l Lost Temper and Am Worried

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about lost temper with coworker intrusion:

I’m a teacher and normally a very quiet and sweet person. I believe I have good relations with everyone, but one of my coworkers who started looking into my work. The moment she found a problem, she took the child’s book and complained. I found it very cheap of her. Instead of talking to me, who is the in charge, she complained to the principal. I got angry and lost my temper and have no guilt about that. A colleague has no authority to pick out loopholes in my work. Unfortunately, the principal also favored him. Can I lose my job because of this? I have been here for only the last 7 months.

Signed, New Here

Dear New Here:

In short, you are asking, “Can I be fired for losing my temper once?” I doubt that you will be fired for this one incident. However, you don’t describe what you did when you lost your temper, and therefore, from this distance, it’s impossible to know how ill- mannered you might have been toward the coworker who complained about you to the principal. Nor is it possible to know how the principal viewed the whole matter. Was that a serious or incidental matter in the principal’s mind?

I’ve tried to get enough of a picture of what happened so that I might share several things about which you should reflect. I don’t want to tell you to forget this whole incident or to worry about it. Also I made a few changes in the wording of your question in my attempt to understand what occurred, but I didn’t change the fact that in one sentence you refer to the coworker as “she found” and in another as “favoured him”. From the little information you provide, these are my recommendations:

1. Don’t obsess about this incident. Rather focus on doing the best you know to teach. It distracts from your teaching if you allow this trouble plays over and over again in your head like a cracked record.

2. Briefly review what you did that provoked your coworker to complain. Was the coworker correct that you were wrong in the way you were teaching? Possibly the complaint was based on some policy that was contrary to way that coworker had learned to teach and/or it was against what was considered “right” in the particular school in which you are now employed.

3. You are correct that the coworker should have come to you first and ideally that individual should have been helpful to you and then not complained to the principal unless it was a serious matter.

4. Accept the fact that your coworker did what angered you. Now do what is most helpful to re-establish a good relationship with that person. Find an appropriate time to speak privately with that person. You might need to ask if you might speak with her/him briefly because you want to apologize. Then do so. Apologize for losing your temper and any insult you made of that coworker. Don’t attack that person for complaining to the principal. Why? Because, although you feel no guilt about being angry. Two wrongs don’t make a right. One wrong was that the coworker didn’t come to you first. The second wrong was to lose your temper and likely express yourself out of control. You now worry that you have “lost face” in the eyes of the principal. See your goal as to have a good working-relationship in this new job. Possibly that can be partially achieved if you say something like this, “Kim (or whatever is that person’s name), I apologize for losing my temper and what I said in anger because you didn’t come to me before you complained to the principal. I’m new here and want to do what is best for the children and I appreciate that you want that too.”

Then after you have said something like that, don’t keep talking. Wait respectfully for that coworker to respond. After which you might add, “I want to learn from you what is expected and will appreciate your advice if you will come to me quietly with an explanation of what you think I might do better. If I have done something serious bad, then I am willing to go with you to the principal.”

5. Also meet with the principal. Again apologize about losing your temper, and in the same breath say you want to teach well and not to perform in any way that does harm to the children or to school policy. Here is a time for you to ask if there are other things you should know that will help your teaching. I don’t know if you have met with the principal to review the incident, but it is important to keep the communication lines open. You might ask is it not best that a coworker come to you first before reporting a fault. Also you might invite the principal to visit your classroom and to speak with you frequently about how you are doing. Do these suggestions make sense? Weigh them and don’t follow them without adapting them in light of your knowledge of what has transpired. Can you see this troublesome event as a learning one? Can you avoid being bitter about it?

Can you allow the past to be past? Can you see the big picture; one in which you want to be creative and excited about learning and teaching? Can you become a cheerleader for your school? Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS is my way of saying that achieving a school-wide team-wide teaching experience takes special continuing effort by you, coworkers, and principal.

William Gorden