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The Free Stuff

Why is most communication training misleading?
Why is most communication training misleading?

Why do the same words mean different things to different people?
Why do the same words mean different things to different people?

What is cooperative communication?
What is cooperative communication?

The open-ended question managers should ask their employees
Forget the employee engagement surveys, and ask this ONE question of employees, and take action on what you hear. Consistent with my approach to performance management where the role of the manager is to eliminate barriers to employee performance.

The Customer Service and Customer Experience Home Page
This mega-portal offers a huge array of customer service and customer experience resources to learn from, and we welcome customer service representatives, call center employees, managers and customers. Read, Learn, Discuss. It's all free.

Teachers Are From Pluto, Parents From Mercury, and It's The Children Who Suffer

Building Bridges Between Parents And Educators

With the beginning of the school year, the "war" between parents and teachers begins anew. Both parents and teachers have the same ultimate goal: To provide the best education possible to students going to schools, which is a good thing, but there's a stark difference between the roles and responsibilities of each. Truly parents and teachers often seem to be from planets at different ends of the solar system when it comes to HOW to reach their shared goal.

Perceptions Of Parents About Teachers

When I was researchingandnbsp;Building Bridges Between Home And School: The Educator's/Teacher's Guide To Dealing With Emotional And Upset Parents I talked to a number of parents about their feelings and opinions about teachers. Here are just some of the comments:

"As both a parent and a teacher, I find that teachers complain about parents not coming to school, but at the same time make it very difficult to have any kind of meaningful dialogue ... discussions are one sided, with parents clearly put in the role of passive students."

"Too often the public school system employees ... get this backwards, and behave in either an arrogant or condescending manner towards parents and members of the public. Dog­gonit ,public school teachers work for me, and the rest of us who pay you."

"One only has to look at the many corrosive attacks on parents ... to see how many educators look upon parents as their enemy, and as fit scapegoats for all the frustrations involved in teaching. As an actively involved parent and responsible person who has put in approximately 50 hours a week volunteering at local schools, I wonder how teachers can continue to be so defensively insulting on a daily basis and still expect parents to be supportive of them."

"We walk in with our most precious projects, thereby opening ourselves up to the very real possibility of all our hard work being criticized as bad parenting (i.e. over, lax, no home discipline, 'abdicating of responsibility', etc.). Teachers, who are constantly evaluating students' behavior, cannot seem to stop evaluating us."

"I have found school districts are only responsive when a well documented paper trail is being created - one that could be used in a court of law. I'm not saying every parent should or could sue, I'm saying that this is a more concrete way of getting a serious response."

"Some of us have been fortunate enough to have been touched by the rare teacher who cared enough to do a good job ... We know that school counselors are, more often than not, no more than dead weights holding a desk chair in place. We know how many principals and vice principals wandered the halls of our schools with nothing useful to do, but with plenty of time to harass anyone who stands out as unusual or non-conforming."

"Oh come on... it may be stressful at times but many jobs are. Unless you teach in a prison... teaching isn't any more stressful than that of an electrician working on power lines ... Get off your pedestal!"

Perceptions Of Teachers About Parents

"Her mother came to school .... walked into the front office and without asking to see me walked right into my office. She put her finger in my face and started screaming obscenities at me."

"[The student&91; and his mother came marching into our school with the attitude that we are all bad and her son is the ‘poor injured party’. After telling us all on the team and our principal that we are incompetent as teachers and that her son is not learning anything ...ss

"...I've had conferences with parents who came drunk, parent aides correct me in front of the class (when they are in fact incorrect), favor their own children, make angry, vulgar comments to students who didn't understand "quick enough" and more."

"As both a parent and a teacher, I find that teachers complain about parents not coming to school, but at the same time make it very difficult to have any kind of meaningful dialogue ... discussions are one sided, with parents clearly put in the role of passive students."

"I would like to be respected by parents. Often, parents have arrived with no appointments and expected me to be available. They often take the child's word regarding a classroom incident without waiting to hear my perspective on the situation."

"I don't consider you, the parent, my employer You have no direct power over me in the classroom. However, I always ask parents for input. Sometimes I take their suggestions, sometimes I don't, since I clearly have insight and knowledge of situations and circumstances the parent couldn't begin to know."

"Boy, do I wish parents would keep appointments with me. I would estimate that 75% of parents who request appointments with me fail to show up, or show up at a time other than requested, as if I were sitting in an office all day and could easily put aside my work."

It's pretty startling to see the chasm of hostility that often exists between educators and parents, particularly when the educational research is quite clear. Children who have constructively involved parents simply do better in school. And, it's also pretty obvious that issues and problems that occur around school almost ALWAYS require parents and teachers to be involved in the solution. Getting that to happen is a lot harder than it ought to be when both parents and teachers have negative perceptions of each other, or don't understand the different roles and responsibilities each has.

