bullying making me ill

(12 Posts)
Sleepysand Mon 14-Jan-13 06:02:44

Hi, I am not sure if I want advice so much as support.

I am a teacher in a secondary school working just below the rank of assistant head. However, I am still fairly new in teaching, I qualified aged 43 about 5 years ago. I think I am being bullied by someone of the same rank as me - she is the Head of the faculty.in which I teach, my own role being at the same rank but across the whole school.

She has always been cold and unpleasant, even before I qualified, but I could sort of cope because there were 2 others she bullied and we supported each other. One has now retired and the other took a sabbatical year. Since then I think I am the only one.

The bullying takes various forms. In meetings she ignores or talks over me. She often puts out vital information informally at lunch in the team office - I have my own team office and since it is an IT based team project I have to use particular machines and I just do not have time for lunch. This means I often do pointless work or seem out of step. She loaded me with a huge amount of a level teaching of a syllabus I have never taught. I asked to go on a training course and she refused, but sent a colleague. About three months ago, we were put as a school on Notice to Improve; I was devastated to receive a letter telling me I was in a category of "needs improvement"; on investigation - after I pulled out my perf man which showed every target met, my outstanding lesson observations, and my results which were way above average, the person who sent the letter said it was sent because "x gives you a bit of a bad press".

The day before Christmas we had to moderate coursework on the course for which I was refused training. It appeared I had missed one aspect of the assessment objectives. I had to work through the holidays to get students to improve. I came back to an inset day to another issue. Basically I have a c/d borderline y11 group. In the English marking debacle, about half did not get their target. I repeatedly asked her how we were going to deal, and heard nothing. So then I told her I was going to redo the unit with them. I utterly slogged myself into the ground pre xmas to do this. On the inset she feigned surprise that I had done it, and announced that she was re-jigging the groups and it was ruined by this. Others appeared to know but I did not. I assume she told them informally at a lunch, not formally in a meeting.

I cannot explain easily what happened next as I was so stressed I almost fainted. I went to the Dr next day, taking my first sick day in a year, and she diagnosed vertigo. I was off for a week and felt much better. I have a final appointment this morning at 8.30 to check BP etc and then I would go back. I was dreading it but heigh-ho.

Last night I read my emails and discovered that she has rejigged the groups while I was away. Basically all my successful students, who got their grades in their module, have been removed, leaving me with the unsuccessful ones. I will still have a target to get the same percentage at target. Again I cannot explain what happened next as my head was spinning and I felt sick. I could not stop shaking and crying.

I sent an email last night to my line manager in my Head of Faculty role - he is also hers. I had spoken to him about it before, after the training thing, and he spoke to her, after which she smiled more but nothing else changed. Ofsted then rather took over all our thoughts.

I cannot stop myself from thinking this is all my fault and I am crap. I cannot resign, if you look at my other posts you will see DH's business has collapsed and I am the breadwinner.

Help please, and please be gentle.

Thank you

Sleepysand

FadBook Mon 14-Jan-13 08:31:03

Didn't want to read and run.

Firstly, none of this is your fault. This lady sounds unprofessional, toxic and for some reason, personal to her, just doesn't like you. That is not your fault or your problem.

Secondly, your health is more important than work at this point in time. If you feel ill today, do not pander or delay, go home.

Thirdly, you have done the right thing emailing your line manager. Give you LM an opportunity to resolve the issue this lady has - he may ask to meet with you to gain further details. If you LM does nothing or does not, in your opinion, deal with the issues you have outlined, then you need to raise a formal grievance to his line manager. Start writing the letter now, split in to heading such as:
- bullying behaviour,
- lack of communication,
- unprofessionalism,
- victimisation
Under each heading, list the examples that support it (ie the informal lunch time meetings would come under both victimisation and lack of comms). The process of writing this letter, even if you don't submit it, will help you separate the incidents and give you clarity in your head about some things that you can "let go" and other things that are beyond acceptable in the work place.

Assuming you are in a union as a teacher, please call them and arrange a meeting to discuss the detail of the situation. Your union rep, if good, should be able to help you and the school come to a resolution. This could be anything from the lady going through a formal disciplinary process, or a mediation meeting between you both about how she is making you feel.

I reiterate again, this is not your fault. You have done nothing wrong.

Keep me updated

Graceparkhill Mon 14-Jan-13 08:46:10

You have my sympathies- I have been in a bullying situation at work and what strikes me with hindsight is that I am amazed I allowed it to go in for so long.
I am not explaining this v well so feel free to PM me but basically a bully only has as much power over you as you choose to give her ( or him)

I used to be physically terrified of my bully boss but when I saw her recently ( she is now unemployed ) I was struck by how pathetic / lonely she seemed.
Anyway back to your situation. You could turn the tables by raising a grievance against her. Your union would advise I am sure.

