The ABC of ELT

How to Cope When There Is a Teacher You Just Don’t Get on With

I’ve taught in three different year round schools and several years at summer schools with probably over 100 different colleagues during that time. The vast, vast majority of these people have been really great coworkers. Some were better teachers, some were extraordinarily generous, some were very wise and others were just good fun.

However, I can also count three whom I really did not get on with. I found them unprofessional, rude and manipulative (these seem to be the shared traits of these individuals). With some other colleagues I had particular issues surrounding a certain class or an incident, but these colleagues were constantly difficult to be around let alone work with.

In a situation like that, you have to find a way to get on with the work. So I thought I’d share some thoughts I have on how to work with someone whom you just don’t get on with.

1. Avoid where possible

If someone winds you up and gets on your nerves, try to avoid them. Maybe it means finding a place to prepare lessons away from where they prepare. Or working out times when they aren’t around. Perhaps it is simply not making an effort to be around them.

However, with someone you work with, this may be easier said than done.

2. Focus on their good attributes

It’s easy to focus on people’s negative attributes but even the worst people have positive attributes. One colleague I had real issues with was incredibly creative and came up with some fantastic idea. I still use some of them today.

3. Praise them where you can

Linked in with that past point, you should seek to praise them whenever you can. It’s hard to dislike someone you praise and by doing so, you can try to trick your brain into not disliking them. Even better, you can do a favour for them. I call this the “self Benjamin Franklin” after the trick Benjamin Franklin did to win someone over (whether that’s true or not).

4. Vent and stop

Something a friend at school told me was that sometimes people want to vent about something and you just need to listen. However, if they start to repeat themselves, that’s when you should cut them off. I aim to do this with myself as well. Get it all out and then stop. If I keep repeating myself then it usually just makes me feel worse.

5. Speak with your line manager

Sometimes a line manager will be able to offer you some advice in how to deal with this individual, or take action if they have done something wrong. Alternatively, they maybe able to help keep you separate from them.

Do you have Any tips?

These are just a few things that I’ve tried over time, luckily I’ve never been in a management position where I had to deal with a coworker whom I didn’t get on with. I imagine that several of these tactics simply wouldn’t work in those situations. Have you had any similar issues and advice?

About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

2 Replies

  1. Kamila

    Hi Chris,

    I don’t really have different tips. My first strategy is cooperate. If they don’t cooperate, I avoid them and eventually stop cooperating. Do you tink there is a difference between teachers and co-workers in the corporate world? Thanks, Kamila

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