Bad Apple Bullies

Bad Apple school principals and departmental officers bully classroom teachers into ill health and out of work.

Bad Apple Bullies inservice: Dealing with Workplace Psychopaths - An inservice course for Queensland Department of Education and the Arts administrators.

Why do Queensland Department of Education  ( DEA ) administrators need an in-service course on dealing with workplace psychopaths?

Because not all Queensland Department of Education administrators are "Bad Apple Bullies".

Many administrators seem to be perfectly decent people who have no desire to menace teachers and make their lives a misery.

And some school administrators do not even seem to realise that the official departmental processes can be abused by workplace bullies.

These administrators are vulnerable themselves.

It is very, very easy for a well-meaning DEA administrator to be "sucked into" a "Bad Apple Bully-Mob".

And once you have been sucked into a Bully-Mob it is amazingly difficult to get out.

You can find yourself trapped in a position where you have to help to destroy a teacher because it is the only way to save yourself.

You may find yourself trapped in an unpleasant situation which will "drag on" for more than six years.

There is a need for an in-service course to develop the skills of DEA administrators in spotting workplace psychopaths and in avoiding being sucked into Bad Apple Bully-Mobs.

 

But you can't cure a workplace psychopath with an in-service course -

"You can't re-engineer these people.

The environment pulls the dark side out of them and makes their aggressive tendencies more likely. ...

To stop it, you've got to ... close the door and deprive them of the opportunity."   

  • Gary Namie, president of the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute, based in Bellingham, Wash, quoted in Bullies take toll at office, Megan Blaney, San Bernardino County Sun, Saturday, May 21, 2005.

 

"There is no evidence that psychopaths derive any benefit from treatment or management programs".

  • Paul Babiak and Robert D. HareSnakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work, ReganBooks, quoted in Managing the Madness, Antonella Gambotto-Burke, p.15, The Weekend Australian Review, 23/09/2006.

 

So, if workplace psychopaths can't change, the Queensland Department of Education has a responsibility - a duty of care - to develop in-service support to protect employees who are working with psychopaths -

 

A. What is workplace bullying ?

Workplace Bullying is destructive, a------, erosive and i--------- behaviour which is perpetrated by inadequate, ins--------, self-obsessed people.

It involves control, m-----------, entrapment, confusion and l---.

Nothing positive, c-----------, or enlightened is contributed to or----------- by those who bully.

Status, qualifications and p---- are acquired and used as a means of creating an image that belies the r------ of  dy---------.

In---------- is promoted for loyalty and un----------- support.

Real competence and i-------- are deeply resented, mistrusted and perceived as th-----.

Any means, even the cruelist and most u-----, are used to dis------- and destroy.

Appalling a---- is cleverly covered and ex------- away.

A total inability to introspect critically or feel r------ enables the perpetrators to j------ their behaviour.

Bullying behaviour continues, worsens, filters u------, is well known and yet remains largely un----------.   

  • How to Identify the workplace bullies, Jacinta M Kitt, 3, Pine Valley Drive, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16,  Irish Examiner.com, opinion, 17/05/05

 

B. Are you being "sucked in" to a Bad Apple's Bully-Mob?

Activity B (1)

1. You work in a Queensland Department of Education District Office. 

An acting principal rings you up and asks you for your advice.

The acting principal tells you that he / she wants to put a teacher, Annie Applepie, on Managing Unsatisfactory Performance (MUP) because of his / her "concerns" about ... .

You know that the acting principal has only been acting principal for four days.

  • What questions do you ask the inexperienced acting principal?
  • What is the best advice to give the inexperienced acting principal?

 

2. The inexperienced acting principal then tells you that the acting deputy principal also really, really wants to put Annie Applepie on Managing Unsatisfactory Performance. 

The inexperienced acting principal quotes the opinions of the acting deputy principal at some length.

You know that the acting deputy principal has been acting deputy principal for two days.

And you also know that there is a risk of workplace bullying when inexperienced administrators are first appointed.

  • What is your responsibility in this situation?
  • Do you have a Duty of Care to Annie Applepie? To the rest of the staff of the school?
  • What is the best thing to say?
  • What is the best thing to do?

 

3. You work in a Queensland Department of Education District Office. An inexperienced acting principal rings you up and tells you that he / she wants to put Annie Applepie on MUP.

Annie Applepie is on sick leave.

  • What questions do you ask the inexperienced acting principal? Annie?
  • Do you have a Duty of Care to Annie?
  • What is your responsibility in this situation?
  • What is the best thing to do? 

 

4. Annie Applepie returns from sick leave. She asks the inexperienced acting principal for a mediated meeting to discuss the problems between them.

You work in a Queensland Department of Education District Office. The inexperienced acting principal faxes a copy of his / her response to Annie Applepie to you for your approval.