I would certainly document everything via email particularly the issue with the informal discussions which take place without you being present. This is bad management pure and simple.

Another thing which worked for me ( if you can stomach it) was flattery. I let her take the credit for my good work and ideas and she loved the limelight .

Another coping strategy : could you do some visualisation / role play things to put her into perspective for you?

You are the strong one here -she sounds weak and threatened by your good performance.

Sleepysand Mon 14-Jan-13 09:36:57

Thank you both. The Dr has signed me off and although I intended to work tomorrow, apparently I can't because I need to get a "fit" note to return because of insurance.

I work 60 miles away, by the way - but I am usually the first one in at 7.15 and the last one to leave about 7pm. My blood pressure was (wait for it) 210/105...

This is what I sent to my line manager and I would be grateful to know what you think, and how I should change if going to his line manager (the Head). There were other things I meant to add, such as that she refused to allow me a day of unpaid leave involving 1 missed lesson to enable me to take my eldest to university 300 miles away (in the end I had to go there and back in a day), and that she often comes into my lessons on the pretext of getting something out of a locked cupboard in there and just hangs about, which doesn't bother me much or wouldn't if it was someone else but she makes me freeze. Here goes:

Dear (Line manager)

I will be in after seeing the doctor - I need to get BP and other stuff checked over. I hope to be in before lunch depending on how long that takes.

It is hard to talk about this, but I feel sick with dread at the thought of having to deal with (bully) - it has always been bad and I hate it. Most recently, at the meeting last Monday it became apparent that she has, after all, some plan for resitting coursework (did you know about it?) and she behaved as if she was quite unaware of what I had done - even though I know she was not. I learned then that she planned to re-jig the groups to secure this: apparently my coursework resits were in the way of that because that was what the rejigged groups were going to do. I had never heard a word about this, though some others seemed to know (she probably put it about at a lunchtime meeting, which she knows I cannot make).

She's now emailed and basically all the secure Cs in my group are gone (all those that got a C in their unit 3) and I am left with those who have failed, the most difficult students - as happened the last time I had a B group in Y11 (2011). At least I am not in charge of the sink group this year [this refers to last year when I ended up with a group doubled in size containing her students and mine, but was still held to my PM targets], but this group, the failures alone, is still on my PM for 75% at FFTD. There is no way I could meet that target now when those who already have Cs are removed, so I feel like I have been set up for failure. [Colleague P] has the successful group. I assume she's talked through all this with you.

I couple this with the refusal to train me for the Lit Lang, and that [Assistant Head] said that [bully] "bad-mouthed" me, and all the rest. You know I love my job, in that I love teaching and I love working with you and I love my new role, but just so you know, I am really, really stressed about what is at best very poor management and what I actually think is bullying. Obviously I am now suffering from stress, and I will be talking to the Doctor about that and ways to cope - I honestly feel like running away most of the time and have done for a while - for the last 48 hours I have felt sick and it is not physical. Last time I backed off because - among other things - I was concerned about (bully's) mental health because, as you know, [bully's assistant] told me that [bully] was on the verge of a breakdown as OfSTED approached. But my mental health matters too and I cannot cope for everyone, and there is no doubt that this situation is not good for my mental health, or, if it comes to that, good for [the school].

I am not sure really what I want you to do (and at the moment I don't feel in a place to talk about it). What I really want isn't possible - I just want not to have to deal with her. There is no way that is going to happen in the short term - but I need protecting because this is affecting my health. In any case, I suppose really this is one where it isn't really my place to offer a solution - I'll be part of the solution of course. I have to come back in because the vertigo is (more or less) better, and the longer I leave it the more chance she has to undermine me and the worse any return gets.

MrsWobble Mon 14-Jan-13 10:06:06

hi, you have my sympathy as you seem to have got into a complicated and difficult position. however, i think Fadbook's advice is good as it will clarify your issues and that might be enough to help find solutions to some of them.

one thing that struck me from your initial post though, you seem to miss out on a lot of faculty information because you don't use the faculty office. I understand that this is because you have other commitments, but looking at it from your faculty head's point of view I can see that this could be really annoying and that she might feel that you are not being much of a "team player". is this something you could explore with your line manager - is there anyway to relocate the computers you need for example. you might find that being automatically part of discussions makes a big difference to how you feel, as well as avoiding some of the practical issues.

