Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bullying and Harassment among staff

General overview:
"It's a talent flight. The best and brightest are driven out. The slugs, the slow-minded, dimwitted sycophants are the bully's allies."
(Gary Namie, co-founder of the Workplace Bullying and trauma Institute in Bellingham, Wash., quoted in: Companies must deal with workplace bullies or lose brightest employees; expert, Camille Bains, CBC News: Business, May 8, 2006.)

Bullying and harassment among staff in schools is a widespread problem. It arises in an insidious manner and is extremely difficult to identify and rectify. This is an issue which is currently being researched by the University of New England. Investigations by the NSW teacher's Federation also documented alarming findings:

The University of New England in north-west New South Wales has launched a survey to identify the level of bullying being experienced by teachers.
The project leader, Dr Dan Riley, says the survey is following a pilot study that revealed more than 97 per cent of teachers have experienced bullying behaviour.

"It's not talked about, you know, 'you're an adult, just get on with it and if you don't like it walk out the door'," he said.
"But in actual fact given the current circumstances of the economy with full employment and the difficulty of finding school leaders it's very important.
"Not just for the value of the individual but also for the value of the system to sit down and see whether this is a problem and if so what degree is it and how do we resolve it."
The new survey will examine up to 1,000 teachers throughout Australia.
Dr Riley says the main culprits are expected to be parents, executive officers and principals.

1000 confidential surveys on workplace bullying were sent to teachers by the NSW Teacher's Federation.
250 responses were received.
The overwhelming majority of teachers who returned the survey reported that they had been bullied at work.
Half reported that they were being bullied on at least a monthly basis.
One third reported that they were being bullied on a weekly basis.
Many teachers who have reported or challenged bad language and behaviour say they have received little support.

"This seems to be an endemic problem and we have to find a solution to it," said NSW Teacher's Federation president Maree O'Halloran.
( Teachers set bad example by bullying each other, The Daily Telegraph, 14/12/2006.)


This is an enormously extensive resource detailing the methods and motives of bullying amongst teachers, with particular focus on the problem in Queensland:

Have you completed the UNE survey into teacher bullying? http://www.schoolbullies.org.au/


What is workplace harassment?
Workplace harassment is offensive, belittling or threatening behaviour directed at an individual worker or group of workers. Harassment is often focused on the sex, cultural or racial background or disability of the individual or group.
Harassment is behaviour that is unwelcome, unsolicited, usually unreciprocated and usually (but not always) repeated. It makes the workplace or association with work unpleasant, humiliating or intimidating for the individual or group targeted by this behaviour. It can make it difficult for effective work to be done.

Workplace harassment should not be confused with advice or counselling on the work performance or work-related behaviour of an individual or group which might include critical comments indicating performance deficiencies. Feedback or counselling on work performance or work-related behaviour differs from harassment, in that feedback or counselling is intended to assist employees to improve work performance or the standard of their behaviour. Feedback or counselling should always be carried out in a constructive way that is not humiliating or threatening.

Harassment and bullying in the workplace can take many forms. It can be overt or
subtle, direct or indirect (for example where a hostile feeling/environment is created
without any direct attacks being made on a person).

Some forms of verbal harassment include:
• sexual or suggestive remarks
• making fun of someone
• imitating someone’s accent
• spreading rumours
• obscene telephone calls/unsolicited letters, faxes or email messages
• repeated unwelcome invitations
• offensive jokes
• repeated questions about personal life
• threats or insults
• name calling
• the use of language that is not suitable in the workplace

Non-verbal harassment includes:
• putting sexually suggestive, offensive or degrading/insulting material on walls,
computer screen savers, email, etc
• suggestive looks or leers
• wolf whistling
• unwelcome practical jokes displaying or circulating racist cartoons or literature
• mimicking someone with a disability
• being followed home from work
• ignoring someone or being particularly cold or distant with them
• continually ignoring or dismissing someone’s contribution in a meeting/discussion
• not sharing information

Physical harassment includes:
• offensive hand or body gestures
• unnecessarily leaning over someone
• unnecessary and unwelcome physical contact (pinching, patting, brushing up against
a person, touching, kissing, hugging)
• indecent or sexual assault or attempted assault
• pushing, shoving or jostling
• putting a hand or an object (like a payslip or a note) into someone’s pocket
• damage to property, such as teachers’ cars

Harassment and bullying may occur between colleagues, across age and gender,
between groups or individuals.
In relationships where formal authority and power can be exercised, it can be particularly distressing and intimidating, especially if threats are made in relation to performance review or to job security.


