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.
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.
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