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Anger Management For the ‘Bad Kids’ in Schools – Yet Another Cop Out by Adults!

In a rather disturbing article in today’s paper a teacher wrote at length, giving a detailed account of daily abuse, aggression, violence and contempt faced by herself and other teachers by senior aged pupils. She wrote of the feelings of helplessness to stem the tide of appalling behaviour from children. She wrote of the total lack of respect shown by children to adults, the lack of pupils’ self control and how they expect the world to instantly conform to their wishes – not a thought for anyone else’s feelings.

Schools referred to in the article are deemed good or satisfactory by Ofsted but that’s patently nonsensical! These aren’t inner city schools where appalling behaviour is considered normal these days. Such behaviour isn’t normal and it’s dangerous to ever consider that it is. These schools are passed as fit for purpose, but they aren’t. The standard of behaviour is dreadful. The pupils are driving teachers to despair and in an extreme case recently, a teacher had been driven to an extreme act of violence against a pupil.

Head teachers don’t seem to be sufficiently aware of the misery being suffered by teachers due to pupils’ appalling behaviour. But they should be aware and should be taking steps to address the problems.

The newspaper article referred to earlier refers to insufficient support for teachers from management in the schools and the government. Children who have been violent have been allowed back in class to cause further disruption. There are insufficient consequences for appallingly behaved pupils. Teachers who complain to management about bad behaviour are ignored. Teachers are told to just curb the behaviour as best they can. It can’t be considered acceptable that people’s working lives are being blighted so badly.

Fear not though, the answer has arrived! Anger Management Classes… very expensive and so they must be good… A colossal amount of money has been invested in counsellors and others to run these anger management classes!

But there’s a problem! Allegedly being included in these classes leads to problem pupils being excused their appalling behaviour as they have anger management issues. Of course they have!

So, what’s the kids’ reaction to these anger management classes? Well, they’re generally considered a great way to get out of regular classes and to be a bit of an easy option. Kudos is gained from their peers for being considered suitable for inclusion in the classes.

So, are anger management classes: A) of any use or B) largely a waste of time and money?

Guess what? B wins hands down…

Be of no doubt — anger management classes are a cop out. Only adults who either don’t want to or can’t manage kids’ behaviour think they’re of any use. They are a substitute for adults who haven’t got the courage to let it be known that certain behaviour isn’t acceptable and won’t be tolerated.

School management personnel should get their act together, get out of their comfortable offices and get themselves to those areas of their schools where the problems are. Get out there and assert their authority. These people should be in and out of classes, offering teachers support, know what’s going on and show an interest in the pupils’ work and progress. Building relationships with pupils and teachers should be paramount along with setting high standards and expectations of work and behaviour.

Behaviour (or anger management) isn’t taught in isolation because behaviour happens all the time. Behaviour therefore has to be managed all the time. Behaviour management isn’t just about dealing with the unacceptable. Adult acknowledgment of acceptable behaviour and good manners is an important aspect of managing behaviour as it reinforces your expectations. It also isn’t a subject such as maths or science that is taught according to a timetable. Behaviour has to be dealt with when it happens, not just at 11.30 on Friday mornings.

To deal with behaviour problems successfully and effectively, you need guts and energy. You have to command respect, assert your authority and be consistent in your expectations. Unfortunately, not enough adults in schools do this. Not many adults out of schools do it either! Too many adults have become too soft, bland and liberal.

Managing behaviour isn’t about being nasty or unreasonable — it’s about showing children that you won’t put up with unacceptable behaviour and letting them know that their life will get uncomfortable if they decide to cross the boundaries of acceptable behaviour…

Until this takes place, teachers like the author of the article referred to will continue to feel isolated, stressed and unsupported during their working day in schools.

