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I’m a college instructor, teaching in one of the institutions in the University Belt in Manila. I have been in this academic level for eight years now while my batch mates had been promoted to assistant professor or even to associate professor. I know my subject matter and can communicate it effectively to my students. I get above average ratings in the course evaluation by my students and in the peer evaluation by my colleagues. I have an MA degree in my field. I’ve been attending seminars in my field of specialization to keep up with my professional growth, and do research in my field. These are all requirements for promotion.

The source of my frustration is our department head who obviously doesn’t like me. I am definitely not one of her few favorites. I made a mistake of telling on her (a.k.a. “sumbong”) to our Dean about the short hours she spent as an administrator. She would put in only about 1-2 hours of work daily. The reason for this is that she has also a business on the side and this interfered not only with the quantity of hours she put in for work, but also on the quality of her work as department head.  When students wanted to see her, or when faculty members wanted to consult with her, she very often was not available in her office, physically and even mentally. As a result of the feedback I had given to our Dean, the latter called her attention to her shortcomings. She now renders the minimum required number of hours as administrator. But she has taken it against me for telling on her. Some of my peers had also been talking against her behind her back but they didn’t have the courage to bring the matter to our Dean. Her low evaluation of me shows her vindictiveness; she has not submitted my name for promotion in academic rank. She also does not talk to me, ignores my presence at department meetings, and downplays my inputs during these meetings.

I don’t know what to do. I had already gone to our Dean who told me to take up the matter of my promotion with our department head. I know I have to see her but I hesitate to do so because I feel discouraged. I don’t know how to go about it.

Please help me!

Ms. Instructor

 

I can empathize with you in your current situation. You are happy that the results of your talking to your Dean about your department head had produced the desired results but it has backfired on you in terms of strained relationship with your boss whose evident low appraisal of your performance as instructor has derailed your promotion to the next academic rank.

I have always maintained that one’s boss is his/her #1 customer who must be pleased according to professional standards. In your case, both your students and your superior are your #1 customers. That she had been remiss in her administrative role did not justify your going “over her head” and going directly to her own boss to report her deficiency. She was justifiably hurt by this. She is now taking you to task by ignoring you and, worse, by not recommending you for promotion.

What options are there for you? One, ignore her and just continue to do a good job of teaching and hope that she will eventually see your value and recommend you for promotion; two, continue to talk about (a.k.a. against) her to the Dean and to your peers and to others; three, take the risk and talk to her. The first option may not give you the desired positive results. The second option will all the more hurt and anger her and widen the rift between the two of you. I suggest you take the third option. However, in taking this option, you need to plan what you will do and say. As in any plan, you must have a goal. In this case, your goal in seeing her is for her to see you in a positive light and for you to understand her and see her view point. To do this, you have to set aside your preconceived notions about her and open up to her by active listening.

I suggest the following plan of action:

1.  Have your copy of summaries of student and peer evaluation.

2.  Make an appointment to see her.

3.  Prepare what you will say. Use an I-message feedback like:

“I came to see you because I am very much bothered by my non-promotion to assistant professor which I believe I deserve.”

Listen to what she will tell you.

4.  Apologize to her for having told the Dean about the number   of hours she used to render. For your apology to be sincere, put yourself in her place. How would you feel if one of your subordinates would “go over your head” and complain about you to your boss? Don’t say that some of your peers had also felt the same   way. Don’t bring other people into this issue. Bring this issue out into the open rather than keep it “under the rug.”

Example: “I apologize, Ma’am, that I had gone to the Dean to tell her about the number of hours you used to spend in the office. I’m really sorry about this. I know I have hurt you.” Don’t give excuses for what you did. Listen to what she has to say.

5.   Then ask: “What shall I do to be promoted to assistant professor?” Again, listen to her. If at this point she mentions about student and peer evaluation, then you can quietly show her your copy of these summaries.

The important thing is for you to be conciliatory. Allow her to talk while you accept what she says. Accepting what she says as true for her is different from agreeing with her. Don’t antagonize her further by refuting what she says. You can clarify but leave it at that. Make her feel you understand her by labeling her unexpressed feelings.

Example: If she says “The trouble with you is that you went ahead and gossiped about me behind  my back to the Dean with out telling me first.”

