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Are all HT's aware of their 'special responsibility'

Discussion in 'Headteachers' started by a19pb, Nov 8, 2008.

  1. Let's get right to the point.

    Workplace bullying is a problem in many schools.

    HT's are responsible for the physical and psychological wellbeing of their staff.

    THe Protection from Harassment act makes the employer vicariously liable for damage caused to any employee which is caused by the actions or inactions of other employees.

    HT's have a duty to train all staff as to how to recognise bullying behaviours and by failing to put in place appropriate training are simply not complying with their employers own policies.
    My perseption is that most HT's have never recieved approprioate training as regards recognising potential bullies either at interview or when in post and are often as susceptible to being bullied as other teachers. Any comment?
    I'd be interested to hear the HT's perspective and any explaination as to why they are not fulfilling this critically important part of their job.

    Don't be scared - feel free to disagree. Has anyone made their staff 'workplace bullying aware'.
  2. I realise that for many of you HT's reading this thread, this might seem a 'Hot Potato' but why should it be?

    I can imagine some people thinking that if their staff understood that the way they were being treated was contrary to what was acceptable behaviour as defined by the Dignity at Work policy then there might be problems. Of course there would and rightly so.
    On the other hand, if people at whatever level treated each other correctly rather than emulating bullying behaviours used by their seniors that they assume to be acceptable, then morale / teaching and learning could only improve.
    You are all aware of colleauges who bully their staff, isn't it your duty to make an effort to make a difference?
    Don't be shy please - you're not usually - have your say on what should be at the top of every HT's 'To Do' list.

  3. Well thanks 'a19bp' I feel suitably admonished and morally shamed, I shall remove a worthy point from my smugly superior chart in my Office.
    I was making a serious point in a sarcastic way, we have a huge number of responsibilities, all of them extremely important and 'special' to someone or a group.
    Yes you raise an important issue, which for some people is an unacceptable nightmare. That should be addressed as needed, same as bullying amongst children. Having a one-size fits all policy or inititaive or focus or national push or whatever, is often wasteful and a bit patronising, as it assumes we all have a 'problem'.
    Is yours a 'special' responsibility?....Any more than ensuring the safety of everyone on a trip or ensuring that a budget is balanced for the whole school going forward so staff don't face the nightmare uncertainity of losing jobs or supporting a bereaved colleague or seeing the parent who cannot cope with her brother's drug addiction???? All of these are 'special' and a responsibility.
    Whilst we are preaching about employer's responsibilities and perspectives...What about Headteacher's welfare and wellbeing? Whose 'special' responsibility is that? See that is a 'special' interest to me.

  4. I thought employees had responsibilities too. Isn't it the duty of an employee to report instances of workplace bullying, as much as it is the duty of the employer to have effective policies and practices in place to deal with the issue?

    It might be also pertinent to point out that HTs are employees too. Not too sure of effective policies and practices to cope with HTs who are bullied by staff, LA, Ofsted, SIPs etc.

    Sure there is probably a need for awareness raising in many settings, but everyone is an employee too. There is also probably a need for people to understand the difference between bullying and the (sometimes hurtful, tactless, bad tempered etc) interaction between colleagues that is part and parcel of everyday life.
  5. Im not sure what all the fuss is about here? I know that I am responsible for the welfare of my staff. I have a duty of care. i feel totally protective of tehm in every manner. It breaks my heart that they go home deflated after parents evening because there was one obnoxious parent out of 30. I do trry to provide a work life balance. in turn, my staff look after me - they know when to 'bother ' me and not to. they NEVER ask what Ive done all day. they understand when Im stressed.