Is change possible? Of course it is. Adults have to learn to assert themselves and stop tolerating being treated like something unpleasant the kids have trodden in! It’s not difficult to make the necessary changes. In fact anyone can do it and by doing so will improve standards in schools and reduce personal stress. A win/win situation…

Managers as Coaches

While training a group of managers on Performance Coaching, one of them abruptly interrupted, saying: “I wouldn’t want my manager to be my coach!” The rest of the group burst into laughter. Obviously, others in the room knew that the manager he was talking about was far from a role-model coach. We then discussed the role of managers as coaches for their direct reports. The conversation questioned several assumptions I have taken for granted and helped me deepen my understanding of how a manager can be an effective coach.

The Coaching Zone

In order to be an effective coach, it is important to understand different coaching approaches and the person’s performance level. Depending on a person’s performance, the manager can take a directive, facilitative, or mentoring approach to coaching. We label these coaching approaches as:

  1. BIC Coaching for Unacceptable Performance
  2. GROW Coaching for Acceptable Performance
  3. Mentoring for Great Performance

It is important to understand where the person is in the “Coaching Zone” and what approach to use for each situation. Effective managers recognize that different situations require different types of coaching.

Overview of the Three Coaching Approaches

1. BIC Coaching for Unacceptable Performance

The tendency is for managers to get involved only when an employee is performing poorly. Often, that leaves little room for coaching before it becomes “corrective action.” Coaching someone below the line of acceptable performance follows a directive approach to get “Back in Control” (BIC).

In this scenario, we can’t afford the time (nor is it appropriate) to go into a lengthy coaching process. For example, think about the approach a police officer would take to correct behavior when stopping a speeding driver on the highway. Similar work situations require a directive coaching approach. The following are some examples of situations requiring BIC Coaching:

  • Excessive personal time off, tardiness
  • Insubordination, disrespectful conduct
  • Unsafe operation, illegal practices
  • Unacceptable performance overtime
  • Substance abuse, fraud, theft

These situations call for corrective action. We need to address the unacceptable conduct in a timely and definitive way. It is best to act firmly, yet positively. Getting upset will weaken the coaching effectiveness. There is no need for emotional frustration when correcting unacceptable behavior. Expressing disappointment can also be manipulative.

BIC is also an acronym we use to describe the steps of this coaching process:

  • Behavior: Describe the behavior specifically.
  • Impact: Describe the impact the behavior has had.
  • Commit: Commit the person to change the behavior.

2. GROW Coaching for Acceptable Performance

When performance meets expectations, but could be better, coaching leverages an employee’s own initiative to reach a better result. In these situations, we recommend using GROW coaching. The framework provides a four-step process:

  1. GOAL: Start by agreeing on the goal. This can be a specific topic or objective for the discussion, or a performance objective. Make sure it is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-dimensioned).
  2. REALITY: Get grounded on what is happening now, the current reality. Invite an objective assessment of the situation without dwelling on the past. Keep it brief!
  3. OPTIONS: Jointly explore options. Ask questions that help the other person realize their options. Allow them to choose the option they like most.
  4. WAY FORWARD: Finally, discuss specific actions going forward. Anticipate possible challenges and discuss ways to overcome them. Check for their commitment to their plan of action.

3. Mentoring – Coaching Great Performance

When an employee’s performance is exceptional, and there is a desire to become even better, mentoring is the best approach. Mentoring is a form of coaching that leverages the talent and experience of the mentor to provide a role model. Not all managers are qualified to mentor others. A mentor needs to be respected as a credible example by the person being mentored.

Mentoring relies on the talent and experience of the mentor (coach) to provide a role model. The mentor’s example and feedback provides critical insights to the other person’s development. Employees identified as possessing high potential in the organization are usually given the opportunity to associate with respected leaders in order to learn from the best.

Mentoring works best when the matching is mutually voluntary and is for a defined period of time. Mentors and those being coached may continue informal mentoring past the initial commitment. Mentors should be prepared to challenge the person’s assumptions and help them grow beyond their comfort zone through stretch goals, developmental assignments, and/or additional education.

