When You Win The Bully Battle But Lose The Career ​War.

I noted yesterday a request for assistance or information re personal grievance information for a bullying-related scenario. I have unfortunately dealt with many cases and have observed first hand the pain and collateral damage from this kind of behaviour. On several occasions, I have worked with teachers and leaders who have sadly resigned their careers as a result of their hurt both professionally and personally. Again, tragic and very sad to experience. However, I wish to suggest an alternative pathway for remedy. Whenever we start pursuing legal remedies, we open a huge can of worms that has no winners and a large group of losers who shoulder deep pain and broadly broken professional relationships. Legal remedy offers little or no redemptive options.

Rarely are both the person guilty and the victim of bullying the only ones to suffer. The professional community at large and the participant’s social connections suffer.

Let me explain further.

When we seek legal redress someone is going to suffer, (and usually both parties regardless of the outcome I time, cost and humiliation of one type or another).

Before you seek legal redress ask yourself what is my goal? Is it to punish the perpetrator or experience a change in behaviour? It may be of course yes to both.

Would a better option be to have the guilty retrained so that the years of experience in education are saved and reformed and no more damage occurs? The reality of a leader who has been guilty of this behaviours does not change. We often move them, but do not retrain therefore all we do is shift the problem and allow it resurface somewhere else. Besides, the likelihood that a senior leader will be removed is very very low.

First, we must understand that the behaviour which is labelled as bullying is poor models of leadership. Often these models gained through previous experience and more than likely a leadership model void of professional development or fundamental understandings of what the essence of leadership is or how it should operate.

Secondly, bullying behaviour does not exist in isolation. In the case of a principal behaving poorly, senior leaders have seen, heard and by silence enabled the practice to continue. I have never met a bullying case where the other leaders in the community were completely unaware of the senior leaders behaviour..never. I am not too fond of the word complicit; however when a leader at any level remains silent, then they are by default complicit. When you step up to lead, you take on the responsibility to identify and remedy poor behaviour. Period.

What we have in essence is merely good people thrust into leadership positions without the appropriate and suitable skills that are required to lead.

Boards of Trustees must be cognizant of this. When we employ, we must train. To fail to do is a hospital pass for the staff and the successful candidate. We cannot assume someone who has led in the past at any level is capable of being able to lead their people at a higher level.

Training effectively for leading applies right thought the leadership structures, not just at the top. It is a serious and ongoing issue across multiple sectors and not only education.

What we require is to train effectively to change behaviour at one end to avoid it at the other. Just because someone has been fantastic at a curriculum, this does in no way make them qualified to lead. Leadership is a profession, and as such requires professional skills.

Ask yourself this simple question. When we hear people say, ‘they don’t pay me enough to put up with this’. Are they stating they want more money to make them feel better or are they staying the want the substance of their experience to change? I would suggest it is the latter.

We must attend to the professional development up front and not lament when it turns bad.

Remember, people want to live in a redemptive community, so when we mess up we are still welcome. Being redemptive is always the bigger act and will bring you better outcomes.

If you would like to have a confidential conversation regarding your situation or relative your model of leadership is not giving you the personal or professional outcomes you desire. Please drop me a note. john@thethinkfarm.org