Find answers to some of the more frequently asked questions on the Forums.

Forums guidelines

Our guidelines keep the Forums a safe place for people to share and learn information.

Teachers bullied by 'colleagues'

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

If you’re a teacher being bullied by HOD/ Principal/ colleague I think this may help you. It helped me a lot. I couldn’t understand why when I
was such a good teacher I was having such ridiculous, hurtful, nasty, petty, time wasting, health destroying problems at work.

Anyway here you are; this is why we get bullied:

Teacher bullies in schools “fear exposure of their perceived shortcomings, such as inadequacy and incompetence, and these people bully not
for fun but in order - they think - to survive. Competent colleagues fuel the bully's fear that shortcomings in their capabilities will surface, so they tend to select targets who fulfil some of the criteria below.

Being competent, that is being good at their job, often excelling; being willing to go the extra mile and expect others to do the same; being successful, tenacious, determined, courageous, having fortitude; being imaginative, creative, innovative; being able to master new skills;
thinking long term and seeing the bigger picture; being helpful, always willing to share knowledge and experience; being diligent and

Being Popular with colleagues, pupils, parents, Being regarded as an expert and the person to whom others come for advice, either personal or professional, having a sense of humour, including displays of quick-wittedness

Having strength of character displaying integrity, honesty,intelligence and intellect; having a well-defined set of values that they are unwilling to compromise; being trustworthy, trusting, conscientious, loyal and dependable; a sense of fairness: willingness to tackle injustice, low propensity to violence and strong forgiving streak, refusing to join an established clique; being sensitive, having empathy, concern for others, respect, tolerance, being slow to anger, showing independence of thought or deed, refusing to become a corporate clone and drone, having high coping skills under stress, especially when the injury to health becomes apparent

69 Replies 69

Just Sara
Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Dear IHT;

Welcome to our caring community..

I'm so sorry about everything; how dreadful! Sigh.. I don't know where to start, it's such an all too common situation in the govt sector.

I'm not surprised the union won't help either. They usually don't admit bullying and harassment etc are industrial issues, but they certainly are.

The positive in this is that you've been approved for Workcover. What I see as your biggest problem, is not having an effective and properly managed RTW plan.

The RTWP is 'yours', not the dept's. It's about your MH and well being instead of how it fits in with their routines. Your psychologist should write specific conditions for the RTWP along with your GP and if possible, a solicitor. (In your case especially)

The Rehab coordinator should be case managing you and your RTW, along with a senior manager involved in your supervision; I find your Principal as manager absolutely absurd considering the circumstances. Your psychologist can put into the plan that your Principal cannot manage your RTW, then it 'can't' happen. This was done with me and it caused huge issues - for them, not me.

Phone conversations are a trap, so it's best to use electronic communication. (Not too many words either; just dot point and necessary info) If they call and start going over things, just tell them to send an email as it's too hard to remember things due to anxiety/depression. That's probably the case anyway.

Most of all hun, take care of your mind and heart. Dealing with those robots will make you worse; it's time to rest and let others take it on.

I'm online most days, but if I don't get back straight away, please don't worry. I may take time out now and then, but eventually will respond within 48 hrs. Write as much or as little as you want. No-one can use anything written on here by a 'username'. It's your fear talking. More about this stuff later ok..

Take care of you first;

Kind thoughts;


Community Member

Thanks so much Sara 😉

I have learned more about this process through this thread and your responses than from anyone else.

i have said the the rehab girl several times this isn’t about my performance ( the principal is of course now pushing that ) i reminded her my classes are good it’s my relationship with her. I was told it was not possible for there to be anyone else as my return to work manager. Yes it’s absurd!

Are you still at the same school and did they ever try to send you to another school permanently? Is this a possibility? It’s so hard for me living in a small country town. Are your experiences based on the nsw system?

many thanks : )


Just Sara
Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hi again;

I'm so glad you've gotten something out of this thread. I'm not from the teaching sector, Margaret's the teacher. I worked state govt agencies for 30 yrs; most systems are the same though when it comes to workplace grievances.

Because it happened to me over a very long period of time, I'm aware of response processes probably better than most, especially what works and what doesn't.

People aren't trained to deal with dysfunctional bosses and coworkers. It's worse when upper management and/or HR back them up just for the sake of it. The onus and pressure's always on the victim.

What you need to accept, is that learning to protect yourself and your career is paramount. Letting go of past experiences and the fear of it happening again is important for your mental health.

Obsessing over 'proving' they're in the wrong is detrimental as well as wanting revenge. I know those horrible pangs of injustice hun; oh how they eat away at us. They can go on forever if you don't come to terms with reality though.

No fantasy or wishful thinking will change them or the past, so planning for your future in realistic terms is a far better pass-time. Goals and opportunities will come, so having a healthy mind will prepare you to recognise them when they do.

For now, your health is more important than anything. So incorporating conditions that benefit your well being into your RTWP must always take priority. Don't let them pressure you into returning to work faster than is healthy, or doing tasks that create stress to make it easier for them.

You can review and change the plan with your psych's help when you need to. Put yourself first in all situations, even if you feel guilt. They'd exploit that as well if they knew...

