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Apr 08 2012

Bad polling

Bullied teachers fear culture of ‘macho managers’. Union survey shows 67% were affected by abuse and harassment from their colleagues

The Observer 08.04.12

This is the headline and subtitle to an article in The Observer today. Sound terrible doesn’t it? If I were working in an organisation where 67% of the staff were being bullied I’d probably want to leave, and I’d certainly expect senior management to be addressing the problem. Fortunately I suspect this headline is almost entirely misleading.

Firstly, the first line of the article says “more than two-thirds of teachers have experienced or witnessed workplace bullying in the past 12 months” (my emphasis) – so one teacher shouting at a colleague in a busy staffroom would generate an awful lot of “yes” votes.

Secondly, it’s described as an “online poll”, giving no information on the nature of the poll. If the respondents are randomly selected then fine, however if they are self-selected then it’s close to meaningless.

It’s possible that the level of bullying of teachers by their colleagues is at the level implied by the headline, but they’ve been done a great dis-service by their union and The Observer in the poor example of polling and reporting.

You’d have thought The Observer would have learnt its lesson by now, having published a mea culpaWhen is a poll not a poll?” over a headline claiming “Nine out of 10 members of Royal College of Physicians oppose NHS bill” which highlighted exactly the issue with self-selecting surveys.

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