Are you at risk of being bullied at work?
Sue Bushell writes that the pattern identified by European research, and now confirmed in Australia, indicates that those at high risk of being workplace bullied or mobbed at work are:
Does this describe you?
If so, you are at risk.Learn to recognise Bad Apple Bullies.
You can spot the Bad Apple Bullies in your workplace.
Listen carefully to the conversation of administrators.
Superficially a Bad Apple Bully may be charming.
But does the administrator seem -
By far the best advice is for you to do everything that you can to avoid working with a Bad Apple Bully administrator.
But if you are trapped in a school with a Bad Apple Bully you need to prepare to protect yourself:
1. Find out more about workplace bullying:
Tim Field's site is the "basic reader" on workplace bullying, harassment and mobbing: http://www.bullyonline.org/workbully/serial.htm
Tim Field was a Hero of Our Time.
Jacinta Kitt has completed a Masters Thesis on the subject of bullying in the workplace: http://members.shaw.ca/mobbing/mobbingCA/part-1.htm
Dr John Clarke has written about "workplace monsters"
In Working With Monsters Dr Clarke says -
"There are two objectives for many organisational psychopaths.
The first objective is to get to the top for the financial rewards and the power the position brings. ..."
"The second objective is to revel in the suffering and misery they inflict on the people they work with. ..."
"They use an arsenal of psychological techniques designed to cause as much confusion and conflict as possible within the organisation.
Undermining others, character assassination, blackmail, seduction and outright lying are just some of the techniques used to destroy the careers and lives of their co-workers. ..."
"Interpersonal conduct revolves around serving the interests of the organisational psychopath and any collateral damage caused to other people is either a bonus or of no concern. ..."
"An unfeeling nature, a grandiose sense of self-worth, a lack of remorse or guilt, self-importance, pathological lying, shallow emotions ... and an impulsive nature are some of the ... characteristics of the organisational psychopath. ..."
PP. 56-61 Working With Monsters : How to identify and protect yourself from the workplace psychopath, Dr John Clarke, Randon House, 2005 http://www.drjohnclarke.com/order_book.html $25 for a signed copy.
“Some of the ones I’ve spoken to don’t really see why it’s such a big issue because they see it more as a strategy they need to use to survive. It’s survival of the fittest.”
Workplace psychopaths consider themselves to be smarter than everyone else.
They inflict psychological harm upon colleagues deliberately.
When the victim publicly suffers, the psychopath derives enjoyment from seeing evidence they’re able to hurt and conquer another person.
Dr Clarke adds: “There’s an absolute lack of conscience, lack of remorse, and lack of guilt. They’re manipulative, superficially charming, and pathological liars. They like conning people and there’s a grandiose sense of self-importance.”
Their key tactic is to win the important people over first.
“People actually like them,” he says. “They use their excellent verbal abilities to create this false persona and people find them exciting, dynamic and engaging, and they use that to camouflage the torture they’re inflicting on their co-workers.”
Rehabilitation makes psychopaths worse.
Rehabilitation programs teach them better social skills, and the psychopath then uses those better social skills to target victims more effectively.
“The ultimate form of power and control is to destroy people, and that’s the motivation for their behaviours, and that’s why it’ll never change,” says Dr Clarke.
They see no need to change their behaviour because society rewards them for it.
They get promotions, more money and even awards for what they do.
2. Try to have current copies of the following Queensland Department of Education and the Arts policies available at home-
Code of Conduct : http://education.qld.gov.au/corporate/codeofconduct/index.html
Right to Information
Workplace Bullying, Harassment and Violence
Managing Performance- Teaching Staff and School Leaders
Grievance Resolution : http://education.qld.gov.au/strategic/eppr/hr/hrmpr042/index.html
Make sure that you are reasonably familiar with these policies.
Memorise one or two points that relate to your own case.
Do this very quietly.
If the Bad Apple Bully realises that you are looking at the policies it may trigger a pre-emptive strike.