Regulations regarding Bullying and Harassment:

Responding to Suggestions, Complaints and Allegations Procedures (PDF 297kB)


Other Acts relevant to Human Resource Management:

Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975The Act enables the review of decisions made under certain legislation (particularly the Superannuation legislation, the FOI Act, the Compensation Act and some secrecy provisions) by the AAT.
Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977The Act enables the review of decisions made under an Act by the Federal Court - it also provides for a person who is affected by a decision to seek the reasons for that decision.
Crimes Act 1914The Act provides criminal penalties for a range of actions (such as fraud, theft, bribery, browsing a Commonwealth Computer, release of Commonwealth information) that may be committed against the Commonwealth whilst in employment or after employment.
Disability Discrimination Act 1992The Act aims to eliminate, as far as possible, discrimination against persons on the ground of disability in certain areas, including employment.
Equal Employment Opportunity (Commonwealth Authorities) Act 1987The Act promotes equal employment opportunity for a range of identified groups.
Equal Opportunity For Women In The Workplace Act 1999 (Consolidation version)The Act aims to achieve the elimination of discrimination against, and the provision of equal opportunity for, women in relation to employment matters.
Freedom of Information Act 1982The Act provides the public with a right of access to many Commonwealth Records.
Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991The Act aims to secure the health, safety and welfare at work of employees of the Commonwealth
Privacy Act 1988The Act protects the personnel privacy of an individual in relation to any Commonwealth record maintained in relation to that individual.
Public Employment (Consequential and Transitional) Amendment Act 1999 (Consolidation version)The Act deals with the consequential and transitional matters arising from the repeal of the PS Act 1922 and the Merit Protection Act and the enactment of the replacement legislation - PS Act 1999.- refer to Historical information for additional resources
Sex Discrimination Act 1984The Act aims to eliminate, so far as is possible, discrimination against persons on the ground of sex, marital status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy.

Workplace Relations Act 1996The Workplace Relations Act provides a process for agreement-making and specific protection against unfair dismissal, unlawful termination and discrimination.


Key Responsibilities of the Teacher:

The NSW Department of Education and Training is committed to ensuring its policies and procedures are non-discriminatory and contribute to Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) outcomes. The Department's EEO program operates under Part 9A of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977. EEO is about: making sure that workplaces are free from all forms of unlawful discrimination and harassment.This means having workplace policies, practices and behaviours that are fair and do not disadvantage people because they are attributed to particular diverse groups.

It is the responsibility of the teacher to act within these procedures and to refrain from staff bullying and harassment as defined above.

Main ways these responsibilities are not being met:

"All cruelty springs from weakness."(Seneca, 4BC-AD65)

The key issues appear to centre around the abuse of power and hierarchical structures. School staff involved in bullying commonly display ‘kiss up, kick down’ behaviour. The causes of such behaviour can be varied, but are commonly attributed to feelings of weakness, insecurity or frustration:

Within schools, bullying is commonly not restricted to the individual, rather spread amongst groups, or ‘mobs’:

"If you receive a letter from a Bad Apple Bully that says something like, "I would much prefer that this matter did not become a disciplinary one...I therefore request that you attend a meeting with me and (another member of the Bad Apple Bully-Mob that I have groomed into supporting me)", it means that the Bad Apple Bullies have already decided to put you on Managing Unsatisfactory Performance ( it used to be called Diminished Workplace Performance).
The MUP process is going to be abused to destroy you mentally, physically, professionally and financially. The Bad Apple Bully-Mob are planning to drive you into an impoverished retirement."
See: http://www.badapplebullies.com/meetingthemob.htm

Such mob-like structures can be extremely difficult to break down. They enable both anonymous and ‘witnessed’ examples of alleged misconduct to be ‘documented’.
"Most organisations have a serial bully. It never ceases to amaze me how one person's divisive, disordered, dysfunctional behaviour can permeate the entire organisation like a cancer."

Tim Field

Case study:
‘That's why the Education Department sacked the teacher - a decision backed by the Industrial Relations Commission - and the Victorian Institute of Teaching cancelled his registration.’

Same case study as analysed by “Bad Apple Bullies”:

Recent Case Studies in Queensland, extensively documented:

Related Videos:

Video dramatising a variety of harassment scenarios:


Harassment of teacher due to homosexuality:

1 comment:

Lydia Burns said...

I have been bullied. See the link.