Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Sadly another case of bullying hits the press

Perhaps it’s something to do with last week being anti-bullying week, but the number of cases in the media concerning inappropriate behaviour on the part of senior managers seems to have suddenly increased.

Indeed the Daily Mail is currently reporting how a headteacher at a Catholic school now faces sanction from the General Teaching Council for unacceptable professional conduct and could be struck from the teaching register.

It’s claimed that the headteacher berated staff in front of pupils, causing several to quit the school in fear of suffering mental breakdowns.

An earlier employment tribunal heard how the female head enacted a campaign of harassment described as "the worst case of bullying ever seen in the workplace”

She was found to have regularly humiliated teachers for eating at the desks and using the toilet too often, and repeatedly rang a bell in her deputy head's ear "like a town crier". The deputy head has already been awarded £56,000 for constructive dismissal after she was forced to quit her post at the Plymouth school in October 2005, stating that the headteacher had made her life "a total misery".

The head’s tirades were not confined to teaching staff either: the school’s administrator quit in 2004, claiming the headteacher would often "bellow at her with a red face and blistering eyes”

The report in the Daily Mail has attracted a significant number of readers’ comments which are well worth viewing.

Daily Mail: 'Bullying' headmistress 'reprimanded teachers for using the toilet too often'

  • One of the responses to the Daily Mail article states simply: "Bullies are only bullies because they can get away with it." Do you agree?


  1. I agree that until the bullies are confronted with how their actions affect people by another party (normally of a higher standing) they will carry on bullying.

    Lou (Kent)

  2. It feels like there’s a nature/nurture issue in here somewhere.

    I do believe that there are some individuals who adopt a style of behaviour (often because it’s the way they have been managed in the passed) that can be described as bullying. However, with honest feedback and the right support they can change their approach and become successful, respected managers.

    However I have also had an experience of working with a manager who had numerous grievances raised against her in respect of her management style. But however hard she tried, those bullying tendencies always re-surfaced.

    So, in answer to your question Graham I think there are those who would stop the bullying if challenged. But then there are people who will always be bullies because that’s just how they are.


  3. In case anyone is looking for supporting information on this issue, the CIPD have published some useful guidelines:

  4. Guidelines are a good starting point however seem very difficult to action. I know a group of teachers who, after a period of time decided to pull together and report their Head, it was taken through procedure with everyone having to talk through their experiences with the person in question in the room.

    In the end the Council sent her back with a reprimand to the same position in the same school with the same people! I don't think they will ever report anyone again.

  5. As an outsider, the "talk through their experiences with the person in question in the room" approach seems destined to failure,so it's hardly surprising that the effect was a group of (presumably) even more dispirited employees.

    I'm sure there must be other education authorities that have a better approach than the one quoted.

  6. Having been on the receiving end & believing that I am normally a courageous person who speaks out, it's very difficult to highlight the problem to senior folks or raise an issue through a formal process. That's because you live in fear of the repercussions & worry that it could get worse not better. In my case our whole team was subjected to it and directors of the company (large FTSE 50) knew about it, commented on it to us privately but not one person intervened. It was hell & I didn't realise how much it changed my behaviours until after she left and normality returned. Sadly, by then the rest of the team had either been sacked by her or left of their own accord.

  7. Anonymous (27th Nov!):

    Thanks for the comment. I suspect that the fearing the repercussion aspect is what prevents many people, regardless of how courageous they normally are, from "making a fuss." It's also sad that, as in the case you describe, although normality may eventually return, the signs of destruction are still around for all to see for a while afterwards

  8. And what made it even worse is that I work in HR so all eyes around our part of the organisation were on the team at that time and it has damaged the reputation of the function as well as the profession.

  9. It's also about weak or condoning management. Bullies do not materialise overnight they take years of affirmation and not being reprimanded for poor behaviour to get to a point of no fear. There will always be ruthless people about but it takes an observant and strong manager to ensure that culture does not allow that sort of behaviour. It is often tollerated so long as no one complains or gets a bad reputation for the organisation.

  10. Reading these comments does make one realise that if the HR function is going to achieve a reputation for firmness combined with fairness, it will certainly have to put its own house in order. Sadly, anecdotal evidence indicates that the existence of bullying is certainly not unheard of in the HR function.

    I suspect that many non-HR line managers will therefore take their cue from HR, with the attitide of, "if it's OK for you, it's OK for me."

    Like Caesar's wife, I think HR needs to be above suspicion. Unfortunately, I don't think that's the case

  11. evision

    Please stop posting spurious links on this site.

    As soon as they are detected, they will be removed