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Bullying of staff in Australian Schools

While there is considerable research about student bullying in schools there is very little research on staff bullying. The term 'staff bullying' is used to differentiate between the 'playground bully' who is identified as a student and the 'staff bully' who is identified as an adult; the term 'staff bullying' also includes the bullying of staff by students. Bullying of staff relates to situations where an adult is either the perpetrator or target of bullying and has been defined as 'repeated and persistent negative acts towards one or more individual(s) which involve a persistent power imbalance and create a hostile work environment'.

In 2007 Riley, Duncan and Edwards completed the first national online survey into the bullying of bullying in Australian schools. The population of interest was employees in Australian schools in all States and Territories, including primary and secondary schools in both the Government and non-Government sectors. The survey found that 99.6% of respondents had experienced one or more of the forty-two instances of bullying listed in the survey - a highly disturbing finding in an area where zero tolerance to any form of bullying is the expected norm in Australian schools.

The research focused on answering the following questions: Does bullying of staff occur? Who are the bullies and who are the targets? Who are the persistent bullies? Who are the primary targets? What forms of bullying of staff occur? What is the effect of bullying on the individual? Are there gender differences in the incidence, form and effects of bullying? What strategies diminish the practice of bullying?

Riley, Duncan and Edwards draw the following conclusion, "The research findings highlight the indisputable fact that bullying of staff does occur in Australian schools and when it affects the mental and physical health of those being bullied, as our results show, then it is time for some action to be taken to eliminate the bullying of staff. A major implication of the results is the role that leadership should be taking in eliminating the phenomenon of the bullying of staff."

In 2012 Riley, Duncan and Edwards completed a meta-analysis of research undertaken in 2005, 2007 and 2009. The results of this analysis are published in Bullying of Staff in Schools (2012, ACER) which aims to assist school employees to understand the phenomenon of the bullying of staff, its existence, the forms it takes, and its impact on staff and their schools.

Data from research studies involving over 2500 participants identifies bullies and targets, examines the phenomenon across 10 demographic classifications, details the human and economic costs, and provides helpful advice and recommendations to school employees and school leaders.

The intention of this book is to reposition the debate on the bullying of staff in schools from the periphery to the centre of a growing national and international concern about workplace bullying; to eliminate it from schools; and to provide a resource to which employees may turn daily in their efforts to meet and negate the negative impact of staff bullying.

Foreword by General Peter Cosgrove AC, MC

About the authors

Dr Dan Riley is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the University of New England. He is a fellow of the Australian Council for Educational Leaders with extensive experience in government and Catholic schools. He has published over 10 books and 20 articles. His research focus is the phenomenon of workplace bullying in Australian schools.

Dr Deirdre J Duncan is an Adjunct Professor in Educational Leadership at the Australian Catholic University. She has extensive experience in senior leadership positions in education and has lectured and published widely in the areas of leadership, school law, organisational change and school culture. Her most recent research has been on workplace bullying in schools.

John Edwards MEd(Hons) is a statistical analyst with over 20 years experience teaching in secondary schools and has lectured in research methodology at university. He is Director of Riley, Duncan and Edwards Workplace Bullies Research.

Further Reading