The Elephant in the Sector

Let’s be honest, there is a bit of a white elephant in our sector, a subject that no one wants to speak about.  That taboo subject would be, the dreaded word, Complaint!

Why is it that no one wants to speak about them, discuss them with each other and use them to learn from and develop to be able to enhance practice and delivery.  Is it uncomfortable, embarrassing, controversial or even socially isolating?

How many social media childcare groups are we all part of?  How many best practice groups are we part of?  What’s App groups, LA Groups, the list could go on and on.  How many of these groups speak about complaints that settings have received and what impact they have had? In my experience, not many.

Having been in childcare for more years than I want to admit, I have worked in all parts of the sector.  In the end, it is of no consequence where you work, when you are informed that your service has a complaint, your heart sinks, then the adrenaline kicks in.  Then the brain starts working overtime, trying to work out what the complaint it about, who made it, is all the information and documentation up to date, is everything signed for (it will be – but you doubt yourself!).

You find out what the complaint is about, and you feel absolutely devastated.

You go through the motions of receiving the complaint.    Negativity, responsibility, hurt, frustration, anger, devastation, embarrassment, perplexing…..this list could go on and on!  You are then left to “pick up the pieces” of what has just happened, not just for yourself, but for your whole team.  Then you then start with all the analysis of the complaint!   Will you ever find a conclusion and rationale?

Where do you go for support for complaints?  Your team?  Your management team?  Your family?  Or do you just try to deal with it yourself?  The isolation that happens when you get a complaint has got to stop.  How much do you learn from the impact of a complaint; how much more could other services tap and dip into how you dealt with the complaint?

We want to be honest and open and have discussions about complaints, how you deal with the aftermath and how you can turn a challenge into a positive experience.  Let’s break the taboo of complaints and support each other, when that is the time you need the support of your peers not their judgement (we all know there’s a bit of a “wouldn’t happen here” culture in our sector.)  We are in this together, so let’s come out the other side collaboratively not isolated.

A setting manager recently said to me, that dealing with a complaint had made her service and the team stronger. Wouldn’t it be great if we could share and celebrate that positivity with each other and share the learning that has come from a complaint, rather than brushing it away and hoping no one notices.

On a side note, and something else to think about, what about major incidents.  It is devasting to read on social media all the comments about other settings when incidents happen.   It can get splashed all over social media and with shocked emojis being used and very scarce comments offering support to that service.  There are two sides to every story and instead of sensationalising situations why not show support and think what that service, their management team, team, children, and their families are going through without the condemnation from other children care services (as mentioned before – “wouldn’t happen here”).

As Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning, Keeping together is progress, Working together is success”.