In this sense, mentors take on a leadership role, influencing the person’s behavior without exercising formal authority over them. Ideally, managers could act as mentors of their direct reports, but often, they may not be qualified as a role model or example in the direct report’s development areas.

Finding Opportunities to Coach

As a manager, you probably see yourself constantly interacting with others on things that need to get done. Realize that while you are managing, you are not necessarily coaching. An effective coach takes a developmental approach to everyday work situations. The focus is not solely on getting things done, but on transferring knowledge, developing expertise, and identifying best practices. As a manager, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I seeing opportunities to coach?
  • Do I take advantage of coaching moments?
  • Given my work group, where in the Coaching Zone should I focus?
  • Which is my preferred coaching style?
  • Do I use the right style in the appropriate situations?
  • How can I expand my range of coaching skills?


As I have taught these coaching skills to managers over the years, I have seen coaching become one of the most valuable skills a manager can have in today’s workforce. “Old School” management techniques that use manipulation, threats, and embarrassment to influence employee behavior are no longer effective – or tolerated. These simple coaching techniques will have a great impact on employee development and performance. Every manager can and should become an effective coach.

The Connection between the New Insecurity in Middle Management and Complaints of School Performance

There are impediments to the maximization of organizational effectiveness strewn throughout your company. We often focus on lower personnel, blaming the schools for lower standards and youth in general for a lack of seriousness. As business owners or those charged with overall management of the organization, these are easy targets. You generally have little contact with these individuals, most of your knowledge of them comes from your management team. And of course, your management team is a pretty good one, they recognize how wonderful you are and always have your interest and the interest of the company foremost in their minds. Additionally, you’re well aware of their Herculean efforts and the wonderful ideas they generate to improve the bottom line.

But what if these are exactly the people causing the stagnation in growth and overall negative environment you’ve seen develop? New eyes should generate a wealth of new ideas. When that doesn’t occur, especially in those with backgrounds that indicate otherwise, you may have to initiate plans to stimulate creativity. And you have to open your mind to the possibility that the wonderful management team around you may be the source of the poor performance in new employees. They are the pipeline between you and your new people. Is this line clear and efficient or is it a clogged artery interfering with the health of the organization.

There are many reasons those with authority over the pipeline want to maintain the status quo. Insecure or overly ambitious individuals may feel threatened by a new person who generates a wealth of ideas. In some cases, they may present the ideas as their own. Nothing interferes with the creativity of an employee like the knowledge that their superiors take credit for their efforts. Nothing switches off the creative elements in the brain like this type of betrayal.

Perhaps new employees are not receiving the training necessary for success in their positions. It’s common knowledge that new employees are expected to hit the ground running in many cases. But regardless of technical expertise, entering a new position always requires training in the way things are done in that particular company. Those same insecure or overly ambitious managers mentioned in the previous paragraph sometimes remain indispensable by hoarding the knowledge others need to succeed. And of course, you don’t have to be an insecure person by nature to realize that middle management has become dispensable in these times of downsizing.

How do you find out if your organization is afflicted with these maladies? The managers relying on these methods aren’t going to expose themselves. And it’s often not a good idea to allow employees to evaluate their managers. This can lead to an increase in what is probably already a hostile environment. Besides, such evaluations are often viewed with skepticism, discarded as just an opportunity for disgruntled employees to take revenge on those trying to whip them into shape.

A better idea, and one that gets lip service but little else in organizations, is to make the management team responsible for the performance of their people. You could schedule regular meetings with your managers, where the positive contributions of their employees are the focus. Ask each manager to cite new ideas generated by those they supervise. Reward those managers who are adept at stimulating the creative processes in their people. Make sure a manager receives almost as much credit for an idea that originated beneath them as they do for those they create themselves.

And don’t neglect training. Ask for details on the training provided to those who aren’t performing up to standards. Let your management team know that as the gap between their knowledge and that of their employees decreases, their esteem within the organization increases. Whatever you reward, you’ll receive. Reward management for the performance of new employees, and you’ll see that maybe the schools aren’t pumping out defective product after all.