Another post about International Teacher recruitment, but one applicable to anyone searching for a job.
It’s common to hear recruiters and managers say the equivalent of ‘we’re all one big family here’ and it’s easy to understand why. Austin Walker writes that it stems from, ‘a well-intentioned effort of building camaraderie, creating a staff culture, and bringing unity to a wide-ranging group of people.’ (Full article here)
But it’s toxic. And this is why.
If you are in a family, you’re in it, through thick and thin. Unconditional love and acceptance is the ideal. Not performance. We don’t stop loving our kid when they get a few Ds on their report card, nor do we kick them out. We try to help them and understand them. That’s the job of a family.
If you are going to work for someone who claims their workplace is a family, they’re lying. Because if you underperform, you’re out. Maybe not the same day, but eventually. You will no longer belong. So your place in the ‘family’ is conditional. You can be fired from your workplace.
But it’s just a metaphor, I hear you cry. Sadly not so. Because it carries more with it. It carries a paternal or maternal attitude to employees (or teachers) and infantilises them. Your director is not your parents, she’s your boss.
If the ‘family’ card is being played, be wary of expectations. You call call up family members at 2am in an emergency, or ask them to come and help with something over a weekend. Do you want to work somewhere where there is an implicit assumption that you’ll blur these boundaries for your employer? Will your actual family be expected to play second fiddle to your new, professional ‘family’?
Do you want to be valued for your expertise and your abilities? If so you want to work in a team, in a tribe possibly, or in a thriving professional community. But not a family.
Words matter – the weight they carry can be heavy and far-reaching. One of the words to watch out for in the recruitment process is ‘family’. And if you are an administrator hiring teachers, think very carefully about the words you use to sell the culture of your school.