When the word “bullying” is used in the context of education, one often presumes the situation in which one student systematically mistreats another. Unfortunately, harassment, offense, and social exclusion can happen in professional relationships between teachers. For example, teachers can force their peers to utilize educational approaches which they find effective, assign menial duties to less-experienced colleagues, or even unite against them (Mulvahill, 2020). In addition to their unethical nature, all those manifestations of bullying are harmful to the atmosphere in the workplace and the effectiveness of the educational process. Therefore, bullying incidents between the teachers must be addressed to provide teachers with ethical working settings and prevent deterioration of the educational process.
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The problem scenario in question is related to workplace bullying in teaching and possible measures that can be implemented to solve or at least alleviate it. A recently hired college principal realizes that toxic behaviors have become a widespread element of organizational culture. For instance, experienced teachers impose their philosophy on younger colleagues and even openly ridicule their alleged incompetence in conversations. Therefore, the principal has to develop a plan of action that includes effective prevention measures and strategies of intervention. The teachers can use various coping strategies, such as asking for help, calling bullying incidents out, or gathering allies among colleagues (Miller, 2017). However, the principal has to introduce the necessary measures and interventions in order to address the problem without putting all responsibility on the victims.
Plan of Problem Solving: Interventions for Organizational Culture Improvement
The proposed problem-solving plan stems from the most effective anti-bullying policies mentioned and described by HR professionals. As such, the plan introduces three steps of anti-bullying interventions. First of all, primary interventions would reduce the risk of future bullying cases by redesigning the work environment (Salin et al., 2020). However, since the problem scenario implies a significant spread of bullying among the teachers, it would be necessary to employ secondary interventions directed at perpetrators (Salin et al., 2020). Lastly, tertiary interventions would help reduce and heal the damage done to the victims (Salin et al., 2020). Overall, the ultimate goal lies in the creation of a complex and all-rounded system of interventions.
Primary interventions would include the best ways and practices of bullying prevention. Salin et al. (2020) conducted a survey among 214 HR professionals who shared their views on the most effective primary, secondary, and tertiary interventions. Based on this research, the principal could start with awareness-raising training. This training would make perpetrators fully aware of the negative impact left by their behavior and equip other teachers for timely intervention (Salin et al., 2020). In addition, the principal could adopt a clear code of ethical conduct and enforce it through their authority. Finally, the principal could show an example of good leadership by clearly expressing a non-passive anti-bullying stance. In the corporative sphere, the behavior of higher-level managers often affected that of lower-level colleagues (Salin et al., 2020). Therefore, if the principal expresses a zero-tolerance position towards unethical behavior in the workplace, this might cause a positive attitude shift among the teachers.
The previous step consisted of preventive measures aimed at the establishment of a bullying-free environment in the future. However, it would be necessary to implement specific policies dedicated to alleviating the current problems. These secondary interventions are vital for dealing with already manifesting cases (Salin et al., 2020). Salin et al. (2020) argued that fact finding, prompt action, and disciplinarian measures are the most important types of secondary interventions. Regarding the described problem scenario, the principal would start with an investigation of each suspected case to determine the level of bullying and possible actions towards the perpetrator. The confirmed cases of bullying would be stopped immediately in order to prove the principal’s dedication to the code of ethical conduct. After that, the perpetrator would have to face disciplinarian actions, varying from informal reconciliation with the victim to a formal reprimand, pay cut, and even dismissal in the most severe cases.
Finally, the principal would introduce tertiary interventions to assist victims of bullying. In the most extreme cases, the victims would be provided with therapy in order to heal the mental damage done by protracted bullying. This goal could be achieved by entering into an agreement with occupational health care services (Salin et al., 2020). In other cases, the principal would show that their door is always open for teachers who experience workplace bullying by encouraging them to talk as one colleague to another. Overall, a combination of primary, secondary, and tertiary interventions would curb existing bullying issues, help the victims, and prevent unethical behaviors from happening in the future.
Strengths of Proposed Plan
The primary strength of the proposed plan lies within the formal authority possessed by the principal. As such, they would be able to introduce new anti-bullying practices and enforce strict compliance with them. In addition, the plan is complex, as it covers both resolution of existing problems and their future prevention. Furthermore, the measures contained in the plan are versatile and well-proven in business, which makes them feasible for implementation in various settings and conditions.
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Another strength of the proposed plan is the principal’s active personal involvement in its implementation. Benevolent leadership by example would allow reassuring victims that their problems are the genuine concern. The perpetrators would also see that the new initiatives and interventions are not merely a formality or suggestion. Therefore, decisive action from the principal would likely force them to abandon bullying and eventually lead to the creation of a healthy working environment for every teacher.
Weaknesses of Proposed Plan
The main weakness of the proposed plan lies in its significant emotional and professional pressure on the principal. It might be challenging to change the environment where bullying prospers, even with formal authority over the perpetrators. It might be possible that perpetrators would unite to sabotage the implemented measures and continue their harmful practices. For example, Hollis (2017) claimed that the community does not automatically comply with demand to stop bullying. As a result, the principal might have to overcome their resistance through sheer willpower and determination, which might become impossible at some point.
Another potential weakness of the plan is the possible inability to supplement one type of intervention with another. For example, a primary intervention of good leadership expressed in an anti-bullying stance requires secondary interventions in the shape of prompt action and thorough investigation. If the principal would not support proclaimed stance with related activities, that might severely undermine their authority. Overall, the proposed plan demands strong commitment and dedication, and the lack of them might likely lead to failure.
Workplace bullying in teaching requires prompt intervention since it leads to negative implications for the professional environment and educational process. In described problem scenario, a recently hired college principal introduces various primary, secondary, and tertiary interventions to combat bullying and improve organizational culture. Given the circumstances, the proposed plan might be difficult to implement from an emotional perspective. However, the positive factors of formal authority, personal involvement, and versatility outweigh the weaknesses. In the end, a professional should be ready to face challenges, and stopping bullying in teaching is a challenging yet worthy undertaking.
Hollis, L. P. (2017). Workplace bullying in the United States and Canada: Organizational accountability required in higher education. Comparative Civilizations Review, 76(76), 117–125.
Miller, A. (2017). Let’s be honest: Professional bullying in schools is a thing. Education Week.
Mulvahill, E. (2020). When teachers bully one another. We Are Teachers.
Salin, D., Cowan, R. L., Adewumi, O., Apospori, E., Bochantin, J., D’Cruz, P., Djurkovic, N., Durniat, K., Escartín, J., Guo, J., Işik., I., Koeszegi, S., McCormack, D., Monserrat Inés, S., Olivas-Lujan, M.R., & Zedlacher, E. (2020). Prevention of and interventions in workplace bullying: A global study of human resource professionals’ reflections on preferred action. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 31(20), 2622-2644.