Bullies take the blame for stress-related illnesses

May 24, 1996

The Educational Institute of Scotland this week launched a campaign to combat bullying at work, which it believes may account for more than half of stress- related illnesses.

It aims to agree anti-bullying policies with individual colleges and universities, which would include information and guidelines to all staff, clear procedures for reporting bullying, and the right to representation at all hearings for both parties. It wants to see specialist training for staff who may have to deal with cases of bullying, particularly in counselling victims.

The EIS likens bullying to sexual harassment, warning that it often involves a power relationship between the perpetrator and the recipient, and that it should be defined more in terms of its effect on the person being bullied than the reasons or intentions behind the perpetrator's behaviour.

The union defines bullying as persistent offensive, intimidating or insulting behaviour, the abuse of power or unfair sanctions which make staff feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable, and which undermine their self- confidence.

This can cover a wide range of behaviour, it says, including setting impossible deadlines or intolerable workloads, blocking opportunities for promotion or staff development, constantly changing people's remits and responsibilities, taking credit for other people's initiatives and achievements, and limiting consultation on important issues by isolating certain individuals.

Ken Wimbor, EIS assistant secretary, said: "There can be no doubt that, in addition to the huge array of the other pressures on teachers and lecturers, there can be absolutely no excuse for any member having to suffer from this kind of intolerable behaviour from colleagues."

The union has sent out posters to further and higher education institutions to highlight the problem.

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