Conduct code would stop endemic problem

30th June 1995 at 01:00
It came as no surprise to me to learn of your correspondent's distress and anger. I spend a lot of time doing in-service training for schools on anti-bullying management strategies. One of the questions I ask staff is if they have ever been bullied by another member of staff. Invariably, they look around the room then a few hands go up, hesitantly.

Bullying is endemic in the workplace generally. All of us can remember times when we felt intimidated, and not always by those with authority over us.

A significant few have experienced discrimination because of racism, sexism or homo-phobia.

The practical need in all schools is to raise the issues. In my view staff need a code of conduct which deals specifically with their relationships with each other.

Managers need to be able to say what they expect from their staff, and staff need to be able to say how they want to be managed - not in the professional sense but in the "human". In most respects the two are inseparable - something which is often forgotten.

All levels in the staffing hierarchy need to be able to say how they would like to be treated - but they also need to be aware of how their own behaviour affects the lives of others.

The code should be co-ordinated by a member of staff who has credibility with management as well as with more junior staff, but the strategies to maintain it must be drawn up by all staff.

Openness and honesty need to underpin this process, which is why it is best to employ an outside facilitator who is not involved but skilled enough to negotiate a way through the internal tensions found in all workplaces. The main point is to open up whatever can of worms exists, in order to deal with it.

Few schools have gone through this process - which is why I recommend to anyone who finds themselves being bullied at work not to keep quiet.

Open it up. Be loud. This will precipitate a crisis. Use your fear, and the impact the stress is having on you and your family, to give you courage. You have a right not to be bullied, and it's not your fault that you are the focus of someone's aggression.

Bullies hate the exposure because it forces them to justify their actions. It is also a way of, hopefully, encouraging them to examine those behaviours which, like children, they may not have not recognised as bullying.

Dave Brown is a training officer for the Insight Training Collective. Tel: 0181 471 5287

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