So, gotta go now. Hope this helps..

Take care;


Community Member

Hi Sara,

Thanks very much your words have a very reassuring and calming effect.

I agree completely with what you say about it consuming you and yes I keep going through bouts of absolute frustration of proving what they have done to me.

I feel like my soul was ripped out after being falsely accused and investigated for having a relationship with students. It was there way of retaliating because I found out they did something nearly as unethical towards me and when I called them on it I was investigated for just under a year. I just want to move forward but it’s so hard knowing my students have been asked if I touched them and if they could fend themselves off me. It has been a brutal year. Even though the students support me my staff as a whole have turned their back on me cause no one wants to acknowledge the dirty secret.

i just want to move forward but the hoops they are making me jump through are so unreasonable. Again I spoke to the union and for the final time I’m done. I am so numb. I didn’t even cry on the last phone call cause I have nothing left.

My psychologist I see once a month cause there is no more available appointments she only works one day a week from her home and there isn’t anyone else that’s approved who I can see. Now rehab want me to do Skype but the approval through insurance is lagging it’s been 6 weeks since my last session.

I guess I’m at the bottom but there is only one way from here for the sake of my kids.

You are right I need to try to just get out. It’s so hard because I can’t pay my mortgage without being on the same wage. As you probably have already experience severe bullying makes your self esteem suffer very badly. I’m so scared about my ability to do any job now.

I know I sound very sad. I hope this doesn’t make you feel worse by reading this. Thanks for your time and support, it’s very kind of you. Take care.


Just Sara
Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hi again; (Can you give me an aka name please? Like Bob or Carol; anything other than an acronym would be more personal. Thanks)

You really need to separate emotional responses from Industrial, RTW and Performance issues. This is the most difficult 'necessity' after being traumatised in the workplace because - 'They don't care about your emotions or fairness' end of story!

Each issue you've raised with me have related policies and procedures that ensure rules and processes are followed. Those policies are your saving grace because very few people actually read them let alone act in accordance with them.

Skype sessions are a great idea, but don't let them tell you to do it yourself. Ask them to organise an onsite private space with a PC so they bill the insurer, not you. That way you can see a psych once a week or more if you need to.

I think it's time to take back your power hun. Those policies protect you and make them accountable for their actions. This isn't about win/lose, it's about being treated fairly and respectfully and, putting the boot on the other foot.

They're making everything about performance because (they think) it gets them off the hook when it comes to accountability. The insurers love this too because they have a crutch as well. It couldn't be further from the truth though. 🙂

While you're on WC you're vulnerable to their 'say-so'. If they're in the wrong which they probably are, claim another psychological injury due to their incompetence. The insurance company will have a conniption! The dept will be in shit up to their armpits!

So, get copies of Grievance, Code of Conduct and Performance policies and go thru them with a fine tooth comb. Get your analytical cap on and take lots of notes.

Make sure copies are current. Tell the Union you want them sent to you asap or download if you've access to intranet!

Make sure their requests etc are in writing from now on or tape phone calls if you can. No more phone calls saying 'she' has a PD ok. This gives false hope and creates an air of gossip. Not helpful..

You're in control of your career, not them; and they have further to fall yudda yudda..

Start thinking like a professional, not a victim. It'll help you get your life back...

Kind thoughts;


Community Member

Sara, your words are not only knowledgeable on system mechanics but you also have a deep emphatic but un-garnished insight into how specific situations can wound us physiologically. Your insight is invaluable, I have been trying to let go (not completely) of fighting in my mind of being wronged, which was giving me no answers and worst of all no peace. Something my mind needs right now. Around around and around the thoughts go leading no where except into more blackness. These thoughts of wanting justice and acknowledgment are unhelpful, they have tarnished my emotional tirades on the phone to leadership. Now I believe teachers at school must believe I'm nuts and forgotten why I ended having time away in the first place. You were right when you said QUOTE: What you've been confronted with is a lack of - information, courtesy, acknowledgement and thanks. Would this hurt? Sure! Is it fixable? Probably not. However..?QUOTE. Those actions of others that you have written down in your quote are exactly right and they have controlled my emotions for several weeks now. They were wrong, yes, cut-throat yes but I know now the system would never allow them to admit it, I need to let them go and find peace. Lastly your QUOTE:Letting people know how it feels to be ignored and overlooked can sometimes get thru. Doing it at a team meeting might help. **Make sure you also express how you would've preferred it to happen (as an offering) because just ranting about emotions and the unfairness of it won't be seen as effective or constructive/QUOTE. Makes beautiful sense, it gives me the chance to say how it felt and how it can be avoided in future. Perfect, because at this point my rantings are just making people defensive. Which in turn makes me even more anxious and wounded, it is an awful cycle. At this point I have moved onto worcover, the department liaison said she will work with my Doctors and me to work out a manageable return to work plan. Even though the principle expects me back the liason said it might be at another school a morning here and there, so IHT it is possible. I'm still at the point I can't even drive towards the school without a panic attack. My greatest fear is to not be able to return to teaching. But I am trying to focus on little manageable steps to recovery. I am over top emotional and cry at everything, I hide it well but I'm so tired of being tired and sad. Thanks again Sara, and I feel your pain IHT, I wish you all the best in your fight xx

Hi ED;

You sound positive about your negativity. 😄 lol

It seems you're suffering the effects of post trauma responses. Your brain's been damaged and needs time to heal. Those rants you talk about are part of this. It's the mind's way of showing how 'limping' would be for a broken leg.