In this letter to Annie Applepie, the inexperienced acting principal agrees to attend a meeting, but states that the meeting will not be a mediated meeting to discuss the problems between him / herself and Annie Applepie. It will be a meeting to discuss the inexperienced acting principal's own (very sudden) concerns about Annie Applepie's work.

You notice that the inexperienced Acting principal has signed the draft letter that he / she has faxed to you with  a big smiley face.

What does this  big smiley face suggest to you ?

  • The inexperienced acting principal is mature / immature?
  • The inexperienced acting principal has a professional / unprofessional communicative style?
  • The inexperienced acting principal is enjoying / not enjoying the situation?

 

5. You advise the inexperienced acting principal (above) how to put Annie Applepie on Managing Unsatisfactory Performance.

But you later realise that the inexperienced acting principal was not telling you the whole story.

The inexperienced acting principal had actually made certain statements concerning Annie Applepie to the whole school staff at a staff meeting.

This had shocked Annie Applepie.

The shock of the acting principal's behaviour had made Annie sick.

While she was on sick leave, Annie Applepie had sought advice on how to deal with the inexperienced acting principal's (apparently) irrational conduct.

Annie had been advised by the Queensland Teachers' Union and the Education Queensland staff welfare officer to ask for the mediated meeting with the inexperienced acting principal.

You realise that the real problem was the impulsive and irrational behaviour of the inexperienced acting school principal.

And that there had been no real reason to put Annie Applepie on MUP.

  • Who is responsible for this abuse of the MUP process - you? Or the inexperienced acting principal?
  • What is your responsibility in this situation?
  • What is the best thing to do?
  • What does the term "grooming" mean?
  • Who was being "groomed" in this situation?

 

6. You work in a Queensland Department of Education District Office.

An inexperienced acting principal rings you up and tells you that he / she wants to put Annie Applepie on MUP.

He / she tells you that "we all" agree that ...

  • What questions do you ask the inexperienced acting principal?

 

7. You are an administrator in a school.

An inexperienced acting principal at another school rings you up and tells you that he / she wants to put Annie Applepie on MUP.

He / she tells you that administrator A has said ... about Annie, administrator B has said ... about Annie and administrator C has said .... about Annie.

All of these administrators (A, B and C) agree exactly with the inexperienced acting principal.

And you notice that the other administrators quoted by the inexperienced acting principal all seem to use the same words -

" ... enforce ... enforce ... reinforce ... enforce ... enforce ... reinforce ... "

The inexperienced acting principal asks you what you think about the situation.

  • What is the best thing to say?
  • What is the best thing to do?
  • What is the difference between malicious gossip and professional discussion?

 

8. An inexperienced Acting Principal has asked you to attend a meeting with a teacher, Annie Applepie. 

The inexperienced Acting Administrator wants to put Annie on MUP. 

Annie Applepie is silent.

She is clearly shocked by the situation.

The inexperienced Acting Principal suddenly turns to stare hard into Annie's face and croon -

"I really hate to do this to Annie ...

How awful Annie must be feeling at this moment ...

I feel so sorry for Annie ..."

- with great relish.

She continues to stares hard at Annie.

She dribbles a little - well, maybe not, but you get the general idea.

Nobody else at the meeting speaks.

The atmosphere is electric.

It is obvious to everybody at the meeting that the inexperienced Acting Principal is really enjoying menacing Annie Applepie.

The inexperienced Acting Principal continues stare hard into Annie's face and to croon -

"I really hate to do this to Annie ...

How awful Annie must be feeling at this moment ...

I feel so sorry for Annie ..."

  • What is your responsibility at this meeting?
  • Do you have a Duty of Care to Annie?
  • What is the best thing to do?

 

9. You are asked to attend a meeting with a classroom teacher, Annie Applepie.

At the meeting the acting principal tells Annie Applepie that he / she has "concerns" about Annie's behaviour management.

Annie points out that the inexperienced acting principal is supposed to be her supervisor but he / she has not been into Annie's classroom or looked at her program for the past twelve months.

Annie asks how the acting principal can suddenly claim to have "concerns" about her behaviour management?

The inexperienced acting principal states that Annie's old principal, Principal B, has agreed with him / her that Annie has problems with behavour management.

Annie responds that Principal B did not support her effectively. 

Annie says that she has spoken recently to the teacher who replaced her at her old school and that this teacher told Annie that she had threatened to resign if Principal B did not give her more support with behaviour management.

After the meeting the inexperienced acting principal asks you to write notes of the meeting and give the notes to her.

He/she tells you that there may have been a misunderstanding during the meeting.

It was not Principal B who had agreed with her that Annie had problems with behaviour management, it was Principal C.

The acting principal asks you to change the name of Principal B to that of Principal C in your notes of the meeting.

