Teachers are being bullied in the workplace

SA teachers are one of the professional groups worst affected by workplace bullying, according to research by North-West University academics

Participants in the research carried out by the School of Education Studies said male school principals were the main culprits. The study titled The Nature Of Workplace Bullying Experienced By Teachers, and the Biopsychosocial Health Effects, found that principals abuse their managerial positions and sometimes use teacher-colleagues as pawns to target other teachers, while in other cases, teachers who bully colleagues also involve learners in the bullying process.

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The report also states that principals often looked for reasons to lodge, or threatened to lodge grievances against victimised teachers, accusing them, for example, of stealing or not performing their duties adequately.

The researchers found that this kind of behaviour negatively affects the victims’ health. Problems include insomnia, nightmares, fatigue, headaches, sexual problems, weight gain, musculoskeletal pains, as well as cardio-vascular-related problems. At worst, some victims showed symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

President of the National Professional Teachers Organisation (Naptosa), Basil Manuel, says bullying has a devastating impact on the teachers’ work.

“Obviously some people can cope better, but depending on the intensity of the bullying, the work suffers. Think of the woman who is being targeted by a male teacher and he walks past her classroom – productivity suffers and levels of work are low,” he says.

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It was also discovered that some victims’ social lives and relationships were significantly affected and they withdrew from relationships with colleagues due to feelings of distrust.

“Bullying between adults has no quick fix, people need to realise that there is no need to be the victim, and stand up and ask for help. Perpetrators hide behind the fact that they will not be challenged and dealt with,” Manuel says.