Question: Big Brother, bullying and post 16 education
“Bullying appears to be an acceptable form of management in our college. What would you do about it if you became general secretary?”
Lynne, Manchester FE lecturer
Answer by Roger Kline:
The Health and Safety Executive estimates that bullying costs UK employers 80 million lost working days and £2 billions in lost revenue.
Bullying is widespread in post 16 education. Numerous surveys including the most recent UCU stress at work survey (Link to press release) have demonstrated how widespread it is. Bullying is incompatible with a collegial management or a learning environment.
Some managers seem to think that Rambo style management is effective. The growing climate of fear amongst senior management, especially in further education, makes it likely that such practices will increase unless challenged. [So will they be challenged?]
As head of equality and employment rights I have ensured we have developed a range of work around bullying.
Firstly, your employer should have a Bullying and Harassment Policy or Dignity at Work Policy. UCU’s web site at www.natfhe.org.uk/?entityType=Document&id=150 has a model policy. We want every employer to agree such a policy with UCU. [Agreeing is one thing, implementing and monitoring is another.]
Secondly, a bullying culture is a breach of the Health and Safety Executive Management Standards for Stress (www.hse.gov.uk). A survey – jointly with management if possible - using the HSE model survey will confirm the scale of bullying and which departments are especially bad. [Good idea, do we have any volunteers?]
Thirdly when individuals feel they are being bullied they must start to record what is happening and alert their local representative. It is very unlikely that such individuals are the only ones being bullied. [True, but what happens after one alerts the local rep can be an issue.]
Finally, bullying often has discriminatory overtones linked to gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and so on. Whilst it remains very difficult to pursue bullying cases through the courts, the link with discrimination may make it easier to force your employer to act in case legal action is taken. However it is much, much better to take these issues up collectively if possible rather than assume there is easy legal redress. [So what happens to individual cases?]
An excellent guide to tackling bullying at work, co-sponsored by UCU has just been published by the Equality challenge Unit, on whose board I sit. It can be downloaded at www.ecu.ac.uk. [Thank you for the guide.]
Did he answer the question?
The other candidate for the position of General Secretary (Sally Hunt) has not mentioned the 'B' word yet.