A Piece Full World

What to do: Simple steps.....complex issue.

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"Ten Steps to Some Sanity" for Bullied Educators
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Apologies to Dr. Seuss
A District's Bullying and Harassment Policy.....
A School District's Workplace Violence Policy
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"Bullying, coercive, abusive men and women--superintendents, regional leadership, directors and principals--are the real reason schools fail. I know it in my gut. Good people are forced out. Fine and fun people are targeted with "documentation" and "discipline." And what are we left with? Suck-up sycophants who lie and cheat and cover up for the bosses. They have no other choices if they want to survive. Our school districts' upper echelons of leadership are full of just such people. Abusive leadership and suck up, rear end kissing subordinates....who happen to be the bosses of other subordinates....all sucking up, lying and covering up for each other...until the chain lands flatly and completely in the classroom. There is no one to suck up to the teacher. But there are layers upon layers of danger for that teacher if she has any ethics at all. The first layer of danger is the principal."  (K.W., 2013)
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If you are an educator and you are being bullied by your principal, here is what you need to consider doing:

Ten steps to return to some sanity. 

1.  For sure, document each occurrence of abuse. Document others' abuse as well, because seeing others' suffering affects you. Keep all pertinent emails.  I documented much of my abuse by sending emails to my union rep.  I did not at that time realize that all of those emails were public records.  Public records are a very good thing.  

2.  Call your union. In my case, a wonderful and caring individual helped me.  I think it had more to do with her just being a caring individual than her being a union rep...still, having her support and help was invaluable. If you are not a union member, that's okay.  Find a wonderful and caring person who will stick with you.

3.  Check to see if your school district's "bullying and harassment" policy covers employees as well as students.  I have provided a link to all states' bullying and harassment policies on A Piece Full World's home page. Most school districts adopt their state's model policy.  Miami-Dade County Public School's policy is word for word Florida's model policy.  It covers employees.

4.  If employees are "covered" under your district's "bullying and harassment" policy, take a deep breath and....turn him/her in. You must do this before he/she takes action against you.  I faxed my report to my district's Director of Bullying and Harassment. I used Miami-Dade County Public Schools' "Anonymous Report", although I did not choose to remain anonymous.   The director did not know what to do...and so, handled my report ineffectively.  She's gone now though.  Her employees turned her in for bullying.  Trust me, the irony is not lost.
 
If he/she has already taken action against you  (my former principal starts with a "Memorandum of Professional Responsibilities" after he has gather fraudulent "evidence"), turn him/her in anyway.  You have nothing to lose.   

5.  Know this: if you feel you must stay on the job, you have taken a stand by turning her/him in...and that may help.  He/she would have started "documentation" against you most assuredly. It is best to report him/her first so that he/she is on the defensive.  Again, I did not know all of that at the time I was experiencing abuse.  I just knew my health was at risk.

6. But the best thing to do is to take time off-- if you can--and begin to recover.  You have been through trauma and emotional violence. You will never be the same, trust me on that.  My abuser's face comes to my mind often.  I was in great peril--emotional and professional peril. You probably are too.

6.5 (Because I added this step later...and I am still going to keep the steps at ten!) Research "workplace bullying and violence."  Check out A Piece Full World in detail.  I've been at this now for three years, so please contact me if you really want to communicate with a "been there/done that" experienced person.  I welcome your emails.

7. Find a therapist who understands the workplace bullying/violence phenomenon and who will really be able to help.  You are not alone.  There are thousands of us out there.

8. If your abusive principal has a history of abuse--and mine had/has a years and years long history of abuse--your district will probably transfer you to a different school.  Do not think for a second that your district will take action against him/her.  District leaders are in too deep.  If your district takes action against your abuser, CALL ME IMMEDIATELY!  I want to work there!  :)
 
Also, do NOT allow district leaders to talk you into "sitting down" with your abuser.  That is NOT APPROPRIATE!  Insist they recognize this as bullying and harassment.   

