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For a Manager, when their team isn’t working together harmoniously it’s a constant worry.  You wonder what the next person who comes through your door is going to tell you; and you worry how you will react. Your heart wants to ‘bang some heads together’ but your head tells you that probably wouldn’t be the best of ideas!

At Redwing when a client rings us to tell us they have problems within the team the common factor is that there is a behaviour that can only be described as bitching. Bitching isn’t sexist. Its not something only women do. In fact in my experience, any single sex workplace, either all men or all women has problems with behaviour of this kind.  When there is bitchiness there is suspicion, division, and manipulators exploit the situation for their own agenda. Often the strongest come forward and seek solutions, whilst the weaker colleagues are just watching the clock and/or looking for another job. Whatever its cause you need to find a solution, and fast.

Here’s my top 5 tips when dealing with bitching staff in the workplace.

1. Divide and separate. Can you have a move round? This can be effective at de-stablising what is happening and exercising authority that you will always act to ensure the smooth running of your setting.

2. One to one’s. You suspect its happening, you need to find out what it is, who is doing it, what is happening and what can be done. One to one’s can’t often wait till supervision or appraisal. Nip it in bud now and get together with people individually to find out what you need to know.  If you identify whats happening; make a plan to deal with it. If someone is being unkind or unfair it can quickly lead to discrimination and/or harassment. Remind the team of the staff code of conduct if you use one, explain what you are seeing and what you expect and that there is a gap. Be clear as to your expectations and give constructive feedback. Ask for an improvement. Explain what will happen if there is not the improvement you seek (consequential assertion). Be fair but be firm.

3. Does someone want to make a complaint? If you are dealing with a grievance be careful not to deal with it informally if the individual seeks a formal solution. If someone writes to you under the grievance policy its likely its a formal grievance. In this case they are making a complaint and therefore you must follow your policy and treat the matter formally. This can be useful for you as a Manager as it gives explanation for why you are dealing with it in a formal way. It can stop people who bitch and stir for entertainment purposes as they don’t want to be labelled a bully and will be ashamed that they let it go too far.

4. Distract, are they bitching with reason? Have a look at your practice. Have you done or not done something that would give the staff the ammunition to become bitchy.  Sometimes we’ve not helped the situation we find ourselves in. Have you promoted someone without an internal application process? Have you delegated a new responsibility without explaining to the team your thought process? Sometimes we have to ‘fess up! and admit our failings. If you can identify your role in this then you can address your own failures.

5. Distract, can you give them something else to focus on? A bit like working with children’s behaviours here, can you distract the individuals who are behaving in this way by encouraging them to focus on something else, which would bring about better behaviour. A team exercise may be what’s needed to mend the team. A focus or challenge may mean they have to pull together to utilise eachother’s talents.  Make your meetings structured so there’s no opportunity for them to become mini moaning sessions. Put them into groups to solve a case study, give them a safeguarding pub quiz and nice prizes. Find something that works for you and your setting.

Let us know is this has resonated with you. It’s always great to hear about your experiences.