Conversational Bullying: How to Stop Toxic Team Talk in the Staffroom

Do you have a team member who likes to shoot down your ideas in team meetings? Someone who often seems condescending or patronising? Perhaps they like firing direct questions at you? Maybe you regularly find them talking behind others’ backs?

If so, you’re not alone.

In fact a recent Coach survey found that just 38% of school staff interviewed said they were not exposed to what we call ‘conversational bullying’ in teams.

The top three problem communication behaviours reported by teachers and other professionals in our recent test groups are:

  • Making patronising, condescending, sarcastic or derisive comments
  • Persistent negativity
  • Commonly adopting negative body language or critical facial expression

These kinds of communication behaviours erode productivity and wellbeing, and stifle performance and improvement.

Teams that invest in establishing and practising good communication behaviours can extinguish this kind of toxic talk.

Committing to professional conversation practice will deter those in your team who ambush conversations, and will help you get the best out of your discussions.

My top five tips for Class Act Conversations:

  1. Raise issues considerately—acknowledge something first
  2. Courteously explain your points of view instead of arguing them
  3. Acknowledge others’ points when they express them
  4. Maintain a constructive tone of voice
  5. Politely remind each other to keep conversations constructive and courteous when they stray.

Find out how to swap bad communication with Class Act Conduct at your school – visit

Coach Founder and CEO Leanne Drew-McKain is a leading communication coach, highly regarded for her unique ability to build organisational communication culture and develop highest order communication skills in leaders and teams. Responding with fire-in-belly to countless clients eroded by workplace bullying, Leanne has developed her own coaching brand and product suite to build team communication cultures that suffocate the conversational bullying and destructive behaviours that damage our schools and workplaces.