9.  If you are assigned to a new school, go. Recover some of your lost enthusiasm.  Decide then what your next steps will be.  You are forever changed.  You are, however, not alone.

10.  Share your story.  You have nothing to hide.  You have no reason to be ashamed.  I have found that matter-of-factly sharing with others has helped me.  I think it is helping others as well.

10.5 (because I said this was a ten step process!)  Accept that the world is a sometimes unkind place.

10.99 ( same reason as 10.5) Accept, also, that there is still a whole lot of good in the world. Find it.
 
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"Our society may be not only fascinated but increasingly tolerant of the psychopathic personality [evidenced by victimized student/athletes being admonished to just "suck it up" or "toughen up" or "get over it" by their administrators after having just been bullied by a potentially psychopathic individual]. [...] Even more frightening is the possibility that "cool" but vicious psychopaths will become twisted role models...where little value is placed on honesty, fair play, and concern for the welfare of others [e.g. as long as they display considerable athletic talent and can help the school team win, some behaviors may be "overlooked'']..."

"Without Conscience - The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us."

--Robert D. Hare, PhD.

    

Click for The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI). This is the site that educated and empowered me. I now am trained by WBI to educate and empower you.

 Ten Key Indicators of the Almost Psychopath:

From: "Almost a Psychopath" by Ronald Schouten and James Silver.


1. Are they superficially charming and glib, with an answer for everything?

2. Is there a lack of empathy, i.e., an impaired ability to understand and appreciate the emotions of others and the impact of their behavior on other people?

3. Confronted with a difficult moral choice, do they more often than not rationalize and arrive at a decision to act in their own self-interest?

4. Do they lie repeatedly, including when it is unnecessary or for minor reasons?

5. Are they conning and manipulative?

6. When they get criticized for something, is it always someone else's fault?

7. When they cause harm or hurt to others, is there a lack of true remorse?

8. Do they seem to have limited capacity to experience and express feelings for others or maintain relationships?

9. Do they find it easy to ignore responsibilities?

10. Do people and situations exist solely for the purpose of gratifying their needs and wants?

Desperate note to myself as I began to piece together the abuse I'd experienced:

I wrote the following in the fall of 2010. I used this note when I consulted with an attorney. I also shared it with my regional superintendent when he and I met the first time. We were alone, so he could deny that I told him. His name is on no documents either. I guess, hypothetically, he could state he'd never met with me.

Anyway, I really don't care about all of that. Even if, as Gandhi states, I am a "minority of one," the truth is still the truth.

Here's how I started my first conversation with my regional superintendent: I read what I had written in preparation for my meeting with an attorney.

"Arrogance, deception, manipulation, coersion, threats, humiliation, upbraiding and more..."

The Workplace Bullying Institute's Negative Conduct & Impact Continuum

Workplace bullying starts with the cloddish, inappropriate stuff.  You know: your boss's stupid jokes would be a good example.  You better laugh, though, or it will most assuredly get worse.  The continuum moves, then, into general incivility.  Workplace cultures are determined by leaders, whether those cultures are warm, trusting and great places to work or they are toxic, dangerous and abusive places you dread going to each morning.

 With that in mind here's what happens.  Someone who violates a workplace's culture-say a "half glass full living" individual transferring into a "half glass empty/abusive" norm will be (and this happens without our awareness) over time, made to feel uncomfortable by those who have been there for awhile.  Some of those employees may have been positive people to start, but they folded to fit into the abusive culture. It was the only way to survive. The "half glass full living" person will have to either abide by the abusive culture's "rules" or get out. 

 The same dynamic is also true for the "half glass empty/abusive prone" individual transferring into a happy, vibrant, and trusting place. That individual  will also have to abide by that workplace's trusting and positive culture's "rules" or get out. 

 Incivility moves into disrespect and this is where we see the onset of health consequences.  In my case, for instance, I and other women were arrogantly and dismissively called "honey" by my school's leader.  Mild bullying follows.  Again, in my case, my principal would pass me and say things like: "There have been complaints.  We'll talk later." 