But - and this is very important - don't make the mistake of expecting that Bad Apple Bullies will follow the official Education Queensland policies!
Bad Apple Bullies know that the official Education Department policies are irrelevant.
Bad Apple Bullies know that the only real Departmental rule that they must follow is -
to make sure that you have no documented evidence that they have done anything criminal!
So a Bad Apple Bully principal can destroy your career and your health in two days with gossip and secret sticky notes.
And no action will be taken against them.
In fact, if you complain, they will probably be celebrated and promoted.
That's "the process".
A veteran employee of the state integrity unit explains this situation at http://www.badapplebullies.com/otherways.htm
So - if the Department of Education policies are just "for show", how can you protect yourself against a Bad Apple Bully-Mob Attack?
You need to start right away, even if you believe that your school principal is "wonderful".
Your smiling, charming principal, the principal that you respect and trust absolutely, may not be what he or she appears to be.
And even "wonderful" principals get transfers or go on leave.
And it is at these times, when inexperienced administrators are running the school, that you are most vulnerable to a Bad Apple Bully-Attack.
When the principal is away, the psychopaths come out to play.
If you are attacked by an inexperienced administrator, you may find that your 'wonderful' principal will passively 'go along with' the bullying.
Because it's the easiest thing to do.
And because a wise administrator 'goes with the flow' and is careful not to put his or her own career at risk by 'rocking the boat'.
And because Education Queensland neglects its Duty of Care to protect classroom teachers from workplace abuse by inexperienced administrators.
3. Start a Professional Diary.
Buy a big page-a-day diary for each year that you are teaching.
Stick a copy of your timetable and class list(s) for the year inside.
Your Professional Diary may prove to be even more important to you than your teaching program.
How often does anybody look at your program?
Your Professional Diary may save your career and your health.
Give it priority.
Keep your Professional Diary at home.
Tell no-one about it.
If a Bad Apple Bully learns that you are preparing a Professional Diary they may launch a pre-emptive strike.
And Bad Apple Bullies promote Bad Apples.
The Bad Apple teacher that you are chatting frankly to today may be Acting Deputy Principal (with a few scores to settle) tomorrow.
When investigating workplace bullying, Queensland Department of Education and the Arts investigators only look at what is written down.
Even if every one of your fellow teachers knows that you are a brilliant teacher, it will not matter a hoot.
Education Queensland investigators will refuse to interview them.
An investigator will demand that you provide written evidence.
And once your friends see what has happened to you, they will not want to put anything in writing and risk the Bad Apple Bullies turning on them.
And, once you realise how the system works, you will not want to ask your friends to take such a risk.
It is important to understand that once you have been attacked by a Bad Apple Bully administrator, all other administrators have to support the Bad Apple Bully.
Their careers will depend on it.
Any "reviewer" or "investigator" will also be under huge, huge pressure to support the Bad Apple Bully and their mob.
So - start your Professional Diary today.
Collect written proof of all positive feedback.
Record the details of any unusual incident-
Make sure you note the incident and the names of the people involved.
Describe the situation in as much detail as possible.
Sometimes really obscure details can turn out to be really important.
If possible, get written statements from witnesses.
If you are under stress at work, record the date, the stressful situation and the effect on your health.
Tell your doctor you are feeling stressed by your work.
Do not be embarrassed to talk to your G.P. about stress at work.
Your G.P. knows that teachers are under a lot of stress.
Make your health your priority.
Teachers tend to 'battle on" in the most awful circumstances.
Your job should not be so stressful that it makes you ill.
Older teachers may not realise that the stress of the job is making them ill.
If you experience pains in your heart, sudden heart thumping and banging, etc. it may well be caused by stress.
Take a day off to relax and recover.
If you go to work and do something wrong because you are worn out, nobody will care that you were saving the Department the cost of a casual teacher.
But be aware that if you hand in a medical certificate signed by your GP, the Bad Apple Bullies will find out your doctor's name.
The Bad Apple Bullies will not want a WorkCover complaint made about their bullying.