    isnt this about building relationships? My satff are my friends as well as my colleagues. we all understand where the boundaries lie. i spend more time with these people than I do my own family (husband and kids included) if you cant look after each other what is it all about?!?!?!?
  6. Momid re your second post, thanks for entering the discussion.
    FIrstly can i clarify, my agenda is not about SMT bashing. It is about raising awareness that the workplace bullying issue is misunderstood from the bottom to the top. People who have not had close encounters, unless they read other's testimonies, might retire, acknowledging their is some level of problem but not understanding either the scale or severity of the problem.
    Further, the importance of people making employment decisions understanding the importance of looking for signs of disordered personalities amongst candidates (i.e. people with NPD and or ASPD traits will present as outstanding candidates and might outshine much more suitable and potentially valuable people.) Employing such a person will create a 'hostile' environment where previously there was relative harmony
    You ask about the Health of Headteachers - it is as important as any other member of staff - Headteachers count! If a 'good' (by that i mean compent and caring about staff / children / managing an effective team) makes the mistake of employing someone with a NPD/ASPD then it is probable their health will suffer. THe sort of things that happen are that the person might privately suggest that they support the HT but might suggest to the HT that his staff don't while at the same time suggest privately to the staff that the ('good') HT is badmouthing them. The game plan - create a buffer between staff and HT, destroy the HT then step into their shoes. This sort of thing does happen, many 'burnt out' HT', intelligent, competent and caring though they are, will not realise they have in fact themselves been bullied out.
    As regards the special responsibilities. - I understand that time is a problem, HT's have a lot of balls to juggle - they must prioritise. How in the first instance might the 'Counter Bullying' ball be rolled out ?
    Finally, there will be sceptics, to allay their fears, the reality is that while the spirit and stated intention of the Dignity at Work policies is good the proceedured for dealing with non compliance are ineffective so that even if senior people breach the pocicies, the employer will protect them from being called to account - That's and unfortunate reality. Employers will go to greate lengths to cover for bullies in positions of power in schools for obvious reasons.
    <h3>'Kangaroo courts' -- Never ! -- Our systems are both fair and reliable.</h3>Bottom line - good managers have nothing to fear and they should not listen to the scaremongering - there are great benifits to be had from making a workplace safe. Where there are problem individuals already on board, the fact that others are aware of their damaging behaviours will have the effect of reducing the incidence and effect. Bullies in the workplace like to think that people look up to them - For people to do that they will need to earn respect by engaging in a mutual respect agenda. Its actions that count, not words. Bullies often state the antithesis of the truth.
    FInally, my previous links, were actually relevant. THey should be read with an open mind by all senior people.

    Thanks again for entering the discussion. (apologies for any disjoint stuff above - i'm just typing without thinking too hard)

    actually are ineffective at dealing with bullies

    Its not rocket science - The first thing might be to circulate the Dignity at work policy to Senior Staff, give them a little time to get their houses in order then roll out the policy to all staff. Then, with the resources available on the internet, simply pointing to and endorsing anti workplace bullying , bullying awareness sites, even pointing to threads on this site would be a start. By HT's taking the initative, they would earn themselves brownie points with their staff. Clearly there might be some sceptacism and scaremongering that letting people know about their rights would lead to a flood of people crying wolf and making the management more difficult - This is scaremongering and is not what happens.

    By acknowledging that everyone was on a learning curve together would allow breathing space for 'unacceptable' behaviours to change without blame. If the stated aim, was to reduce the stress and to bulid a more health working environment people would get onboard quickly. The relief of working in a more genuinely supportive environment would make the juggelling exercisemuch easier.


  7. Blackdog, similarly thanks for joining.

    All employees
    have a duty to report bullying behaviours however with the current
    systems people, even if they recognise bullying behaviours against
    either themselves or others are scared to report them because of the
    justifieable fear of victimisation from the bully and their henchmen.
    THe discipline system is overwhelmingly biased towards protecting the
    more senior person and it is most often the more senior person who is
    responsible for the bullying behaviour. Again, please read the
    previously linked threads. Further - most people don't even know their
    responsibility or even that a Dignity at Work policy exists. (an
    asside- Almost all employers in education have a policy simply because
    having the policy offers some protection when defending personal injury
    The rolling out and publicising / endorsing the policies is a prerequsite regardless.
    Everything is not bullying - people can fall out - not everyone will get on. The indicators suggested in the OP of the thread

    <h3>The most dangerous bullies 'bully by stealth'</h3>
    would provide a reasonably reliable indicator if an establishment has a problem.

    Thanks again for your contribution.
  8. Herecomestrouble - a nice handle for what seems to be a decent person.

