Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Workplace bullying in the early years - is there a problem?

Whilst I was doing a bit of research for a chapter I am writing, it struck me here is a lot of literature about being the leader or manager of a team in the early years. But there isn't much about people's actual experiences of being led. Looking back at my own time as a young teacher working in nursery and reception classes, it struck me that there is quite a big grey area between inspirational leaders who expect - and achieve - the highest standards, and over-bearing, obsessive types who pick up on every little thing and make the team feel terrified of making a mistake.

Perhaps the stakes are much higher now, too: back then, there was less pressure. With poor Ofsted outcomes leading to schools being forced to become academies and early years settings losing their funding for two-year olds, things might well be a lot worse now.

I have not been able to find anything specific about the problem of workplace bullying in the early years, but there are several reasons why it is likely to be significant.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, it seems that bullying is more of a problem in the "caring professions" than it is anywhere else, though reliable information is hard to come by.

For example, the UK National Workplace Bullying Adviceline reported in 2004 that staff from education, healthcare and social care were the most likely to contact them about being bullied and other reports have claimed that workplace bullying is rife in education (e.g. Guardian, 2012; BBC 2011)  and healthcare (e.g. Nursing Times 2013, . Indeed, David Prior, chair of the Care Quality Commission, noted in 2014 that many hospitals had a “toxic” bullying culture that “stigmatises and ostracises those who raise concerns or complaints”. 

Could much the same could be said of schools and early years settings?

P.S - since I posted this, Laura Henry has emailed me about her own post on workplace culture in the early years which is well worth a read.

P.P.S - I was able to explore these issues a little further by co-hosting #EYTalking about staff well-being and bullying. There was just a little bit of discussion about some of the more difficult end of staff relationships - most of the tweets focussed on what made things work well. You can see the whole discussion here on Storify.


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