The Bad Apple Bully may decide to "consult" your doctor and attempt to suck your doctor into the mob.
Bad Apples Bullies are most amazingly glib and convincing liars.
Make sure your G.P. is alert for any sucking attempt.
You are really going to need your GP's support if you are bullied into ill health.
Fortunately that shouldn't be a problem.
G.P.'s are pretty amazing people.
How will you be able to use your Professional Diary?
Bad Apple Bullies abuse the official Queensland Department of Education and the Arts policies.
They have their own opposite policies.
And Bad Apple Bullies are not interested in reality, facts or logic.
Bad Apple Bullies will confidently dismiss all evidence of your competence-
"We all recognise that you are a brilliant teacher! Brilliant!
It's only a very small part of your work that we have problems with.
It's your management of children.
... No, it's not your management of children.
There is another reason why we have to do this to you.
I can't tell you what the reason is.
You are not going to talk your way out of this!"
... but your Professional Diary will be a great comfort to you when you have been isolated.
You will need dreadfully to talk the crazy situation over but your friends at work will be afraid to be seen talking to you.
They will have been warned by the Bad Apple Bullies that they will get into "very serious trouble" if they discuss the bullying with you.
Dealing with the horrible "put downs" of the Bad Apple Bullies in this sort of isolation really impacts on your mental health.
Attacking your mental stability is an important Bad Apple Bully strategy.
If you have a Professional Diary you can look through your collection of photographs and documents and be re-assured that in real life you are a good teacher.
Your Professional Diary will protect you from the false reality that the Bad Apple Bullies will try to "spin".
You will also be able to use your collection of documents and your Professional Diary to support a grievance.
Keep this Professional Diary safely stored at home for the rest of your career.
It is your insurance policy.
4. Start a File on Your School Principal
and each of the local Education Queensland administrators.
Because this is what they are doing to you!
(Or even worse - the Bad Apple Bullies may not be keeping a file on you now, but they can quickly fabricate a file of back-dated sticky-notes to justify an attack on you!
You will not find these fabricated sticky-notes for years.
And when you are finally allowed to see them, all of the names in the documents will have been blacked out by the Education Queensland Freedom of Information officers.
So it will be really difficult for you to understand the meaning of these sticky-notes and to prove that they have been fabricated.)
Collect any written material concerning your principal - weekly parent-teacher letters in the school magazine, newspaper articles, diarised comments made by children and parents, etc.
If your principal does not make a Bad Apple Bully-attack on you, these documents will provide you with insights into good management - they will provide you with invaluable material if you decide to apply for promotion.
But, if your principal makes a Bad-Apple-Bully-Attack on you, the documents may be used to demonstrate that the real problem may be the principal's poor professional conduct or his / her poor listening, comprehending, thinking, reading and writing skills.
Unfortunately, the Education Queensland "merit selection" process is biased towards glib, mindless "departmental parrots" and some Education Queensland administrators have very low level listening, comprehending, thinking, reading and writing skills.
Intelligent teachers are at constant risk of attack by unintelligent administrators who cannot understand what the teachers are trying to say to them.
Parent-teacher newsletters may provide evidence of the principal's literacy problems.
And comments made by children, parents and even the principal themselves in newspaper articles can demonstrate that the principal is undermining teachers who follow the School Behaviour Management Program consistently.
For example -
A child might comment to a reporter that he loves Administrator X, because every week his teacher sends him to Administrator X (for repeatedly disrupting the class), and every week Administrator X just laughs and gives him another chance.
The newspaper reporter, knowing nothing about teaching, will innocently report the child's comment as evidence that Administrator X is a wonderful, caring administrator.
But actually the child's comment demonstrates that Administrator X is undermining the classroom teacher and rewarding this student's poor behaviour.
5. Ask to meet with your school principal regularly.
Email an agenda (a concise list of things that you want to talk about) to the principal before the meeting.
Keep the agenda simple. Short sentences. Simple words.
This will help you to sort out your ideas clearly before the meeting.
