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Dealing with Unsupportive Colleagues in the Teaching Profession

Janelle Cox

In the teaching profession, we have to deal with a lot of different issues. One of the many things that most of us didn’t quite expect in the teaching profession was the challenge of dealing with an unsupportive colleague: The teacher that isn’t quite a team player, or who has trouble listening to others’ suggestions. Just like our students, all teachers are unique and different which means not everyone will always be supportive. But as adults, why is it so hard for some people to support your fellow coworker and get along? Here we will take a look at some of the reasons teachers have to deal with unsupportive colleagues in the teaching profession and what you can do to change that.

The Root of Unsupportive Colleagues in the Teaching Profession

There are two main reasons why teachers may not be supportive to their coworkers, the first being because they are insecure and jealous, and the second being because they think they are more experienced.

Jealousy and Insecurity

Envy in the workplace is nothing new. It’s something that can go on no matter what your profession is. However, with teachers that work so closely together, it can get quite uncomfortable. In today’s education system, many teachers use social media. This allows teachers to share photographs of their ingenious and creative lesson plans with their fellow teachers. With this may come some jealously and insecurity in others, because those teachers who aren’t as talented may feel like less of a teacher. When you are constantly comparing yourself to someone that is more talented then you are, things can become challenging.

Seniority Issues

There is no denying that veteran teachers have a lot of experience. However, when they take on the “I’m a better teacher than you are because I have more experience” approach, then they become an unsupportive colleague. Teachers are lifelong learners, and can learn something from everyone. So when they become unsupportive because they know “Too much,” it becomes a challenge to work with them.

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How You Can Deal with These Types of Coworkers

When you are exposed to unsupportive co-workers in the education field, it can have a huge impact on your daily life. While you don’t have the ability to change the way someone else acts, you do have the ability to change the way you react. Here are a few ways to help you deal with these types of teachers so it will help minimize the effect it has on you as well as your students.

Focus on Your Students

Remind yourself why you are a teacher. It isn’t to worry about your unsupportive coworkers, it is to educate the youth. Keep your focus on your students and put all of your focus into your work. As soon as you feel yourself getting dragged into any drama, or you find yourself getting upset about another coworker, then put all of your attention into your students. You don’t want your job as an educator to be compromised, now do you?

Confront Your Colleague With Caution

If your fellow colleague is making it so difficult for you that you can’t concentrate at work, then it may be time to cautiously confront them. For all you know, they may be totally unware of their behavior (they usually aren’t but you never know). Sometimes they may have thought with the best of intentions, so try and give them the benefit of the doubt. Then, as kindly as you possibly can, tell them how you are feeling, and give them specific examples. For instance, you can say “I’m feeling this way because of the time when …” Then give them some time to think it over and have a reaction to what you said. If all else fails, talk to your administrator (but only as a last resort).

Be Mindful of the Way You React

The best thing that you can do for yourself is to be aware of what is happening in the present moment. When you are mindful and not reactionary, you have total control. You may even find that the colleague that once bothered you so much no longer affects you, because your attention is elsewhere. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to deal with unsupportive colleagues, because it allows you to be mindful of how people treat you. When you encounter a situation that you are uncomfortable in, or if you are feeling negative vibes toward a co-worker, being mindful can help you.

Teachers are knowledgeable, and we use that knowledge to help our students who aren’t getting along with one another. If we can take the time to help our students learn to be supportive with one another, then we can the time to do the same for our colleagues.

How do you deal with an unsupportive colleague in your school? Have you ever had a bad experience in the teaching profession? Please share with us in the comment section below, we would love for you to share your stories with us.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.