You can empathize by saying: “You are angry with me because I went directly to the Dean rather than to you and you felt hurt that I didn’t take the matter directly to you.”

The general principle is that when your boss or peer does something wrong or fails to do certain things (i.e., commission or omission), and we are bothered about it, the right thing to do is to go directly to the person and give an I-message feedback.

Example: “I am bothered that you dismiss your class several minutes before the bell rIngs. The noise created by your students disturb me and my class.

If you don’t have the courage to go directly to the person concerned, then you just have to endure the frustrating situation and hope your superior learns about it thru another source. Telling on/about your boss to her boss is unprofessional.

Majority of us Filipinos are non-assertive. We keep our negative feelings to ourselves rather than express them openly to the person concerned. Worse, we tell others about the person. The latter is thus deprived of the opportunity to become aware of his/her negative behavior and to correct it. The rule in communicating feedback is to identify your feelings for the person’s negative behavior, and use the I-message in giving feedback. Example: “I felt disappointed, Ma’am, that on two occasions, I had wanted to talk to you in your office but you were not there. I wanted to consult you about an important matter.” And tell this to her in private. Admittedly giving an I-message feedback face-to-face with the person concerned is not easy to do but it is the right thing to do. It takes practice. Practice gives you self-confidence and enables you to learn the skill.

I wish you success in your effort to establish a positive and professional relationship with your superior.

God bless you.

 

Josie Santamaria

I’m 37 years old, and mother of four children whose ages are 15, 12, 8 and 6.  My husband and I are both government employees; both of us don’t have careers to speak of.  It’s enough that we both have stable jobs although we have difficulties making both ends meet.

Actually my problem involves my children.  They are not close to us, especially to me, their mother. This concerns me very much. Also they have no responsibilities in the house because my mother spoils them no end.  We live with her in her and my late father’s home since my husband and I can’t afford to rent an apartment that will accommodate all six of us.  We have no say in disciplining them and feel helpless to correct them, especially my two older children.  They pay no attention to us; they don’t show respect by greeting us when we arrive from work. When we arrive, they continue to be glued to the TV set.  They do not do household tasks even though I have assigned them certain responsibilities since we have no maid. My eldest even shouts at me when I ask her why she didn’t fix and clean up her room.  We are also shocked to hear our two younger children say words like “P…ina mo!”,  or “F…”, or “Stupid!” which they hear from the TV.  Not one of us—my mother, my husband or me—ever say these words.

Is there something which my husband and I can do now?  Is it too late for us now?  What can we do about my mother?  We need her to provide us a home, and to take care of our children.  We can’t afford to express our concerns to her for fear that she might misunderstand us and drive us away. Two things I cannot do: give up my job and our small business, and live away from my mother for we really need her. Please help me.

Distraught Mother

 

You are shocked at your children’s behaviors, but you are helpless to do something about them since you will run into conflict with your mother whom you cannot afford to antagonize.  She is the one bringing up your children and taking care of their needs while you and your husband work and do a small buy-and-sell business on the side.  You are confused as to whether to allow the situation to continue and let your children do and say what they are doing or saying now, or to do something about the situation to bring about the needed changes.  On the other hand, you feel helpless about initiating the needed changes.

Your children’s negative behaviors are habits learned as a result of tolerance by your mother, and silence on your part. Silence when a person does a negative behavior is interpreted as approval for the negative behavior. Silence, therefore, reinforces a negative behavior. On the other hand, silence when a person does a positive behavior causes that behavior to be extinguished. This is one of the findings from research on reinforcement. You ask if there is something you can do to change the behavior of your children at this late stage in their development, especially of your two older ones. Yes, you can do some things but do them consistently. Above all, start the change process with yourself.

Your mother has a critical role to play in the change process.  You must, however, have self-control in dealing with her, and with your children. I suggest that you have a one-on-one talk with your mother. You describe to her the behaviors of your children and how these behaviors affect you.  Be prepared for her defensive reaction. Show respect by words and tone of voice. When she becomes defensive, keep silent for a moment and then say, “I’m just concerned and this is why I’m seeking your help on how we can correct this.  I admit that I’ve neglected my duty as mother towards them. And so, Mom, please help me what to do to change their behaviors.  What do you suggest I do?” Listen to her attentively and summarize what she said. Follow her advice if it will help you and your husband develop a good relationship with your children. If it does not, you can ask her how it will promote a good relationship between you and your children.