Being triggered into uncontrollable anger or tears, at times by the most inane or insignificant issue, is absolutely forgivable ED, even if it leaves you shaking your head in disbelief and shame.

Control over these outbursts can be virtually impossible, (depending on the situation) that's why it's best to keep clear of work issues (and people) until you're stronger.

I don't recall how long you've been out, but make sure you're ready to get back into the classroom no matter where it is. Putting pressure on yourself to do it quicker than is ideal may backfire.

For me, going back into a work environment with others is out of the question. My trust has been eroded to the point of no return. Any employment I engage in must be independent with total control over decisions and outcomes. There's pressure associated with this of course, but none so damaging as what I've encountered.

Try to look at your RTW plan as 'testing the waters' instead of easing you back in. You don't have any idea of how you'll respond, so telling your consultant, Dr, Psych and insurer this will help you stay in control. Your employment's important, but your Mental Health has absolute priority.

I had to leave to survive. I grieved the loss of my work, clients and what I thought was the only way of feeling any relevance to my community before I could think about healing and recovery. Accepting I'd never be the same person again was tough I kid you not, but I did it; I had to.

Please take care and put #1 first.

Kind thoughts;


Community Member
Hi again, just had to split the posts.
I have had some wonderful messages from people from work - mostly auxiliary staff and the cleaner not the teachers, there is still that institutionalised code of silence and while that tore me up before I'm trying hard not to let that consume me. I have refrained from messaging and calling leadership at school, I will not get answers, or a sincere apology, not after I demanded answers and getting "I am sorry but it’s just timing and everything was so busy with changes etc." That's just not acceptable. I put everything into the four years I was at the school and it still wasn't good enough. I'm not sure how they think I can return to my role until the end of the year as if nothing has happened. I'm not sure why schools (other organisations and institutions) feel like they can treat their staff like emotionless commodities, a tool that can be used then tossed aside when no longer needed.
When I tell people what happened they ask: so did they meet with you privately before, council you, warn you of the changes, offer solutions or pathways, or apologise anything etc? I say no to all. They let that bomb shell drop at a staff meeting, no eye contact nothing, sterile and cold. People I have talked to are usually gob-smacked, like how can you do that to someone who had taught at a school for four years - without issues or complaints let alone someone who has been there for 6 months? However now looking back, I have a feeling this was nothing new to leadership, they knew / started making plans last year when I lost a day to train up someone else (but for another position not mine). The then principle said at the time “we must think of **** he needs to be appealing for future teaching positions. I was actually lost for words as I was in the same boat as **** she had also offered to get me permancy in the past and there I was hearing of a time cut, not what I expected or thought was coming.
Yet despite opportunities to reveal changes they kept it hushed, maybe so I couldn’t seek help, arm myself? I don’t know the experience has been exhausting.
Sorry for my lengthy post, I did not intend it to be but it helps to get it down. Thanks again Sara.

Community Member
Hi Sara,
Thank you for putting the emotions etc in perspective for me. I am having good moments but now I'm not confusing that with 'okay, today I laughed I must be well enough to return to work" I'm not ready and you made it clear to me I need to be ready, not when they think I am. I just don't know when that will be; I think I have peace with that as before I thought being back at work must be an indication that I am well enough and not this anxiety broken person. I am broken to the core by circumstances out of my control. I certainly can't see myself returning in a hurry to the role I was before, my confidence has been shot to pieces I can't even fathom standing in front of a class and being the point of call for so many in my duty of care. I try not to dwell on this as I love/loved teaching but now the thought gives me an unpleasant churn in my belly and my heart races (how cliche but it’s true). I even start to stim with my hands, not unlike people who are on the spectrum. I put that down to the anxiety and although I am not on the spectrum it gives me a greater look into how children / adults must battle anxiety and stresses on a daily basis.
I'm not one to ask things for myself and it comes hard to focus on myself, I think with all the terrible things going on in the world to people I must be some sort of narcissist to think my problems so monumental that they have consumed me to this level. Your insight has helped me make sense of these feelings and that I am not alone. Almost text book 🙂 I am sorry to read your struggles and it looks like you have made peace with it, I hope that is the case.

Hi Just Sara, have you progressed any further in writing your books on this subject? I recently experienced a horrific workplace bullying situation that has taken me a couple of months to understand and get over. In my research I discovered my boss was using covert aggressive manipulation tactics against me and I could certainly identify sociopathic behaviour as well (I certainly identify with the target list that you have outlined above and believe this is why I was targeted by her...I will be wiser next time around!). I left the workplace due to not being able to tolerate the bad behaviour anymore and for my own sanity! I would really like to know how you are progressing towards helping put a stop to this type of behaviour in the workplace through your research/books?