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Friday, May 28, 1999 Published at 07:07 GMT 08:07 UK


Is your boss a refrigerator?

Mind your back: lecturers are given advice on stopping bullying

Are you working with a 'refrigerator' or an 'allocator'? Or are you under pressure from a 'proceduralist' or the 'snide critic'?

A union is publishing a guide to help its members in further education colleges to avoid bullying, with advice on how to avoid intimidation from your bosses and a know-your-enemy guide to the type of bully that you might encounter.

According to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' Bullying at Work guide, a common form of bully is the 'refrigerator', a character who freezes out colleagues, refuses to offer praise, shows no inclination of listening to staff and ignores suggestions.

[ image: Peter Smith says bullying has no place in a
Peter Smith says bullying has no place in a "grown-up" institution
"This is undoubtedly a form of bullying: ask yourself whether you are on the receiving end because the bully regards your ability as a threat," says the guide.

A less subtle form of abuse comes from bullies identified by the union as the 'loudmouth', who specialises in high-volume abuse and the 'snide critic' who uses barbs of humour to claw away at the unfortunate victim.

Other types of bullies detailed by the guide include the 'allocator', who unfairly allocates work as a way of over-burdening those he or she wants to push around. Giving an individual lecturer the least popular duties each week is identified as a bullying tactic.

The guide recommends that lecturers beware of three varieties of back-stabbing bullies - the 'friend' who turns out to be an enemy; the 'changeling' who uses inconsistency and unpredictability as a weapon and the 'reporter' who uses rumour and the threat of rumours to undermine colleagues.

Perhaps the dullest form of bullying is the 'proceduralist', who employs the full steamroller of correct procedure to crush staff, particularly over a minor mistake.

24-hour helpline

Bullying in the workplace is on the increase, says the union, and it wants its members to be better equipped to respond. As well as the Bullying at Work guide, the ATL offers its members a 24-hour stress helpline, where teachers and lecturers can turn for advice in a crisis.

The Bullying at Work guide is specifically targeted at the union's members in further education, a sector that has gained an unhappy reputation for aggressive management and a bruising approach to industrial relations.

The guide offers advice to its members on how to respond to bullying, beginning with an informal protest and then initiating formal proceedings against a bullying manager, such as using a college grievance or disciplinary procedure.

The union also gives examples of how anti-discrimination and health and safety legislation can be used in some cases to stop bullying.

"Bullying is all too common in colleges. Sometimes principals simply abuse their power. Sometimes they cope with their own stress by placing others under relentless pressure. Either way it is wrong and should have no place in a civilised, grown-up institution," said the union's General Secretary, Peter Smith.

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