 Mild bullying leads to Moderate to Severe Bullying.  This is where it gets dangerous for the target.  The goal here is obliteration. My administrator, for example, screamed at me and swore at me.  The target's indentity is at risk.  That's part of the goal.  The impact of on going moderate to severe bullying is a feeling of emotionally being ripped to shreds. This is where targets fall into despair and some commit suicide.  See link below entitled "Teacher's Suicide.  School district's reaction."

Why does the abuser do this?  Reasons vary. But mostly he does it simply because he can. 

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Teacher's Suicide. School District's reaction.

Superintendents:  This is from Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie in their book, "The Bully-Free Workplace:"

 "Gird your loins for the war ahead.  If you do not have the stomach to stop the unacceptable conduct, you risk losing the confidence of all of the other employees who are rooting for you to stop the bullying.  It's your choice: stay in denial and coddle the few or protect the vast majority."

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Once at a seminar on effective parenting, Dr. Robert Brooks said (and I am paraphrasing), "Ask parents this: What do you want your children to say about you when they are adults?  And what are you doing to make that happen?"

 This is my answer. I want my children to say I taught them, through my actions, to: value people; hurt no one intentionally; work hard and tell the truth. 

So I ask you, school district leaders: "What do you want your employees to say about you when you've moved on?  And what are you doing to make that happen?"

Your legacies are at stake. 

Kim 

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Targets: Here's what you must do to end the abuse. The most important thing to remember: IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.  You just hang onto that.
 
School district leaders: We'll look at your culpability.  Check out my "Your bullying principals are sleeping well" blog post.

Let's first have some fun! Mr. Bully Boss has something to say.......

Click here for an article about children, their telomeres, and aging! Moments of enlightenment! STRESS for children and STRESS for adults is just plain hazardous to our health.

Bully Boss to Target:  "Na-na-na-na-boo-boo!  Success! I've actually messed with the neuro-structure of your brain.  Take THAT big girl!  Gotcha now!"

Question:  Targets, are your telomeres frayed? I'll bet they are!

What the heck is a telomere?  Telomeres cap your chromosomes.  Prolonged stress (like the psychological stress from workplace abuse) adversely affects them.  

Check out Elizabeth Blackburn's research on the effects of relentless stress on aging.

Question: Are you feeling socially isolated at your school?  Isolation and exclusion are hallmarks of workplace bullying.  They're also hazardous to health.  

In Robert Sapolsky's book, "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers", Dr. Sapolsky finds that social isolation is a bigger risk factor for cardio-vascular disease than being overweight.  It's bigger than smoking. 

That's some warped good news for thin targets, I suppose.  But for those of us on the portly side, we're screwed.

Question:  Are you suffering physically? Do you cry easily?  Does your heart beat rapidly just walking in the door of your school?  Does it jump just seeing your school leader's car in the employee lot? Do you have chest pain?  Rapid breathing? Headaches?  Diarrhea?  Want to puke?  

No wonder he's able to document "weakness." He created it!  That's his goal. He's "gotcha".

Na-na-na-na-boo-boo.....

On going, unending abuse leads to feeling helpless and trapped.  It leads to feelings of being abandoned by peers and by school district leaders: leaders who say they will keep you safe.
  
Hmmmm.....I don't THINK SO!  They allow these J.E.R.K.S. free rein. 
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(added 3/31/12) Oh dear readers!  An epiphany!  I cut the following from a piece by Dave Lawrence to school leaders in the state of Florida (you can find that piece on the David Lawrence Jr. page).

 

Here it is (I'll talk about it coming up...)

"Dr. Jack Shonkoff, the nationally known professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, reports: “We now know that adversity early in life can not only disrupt brain circuits that lead to problems with literacy, it can also affect the development of the cardiovascular system and the immune system and metabolic regulatory systems, and lead not only to more problems learning in school but also greater risk for diabetes and hypertension and heart disease and cancer and depression and substance abuse.”

