Unfairness In Promotion

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about not being promoted:

I am a teacher in a school where I am the literature coordinator. I set and vet literature papers and help other teachers do the same. I have set exams and I set multiple-choice questions, as directed by my superiors. When the vice principal of the school saw my paper, she said that it lacked context and that literature should not be taught using Multiple Choice Questions. This directive has been set by my other colleagues and superiors.

Why am I being made to look bad and what can I do about this? I have contributed much to my school as a teacher while some colleagues, who are seen as more “efficient” when they are more arrogant and less dedicated, got promoted. I feel that this is unfair. How do I settle such matters without causing any friction between colleagues, superiors or myself?

Signed, Not Promoted

Dear Not Promoted:

Obviously from a distance, we can’t know why you didn’t get promoted, but your note suggests several clues: First, you describe the criticism of your multiple-choice exams by a vice principal and you justify your type of test as being previously approved by other colleagues and superiors. And then you conclude: “Why am I being made to look bad?”

Apparently, you and your vice principal hadn’t previously conferred about your responsibilities and how they were to be executed. In short, this one incident suggests a need for clarification rather than an effort to make you “look bad.”

Second, you attribute promotion of others to their “efficient” and “arrogant and less dedicated” performance. And conclude that therefore you are seen as not efficient and that your commitment is not valued. From your perspective, it is reasonable for you to draw those two negative conclusions: that a vp wants to make you “look bad” and you are perceived as “less efficient”.

You asked what you could do about this without causing friction. There probably are different approaches to what you might do and the following suggestions aren’t intended as a sure-fire quick-fix formula, but are meant for your reflection and as prompts for you to arrive at a site-appropriate course of action:

1. Reflect on why you are where you are in your career. Why are you a literature coordinator? Was not this position earned because someone saw good, if not stellar, performance? Also ask yourself to what positions were others promoted and you were not? Why? Did you apply and were rejected? If so, were you told why? If not, did you inquire as to why? This is to suggest that promotions hinge on several factors: making it known to what you want to be promoted, greasing the path by taking extra training and making that known, and probably most of all by talking the talk of that career path. Talking the talk entails conversation with those who work with and make decisions about positions to which you aspire. If you want a particular job, you dress for it and groom yourself for it. Did you do that or were you so preoccupied with your assignments that no one knew you were open to promotion.

2. Meet with your VP. Think of her hasty critique of multiple-choice questions, not as meant to paint you black, but as a challenge to consider other options. The quality of multiple-choice items depends upon how skillfully they are worded and their content. They are not the only way to assess. Is it possible that you and your colleagues might see this vp’s comment as an opportunity to review your work and modify the system? Might it be seen as an opportunity to involve your vp in what you are doing? Apparently, her criticism came out of the blue. She had not visited you or your colleagues to learn what you are doing. Could it be that contact with her was communication poor rather than communication rich?

3. Teamwork requires team-mindedness. Friction arises when we go it alone. We see ourselves as victims rather than as joining in and shaping the kind of working relationships we want. Change your view of principal and vice principal to that of Educational Coach. Seek the coaches’ advice. Don’t avoid them. Invite them in. Transform your and their egos to Wego. That can happen when you are excited about the larger picture and help the coaches see how your ideas contribute.

Have you even once talked with coworkers and your “educational coaches” about cutting wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted effort, wasted money? Have you presented innovative ideas to enhance students understanding and scores? To whom have you presented them? Coaches of sports teams have before and after skull sessions in which they applaud the positives and engage their players in discussion of what needs improvement. Is that not a model for educational coaches?

These are just three approaches to which you might say, “Done that.” Yet I wonder if even pretending you are a vital member of an educational team might change the way you feel about others and your self. I will be interested if you find any of these thoughts ring true or provoke other more creative approaches. Teaching is hard work and stressful when you allow criticism to play and replay in your head. For a while might it be better if you focused on outside of work activities that bring you pleasure? Might it be that you’ve allowed these feelings of victim to rumble about too frequently in your mind? Might they have unbalanced a healthy lust for life and work? I can’t answer these questions. How do you? Might you find just a sliver of value in my signature: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS?

William Gorden