And also to "edit out" of your notes Annie's response to the allegation, because it does not make much sense when applied to Principal C.

  • What is your responsibility in this situation?
  • What is the best thing to say?
  • What is the best thing to do?

 

10. You are an Education Queensland Administrator.

You are asked to investigate Annie Applepie's Grievance about workplace bullying. 

Annie tells you that the inexperienced acting principal  is impulsive and irrational.

She complains that the inexperienced acting principal continually lies, threatens her and appears to enjoy menacing her.

Annie tells you that she thinks the inexperienced acting principal may have a "mental or emotional problem".

  • What questions do you ask Annie?
  • What questions do you ask the inexperienced acting principal?
  • What Education Queensland policies apply to this situation?
  • What is the best thing to do?

 

11. You are Director of Ethical Conduct in the Education Queensland Brisbane Head Office.

The Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission ask you to investigate Annie Applepie's complaint about victimisation and discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, disability and political belief.

Annie Applepie was inspected for one full day and placed on a promotion list in 1980 in another state. 

She was awarded the college medal for her first degree.

She later gained  a Master's degree in Linguistics from a good university.

It was awarded with Merit.

Annie has written quite a long and detailed complaint.

On your staff you have several solicitors and at least one barrister.

Two of the solicitors on your staff have worked at the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

They are specialists in discrimination law.

You also have a junior project officer on your staff.

He identifies as an Aboriginal.

He is not a qualified teacher.

He has no qualifications in law or in psychology.

He is "in training".

  • Who do you choose to "review" Annie Applepie's complaint about discrimination?
  • Why?

 

12. You ask the project officer (who has no qualifications in education, law or psychology) to "review" the documentation of Annie Applepie's complaint.

You instruct him that he is not allowed to ask any questions.

He is only allowed to only copy from the documents on Annie Applepie's Departmental file.

Two months later, Annie Applepie emails you to say that she has been provided with some of the documents on her Departmental file under FOI.

Annie has discovered that a huge number of falsified "documents" have been secretly placed on her Departmental file.

It was obvious from her first complaint that these documents had been concealed from Annie.

 

Do you instruct the project officer to -

a)

  • Just review the falsified documents that were placed secretly on Annie's Departmental file.
  • And to ignore Annie's responses to the falsified documents.

or do you instruct the project officer to -

b)

  • Make sure that Annie has seen all of the concealed documents on her Official Records.
  • Make sure that Annie has had an opportunity to provide the "reviewer" with a written response to the claims made in the concealed documents.
  • Instruct the "reviewer" to consider Annie's responses to the concealed documents.

 

Activity B (2)

Consider: 

Paul Babiak and Robert D. Hare have identified the following characteristics of a workplace psychopath:

  • a disturbing lack of empathy,
  • little insight into their own behaviour,
  • dysfunctional behaviour repeated ad infinitum - rarely learn from experience.
  • pathological lying -  "They cross back and forth easily between lying and honesty during conversations because they do not have the guilty feelings the rest of us have when we try to tell a lie."
  • refusal to take responsibility. Psychopaths are never accountable. All blame is externalised. "Pointing the finger at others serves the dual purpose of reinforcing their own positive image while spreading disparaging information about rivals and detractors."
  • irresistible charm - their impression management is famously near-faultless. All that matters is the objective: that is, to discredit those who see through them.

(Adapted from Managing the Madness, Antonella Gambotto-Burke, p. 15, Review, The Weekend Australian, 23/09/2006.)

 

But also consider that:

  • Workplace harassment does not include reasonable action taken by management to address issues of employment performance.

http://education.qld.gov.au/strategic/eppr/workforce/wfrpr006/index.html

 

And then:

  • List the behaviors demonstrated by administrators 1-10 above that could be described as reasonable management action.
  • List the behaviours demonstrated by administrators 1-10 above that reflect a lack of experience.
  • List the behaviours demonstrated by administrators 1-10 above that suggest that the administrator could be a workplace psychopath.

 

C: Role Plays

1. You are a DEA administrator.

You consider yourself to be a decent sort of person and you do not want to become sucked into mobbing a classroom teacher.

Another principal, also a decent person, is considering putting a teacher on MUP.

You discuss the situation together in a professional manner.

 

2. You are a DEA administrator.

You consider yourself to be a decent sort of person and you do not want to become sucked into mobbing a teacher.

An inexperienced Acting Principal tells you that he/she really wants to put a classroom teacher on MUP.

The inexperienced Acting Principal has been an Acting Principal for four days.

The teacher is on sick leave.

You discuss the situation.

 

3. You are a DEA District Director.

You consider yourself to be a decent sort of person and you do not want to become sucked in to mobbing a classroom teacher.

An inexperienced Acting Principal tells you that he/she really wants to put a classroom teacher on MUP.

