How do I recognise bullying behaviour in my school? What are the bullying characteristics I might see?
It can be tough to deal with an over bearing boss or trying to realise unrealistic targets and impossible deadlines. But how we as educators recognise when it is isn’t our own failings to blame but those actions imposed upon us by poor leaders and managers. It is an all too common realisation in our schools that good teachers are being led to stress and depression by poor leadership. We have seen many cases come to light in the press in the past few years whereby teachers have spoken up against leaders that have made life uncomfortable for individuals and staff as a collective. Speaking out against a line manager or Headteacher can be a very risky business as teachers feel that their own jobs could be in jeopardy by going up against their bosses. The NUT alongside ACAS agree on the following as bullying behaviour:
“Spreading malicious rumours or insulting someone; Copying memos that are critical of an individual to others who do not need to know; Ridiculing or demeaning someone – picking on them or setting them up to fail; Excluding someone; Supervising someone in an overbearing way or otherwise misusing power or position; Making unwelcome sexual advances – touching, standing too close, displaying offensive materials and so on; Unfair treatment; Making threats or comments about someone’s job security without foundation; Deliberately undermining a competent worker by overloading and constant criticism; and Preventing someone from progressing by intentionally blocking promotion or training opportunities.”
Speaking up or taking up action on your own can seem a very daunting task. Particularly as it is possible for leaders to obtain evidence that shows that you are under performing in your role. This can be caused by the negative impact from a leader and could possibly be used against you. An argument then exists between the employee and the boss. Is the employee underperforming because of the leadership? Or is the employee under performing and looking to associate blame upon the leadership? However if more than one employee is witness to bullying behaviour as outlined above working collectively to resolve issues maybe a line to consider. The NUT offers the following advice;
“Many workplace disputes are best tackled collectively, and problems caused by bullying and poor management behaviour are no exception. Taking a collective approach can have a number of benefits for you and for your colleagues such as: Building stronger union organisation at your school – the stronger the NUT’s presence, the better placed your school-based rep will be to support individual members; Raising morale and empowering teachers at your school. Speaking out on behaviour issues collectively as a union sends a clear message and can make it easier for individual members to confront bad behaviour. It is especially helpful for staff who might have kept quiet because they feel insecure in their employment, for example agency supply teachers or NQTs; Acting together will make it easier for the NUT to negotiate improved anti-bullying policies to benefit all staff and to persuade your school to improve management training and other best practice initiatives on behaviour issues; Acting together helps ensure that issues like negative behaviour, excessive demands, workload, stress and sickness absence are recognised as health, safety and welfare issues that affect everyone in the school community. Fundamentally these are organisational matters that should be addressed through a joint reappraisal of working practices and culture, not as issues of individual responsibility or personal “fault”; A collective approach uses union resources more efficiently by maximising their impact.”
If you wish to gather evidence for a collective response to bullying behaviour the NUT offers a self help (anonymous) questionnaire that can be downloaded using the following link,
So what should you do if you feel that work place bullying is a real case in your school?
As your first step you should approach your school NUT rep and talk things through to help you decide what you want to do. Your rep will be able to give you a clear objective view and help you plan a way forward. Alternatively, if you prefer to talk to someone outside work, you can call the NUT Adviceline for advice on 020 3006 6266 (email email@example.com) if you are in England. If you are in Wales advice is available from NUT Cymru on 029 2049 1818 (email firstname.lastname@example.org).
In conclusion no teacher should have to put up with work place bullying. If you feel someone needs help or indeed you need help yourself speak to your union for advice and support. Don’t suffer in silence. There are trained advisors willing to support you!
Until next time,
Stress Free Teacher @stress_freeuk