Bulling at school takes many faces
A personal story of bullying through worse judgment /conclusion/group think – action to confirm inability!
* Rex at 5 yrs starts school
* Rex is mainly ‘molly coddled’ for 1st three years -same teacher each year who showed overt interest – nothing dark in this comment just that she overly cared and maybe for her own outcomes, not recognising need to Rex develop as a person
* Rex arrives at junior school, lacking self esteem and self belief and positive expectations
* Staff observe Rex’s poor performance and telegraph that up, year by year and Rex lives down to all their expectations
* Rex leaves school and exceeds his own expectations – not hampered by the ‘ academics judgement ‘down’ of him. Not bad people but absolutely bad outcomes for Rex and anyone else in level four of any year – the story . …..
I wrote to school principles – “I am writing to give you a glimpse at something you no doubt have knowledge of but from my personal experience.”
What am I wanting you to do with my personal experience at a private school, over all my years from start to year10 is recognise that a very deep start to bullying is that from teachers, expecting one to underperform and then that becoming self-fulfilling, their believing that.
I asked the Principles, “This a significant challenge everywhere, so I am hoping you might allow me to share this in personal way with either your leadership team or staff generally.”
(I presented this document to the top 5 colleges in Adelaide and all said “overlooking a slow learner or a disconnected learner would never happen today – this is the Principles saying, “its not a problem any more”! This is me saying this is the beginning of self-depreciation – an opening for bulling – self bullying and external bullying.
There is plenty or press and awareness of the sexual predatory behaviour of people who have authority or sway and influence over young people but the subject I am canvassing here gets somewhat lost & can still be very devastating. Long term impact “I am not smart, I cannot learn”.
I attended an independent non catholic school from 1953 – 1963/4 leaving at 15 years of age, at the end of 2nd year to enter employment as I had managed to achieve probably the least impact of any student on the school and it on a student – me.
Reason for email – bullying and abuse come in all different sorts and sizes of packages. Mine was centred on the universal lack of care, across all classes after about grade 3, for anyone who fell in the middle to bottom of achievers.
I left school with a pronounced stammer and a self-esteem based on the proof given to me by teachers and the school system through time that I was either dumb, lazy or in some other way imperfect.
My self-doubt, lack of confidence maybe even self -loathing was further enforced by the PE teacher. His contribution to my esteem and fear of most sports for too long, he castigated me as a little ‘ poofter’ for falling to the ground crying at age about 7, for catching a cricket ball on the tip of my middle finger. I was not allowed to come to cricket again.
It took me only about six weeks on leaving school to actually make the discovery that I in fact had some value. I enrolled in night school, skipped a grade, went into the equivalent to matriculation and finished in the top five of the year! The organisation I joined was Woolworths. I became the youngest manager ever and to this day, to my knowledge there has been no other younger than I was. My stutter almost disappeared in that first 4 to 6 weeks. It still reoccurs slightly if I am tired or discussing something passionate – which are a lot of topics.
Bullying and abuse come in all sorts of packaging, these were how they came to me. My parents sent me and my brother to the same school, my sister to MLC. They didn’t know to come to the school and get better service for me, they just accepted that I wasn’t very bright. That didn’t do loads for their acceptance of me and me of me!
The teachers and lack of leadership at my school in my case were seriously flawed.
I find myself counselling friends and clients when the subjectof children progress (or even behaviour) at school comes up. Inevitably when they make clear to the school what they see, something changes. Too often it seems to get past the teachers, the system.
People live up to or down to expectations and that is self-fulfilling.
Why am I telling you this – there have been numerous stories about numerous schools re the sexual exploitation and bullying, but bullying is usually seen as physical or psychological between students, yes also parents and yes teachers and any mix of that you can consider.
I was bullied through inaction; through people responsible for my life’s learning, much more than RRR, life’s learning of my-self-worth, failed me. Good people caught up in their own exhaustion and subjective judgements. Yes, some who should never have been invited into teaching and others who should have been exited after appropriate mentoring had not been successful to find a pathway to me.
Bullying will be happening between staff, parents to staff, children to children, staff to children, academic and administrative / grounds. It will be happening and if you really believe it is not, then you will be missing a giant opportunity and, failing the children and others who are being caught up in it.
(That as a sentence from the original email to ‘my school’)
I wrote, “My comments are sincere and truthful. What you choose to do with them is up to you of course. As the leader you have a huge responsibility to help all the influencers at your school to find ways to connect, encourage, support and expect of every single child and within the staff of themselves. Huge responsibility, people lives. Maybe my story will help?” Not a single school took up my invitation.