A Shared Goal, But Hugely Different Roles And Responsibilities

While there will always be some bad apples, parents and teachers who don't "care",  the majority in both camps are well meaning. So why is it that interactions between them are often strained, and even hostile?

It's because there are distinctly different roles for each that get lost in translation. When it gets down to details, these different responsibilities push teachers (and principals) into conflict with parents.


  • Responsible and concerned about the welfare of THEIR individual children.
  • Have many demands on their time, and "life situations" that may not be obvious to others (single parenthood, economic issues).
  • Feel they are in a position to know what's best for their children in terms of how they are taught in the schools, because a) it's their children at issue, and b) everyone has experience in schools and tends to apply that experience to one's own children, even if it's wrong. Parents do think they know more about education and teaching than they actually know.
  • Not usually exposed to the restrictions, rules and issues that apply to schools, and limit or constrain what a teacher or principal can actually do. So, it seems like teachers are "uncooperative" and uncaring, when in fact, they can't comply with many parental requests because they lack the authority to do so.


  • Responsible for the welfare of ALL their students, rather than only one or two. Teachers need to balance what they do to serve all the children in their classes, and that often restricts what can be done for any one specific child.
  • Have to work within the constraints and curricula given to them, and the decisions made by principals, superintendents, school boards and local and state government. That's a limiting factor on what a teacher can do to meet the needs of any specific student.
  • Feel that they have more knowledge of teaching and education than do parents, since they have spent time at the university level to acquire it. Often they do, in fact, have more information about pedagogy. 
  • Also have demands on their time way above and beyond what they do in the classroom -- the invisible tasks of teaching positions in the school, and parents are often not aware of those demands.

Are There Solutions To Reduce Conflict Between Educators and Parents?

As is the case with many situations where parties come into conflict because of different, and sensible agendas, there's no easy solution. It will never be the case that parents will sacrifice the welfare of their individual students for the welfare of all other students, and it will never be the case that teachers will sacrifice the welfare of all their students for the sake of one.

Beyond that it's about helping both teachers and parents to better understand the circumstances of the other. That teachers cannot often do what parents ask, not because they don't care, but because they work within systems that don't allow it. That well intentioned parents, acting out of concern are often frustrated with a system that is oriented towards creating the most good for all students and that parents often act out of fear about the future of their children.

We need to build bridges of communication between both parties and that means both sides being more open to, and understanding the different roles and responsibilities of parents and school staff.

Ultimately, teachers and school administrators have to take on the task of learning how to improve communication with parents, and break through the negative perceptions many parents have. That's because it's part of the job, and ultimately, teachers cannot succeed in educating children without the cooperation of parents.

Robert Bacal holds an M.A. in Educational Psychology, and has supervised high school practice teaching, taught at faculties of education, and trained instructors and teacher to be more effective in their classrooms.

His book, Building Bridges Between Home And School: The Educator's/Teacher's Guide To Dealing With Emotional And Upset Parents is available in PRINT, in PDF format, and for the KINDLE.

There's more on this topic and on others of interest to both parents and educators at It Takes A Village To Teach A Child - Building Bridges Between Schools And Parents

Righting your ship after job loss, Part II : Jobs
Layoffs abound. Here are some suggestions on how to manage your life if you've experienced a job loss. (29-Apr-2013)

Insider Tips: How to Use LinkedIn to Find a Job
LinkedIn has become an integral recruiting tool for employers of all sizes, and job seekers need to know how to best use the tool to aid their hunt. While having a profile is a step in the right direction, it's not enough to make a candidate stand out or look attractive to employers. (22-Apr-2013)

How IT and HR Departments From Facebook Use Custom Apps
Hear how Facebook uses the Salesforce1 Platform to build critical HR apps for their employees. You'll also get the inside track from our own Salesforce HR team as they share how IT has helped them grow and support our talent pool with mobile apps built on the Salesforce1 Platform.

Request Free!

Employee Satisfaction And Employee Engagement Means Acknowledging Different Needs
One reason why employee engagement efforts have failed is they fail to acknowledge that different employees are very different in terms of what "turns them on". Not a great article except that it points this out.

Customer Service Zone Free Library For Better Customer Service
Customer Service Zone - The place to get help and learn about customer service issues. Learn about difficult customers, and develop your customer service skills.

Angry Customer Videos Funny? Think Again And Imagine The Trauma

There are literally hundreds of videos of angry customers posted on Youtube. Many of them have gone viral, garnering views in the hundreds of thousands, and it's also common for those videos to receive huge numbers of comments numbering in the thousands. Banal comments, perhaps, but comments none the less.

Who knows why. It's different from drivers slowing down when they see an accident, because with these videos, people have to seek them out, and then take the time to tell others how absolutely funny it is to see angry people do things that are threatening, abusive, and even violent.

Angry Customer NOT Funny To Those Present

Next time you tune in to an angry customer video, and want to congratulate the poster of the video, think of this.

