Don't let the bullies get to you

If you're being picked on at work, you should act immediately, writes Martin Whittaker.

Workplace bullying is rife in teaching, according to an extensive survey carried out on behalf of employers and trade unions. But what should you do if you're a victim? Professor Cary Cooper, an occupational psychologist who conducted the research, believes that we must all take firm action quickly or else the problem is likely to get worse.

Most people who are bullied in the workplace think it's their own fault and they often don't realise that the bully is probably picking on other people as well.

Your first step is to check with your colleagues whether they have had any similar problems. If so, this will boost your self-confidence and help you to realise that it's not just you. All being well, such a boost will then enable you to do something about it.

If you are the only person in a group who is being bullied, it may be a relationship problem between you and the person in question, in which case you must sort that out. Try to work out why this person might have it in for you - there could be several explanations. If you can pinpoint the most likely reason, you will be much better placed to resolve the issue.

In general, there are two kinds of bully. One shows a psychopathic behaviour pattern and will try to put you down in order to enhance his or her own self-esteem. These bullies are rare - perhaps one in 10 - but they are extremely dangerous. If a psychopathic bully is in a senior position - a head of department, for example - you must make sure the top people know about it. A few of you could go to the head - remember that there is always strength in numbers.

The study suggests that most people who bully at work are just not able to cope with their jobs. Often they are being bullied in turn from a higher level.

If your bete noire is finding it hard to cope, talk to this person and make it clear that the situation is causing you problems. Ask whether there is anything you can do to help. It is better to be understanding rather than confrontational - all that will do is add another source of stress for a person who is no doubt already under a great deal of pressure.

If that doesn't work, you will be obliged to go to a higher level - and to contact your professional association. Indeed, you have no other options. If you're not prepared to go the distance with this problem, you might as well look for a new job.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you