    I can't agree more with anything you say (other than what's all the fuss about) - its about teambuilding / no blame / safe workplace. Clearly that seems to be what you have. Are you aware of the possibility of employing someone who causes conflict and how that might happen?

    <h3>One in Thirty - Tim Field</h3>
    I almost employed such a person myself many years ago before I was aware that such people existed. The person presented as an outstanding candidate, smartly dressed and smooth talking. I remember thinking that this guy, young though he was seemed to have more experience and achievments than myself working for me. That didn't concern me as he seemed to be keen and I was /am not fearful of people more capable than myself. He even used a little flattery. As a gambit, he told me that he had been caught by a speed camera coming to the interview because he didn't want to be late. I now recognise the warning signs -- even down to the speed camera story. That's the 'looking for pity' aspect of the personality which is usually evident but disguised.

    Fortunately, circumstances changed and we decided not to recruit - It was a lucky escape. The claimed achievments were false, and his employment history embellished.
    As yours is a good workplace, then it could be argued that their is no need for bullying awareness. I'd suggest that this is not the case. People in your school might think all schools are like theirs and are certainly unlikely to stumble across finding out how bad some schools actually are. People might look for advancement, knowing they are good at their job and being valued, them move to a new school where they might fall foul of some of the disgusting behaviours which do happen. At least if they are aware, then they might recognise problems and either jump ship or at least have a chance of survival.
    All this is not catatrostrophising or exagerrating. HAve you not noticed schools / departments which always seem to be recruiting. Are you not aware of problem individuals. Are you always keen to take people as you find them? THis last trait is typical of most good people and to a greater extent is fine. However, good people in senior positions are often groomed by bullies below them so that when (not if) conflict challenges their position, they can rely on the support of their bosses who 'have no reason not to trust everything the bully says often assuming that the target of the bully is either lying or as suggested by the bully suffering mental health issues and exagerating / missinterpreting things that have happenned. e.g. the bully says assisting - the reality was underming and interfering. Most of this is covered elsewhere. Please consider learning more about the subject and sharing it with your staff. You and they will benefit.

    Thanks again

  9. apologies for typos and the odd mixed up sentences, their instead of there etc - An important correction is in the last post that the bully will often suggest that the target has mental health / burn-out issues - by affing a little feigned concern for the target and suggesting that they themselves are suffering from stress (looking for pity again) because of the poor performance / malicious claim. The groomed boss / investigator fall for the scam regularily.

    Resuly - no justice, no closure, continued bad behaviour - a damaged individual and a more hostile / fearful / polarised environment for those that remaim

  10. To clarify - my agenda here is to share experience/expertise and to make a difference.
    As headteachers reading this are in a better position (in real life) than myself to make a difference in their own workplaces it be useful to provide your opinion / suggestion as to how / if staff should be educated.

    Its taken for granted that all HT's will claim that they understand the way workplace bullying works. It is less likely that many would acknowledge the scale of the problem. The more informed amongst you will know it is a major issue in many establishments, some might realise their own vulnerabillity and there will be many who suggest that , while it exists,it isn't a significant problem and that, in their own establishment it is not tollerated. ( The reality is that many of you will not understand about workplace bullying but only that you think you do. That is not meant to suggest failings on your part but simply to make the genuine amongst you look further than the obvious / easy / comfortable belief you might currently have).
    Those in the latter category (before the brackets) are the most probable to be /or to knowingly or unknowingly protect the worst offenders as by stating with conviction what they want their staff/pupils and parents to believe with authority and conviction expect to be believed. They put themselves on a pedistal, they present as people who always suggest they put the needs of their school first and themselves as exceptional leaders to be trusted to look after the interests of all they 'lead'. The reality is it is all spin - their agenda is personal gain (admiration/narcissistic supply/control/power) and mixed with the nuggets of truth will be examples of the antithesis of the truth being stated with conviction. The gain could be personal or they could be being controlled by someone below them - A bully DHT can control a 'good' HT without the HT realising.

    You are the leaders - what do you have to say? How can you make a positive difference. What is to be gained ?

  11. Okay - lots of people are having a look but are clearly reluctant to show their position.
    Let's think about why this might be.