In every angry situation you see, there is significant trauma experienced by the customer service representative, AND any other people; bystanders, present. If you've ever witnessed violence, or seen two people arguing where you think violence might occur, recall the feeling of adrenaline pumping through your systems, as the fight or flight response kicks in. Think about the stresses on the body, and the shaking of hands once the event is over, and you experience the aftereffects of the "adrenaline dump." Think about how you talked about the experience, and your horror and fear, even days after the event.

That's what those people in those "funny" videos experience, both the employees, and other customers at the establishment.

Customer Abuse And Violence Far More Common Than You Think

In my seminars helping staff deal with angry and abusive customers, I often ask how many attendees have experienced some form of physical assault, or unwanted physical contact. Typically, I'll get a minimum of forty percent of people having experienced those situations, and the trauma and feeling of lack of security that comes with these events.

Even when the contact is "minor", let's say a grabbing of an arm or shoulder, people report significant emotional reactions, stress, and even trauma.

It's not funny.andnbsp;

Who knows why people think it is. But think about how it feels like for the "victims", and for those present. It's no laughing matter. It's not entertaining. It's nasty.

Do you really want to be a person who revels in the misfortunes and pain of others?

About Bacal & Associates
Want to find out about Bacal andamp; Associates? Here it is.

A Quick Peek at How Salesforce Does Customer Service
Transform your customer experience and connect with customers in whole new ways. From the contact center to self-service communities, social media and beyond, Service Cloud is changing the game in customer service.

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A Better Way to Find Jobs on LinkedIn
I don't think there's any doubt that LinkedIn is the king of social networking for business. It's a great platform with lots of features and high traffic. But when it comes to using it for career advancement, most people use it poorly. They dutifully establish a profile and create the compulsory network of friends and coworkers with a handful of people from their past and present. Until they lose their job. And then as "everyone" tells them to do, they begin "networking" to find a job. They reach out to their network, letting them know they're in the market for a new position. (27-May-2013)

5 Advantages of Mobile for Customer Service
Companies who use a customer engagement platform enable every employee across the organization to engage with each other and its customers like never before. Mobile connects your field service reps to your contact center, your managers to the data they need to make decisions, and your department to the rest of the company. So how does mobile technology really impact a customer service department?

Download this eBook to learn more!

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11 Performance Review/Management Super Tips For Managers And HR

My quick guide to performance management,andnbsp;Making Performance Management and Appraisal VALUABLE: Walking The Path Together contains 86 tips on how to make performance management both effective and how to remove the sense of confrontation and feelings of discomfort.

Here are the first 11 tips from the book, which is available in PDF format from this store, or from amazon in hard copy.

11 Simple, Yet Profound Perspectives To Make Performance Management Work

It's virtually impossible to make a performance management system work across an organization unless it adds and is perceived as adding value to 1) the company, 2) executives and managers, and 3) employees. That's rule ONE.

2. Almost everything that constitutes good management is contained in effective performance management. The best way to be a great manager is to institute a proper means of managing performance! The rest all falls into place.

3. Make it clear to the employee that the forms need to be done but the really important part is the discussion between manager and employee.

4. A lot of anxiety can be eliminated if a) employees understand what process will be used for the performance review discussion, and b) that there will be no surprises during the review meeting.

5. 360 degree feedback is not a replacement for performance management and appraisals. Anonymity and lack of ability to discuss comments with originators makes the value of the feedback process questionable.

6. Technology has emerged as a way to ssstreamliness performance management and appraisals, but it makes it easy to forget that managing performance is about people. Software programs make it easier to do bad things more quickly. Don’t get sucked in to doing only what the software requires.

7. Most experts agree that it is inappropriate to use the results of 360-degree appraisals to determine promotions and pay levels because of a) inaccurate rating systems, and b) limitations of anonymous feedback. If you use 360-degree feedback consider it as a way to provide employees with information about their performance, but not to make any final determinations regarding quality of work.

8. Performance reviews work best when the discussion brings together both parties in a partnership to improve performance. Consider getting input from employees about how YOU can help them perform more effectively, or how they feel you are doing your job.

9. NEVER, ever stop doing performance management because an employee is at the top of his or her pay scale.. Remember, it’s about continuous performance improvement! Shouldn't everyone have a chance to get better regardless of pay scale or current performance level?

10. If you base pay raises on performance appraisal results you set up a situation where you and the employee are not perceived as “on the same side”, because there’s a lot at stake. In many companies you won’t have a choice, so it’s simply a reality that must be recognized. You will need to work extra hard at creating the perception that, salary aside, you are both on the same team.

11. The relationship you build with each employee is by far, the most powerful force in improving performance (or in making performance work). When you talk and act like a partner with the goal of helping the employee, you’ll be amazed at the positive effects this can have.

Stay tuned, we'll have more advice from the book soon.