Then, you and your husband can have a one-on-one talk with each of your children, telling them how their behaviors affect you and how you feel about them.  I suggest the use of I-messages such as the following:

“I’m shocked that you shouted at me when I asked you why you didn’t clean your room…” Listen to your daughter when she reasons out. Then say: ”Is it right for you to shout at me the way you did?”

“I feel hurt that you don’t get up from the TV to greet your father and me when we arrive home…”

The opposite of I-message is the accusatory “you” such as, “You shouted at me”, “You never greet your father and me”, “You are disrespectful”, etc.

I’m an advocate of the reinforcement theory in the management of human behavior. This theory states that behaviors are caused (i.e., have stimuli or antecedents) and that they are affected by the consequents they produce. The formula is Stimuli/Antecedent ? Behavior ? Consequents. If a behavior is followed by a positive consequent, there is a greater likelihood that the behavior will be repeated. If a behavior is followed by a negative consequent, it is likely to be stopped or to decrease in frequency until it disappears. Example: An antecedent is you telling your daughter to make up her bed and to put the litter on the floor into the trash can. When she does it, you tell her “I’m glad your bed is made up and your floor clean,” with a happy face and happy tone of voice.  You can shape her positive behavior by reinforcing approximations of the desired behaviors. As an example: you see that your daughter’s bedroom is untidy but her bed is made up. The positive reinforcement is for you to commend her for making up her bed and then ask her to remove the garbage on the floor.

A positive consequent or reinforcement is anything – - – what is said or what is given – - – that makes a person feel good after doing an action. It may be intrinsic or extrinsic. It is intrinsic if a person feels proud of or is happy about himself after solving a problem or accomplishing a task. It is extrinsic if a person gets rewarded after accomplishing a certain task. The reward could be material, such as money or being given an object, or being allowed a pleasurable activity, such as going to the mall.

I suggest that you use more positive reinforcement on your children in order to open up lines of communication and develop a positive relationship with them. Catch them doing the right thing, or approximately the right thing, and then give immediate and sincere positive reinforcement. Other examples of positive reinforcement which are focused on positive behaviors are: “I like the way you keep your clothes in the cabinet in an orderly way.” “I’m happy that you have done your homework. Now let me look at them…”

An example of an antecedent is your announcement to your children that if they clean and fix their rooms every day, based on specific tasks you draw up with them, you and your husband will take them to the mall on Saturday. The amount of money they receive from you as shopping money must be earned, depending on the tasks they had performed during the week. For example, bringing out the garbage from each waste basket and putting them inside a plastic bag is PhP10.00. Cleaning the toilet bowl is PhP50.00, and so on. Being paid a reasonable amount of money for performing tasks communicates to them that money must be earned. In addition to earning money, they are also making you happy because you don’t have to do these tasks when you come home tired and exhausted from work and travel. Tell them that they are getting both extrinsic (money) and intrinsic (making you happy and helping you) rewards by doing household chores. Enlist the support and cooperation of your mother on this.

Since you are starting the change process, you initially use material rewards or provide them with pleasurable activities as positive reinforcement. Later, as habits are formed and you develop a close relationship, you can switch to the use of intrinsic reinforcement such as, “I’m very happy that you keep your toilet clean and smelling clean. How do you feel when you are able to use a toilet that is clean?”

You need a good deal of self-control in managing your emotions. When confronted with negative behaviors, it pays to keep quiet, do deep breathing, drink water, and then rehearse what you will say. Behaviors that you and your husband should avoid are angry reactions to your children, focusing your attention instead on building a positive relationship. I suggest that you put quality time with your children in your daily schedule. By quality time I mean spending time with each one to help them with their school work, finding out how their day went and listening to them, etc. Your husband should relate with your sons, while you, with your daughters. Exert your utmost to avoid nagging, shouting at them, blaming, criticizing, comparing them with other children, etc. Look for the things they do right, and affirm them. And, please don’t spoil them by giving them what they want or anticipating what they want in order to “buy” their love. This is a big NO NO.

You and your husband have to make a decision whether developing a positive relationship is more important than your small business. If it is, you have to show such priority by making time for and with your children. It is never too late, but don’t wait too long. What you need to do, do now.

God bless you.

 

Josie Santamaria