Dr. Shonkoff is talking about the effects of STRESS on children.  I'm going to go totally out on an unscientific, but-it-makes-perfect-sense limb and change up a few words and we'll be talking about the effects of the ongoing, incessant stress of workplace AND school bullying on PEOPLE, be they 5,13,25,or 50. Shoot, why not include 70 and 80 year olds too?! 

Here you go:

Dr. Jack Shonkoff, the nationally known professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, reports: “We now know that adversity (I'm taking out the word "early") in life can not only disrupt brain circuits that lead to problems with literacy, it can also affect (I'm taking out the words "the development of") the cardiovascular system and the immune system and metabolic regulatory systems, and lead not only to more problems (I'm adding "teaching and") teaching and learning in school but also greater risk for diabetes and hypertension and heart disease and cancer and depression and substance abuse.”

Folks, that's it!!  Our bodies deal with ongoing, unrelenting stress in much the same ways, whether we are a bounced around foster child with a substance addicted mother or a 63 year old teacher targeted by her principal for abuse.

Our hair falls out.

Our minds shut down.

Kids can't learn to read.  Adults can't read either.

Kids and adults get sick. Real sick. 

Our hope dies.

We die sooner than other people. 

Na-na-na-na-boo-boo. 


Targets, you must:

1. Externalize the bullying. 
It is not your fault.
2. Name it. 
Call it whatever you want.  Call it psychological assault, bullying, harassment or abuse. 
3. Own it. 
It's yours.You get to call the abuse you are experiencing by your boss whatever you want. His/her abuse of you is your experience. No one can take the truth of that away.  No one, even if your reported case, like mine, is found to be "unfounded", can take away the truth.  That knowledge was liberating for me. 
4.Talk about it.
Once you've named it, go ahead and talk about it with people.  If you are doing what I did when I was targeted, you may be keeping it quiet. You may be guiltily moving about your day. 
Let me tell you again; IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!  YOU DID NOTHING TO DESERVE THIS ABUSE!  Because that's what it is pure and simple: ABUSE.
By naming the abuse and talking about it, you take it from inside your suffering self and place it outside your suffering self.  The "What did I do to deserve this"?" question becomes a "Hey, how come s/he's doing this to me?" conversation. 
Next we will look at some sad statistics.  Abusive leaders rarely suffer consequences. More often than not they get promoted.

Targets, (you too district leaders), be informed:

Bullies have support systems.  43% have executive and senior management support.  33% have peer support.  14% have HR support.  That's a lot of support.

Bullies bully with impunity.  54% have no consequences.  28% are rewarded with promotions and stellar evaluations.  14% are investigated.  Only 4% are punished or terminated.  

The statistics, as you might imagine, are starkly different for targets.  That's next up.

02/21/12: What stops the workplace abuse and bullying? (Targets: you will not be happy to read this). 

36% of targeted men and 41% of targeted women must quit; 13% of targeted men and 25% of targeted women are terminated. 14% of targeted men and 8% of targeted women are transferred.

That's 63% of targeted men and 74% of targeted women who GIVE UP THEIR JOBS! This, after the hell of workplace bullying. 

Compare that to the 82% of workplace bullying leaders who either get promoted or suffer no consequence.  Let me write that again: they get promoted (!!) or just continue on their "merry bullying way....."

Targets, remember this: You did nothing wrong.  You are excellent employees. Your excellence is a big reason you are targeted now.  Once you are targeted, it doesn't matter how many extra hours you put in; how many bulletin boards you decorate or how many parental support letters you have. Doesn't matter.  You must accept that.  You can do nothing to "win over" your bully.

 What matters is that your boss has targeted you.  Reasons vary.  The issue is that HER/HIS bosses have created a culture where bullying and abuse are accepted. Ultimately, responsibility for the torturous work evironment in which you now suffer lies with upper management. 

  

Workplace abuse is a life threatening event.  You must get out.

 Kim