Courtesy doesn't cost ….

By Michael Edmonds 18/09/2012

… well not in monetary terms. However, a little consideration by an employer in times of difficulty can help relieve rather than exacerbate the stress felt by staff.

Unfortunately, it seems both the University of Canterbury and the Ministry of Education seem to have missed this point.

I was talking last night to someone who has recently been made redundant by the University of Canterbury. An inconsiderately worded letter was the first thing he knew about the redundancy. Rather than thank him for years of service, the letter outlined when his access to the building, the library and other facilities would cease, and when keys etc would need to be handed in. It also requested that he sign a confidentiality agreement. I think he told them what they could do with their confidentiality agreement! (Hint to employers – if you want a staff member to sign a confidentiality agreement they should get something out of it – you don’t ask them to sign one after you have just kicked them in the guts!)

I also think the Ministry of Education might want to consider some sort of sensitivity training in dealing with teachers. The recent announcement about the closing of some schools in Canterbury was done by getting all of the school principals together and then telling them who were closing, merging with other schools or staying open. The principals’ name badges were even colour coded depending on which category they belonged to – I guess that at least after the shock of the announcement it helped identify who else was in the same boat.

If you are delivering bad news then surely the most considerate way to do it is by doing it:

1) Face to face

2) Individually and not as a group (also, less chance of a lynch mob)

3) By actually thanking the person for their contribution and explaining clearly why THEY have been selected

With regards to Christchurch what the Ministry of Education is doing to Christchurch is a worry; while it makes sense to consolidate the education sector, transparency and some consideration for school students and staff would be appropriate. It still is not clear to me what the larger plans are they have for Christchurch, even though I have tried wading through the bureacratic- speak documents on the MoE’s website.

If I were cynical, I would suggest that they are taking advantage of the fact that, post quake, Cantabrians are tired and therefore an easy target for trying to push through education ideologies. After all National hasn’t done too well with it’s education policies lately (e.g. larger class sizes and charter schools). I would also suggest that Christchurch is just the first step in this process – if they can push through changes in Christchurch it won’t be long before schools in other areas come under the glare of their spotlight.