“What you do with this now is the key. Yes, addressing the past BUT, very much looking at the here and now. Happy to come and chat.”
Every school Principle said, “children do not fall between the gaps anymore”. Similarly, the heads of Education and Health SA said there was no bullying in their departments with their HR managers present; their policies and procedures prevented that.
Negative behaviour over 35 years
I was asked to come and ‘fix’ a bad behaving production manager (300 staff), survivor of 4 ownership changes, numerous GM’s and various MD’s. He was known for high staff turnover and ‘refusal to work’ with situations.
His comment to me was to remind me of his survival. Problem was management was scared to take strict action (which isn’t the answer anyway) in case the Union took action and the Union, well the Union just didn’t know what to do; he was causing them problems as well and they wondered why management hadn’t done anything! A very familiar case study.
They didn’t talk to each other. I brought them together, we put a unified, ‘we love you but you have to change’ scenario – a consequence that was able to be supported! On that day, after 35 years and some help with ‘what to do differently, what to say, how to act’, he changed.
My next task, some 3 months later was to help him manage the people who wanted him to mentor them! Same person, + leadership!
Peace at last & fun & fulfilment
This is quite a read – it starts with the brief and personal statement relative to a situation 2 years old. Success is achieved, lasting now, over one year! Latest correspondence here 8th September 2018 – take the time to read it all, if easier, print of or at least copy into a word document to read.
It started when a client’s wife asked me if I could help her sister, who was experiencing devastating bullying over a 2 year period.
This intervention has occurred over 1 year now & has brought about positive change & substantiated personal growth has also been achieved.
Code to confidentiality !!!= the difficult person xxx = the receiver ### = the position
It takes you through the action and the results, together with touch-points
Unfortunately then there is a resignation But, happily an increase in self awareness and the foundation to not only repair this new situation but clarity of process that will travel with this individual through her life – but I will always be there if a steady hand is helpful.
We met for the first time starting with a 2 hour face to face consult with the individual (xxx), fleshing out the circumstances, talking about strategies, sharing stories, establishing trust. Then xxx went home and wrote back (homework) so I could see if she had picked up what we were talking about; whether I had been clear.
Homework – 13/5/17 – Xxx’s feedback to Rex after consult Clients comments in blue
Hi Rex, our chat yesterday was invaluable. It was lovely to meet you. Once I again I thank you immensely for taking some time to share your wisdom on my situation!
This is what xxx wrote to me – the situation beforeand afterthe consult and implementation
For a period of 2 years, I had been working and reporting in a matrix structure whereby the higher positions were not filled with individuals experienced in managing the bullying behaviours that I was experiencing.
I had spoken to my line manager & HR on several occasions and nothing ever happened that made a positive difference. Reputation of bullying behaviours was well known for this particular individual, (!!!) and I was told to be resilient and not take the attacks personally. For this period I did not know what else to do and tried to be resilient getting on with my work.
My self-esteem suffered as I never felt I was carrying out my job satisfactorily and this impacted on my entire life. Various people had suggested ways of handling the situation, but nothing worked. I felt powerless and my bosses just seemed to move on, accepting that the behaviour I was experiencing was inevitable from this individual and not providing me with possible solutions.
AFTER THE CONSULT
I was referred to Rex and after a 2-hour consultation I was given a step-by-step strategy together with a discussion regarding probable conversations, and likely solutions. After the appointment, I was asked to write an email to him including my understanding of the process, and how I envisaged I would handle the situation. This allowed for opportunity to clarify any miscommunications and ensure I had interpreted the information correctly. Following this, I felt very confident with the process and I was ready to take personal control. Up until this point however, I had felt entirely helpless, and had no idea what to actually do (and to be truthful, I didn’t believe things could really change!). I felt empowered.
I put into practice the two strategies I had learned throughout my consultation with Rex. As a result of this, I noticed an immediate change in that persons’ behaviour towards me- change that has sustained now for three months. On a couple of occasions, I have seen a potential for the old behaviour to return, (which Rex warned me was probable) and I put in place his maintaining strategy and sustained the positive change.
I realised after this that my behaviours were as much of the problem as the person giving me grief (as much as I didn’t want to admit to this initially). I didn’t know what to do and people around me, peers and managers didn’t know either. Negativity and close mindedness became a routine pathway for communicating and thinking about my discontent with the situation. I had come to the belief that it wasn’t possible to make a change and that I would have to learn to be resilient to the behaviour or leave the job. I didn’t see how being resilient to bullying behaviour was in any way a good objective, nether leaving a job I love and am good at.
