Teaching is one of the professions that suffers the most from bullying and harassment by colleagues.
Not only do students suffer from bullying or school harassment, but teachers are also a target of bullying at some point in their careers. According to a Blackboard Talk’s article, between 24% and 46% of teachers surveyed admitted being bullied and harassed at some point in their careers. In addition, 89% of teachers said they witnessed harassment by their school staff. The most common type of bullying (67– 75%) is the "top-down" type, i.e., the job harassment that senior administrators inflict upon lower-ranking workers.
The culture of gossip and the formation of groups and cliques are often found in the classrooms and hallways of the schools. In this kind of environment, the attitudes formed result in harm to the teachers, even causing their dismissals or resignations due to the gossip and other forms of intimidation.
To understand the problem in depth, one needs to understand what bullying is.
Bullying, school harassment, or mobbing is a pattern of abuse that occurs over a period of time and is characterized by a desire to hurt, degrade, humiliate, or isolate another person. To accomplish intimidation, the harasser may use various techniques such as exclusion, insults, physical aggression, verbal abuse, humiliation or destruction of the person's reputation, all with the objective to cause psychological or physical harm to the one being accosted.
The signs that may indicate you are being bullied
According to the article, there are four types of bullying:
Psychological harassment: involves psychological attacks using exclusion, hurtful words, ignoring the other person, or passive-aggressive techniques.
Verbal harassment: takes place through rumor spreading, insulting, making false accusations, and exchanging confidential information.
Physical intimidation: includes pushing, punching, tripping, and other types of physical harassment.
Cyberbullying: is online defamation.
Why do bullies intimidate?
According to Blackboard Talk, the phrase "hurt people…hurt" is true. Many "bullies" are people under stress, exhausted, insecure, unemployed, do not attend to their mental illnesses, are themselves targets of intimidation and harassment (or have been), or are frustrated with their lives. For them, harassing others is a distraction from their own problems.
However, this is not the only reason; there are also those who are motivated by power. These kinds of bullies can be narcissists, very competitive people who seek to advance at the expense of their peers, morally disconnected people, or those who are simply accustomed to acting that way.
What to do if you are intimidated
According to the article, by Patricia Sacawa, there are four things a teacher should do in case of being bullied by another associate:
Document each incident. If a teacher suffers any kind of bullying, it is best to record in a journal or some document what happened. It is of paramount importance to mention the date, time, place, the people who were present, what kind of harassment or intimidation it was, what was said or done, and what the target felt at the time. This can help reduce anxiety and fear because it helps to have some clarity on the incident.
Contact an authority. Seeking an authority, especially a union, to obtain the relevant job and school harassment policy. This will help the teacher know what to do.
Ignore. As mentioned above, one of the reasons people bully is because of power, so, as far as possible, trying not to fall for a bully’s provocations can help lessen the problem.
Confront the offender directly. If the person feels safe, confronting the bully can cause him or her to back off, because the bully does not expect to be confronted. The confrontation can occur alone or accompanied by someone. It is essential to document the interaction through an email to the bully discussing the conversation and stating that if things do not change, formal actions will be taken. This way, in the event of further intimidation, there is evidence that there was an attempt to change things.
Additionally, it is crucial not to isolate yourself, so it is recommended to talk about the situation to someone; it could be a close friend, couple-partner, or family member. Another recommendation is to find a therapist and focus on maintaining sound mental health. Bullying and harassment can result in poor job performance and dissatisfaction with work, as well as severe problems such as anxiety, depression, tension, headaches, and suicidal thoughts, among others.
There are also countless blogs and websites dedicated to problems of on-the-job harassment. These types of resources can help you deal with the situation and not feel isolated.
Have you been, or are you, the victim of bullying by another teacher? Get help! Associations like the Alberta Bullying Research, Resources and Recovery Centre (ABRC) are there to help you. There are also Facebook groups where you can find the support of other teachers. Remember, you are not alone!
*Correction: It has come to the attention of the Observatory that some of the information attributed to Linda R. Crockett in this article did not come from her, as stated in an earlier version of this article. The source is from the article When Teachers Bully Other Teachers by Patricia Sacawa, from Blackboard Talk.