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The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) characterises bullying as `offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient'.
Bullying can be defined as the persistent and normally deliberate misuse of power or position to intimidate, humiliate or undermine. This definition is most relevant to teachers where their line managers, headteachers and even school governors are misusing their authority. However, ATLís casework indicates that bullying may arise at all levels in a school ≠ a teacher may bully another teacher, a teacher may intimidate a line manager and pupils may harass a teacher.
The common theme in all these examples is that for teachers,`something has happened to them that is unwelcome, unwarranted and causes a detrimental effect'.
Bullying has no place in the management of people. Indeed, a positive, constructive management style motivates everyone to make greater efforts. Ideally, your achievements and successes should be acknowledged and celebrated, but the fact that they are not does not of itself constitute bullying. Equally, the occasional reprimand or dash of sarcasm can be unpleasant - particularly if you feel that it is undeserved - but this is not necessarily bullying either. ACAS guidance is again relevant here: `Behaviour that is considered bullying by one person may be considered firm management by another'.
Bullying, as defined by ATL, can take many forms. It can be:
ACAS gives the following examples of unacceptable behaviour:
Bullying may have become such an inherent part of the culture of a school workplace that it can be difficult to recognise. Colleagues may feel intimidated about making a stand and challenging harassing behaviour. They feel that if they do not keep their head down then they might become the target of the bully. There is also the understandable concern that any challenge to such behaviour might be seen as a weakness and an admission that they are failing in their job.
This is where ATL can assist its members. ATL can provide members with guidance and this is from someone without a connection to the school. ATL can approach the issues objectively and confidentially and give you clear advice on the way forward.
Help and support
For further advice on this issue, ATL members can speak to their school rep, their branch secretary or their regional official. They can also call the London (020 7930 6441), Cardiff (029 2046 5000), Belfast (028 9078 2020) or Edinburgh (0131 272 2748) offices or email email@example.com
For out of hours enquiries, call the out of office hours helpline on 020 7782 1612 (Monday-Friday, 5-8pm during term time).
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