I now feel it has made a positive impact on my workplace, in that it has demonstrated how effectively and positively conflict can be managed if done using the correct process.
Having achieved a confidence level and supplied tried and true strategies, xxx put that into practice and achieved immediate positive results. I then set about keeping in contact in case any remedial work needed to be carried out.
Email trail after the event
On 21 Nov 2017, at 12:29 pm, Rex Buckingham wrote:
Just checking in, how are things going with your friend at work?
22.11.17 Email from XXX in response to me follow-up
Things have been going well- we have been working really well together. Has really been positive ever since! Finding work much more enjoyable now.
26.11.17 The response – I do find she is a lot more respectful /professional in her communication with others and in team discussions. I do notice however she continues to gossip (being quite critical of others in her conversations with close workmates).
14.02.2018 Her feedback – Hi Rex, we have been getting along better than ever actually! Very positive interactions recently 🙂
Date 4 June – Rex’s email to xxx asking for an update / feedback
been sometime since we last caught up. Checking in to see how things are with your supervisor? Still going well? Any little difficulties? If there are little challenges, can you recall a bit about one, I might be able to help?
Date: 5 June 2018 at 8:21:34 pm ACST
To: Rex Buckingham
Things have been going really well at work – no difficulties with !!!! which is great 🙂
Date: 14 August 2018 at 7:08:20 pm ACST
Subject: Hi there
Yes, it is me again.
I am interested if your intervention is still working. And if you have any other challenges?
Date: 14 August 2018 at 8:44:23 pm ACST
Thank you for checking in, I hope you’re well.
I have found my working relationship with !!!! has stayed the same (positive and respectful), no new ruptures (or repairs needed) ever since I made the change! Which is really great 🙂
But I have found difficulties with other staff I have worked with (in the team ) and I felt I lacked confidence to transfer this learnt knowledge/ experience to these other staff members as I felt so intimidated by them, and unsupported in my role. It also felt more of a 2:1 ratio (rather than just one person).
I ended up leaving the role recently predominantly due to these cultural issues within the team, I lost a lot of confidence and felt I couldn’t keep going. I was able to return to my fulltime community role.
I still cross over with one of these ladies on my ‘community’ days, and I am a little worried I may still find myself in a similar situation…
On 14 Aug 2018, at 9:32 pm, Rex Buckingham wrote:
Why oh why didn’t you talk to me again? We need to catch up again so you can recapture your ownership of you. Over to you!
And then a phone conversation, where I asked xxx to write down her experience and then we would do a personal one to one catch-up.
Date: 19 August 2018 at 9:03:34 pm ACST
To: Rex Buckingham
As we chatted about, I have just written down a few thoughts- about some of the reasons I decided to leave the role and why I was having a hard time.
- Poor transition to the role/ handover –thrown in the deep end! At the time- I put up my hand to ‘fill in’ /backfill a 5 week leave (then the clinician put in her notice -she had found another job- and I was it!).
- Lack of leadership (without a paediatric clinical lead for 18+ months- no successful recruitment).
- Isolated role- no other person of my qualification in the child team
- Split role (different teams/different processes) i.e. some days community, some days at hospital
- Variety of ages- I found this challenging I recognised I had specific experience and still need more in some areas
- High gossip team culture – conflicted with my values, and contributed to a lack of confidence …’ ?wonder what they say about me……’
- Service provision style – felt very much ‘in/out’ – with at times not enough care taken to put in place supports for vulnerable families.
- Team at times- seemed highly critical, (regular reminders of what to say/not say/ what was missed). Minimal praise and encouragement of one another.
- Disrespectful communication (in sessions, out of sessions). I often felt in sessions where there were three of us (i.e. multi-disciplined) the two experienced clinician’s would not include me in decision making/analysis of the client (and discussions with the family) and their communication made me feel excluded/not ‘good enough’/my opinion not worthy/accurate, and not as good as those of your profession we have had in the past.
Recently I think I started to see a few warning signs of burnout-and felt it was impacting home life too. At work- I also noticed poorer performance- and this is when I began to get worried.
At this point, we had an in-profession staff meeting, and I requested some changes to my role would be helpful- (was not considering leaving at this point).
But then as the year progressed, I realised the logistics of this was problematic. The more I thought about it (as a part week service), if there were to be someone in the role- with me, I would reduce to one day a week – and this did not seem practical for families. I feared reducing my days-would also reduce my knowledge/confidence even more.
