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Bullying in the Early Years Workplace

November 14, 2022
4 minute read

In general, an early years setting is a great place to work. We are a naturally caring bunch, we love what we do, and gain great satisfaction from seeing the children and families we work with grow and thrive under our care.

But what if that’s not your current experience? What if you are experiencing bullying, harassment or discrimination in your workplace?

Bullying or harassment in any workplace can be devastating. The equality Act 2010, legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society, demonstrating that  every individual has the right to work without bullying and to feel safe in their workplace. As a leader in early years, you have a duty of care for your staff team. This means ensuring that everyone is treated fairly, that they can access fair opportunities or support as others in the team.

Bullying and harassment can have a huge negative impact on the person experiencing it, which can in turn impact negatively on their practice, and therefore the children and families accessing your service.

There are many types of bullying that can occur and individuals can misunderstand some behaviours as acceptable. Some examples of bullying or harassing behaviour include:

  • spreading malicious rumours
  • unfair treatment
  • picking on someone
  • regularly undermining a competent worker
  • denying someone’s training or promotion opportunities

Bullying and harassment does not just occur in the workplace. The rise in use of social media can make it challenging to monitor and manage harassment and bullying, through messaging, social media platforms and cyber bullying. However, you have a duty of care towards your employees and therefore, having robust policies and procedures in place can help you to ensure you know how to manage any incidents that may occur.

Bev bacon, from Early Years Leadership, focusses on ensuring team dynamics are positive and helps settings to recognise why team dynamics may not be working effectively.  When coaching leaders in their settings, Bev helps them to explore the culture in their team and identify any opportunities to strengthen their practice and processes in order to prevent bullying and harassment in the work place. By utilising recognised theory, Bev supports the leaders to identify communication styles which may be used to analyse the personalities in the group and understand the best ways to work together as a team.

What to do if you feel you are being bullied in your leadership role?

Whilst as an early years leader, we take care of our staff team, what should you do if you are the victim of bullying or harassment from your team or your nursery owner / employer?

The first step is to maintain an accurate account of incidents where you feel you have been treated unfairly. Keep the accounts factual and evidence based, and include the date and time, and any witnesses to the incident. 

Having a difficult conversation with the person who you feel is bullying you may be a daunting prospect, but it may be that the person doesn’t realise the impact their actions are having on you.  Approaching the person in a calm and considered manner may be useful, allowing you to explain how their behaviour is making you feel.

Follow your complaints procedure if a conversation hasn’t helped. This procedure is for you as a leader as well as your families and staff team. This policy should outline the process to take to log a formal complaint against another employee or your employer. If your complaint is in regards to your employer’s behaviour, it is often expected that you will approach the next senior position such as the deputy with your complaint.  At this point, you may be asked to formalise your complaint in writing, which is why keeping a note of the incidents for you to look back on is a good idea. Your policy should state a timeframe in which you should expect a response from your employer. This will likely lead to an investigation into the complaint, allowing you to share your concerns and hopefully leading  to a positive outcome.

Bullying and harassment is unacceptable in any workplace, however, in early years, the incident not only affects the individual, but the children, families and wider team.

Create a culture in your team where challenging conversations are accepted, where people feel supported and able to speak out if they feel victimised and where bullying is taken very seriously.

If you would like more advice or support, please do reach out to us here at Early Years Leadership

If you liked this blog, why not check out this brilliant post on Managing Team Conflict Managing Team Conflict | Early Years Leadership

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