He/she confidently tells you that "we all" agree that the classroom teacher's curriculum work is "Brilliant, brilliant!" but that her behaviour management is poor.

You discuss the situation.

 

Answers

A.

Workplace bullying is destructive, abusive, erosive and irrational behaviour which is perpetrated by inadequate, insensitive, self-obsessed people.

It involves control, manipulation, entrapment, confusion and lies.

Nothing positive, constructive, or enlightened is contributed to organisations by those who bully.

Status, qualifications and power are acquired and used as a means of creating an image that belies the reality of dysfunction.

Incompetence is promoted for loyalty and unquestioning support.

Real competence and integrity are deeply resented, mistrusted and perceived as threats.

Any means, even the cruellest and most unfair, are used to disempower and destroy.

Appalling abuse is cleverly covered and explained away.

A total inability to introspect critically or feel remorse enables the perpetrators to justify their behaviour.

Bullying behaviour continues, worsens, filters upwards, is well known and yet remains largely unchallenged.

 

B (1). 

How did this all begin?

When did it begin?

What happened first?

Have you discussed your concerns with the teacher?

What was the teacher's response?

What does the teacher think is the problem?

What were the teacher's specific concerns?

What have you done to resolve the teacher's concerns?

What action have you taken to support this teacher?

What are your specific concerns?

Can you be more specific?

Why do you think that?

What evidence do you have to support your beliefs?

Have you actually seen this teacher teach?

Have you ever looked at this teacher's program?

Have you shown this document / sticky-note to the teacher?

Why is this document / sticky-note undated?

Unsigned?

Is this sticky-note really of a professional standard?

Has this sticky-note been changed in any way?

Here, for example, there is an arrow and it leads to nothing. Why?

Here, for example, somebody has hand-written an unsigned and undated note on this typed letter. Who hand-wrote that note? When? Why?

Is this the first version of this sticky-note or have there been several versions?

Where is the teacher's written response to this document / sticky-note?

 

Can you think of anything, other than her work, that might be influencing your feelings about this teacher?

When did you begin to feel this way about the teacher?

Could you have a conflict of interest concerning this teacher?  

What does conflict of interest mean?

Could anybody else who is involved in this situation have a conflict of interest?

Is there anything about this situation and / or your relationship with this teacher that a reasonable person might consider to be a conflict of interest?

 

Is this teacher different in any way? Disability? Race? Age? Political belief?

Do you treat male / female / other teachers the same way that you are treating this teacher?

Give me an example.

 

Have you given the teacher a copy of the Managing Unsatisfactory Performance (MUP) policy?

Have you actually read the MUP policy?

What is the first step in the MUP policy?

And the next?

 

Professional Reading

What is Corporate/Institutional Bullying?

Corporate/institutional bullying occurs when bullying is entrenched in an organization and becomes accepted as part of the workplace culture.
 
Corporate/institutional bullying can manifest itself in different ways:

 

  • Placing unreasonable expectations on employees, where failure to meet those expectations means making life unpleasant (or dismissing) anyone who objects.
  • Dismissing employees suffering from stress as “weak” while completely ignoring or denying potential work-related causes of the stress. And/or
  • Encouraging employees to fabricate complaints about colleagues with promises of promotion or threats of discipline.

Signs of corporate and institutional bullying include:

  • Failure to meet organizational goals.
  • Increased frequencies of grievances, resignations, and requests for transfers.
  • Increased absence due to sickness. And
  • Increased disciplinary actions.

If you are aware of bullying in the workplace and do not take action, then you are accepting a share of the responsibility for any future abuses.

 

Rachel Hunter, Ken Smith, Anna Bligh, Rod Welford - Please write that out one hundred times!

 

This means that witnesses of bullying behavior should be encouraged to report any such incidences.

Individuals are less likely to engage in antisocial behavior when it is understood that the organization does not tolerate such behavior and that the perpetrator is likely to be punished.

 

Rachel Hunter, Ken Smith, Anna Bligh, Rod Welford - Please write that out one hundred times!

 

 

Jacinta Kitt has completed a Masters Thesis on the subject of bullying in the workplace.

 

Joseph Blase and Jo Blase are Professors of Educational Leadership and Codirectors of ATLAS, the Alliance for teaching, Leadership and School Improvement, in the College of Education at the University of Georgia, Athens,GA.

  • Breaking the Silence : Overcoming the Problem of Principal Mistreatment of Teachers,  Blase, Joseph and Blase Jo, 2003, Corwin Press.

Breaking the Silence is available in Australia (AUS $56 including postage) through Footprint Books, 1/6A Prosperity Parade, Warriewood, NSW 2102 sales@footprint.com.au   www.footprint.com.au

Breaking the Silence raises awareness of the problem of workplace harassment in schools.

Blase and Blase have also written other books which focus on the behaviour patterns of effective school principals.