Establishing a culture of positive language & trust.....

#staff wellbeing

Focusing on staff wellbeing is more than just a passing Thank You, a chocolate, a card and a free BBQ - it has everything to do with the culture of the school and what is deemed acceptable in the way we speak to each other; style of management and workload expectations.

As an educational professional we all set out to work and deliver the best version of our professional selves. In pursuit of this - we should also be open to constructive feedback and seek to listen to others on how we can improve.

However, sometimes we come across other staff whose behaviour and language seeks to undermine, disempower, micro-manage. This can cause huge amounts of stress from the person on the receiving end and without a doubt impacts on their physical and mental health - this often causes long absences and even leaving the profession. This in turn impacts on the retention crisis which many schools are facing.

In a survey conducted among the teachers who felt they had been bullied, 50% said it was by a senior member of staff, compared with 25% by pupils and 23% by parents.

I have taught for over 20 years and unfortunately, in the past, I have heard about these individuals whose management style towards other teachers seeks to:

Respond negatively when challenged about their unreasonable requests 

Unjustified criticism aimed at undermining them

Seeks to disempower by insisting on micromanagement 

Undermines the professional judgement of the colleague  

Focuses on the negative skills and not their positives in conversations with them and others

Often misconstrues the truth and spreads malicious rumours

If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation you must talk about it. You must actively seek to resolve this. You must remember you are a valued member of the staff team and no-one should be subjected to intimidation, harassment or discrimination in the workplace.

Here is a quick list of what you can start to do:

Click on this link for details on Grievance procedures   

Remember: If you're bullied at work or your colleagues behave in an offensive or intimidating way towards you, it could be unlawful harassment under the Equality Act 2010. Harassment is a form of discrimination under the Act.

In terms of mental health support it is important we support colleagues, friends and family through these tough times and offer 'wellbeing buddy' support. The whole process can be incredibly draining and demoralising.  If you don't think there are any close friends and family available for you to talk to you can also call up the Education Support Partnership. They are the  only UK charity dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of teachers and the entire education workforce. They offer free, confidential health and support and can be called on 08000 562561.

Ensuring your own wellbeing is in check is important  - I have found practising mindfulness an incredible strategy for coping when under pressure and stress. Remember your teacher5aday and connect; be active; take notice; keep learning and Give. There is more to life than the problem at work. 

I also strongly urge you to keep up your monthly subscriptions to your teaching union. The National Education Union is combining the expertise and experience of both ATL and the NUT, and is the UK's largest education union. It is an effective and powerful voice which will robustly support you through any incident if there is a case of unfair and unreasonable treatment  in the workplace. It also offers school leaders and those who are writing policies excellent advice on how to assert a culture which supports teacher wellbeing, working collaboratively and ensuring that there is a zero tolerance towards intimidating and bullying behaviour.

Finally, I want to close with these words from Kevin Courtney who sums up this culture of intimidation which stems right from the top.

Image sourced from:

Author Profile

Clare Erasmus

Clare Erasmus

Director of Mental Health & Wellbeing & Head of Creative Media

47 stories


Sue Webb Sue Webb @suew 2 months ago
These people shouldn't be in education ...but if we can be strong, wise and not let them make us doubt ourselves, we can learn from them what not to do or how to be. I eventually saw a school leader I worked with as a gift, in showing me how not to lead a school. I saw (and tried to counter) the damage they caused by treating people so awfully and it made me a stronger, more values-based authentic leader than I might otherwise have been. Flipping painful couple of years, but I came out a better, stronger person and school leader. If you are going through this, find friends and colleagues to support you. It may well have even happened to them. Don't let a bully stop you being your best self.
Clare Erasmus Clare Erasmus @cerasmusteach 2 months ago
Ty Sue. I love your bit 'we can learn from them what not to do or how to be. ' There is positive learning which can take place. Support from others is essential. I worry about colleagues who feel they can't talk to anyone.important there is an open dour culture and colleagues can feel it is safe to speak up without further marginalisation and intimidation . Yes yes to values based education
Hannah Wilson Hannah Wilson @misswilsey 2 months ago
Great advice with practical support Clare x
Kerry Jordan-Daus Kerry Jordan-Daus @kerry 2 months ago
This is a very powerful piece, Clare you know I am one of your many admirers. What you have said here compels me to reply, at some length. The "issue" is self perception- the manager bully may not see their behaviour as bullying. How do we address this. Only this week I encountered three incidents which I believe constituted work place bullying - one of which I know the receiver of the message/manager behaviour, labelled this as bullying. They spoke with me about the behaviour they received in a meeting. However, bullies in the playground and workplace are able to continue because we don't challenge? I didn't challenge. Why? Because they hold power as managers/leaders. I start to imagine that it might be me, over sensitive, at fault etc. They defend their behaviour, they only want excellence, they are driven to do the best for students etc. This legitimises their behaviour. How do we disrupt this cycle? 10% braver comes to my mind.
Clare Erasmus Clare Erasmus @cerasmusteach 2 months ago
Not yet - but I am now - as ever thank you Hannah for your support and for being the networker of the year :) Loving your journey of a head teacher with a values based mission.
Clare Erasmus Clare Erasmus @cerasmusteach 2 months ago
Ty @kerry for your response. Love your question: how do we disrupt this cycle and yes! to the 10% braver mantra Courageous leadership is required and we all need to speak up for others too. Lets identify great role models - it is perfectly normal to achieve great results, happy staff teams, excellent teaching AND be kind, compassionate and coach instead of being one or all of these: controlling; dictating; micromanaging; discriminating and harassing and ultimately a 'school playground' bully.
Chris Reck Chris Reck @chrisreck 2 months ago
Excellent advise. Thank you Clare, I will be sharing this. Problem is exploitation by stealth, gradual erosion of teachers terms and conditions of emp. And it's happening worldwide. Education has become big business with the manufacturing of attainment as the new currency. How do we counter this? Actually mindfulness helps, as you say. Compassion is where's it's at. Let's bring it into the classroom and show it to our colleagues. Sow the seeds and see what grows. It will happen because it has to.
Clare Erasmus Clare Erasmus @cerasmusteach 2 months ago
TY @chrisreck . The blog was written to help others. I used to be a union rep - and I have often found deep fear amongst colleagues about what to do - I thought a blog might be helpful for others to refer to - everyone needs to get it in writing - this is the key. The erosion of teachers T&C is of real concern. different standards in diff schools too. No real consistency for the profession. Compassion - what a beautiful word - I shall write it in bold and put it up in my classroom - we are beginning MINDUP this week with a whole year group - 1 minute mindfulness starters have already started in my classes. Great to connect
Sue Webb Sue Webb @suew 2 months ago
Compassion is key and underpins our profession. That's why it's such a shock when we come across anti-values manifesting around us.
{{ modalTitle }} {{{ modalData }}} {{ modalTitle }} {{{ modalData }}} Join the conversation
Sign in or sign up to post comments, follow colleagues, recommend stories and build your own professional profile.
Staffrm is the professional network for educators passionate about their work.
Please Sign In {{ modalData }} Sign In