Sleepysand Mon 14-Jan-13 10:23:46

I wondered about relocating before. The problem is that there is not just a specialist IT need, but also a team of people that work with me and I need to be near them - there are more of them than the entire faculty team - and the nature of the work is confidential (it relates to personnel) and that poses a problem.

I would like to be there more but we also have a "hot desk" policy which means that if I am not teaching, my classroom is likely to be in use so I have to go into one or other of the offices to work at all. I only teach 50% of a timetable so a lot of my time is spent on my own team project.

I do know that from her point of view I can't contribute as I would like to in team things, but at the same time her attitude is so unfriendly that I just hate walking in there, and she literally talks over the top of me if I speak or just ridicules what I say. As part of a solution, I could see a couple of lunchtimes where I could stay in the team, but I can't be there every lunch time - it just won't work.

Ugh, now I feel like it is my fault.

Oh I just knew it would be secondary English - you have so much sympathy from me. My HOD did many of these things to me over the past two years including taking achievers out of my class into hers and giving me students from her class who were never going to meet their targets. I wasn't a senior member of staff but part time which meant I also missed masses of information - I swear she deliberately didn't tell me things and enjoyed it when I messed up. She also told me she had concerns about my teaching when I had NEVER been observed, then after several good observations refused to address her previous comments. Loaded me with ridiculously massive PM targets. I could go on.

I am now on a career break - I suppose I may have done that anyway, but she made the decision a lot easier.

I have to say, your Head of Faculty sounds even worse than mine though and what you're going through is not sustainable. I really hope a solution can be found for you and it probably should go to the Head. If it does, though, I would make your email as formal as you can.

Let us know what happens and do not let them try to brush it under the carpet. You sound like a wonderful teacher.

MrsWobble Mon 14-Jan-13 11:21:12

you shouldn't feel like it's your fault - it isn't. what seems to me to be the problem is that you have two distinct roles - teaching and this other personnel project - and that the two are incompatible, for example by requiring you to work in different physical places. This is not something you can sort out on your own - and all that is happening when you try is that you are unable to do one or both roles to the best of your ability. This is a management/organisational problem - not a personal one - and should be sorted out by those responsible for management/organisation. so escalate it to your senior management team. i suggest you think about it in terms of the practical problems eg missing team meetings because you have to work in a different office rather than focusing on how you feel, because then you can't get fobbed off with having to get on with it or similar. No amount of positive thinking on your part will change a practical issue so it's not going to get presented as a solution.

FadBook Mon 14-Jan-13 14:13:27

This is what I sent to my line manager and I would be grateful to know what you think, and how I should change if going to his line manager (the Head)

Your letter to bully's line manager is good and is very honest. If he doesn't do anything, I would be extremely surprised to be honest. Should he not even initiate a meeting with you to discuss further, then I would do as I've advised and write out each incident / example of bullying behaviour and/or poor management, lack of communication as a bullet point, so that it is clear in your mind what you are unhappy about. After doing this, you can decide if you wish to pursue a formal grievance and submit to the head teacher. I say decide, because you may not wish to do this, you may wish to 'nudge' bully's LM to do something and offer a resolution (this isn't necessarily your job to offer a resolution, although you should be part of it like you have rightly said).

I will comment that because of your ill health, you are doubting yourself far too much in the letter to bully's line manager - it isn't your fault that these things are happening around you. This person has knocked your confidence and lowered your self esteem, like Graceparkhill said, the longer you let this go on for, the worse it will get. It is now time for it to stop.

Have you made your GP aware of the stresses at work? You say s/he has signed you off work, is that because of the vertigo or the stress? If s/he thinks you should be off, I would agree and not recommend you getting a 'fit' to return work note. A medical professional knows better about your mental health and has with good reason, signed you off (if that is how I've interpreted your post, it isn't clear so sorry if you are signed off for vertigo).

I hope you are trying to relax this afternoon.

Sleepysand Tue 15-Jan-13 10:26:02

Thank you all, again.

GP signed me off with work-related stress.

Well, I have had lots of lovely and very supportive messages from others in work (none from the culprit, of course) which makes me think that my LM might have been stirring the pot there. I know him really well - he is one of my best friends, really - but one of his failings is that he evades conflict. I will ask him, I think, to be more transparent about what he is actually doing. When I raised this before, about 4 months ago, he quietly arranged for my PM to be carried out by another colleague (actually another peer with a different whole school role) in the department - but he didn't discuss with me what he was going to do. I want to be part of the solution, not someone the solution happens to. Is that unreasonable?

Nope. Hugs from me.

FadBook Tue 15-Jan-13 22:17:30

Not unreasonable at all.

I'm pleased your GP has signed you off. Use this time to relax and reflect on what is important to you.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now