This agenda will provide you with proof that you initiated discussion of certain topics at the meeting.
Emailing the agenda will protect you from the meeting being "spun" to your disadvantage.
10 Ways to make your boss work for you, Source: The Mind Gym, Harpers and Queen, date lost,
Beware the workplace bully, Val Leveson, The New Zealand Herald, 17/03/2007.
6. How to deal with a Bully Boss:
1. Start to put out feelers for other jobs. You need to get away from the bully as soon as possible.
2. Approach the bullying problem like a Uni project.
Be methodical in how you behave, perform, document and strategise.
Take notes after an incident.
Try to stay unemotional.
Never, never retaliate.
Goading you into retaliation is a Bad Apple Bully strategy.
Then you can be punished for a "Breach of the Code of Conduct".
3. Document even the smallest incidents.
These often become the most important, illustrating a pattern of bullying that might not otherwise be apparent. Teasing counts. Sarcasm counts. Ignoring you or criticising you counts. A very public glare or silent treatment counts.
4. Don't let yourself get isolated.
Every day, pick out someone you have not talked to for a while.
Have a brief but focussed conversation.
Bullies work hard to alienate targets from their co-workers. Don't let that happen to you.
5. Display self-esteem and radiate a positive attitude.
Pay attention to how your appearance - such as hair and clothes - is perceived by others.
Make your personal space an oasis of calm and taste.
6. Try to stay in safe spots. Your abuser is less likely to attack when you are around other supervisors, known allies, particularly upright employees.
7. During a bullying situation, excuse yourself. Tell your abuser that you're late for an appointment, for example. Or casually excuse yourself to use the rest room. Never enter the rest room if you are being pursued by a bully.
8. During an attack, try distancing your abuser.
Pick up something physical - as long as it's not a threatening item - such as a critical file that need the bully's attention or a note with an important phone number that needs to be called.
Sometimes a simple distraction is enough to get him or her to stop.
9. Protect your personal information.
Tell Bad Apple Bullies as little as possible about your life, health, family, friends, hobbies, interests, religion, travel and so on.
A bully administrator will "spin" this information to do you harm.
If your principal behaves in a really unprofessional manner, you might want to try this tip:
" ... a girlfriend mentioned to me a technique she uses on people who try to humilate her publicly.
After answering them politely she says under her breath, “please do not speak to me like that in public,” so that it is just audible to the humilitor and turns on her heel.
She says, not only does she feel better becase she has taken control over the situation but the bully is usually so suprised by the confontation (they suddenly realise that you’re not the walkover they thought you might have been) that they usually think twice before treating you badly again.
.. This technique might help nip some ... forms of bullying in the bud early on.'
You are probably going to lose your job.
So have your escape route planned in advance.
Attempt to expose the bully.
But expect that the bully will be promoted, celebrated, given special awards, etc.
Then tell everyone about the Bad Apple Bully for your health's sake.
Critics argue that Dr Namie's WBI 3-Step Method will only get you fired.
But you are probably going to be driven out of work whatever you do.
Dr Namie's method accomplishes four goals:
Dr Namie advises that traditional advice from HR types, coaches, & "career experts" can do you harm.
And I agree.
For more information we recommend reading The Bully At Work by Dr. Gary Namie and Dr. Ruth Namie (Sourcebooks)
7. Always, always have a Plan B - always be ready for self-employment.
Research your exit strategy.
Use every opportunity to build up a wide range of skills.
Identify desirable alternative work.
Don't waste time doing a Master's degree in Education.
Education is not valued in Education Queensland.
You will get no more pay and you will become a target.
Bad Apple Bullies hate well-qualified teachers and delight in "putting them down".
If you are interested in doing any further study, consider studying law.
If you are a target of workplace bullying and harassment the QTU will refuse you legal advice.
The QTU regard workplace bullying as a "member-versus-member issue" and so they give bullied teachers no support.
The unfortunate truth is that workplace bullying is endemic in Australia and unions simply cannot afford to support the huge number of members who are being bullied.
