The wrong shop

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Wrong shopWorking with young children is not for eveyone

Picture if you will that you are heading off to buy a cabbage.  On the way to Sainsbury’s you come across a greengrocer’s shop and venture inside. The greengrocer specialises in exotic fruit, the fruits are pretty and the shop owner is friendly and welcoming.  You spend a happy hour filling your basket with fruit you have never even heard of, much less tasted. You spend far more money than you intended and go directly home, all thoughts of cabbage gone from your head.  When you arrive home you remember you needed the cabbage.  The fruit looks much less pretty in your ordinary kitchen and you’ve blown the food budget for the week.  You had good intentions but you’ve been in the wrong shop and it is an unsatisfactory experience all round.

As young people decide on their future careers they may know they want to care and nurture, they babysit younger siblings or small children in the family and think childcare is for them.  They see a careers advisor and embark on a childcare course. They attend what is, I am sure, a very reputable training provider and achieve their NVQ Level 2 in Children and Young People’s Workforce. They look for work and end up employed within your setting. Great, you have a newly qualified, very enthusiastic new staff member who you can train and mould to your way of working.

During the probationary period you become concerned about their practice, they make decisions that are against your policies, their interaction with children is over familiar and you overhear them asking a parent to add them to Facebook, written records are vague, incomplete and untidy. You offer support, guidance and advice, they express remorse, become upset, you give them one more chance after another.   Eventually, and usually after too long, you sadly conclude that this person may be better suited to working with plants or animals.

Unfortunately this scenario is not a once in a lifetime thing and it is not just reserved for newly qualified, newly appointed staff. It could be someone finds themselves in the wrong shop for a variety of reasons including a change in personal circumstances, promotion, change in culture or structures or maybe you are a new and a very different manager to them. Whatever the reason is it only fair on you, them and your children to deal with it; brushing it under the carpet just creates a trip hazard.

Whenever I have needed to deal with this situation, in almost all cases, the person themselves knows somewhere in the subconscious that things are not working out. It could be that their relationship with colleagues is poor, parents prefer to talk to someone else and they will certainly be getting negative feedback from you. Obviously we could deploy the company disciplinary procedures but we all know how time consuming and emotionally draining that can be. In all of my years there is only one time I have needed to go down that route in this circumstance when an employee refused to recognise it for herself.

As this is Practically Leading I wanted to share what works for me. I own it, sit the employee down on a one to one and take the bull by the horns. Beginning with “how do you think things are going?”, leave a silence, wait for them to process this and think about a response. It may feel uncomfortable to leave silence but you need to. Depending on how they respond you could add “I have been observing you and I get the impression you are not as happy as we had hoped.”  Leave another pause, actively listening and responding and gently moving the conversation along. The middle part will be unique to every situation so you will need to navigate that on a case by case by case basis.

The conclusion to the discussion is “I know you really want to work with children and you do have some really good skills (add them here, no matter how insignificant) but I am wondering if this is the right setting for you, it could be you would be more suited to:

  • A smaller setting
  • Older children
  • Different type of caring
  • A job with less paperwork
  • Plants or animals

Only you know where you feel this person would be more suited considering why you think they are in the wrong shop. Nobody comes to work to do a bad job, the right shop is out there for everyone, sometimes we just need directions.

Please let me know if you are dealing with such a situation and if my tips have been useful.

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