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What's Left Unsaid

Apr 05, 2024

Do you actually remember the days BEFORE social media? Are you like me and also remember a time before emails and mobile phones? There was a time before Instragram, Tik Tok, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twiiter that we had a lovely blissful time of peace and quiet. We were not always accessible and if we were meeting someone at 8pm, we would be there at 8pm without texting 'leaving now', 'Be there in 5', 'Just finding a park' etc.

Now that we all have smartphones, it seems nearly like an involuntary movement to start scrolling in the spare moments. It’s hard not to have sneaky looks of our phone at any given moment. Take this a step forward with smart watches and we are in constant contact.

Recently I wrote about the right to disconnect. We can do our part to disconnect but how do we break this habit to pick up the phone, swipe at our watch and constantly update everyone to our whereabouts, whatabouts and howabouts?

We don’t have to share everything. It’s okay to have boundaries including the boundaries on what we share and when we share it.

As a school leader I love our staff and adore our school community. Whilst I want to show interest and enthusiasm for people and their worlds, I don’t want to know everything.

It’s okay to have things left unsaid. 

In the same experience it's okay to leave things to the following day. I recently read an article talking about teachers sending each other lesson plan ideas at 11pm via their WhatsApp group. All I could think was 'This is why I flat refuse to be in WhatsApp groups'. Just as nothing good happens after 2am when you're out and no good story starts with 'So, I was eating a salad one night' there is no amazing lesson plan that is being shared at 11pm via WhatsApp. Seriously, boundaries people!

I feel our Gen Z staff coming through are really great at this. I feel that they are understanding more the difference between work colleagues and friends, work and weekends.

It has been difficult to find the swing back to this approach. Showing care and concern whilst keeping a clear boundary around what people are sharing can be challenging. It's just the same as the difficulty with showing dedication whilst keeping healthy work boundaries.

I feel that we are on the other side of ‘peak oversharing’ with an understanding of work as work and home as home. There will always be those who feel the need to overshare and believe a caring boss is one who knows all the details of your life. With the recent focus on 'right to disconnect' I really hope we are on the other side of 'peak availability' with work. We do need to be courageous in this and name things as personal, name availability' as during work hours and do our best to follow our own rules.

My belief is that whilst we are on the ‘right to disconnect’ bandwagon we can name professional sharing boundaries. A simple way to do this is through personal leave, which is also known as sick leave. My mantra with staff is ‘personal leave is personal – I don’t need to know why you are away. Just keep it discreet’. Rather than asking why someone was away, rephrase to ‘welcome back’ or ‘it’s good to see you’.

It's more than fine to leave things unsaid and normalise the boundaries between personal and professional lives. Reclaiming the mystery a bit and celebrating the space between our work and play might be the missing link to assist in our ability to truly disconnect.

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