    Clearly if there was no problem, then people would be saying that and ask why the subject is even being raised. We all know there is some problem - but how bad is it really?
    Some will be thinking that they know there is a problem but, to their knowledge, they have never been bullied themselves in the workplace and have not witnessed any bullying - Surely if that were the case, they could at least say so? ---- No-one is. Is it just that people are uncomfortable to think too much about it ? Just like in europe during the war. It doesnt affect me so I don't want to know too much. Headteachers at least should be taking responsibility and speaking out. What do you think? 'Being uncomfortable is no excuse for doing nothing!

    Some might realise the scale of the problem and be actually well versed - are they too scared to speak out and show their position in fear of retribution from some of their rather nasty peers? If that is the case - is that not concerning for us all ?
    Headteachers generally are all being bullied, to at least an extent, by the authorities - they are being forced to do and say things with which they disagree and that they know are abusive to their staff - they become either willing or unwilling henchmen. Why would the government / employer knowingly do such a thing ? -- Lots of reasons mostly about division and control. They say the many initatives are to provide better service etc when they know the antithesis is true - the public largely buy into the spin - the teachers lot becomes worse. Why are HT's not even acknowledging this aspect of the problem ? Of course, those HT's who buy into and feed the spin are bullies themselves. Their agenda is personal gain-- eithe further promotion/power or to feed their need for narcissistic supply. The good ones should be stating publicaly that the constant change/excessive workload is causing them and their staff distress and anxiety and is detrimental to their collective health then linking this to the protection against such behavioursprovided by the law. (Personal injury PFHA etc.)
    Of course, the more initiatives there are, the easier it is to suggest that the teachers are carp - the teachers are generally told it so often and are treated badly - Behaviours used are things like undermining, constant change, failure to reward achievments, incompetent management, overwork, being given responsibility without authority etc etc. a little of this , a little of that - over time self esteem and performance suffer. Is that not bullying?

    Then of course are the bullies themselves. The more senior they are, the easier it is for them to abuse by stealth while creating a veneer of respectability. These are the ones who say they don't tollerate bullying of staff and will investigate any complaints fully. Quite simply they are liars who without conscience,guilt empathy or remorse can say and effectively do or not do anything to sell their misconceptions and lies to whoever they need.

    We aren't even getting the

    'This is an outrage bullying of staff in schools is rare, this is simply $hitstirring! or What is this idiot saying ! Surely this is a damaged individual writing this etc etc.
    Why not ?

  12. If you can't / won't help here, possibly you could spare a little time to help a colleague who is clearly being bullied by their HT. I know its uncomfortable for you but then that is not a reason to bury your heads in the sand and take the 'I'm lright Jack' attitude.

    Surely some of you have something to offer?

    <h3>Just want to Fly Away!</h3>

    or is it a question of Honour amongst thieves? Okay, that's a bit harsh - forget that last comment. I know many of you are decent people.

  13. While it might be mor comfortable and convineint for the people at the top to ignore or trivialise the extent of the damage done to the education system and society as a whole by workplace bullying, it is simply not acceptable for Headteachers to do nothing and to ignore their employers policies.
    What is the problem for decent Headteachers here?

    <h3>Schools - Churches - Mostly good people. - an ideal environment ?</h3>that link explains why schools attract damaging people into the big jobs. Its worth a look.

  14. Just in case some of you reading aren't keen on clicking links, here is a sample random post from that thread

    I know a school where 13 members of staff have left and 1 has become
    seriously ill in the 4 years since the current head took over. Most
    left because of the HT's beaviour towards others. The illness was
    caused as a direct result of the HT's treatment of an individual. Its
    disgraceful, but everybody is to scared for themselves (their
    reputation and future carreer prospects) to do anything about it.
    Except leave.

    There are lots more - it is a problem that needs addressed by people like yourselves.

  15. Of course, if HT's remain denial and fail to fulfil the requirements of their employers anti - bullying and harassment policies then how will things ever get better ?