So- I started to weigh up the pro’s cons of staying/leaving
At this point…
- Felt it was good to stay in position- for the experience (there are limited roles like this one- i.e. only some hositpals… etc). I was obtaining increased knowledge of how to work with infants, and how to work in the hospital model.
- Felt it would be good for my career progression
- Felt rather autonomous and could make my own decisions about the service sometimes
(-) But the flip side….
- Lack of support
- Started to lose confidence- feeling more and more inexperienced for position..
- High stress levels
- Wasn’t feeling valued /rewarded by the team for efforts
- Being told by the team who to see/how often/ in what way (by other disciplines other than my own)
- Regularly critiqued (or hearing gossip of others) for their clinical reasoning- led to more errors/ poorer performance and a lack of confidence.
- Complex children – l was the lacking support network to back my clinical reasoning
So. I suppose- I then came to the conclusion- I had filled in, given it a good go (I was up for the challenge) but the cons outweighed the pro’s.
Since I have been based outside of this environment again, I have noticed my confidence coming back and feel much more supported within the team.
What I don’t want to happen is to feel the way I did in my previous role… Any tips would be great!
We met on 21stAugust for 90 minutes because of this input –
She wrote back as she did a year ago after the first intervention and here is what she wrote
On 21 Aug 2018, at 10:28 pm, xxx wrote:
Hi Rex, thanks for the catch up. Great to listen to your helpful tips to get me onto the right track!
I will need to be careful not to be affected by the emotions of the words, but rather take the words as only words
I will need to be careful not to take comments/remarks personally, but rather treat comments as ‘habit language’
I will need to be careful not to interpret the environment/words/looks NEGATIVELY (but rather predict that this always happens- no longer a surprise to me)…. therefore no need to be caught off guard and defend!
I will need to be careful not to go into battle – but rather- ask, listen, ask listen. This is more respectful, and creates an even playing field. There is no right/wrong- I will need to work out the difference in opinion.
I will need to be careful not to use words like ‘no’, ‘that wont work’. As this closes the mind, and doesn’t help to come up with solutions. But rather- ask, listen, ask, listen.
I will need to be careful not to ‘allow the pond to be infected’- be on the front foot, call the bluff on other’s behaviour.
I will need to be careful not to shoot ‘down the ducks’.
INSTEAD ask, listen, ask, listen, don’t respond until the end (becomes more of a problem solving /conversation) rather than a battle (attach/defence- i.e. I’m right, you’re wrong).
I will need to be careful not to take things personally from people I don’t love and care about (more than my professional relationship with them).
I will need to be careful not to listen to people when they say that people/ environment/cultures don’t change. This is close minded- and my experience says this is not the case!
Potential ‘triggers’ (Which I will now not take as a surprise!)
-Discounting my clinical reasoning
-Telling me who to see/when and in what way
-Making me feel they have superiority over me (rather than of equal value)
-Gossiping about other staff members (this conflicts with my values and I don’t want a part in it. I won’t feed their insecurities).
-Cornering me into not being able to have an opinion ‘this is the way or the highway’, this is the way it has always been done, if you think differently (or different to other ##’s then you must be wrong).
From tomorrow I will need to replace my habit language with the following sentences in order to re-capture ownership of me.
Phrases such as –ways to respond to negative language
I value and trust your opinion, after all ‘I’m not the speech pathologist’ so I would never question your opinion.
Oh I haven’t shared that experience of XX but it sounds like you were frustrated by …..
‘Well that’s ok, I value your opinion, we may have seen different things in the sessions, after all, you’re a speech pathologist and I am an occupational therapist. I know I am able to make decisions that are applicable to my discipline. My clinical reasoning and gut feeling was they would/wouldn’t benefit from another session.
I’m interested in why you thought we both needed to discharge this client.. in my experience, it is often the case that families may need one service more than the other.
‘I can hear what you’re saying’
‘I’d really like your input on … because I value your experience in..
‘Can you tell me more about…..’
‘I’d appreciate you thoughts on…..
‘you’re so experienced in …… could I have your thoughts on how I could improve on ….’
‘lately I have been thinking I could get better at X, can I have your thoughts/opinion on ….’
‘I notice your really good at’ ‘can I have your help with X’
I’m interested in what you’re saying, what do you think? I am eager to hear your point of view.
I did this, and I thought XX… id love some feedback on …..
Lately I’ve been thinking I could improve on XXX, did you want to give me some feedback on. ..
