?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about under valued: My principal there constantly questions my role and my training. It is as though she has never seen my resume – but she has.

I work in a counselor/administrative position at two elementary schools. I have over 30 years of experience and a PhD. At one school, I am regarded as an expert and encouraged to use my skills to train teachers, collaborate with the administrative team, etc. At the other school, I appear to be merely a warm body used for menial things like escorting students to lunch. My district expects me to make systemic change at both schools but at the school where I am undervalued, I can make no inroads at all. My principal there constantly questions my role and my training. It is as though she has never seen my resume – but she has. I feel awful being treated this way and have no credibility with the teachers I am supposed to help supervise. I cannot quit this job. What would you advise?

Signed, Questions My Role

Dear Questions My Role:

Apparently the principal, who questions your role, doesn’t think you’re qualified, despite your resume, or she doesn’t like you. From your brief description, it isn’t clear how long this has been going on or what you have done about it or how your superintendent or superior administrator has briefed your principal as to your position of counselor and/administrative authority.

Moreover, possibly your principal and/or teachers in that school feel busy enough without the added assignment of coping with another “outside” administrator or whom they might see as someone evaluating their work. With these possible “whys” you are snubbed or simply underutilized in mind, several overlapping options are before you:Hang in there complying with that principal and hopefully earning your right to be trusted and supportive. Relax and wait until invited.

Spend your time as a school cultural anthropologist, taking notes and making observations. See it as an adventure rather than as one who value is not valued. Doing humbling chores is good for those of us who have high degrees.

Confronting the principal with alternate proposals that you think might fulfill your assignment. Candidly voicing your feelings as you have in this email to us and seeing where this leads.Seek the counsel of the superior who assigned you to this school. Possibly request a three-way meeting to clear the air and come to an understanding about the role you should play. Your superior’s job is to generate a vision and plan for her/his schools. It is irresponsible, if she/he knows what’s going on or not going on, to not step in.

Of course how this is approached from each party’s perspective will determine your future at that school. Clarification of how you might be maximally useful needs to be spelled out and that is best seen as a collaborative matter. Ideally, as a result of taking one of these options or others that evolve from an effort to clarify your role, you will be brought integrated into staff meetings and pilot projects will emerge to better serve the students, parents, and teachers in that school. Meanwhile, maintain your willingness to contribute. Don’t obsess about it. Use the time as if you were the Chief Executive of Disney World might; bubbling over with enthusiasm for each teacher and child you encounter. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and isn’t that the kind of feeling you want to be instrumental in generating? I am interested in an update on what you elect to do.

William Gorden