    Its a problem in Scotland to :-

    <h3>Bullying of teachers by senior staff</h3>
  16. FabulousPoodle

    FabulousPoodle New commenter

    I am very aware of the need to protect the emotional wellbeing of my staff in school. I recognise that events in their lives outside school can have an impact on their lives in school. I believe in developing a good working relationship with my staff and try to be open and empathetic and hope that my staff feel they can approach me when they have problems and issues. I am not aware of any bullying issues in my school, but staff know that they can record concerns anonymously and I will keep a 'watching brief' to see if their concerns are justified. I would advise any person who feels they are being bullied, to keep a detailed diary of dates, times and incidents and use this as supporting evidence in a letter to the Governing body. Sometimes trivial incidents or seemingly 'offhand' comments can build up over time to a picture of continuous low level bullying behaviour which can make the victim feel disempowered and helpless.

    Unfortunately I speak from experience. I once worked in a school where the H.T was so emotionally needy herself, she was unable to see the need of her staff to be treated fairly and reasonably. This H.T made serious errors of judgement which had a devestating impact on some of the staff. One member of staff had a mental breakdown and was retired on medical grounds. I doubt if she will ever work again. Other members of staff were frequently reduced to tears by this H.T, who refused to admit she was ever wrong. What was awful, was that this Head could manipulate any situation to make her sometimes bizarre actions seen totally reasonable. She implied that those members of staff who complained were a bit hysterical and liable to over-react.

    I was one of the many staff who left that school, not because I personally was bullied, but because of the awful atmosphere and the constant feeling of watching my back. The H.T explained the mass exodus to Governors by saying that she insisted in the highest standards of performance for the benefit of pupils and some staff just were not up to the job, and that her 'in house' professional development of staff was so strong that they inevitably left to take up promotions. This was a lie as most of the staff left before they could find full time permanant jobs and ended up in supply. Some left teaching altogether. The Governors have not questioned the H.Ts explaination and staff who leave do not confront her with the real reasons they are leaving because she writes their reference. Heads are all powerful in school and although I am now a head myself, I do believe that there needs to be a mechanism within the LEA for staff who are bullied by H.Ts to be able to raise a complaint. An independant investigation can be carried out with both sides providing evidence, but the real barometer of concern would be where multiple complaints are made.

  17. Fabulousp

    Thanks for the informed input - If HT's like yourself, push the 'mutual respect' agenda and ensure that everyone is aware about how to recognise themselves or others being bullied then issues have a chance of being resolved as bullying behaviours can be more openly described as such and be tackled.
    Further, if people like yourself know that the normal reaction of a serial bully when a person reports their bullying is that the person reporting is then victimised, then active steps can be taken to protect them - importantly they should make the person reporting aware of the likelyhood and provide them with a safe person with appropriate authority should needs arise. When the HT is the bully or is close to the bully, there is always a conflict of interest and justifieable fear of bias. What normally happens is the bully is told about the complaint, either denies intent or promises to change how they behave then, after a short pause, manipulate others to victimise the person who has challenged. Zero tollerance is what is required to protect 'people - the policies say that is what must happen - unfortunately, the policies aren't enforced and good people routinely end up seriously damaged.
    Workplace bullies do not like others realising the cause of problems is the bullies behaviour and so they have a reason to change for the better how they treat others.

  18. When the HT is the source of the problems then the pattern is often to promote weak people two levels down to become 'henchmen' -- then squash out good people they can't control at AHT/DHT level, then to form an obedient bullying machine which damages the whole ethos of the school.
    Its only when everyone recognises the patterns and the effects and makes the link that things will change. Mass education is required so that people recognise the indicators and stop playing ball. THose a the top who abuse others do not want things to change. Evidence here suggests that there is not much support amongst HT's to educate others. Rather sad methinks.
    For those that are prepared to open their minds a little, it might provide benefit to look at and possibly contribute to this current thread which relates to a current bullying situation.
    <h3>Bullying colleague; what can I do?</h3>
  19. All HT's should be doing more toeducate their staff about workplace bullying. Why don't they? Is it simply that they do not understand it themselves and that they are scared of the unknown. Or is that doing the usual - giving them the benefit of the doubt?
    I think the answer can be correct for different individuals.
    Good HT's have nothing to fear and so much to gain for both themselves and their schools.


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