If you have to employ a solicitor yourself it will cost you about $320 per hour.
But if you have studied law you will be able to protect yourself.
And, if the Bad Apple Bullies and their mob succeed in bullying you out of work with no references, qualifications in law may assist you to get established in another career.
Bullying seems to be a growth industry.
Your experience of being bullied may actually become an asset if you do research or get work in a bullying-related area.
8. Never send a primary school child to a Bad Apple Bully administrator because of their poor behaviour.
You will soon realise that the school Behaviour Management Policy is not followed by Bad Apple Bully administrators.
Bad Apple Bullies blame the classroom teachers for any behaviour problems.
The Bad Apple Bully will ask the child what they think that the problem is.
The child will probably be quite calm in this one-to-one situation.
He/she will tell the Bad Apple Bully that he/she was not doing anything wrong.
The real problem is that you are a mean teacher who keeps picking on him / her.
And the Bad Apple Bully will believe (or pretend to believe) the child.
Because it is easier than dealing with the child's behaviour, contacting the parents, etc.
Any form that you filled in to send with the child can be secretly filed by a Bad Apple Bully to be used as evidence against you.
Anything you write, however innocuous, can be beaten up by Bad Apple Bullies into a "concern".
The Bad Apple Bully will carefully note all of the child's complaints about you and secretly file them to be used as "evidence" against you months later.
The child will enjoy the attention he receives and will look forward to talking to the Bad Apple Bully again.
Bad Apple Bullies are popular with students because they are so relaxed and friendly.
Bad Apple Bullies experience little stress because they always take the quickest and easiest way of dealing with poor behaviour - they blame the teacher.
* * * * *
9. Use a Message Book.
Use a large book covered in bright, garish luminous paper (so it will not be easily "lost") for this purpose.
Write your message in the book, wrap a big elastic band around the page that you want read and send a child (who has finished his or her work) with the message book.
They can ask the person reading the message to sign to say that they have read the message, or the child can sign themselves to say that the message has been delivered.
Insist that the mesage book is returned to you even if the message was not delivered.
The message book will:
Yes, I know 99.9% of school office staff are absolutely brilliant, but there are exceptions.
It is really easy for an administrator to "spin" events.
For example, if you and a group of other teachers organise a meeting to initiate a new way of recording and rewarding good behaviour, this can be "spun" by a Bad Apple Bully into a meeting that was called by the Bad Apple to discuss the problems that you are having managing the students!
If the Bad Apple Bully writes a sticky-note "spinning" the situation in this manner and then places it secretly on your file, the Bad Apple Bully's undated, unsigned sticky-noted "spin" on the situation will be considered to be "The Truth" by any Education Queensland "internal reviewer".
10. If an incident really seems to be affecting your mental health -
You may want to discuss the situation with a psychologist.
Be very, very cautious about discussing the situation with a Queensland Department of Education psychologist/ staff welfare officer.
They do not have the time to help you properly.
They are employed by the Queensland Department of Education and so their primary loyalty is to the Department of Education.
Their priority is to get you back to work.
You are also supposed to have confidentiality when you visit these welfare officers but when you arrive for your appointment you may realise (from comments that they make) that they have already discussed the situation with your principal.
And, unfortunately, your principal may feel upset with you for discussing problems at their school with the welfare officer.
The principal may (perhaps unconsciously) see you as a "troublemaker" and you may eventually be "paid back".
It is far more to your advantage to go to a private psychologist.
It is not expensive.
It is really good value for money.
You will be able to claim it back from your health fund.
A private psychologist will focus on you and on your welfare, not on the interests of the Department.
Do not be embarrassed about saying that you are finding your work stressful.
Psychologists know teaching is stressful work.
It is to your advantage to go to a psychologist while you are still coping reasonably well with the stress.
Do not wait till you are a gibbering wreck.
Do not wait till Section 85 is abused and you are forced to submit to examination by a psychiatrist selected by the Bad Apple Bully-Mob.
