“Disgruntled: unhappy, annoyed, and disappointed about something”
- Cambridge Dictionaries Online
An administrator complained to me in a recent conversation about a small group of disgruntled parents who were interfering with the ability to achieve consensus within the school community. While I understand that dealing with these vocal opponents was making his job more difficult, I also think that he was not seeing the opportunity that he had in front of him. In my view, people who are moved enough to be disgruntled have one important attribute - they care about the situation. This means that they want to make things better.
Too often in our society, people have become so frustrated with the status quo that they just drop out. One only has to look at the level of voter participation on election day to see the effect of this apathy. Unfortunately, this only serves to solidify the existing conditions that caused dissatisfaction in these non-voters. Their belief may be that a single vote does not count, but by definition it carries more weight than a non-vote. After all, what politician would ever reconsider a position to satisfy a person who they know will not show up at the ballot box or contribute to their campaign?
People who are truly disgruntled are so worked up about an issue they would never miss the election. They know their votes may not affect the outcome but consider them a badge of honor - the final tally will at least publicly confirm that an opposition existed. The squeaky wheel not only gets the grease, it receives the political attention.
The parents of school-age children often fall into the apathetic side of the equation. Some really do not have an interest in the education that their children receive, but most are just overwhelmed by life’s other responsibilities. For this administrator to have a group of parents that are so involved that they have become disgruntled, should be looked at as an opportunity. With the proper leadership, he can focus their energy to the benefit of the students.
To turn these parents from adversaries to team members, he first has to look at their efforts with the view that they are all really working towards the same goal. Perhaps a less defensive tone will allow him to see that they really do have some valid points and allow this group of parents to feel that they have been heard. For those issues where there is still disagreement, he needs to find a way to get everyone to move on, either through compromise or an agreement to disagree. With a clean slate, perhaps both parties could work together to improve the school.