What they might say (automatic, habit language) & how I can respond
I’m not an OT.. What I could say
Well I know that- But you are still very experienced, and I value your knowledge (and I know you have worked with some great OT’s in the past).
You’re doing fine What I could say
I think there are always things we do well in a session, and always things we can improve on, I’d really like some feedback on if you have time….
Don’t you know that? Or you should know that .. What I could say
Oh I know I should know that, but I am always learning, I’d love your opinion on xx.
Maybe I should! But I would still appreciate your opinion/expertise.
Thinking about how I see myself –MATRIX
1 = low, 5 = high – establishing my gaps
Assessment and treatment of social delays
|Delivering feedback to families on suggestions
|Fine motor and VM assessment
|How to promote motor planning
|Explaining theories to families
|Sensory processing assessment and treatment
Daily routines 3-4
|Managing difficult conversations with families 3-||Upper limb/hand
Supporting parent patient relationship in the session 4
|Knowledge of community programs 4||Supporting discharge/ pathways – 4|
patient behaviour analysis 4
how to grade the activity to suit the patient 4
On 22 Aug 2018, at 1:30 am, Rex Buckingham wrote:
Once again xxx you have picked up the essence of our conversation.
It will happen that your ‘habit’ feelings or response will surface quickly – that’s to be expected. The change now is that you have embedded into your thinking options to those feelings and comments! You are obviously ready to take control of yourself again.
Be in that situation where it’s as if you are looking down upon yourself as you steer your emotions and language in your new direction.
If some ‘old language’ pops out, it’s ok to say, “that’s not what I meant to say, let me start again”.
Look for a situation today where you can implement the renewed thinking. Drop me a note sometime this week with a couple of examples. That will be good for us both.
You are a star – you don’t need anyone else’s approval but you are not above getting there feedback / input.
Cheers and always best wishes,
On 23 Aug 2018, at 9:58 pm, xxx wrote:
!!! left early on Wednesday but I was on the ready. I was more aware of my own body language as we communicated throughout the day. There was no incidences where I felt she communicated with me disrespectfully. We work together again on Monday,
I did notice I didn’t get as offended (ie take personally) by other staff members comments today (as I previously might have)- an example when one was suggesting the patient didn’t need to come to ### (reporting they could handle ### needs in the speech session) and I thought they would be a priority patient for our service (point of difference) – I noticed myself using more collaborative language – not shooting her down but saying when and how we could talk it out more together at a later date and that I valued and trusted her opinion. Outlined what we both agreed on,
!!!! and I worked particularly well together today – I will try out the feedback /matrix suggestion tomorrow,
🙂 Don’t put up with behaviours that make you feel down. Don’t allow the situation to continue. Believe that it can be better – tell any of your friends about the experience this young women had and how her life has changed. Every day you let yourself be bullied you are depreciating and probably your other relationships are as well. It’s is really as simple as a phone call – it can be confidential – have a chat and let’s see if we can add value to the value you are. Rex 0407827173 – no obligation.
No I didn’t
This is a real story, one where the individual has taken ownership and with some strategies is now well in control of their life. Still learning when different situations turn up but still very much knowing they can have that positive impact on their life – no longer being subjected to that feeling of overwhelming helplessness.
We will catchup again in January 2019 – just like anything, a little servicing of the strategies, relationship building helps confidence and perspective of both parties. Keeping it real!
Successful organisational change
Feedback from the HR Director:- Rex has been working with our organisation in South Australia over recent times in developing the “clinic managers” from technicians to leaders / enablers.
The work that Rex has implemented has been beneficial to our business. He has enabled us to improve the management of our people. Most people would recognise that staff engagement and commercial performance are tightly linked. For our business to compete in a very tight market it’s important that every individual who comes to one of our Clinics enjoys doing so. Passion is a great motivator, Rex has given the staff the “Tools” to deal with many situations – be it with their peers or patients (clients).
We do acknowledge that we do have staff that are passionate about their work, however they needed to be given assistance to further develop their communication and management styles. Rex was crucial in this process. Rex delivered many workshops for management, clinical and non clinical staff. As a business we have enjoyed a marked success in clinic managers, understanding if they hold a responsible position that they receive appropriate training in interpersonal relationships, situational problem solving and handling difficult behaviours.
The training Rex provided delivered consistent quality, improved effectiveness and lower staff turn over / absenteeism. Rex not only delivers effective management tools but also lives by them. I have always found Rex to be approachable, open and genuinely interested in people. Regards, Margaret Doddridge Human Resources Manager General Manager Human Resources