Make sure you have already established a relationship with a psychiatrist or psychologist you can trust absolutely.
You do not want to give the Bad Apple Bully-Mob the opportunity to snigger together over your personal details.
11. In a quarter of bullying cases, discrimination plays a role.
If you suspect that your principal may be discriminating against you, check out http://www.adcq.qld.gov.au/
But actually the ADCQ insist that you send your complaint to your local office and, in the experience of dealingwiththemob, ADCQ officers find it difficult to deal with problems in their local area.
It is very difficult for local people to believe that their child's nice, smiley school principal is abusing classroom teachers because it is easier than dealing with the children's behaviour problems.
12. If you decide to continue working as a teacher, you need to apply for promotion as soon as possible.
It is the only way that you will be safe.
Once you are an acting principal or a principal the whole system will function to support and protect you.
Don't feel that you are underqualified.
Classroom teachers keep their heads down and work really hard.
They tend to take it on trust that the people above them in the system are pretty intelligent and capable.
But actually administrators are often selected for promotion because of their ability to smile, to convincingly parrot "Queensland Department of Education and the Arts Approved Thoughts", and to put a positive spin on the most dismal facts.
Glib talkers do really well in the "merit selection process".
Unfortunately the "merit" selection process does not put high value on listening, thinking, reading and writing, so you will notice that some Bad Apple Bullies have shockingly poor listening, thinking, reading and (particularly) writing skills.
A Bad Apple Bully administrator who cannot explain his/her reasons for his/her behaviour clearly in writing is probably not thinking very clearly.
He/she may be impulsively "bluffing it out".
The Bad Apple Bully may not actually have the thinking and reasoning skills to recognise that his/her behaviour is unjust and illogical.
You will find all of this out if you demand a Bad Apple Bully's documents under FOI.
You will find that many of the Bad Apple Bully's "documents" are unsigned, undated notes scribbled in pencil on sticky-notes and loose scraps of paper.
You will be shocked by the appalling standard of the Bad Apple Bully's "professional" documentation.
You will be shocked to realise that your teaching career has been destroyed on the basis of undated, unsigned scribbles in pencil on sticky-notes and loose scraps of paper.
You will wonder why you ever trusted your professional reputation to such careless and abusive employers.
Maybe your Bad Apple Bully can write perfectly well.
But they have been advised by a "more experienced operator" not to tell you the reason why you have to be put into a punishment program.
Because if you don't know what the allegations are against you, you can never respond.
You will never be able to prove yourself innocent.
And maybe they have been advised by this "more experienced operator" to write scribbled notes of imaginary conversations with other people about you and to put them secretly on your Departmental record.
Or to put complaints about the actions of other teachers on your file.
In fact, to put pretty well anything at all on your file.
Because if you ever make an FOI application, all of the names of people involved in the imaginary conversations will be blanked out by the FOI officers.
You still won't be able to make any sense of the "complaints".
So even then you still won't be able to respond.
And before you are given your fabricated "documents" under Freedom Of Information, the notes that have been made on loose scraps of paper and sticky notes can easily be removed from your file or changed.
And new sticky notes can be introduced.
And if you make a Grievance that it is a breach of Natural Justice and the Code of Conduct not to tell you why you are being punished, the investigation into your Grievance can be delayed by the Department for ... six years!
And six years later, when your complaint is finally investigated, the Bad Apple Bully will be able to claim that it all happened so long ago, they simply can't remember the reason why they "had to" punish you!
The Bad Apple Bully will be found to be incompetent.
Not corrupt, because Bad Apple Bullies can be held responsible if they are found to be corrupt.
But incompetence is O.K. in Education Queensland World.
General comments will be made about poor "paperwork".
But being incompetent is just fine.
And the Bad Apple Bully will be promoted!
* * * * *
Queensland teachers -
you don't believe that any of this can be true, do you?
Nobody does till it happens to them -
that's how the Bad Apple Bullies are getting away with it!