November 27, 2006

'Whistling While They Work': Enhancing the Theory and Practice of Internal Witness Management in Public Sector Organisations

What Is The 'Whistling While They Work' Project?

'Whistling While They Work' is a three-year collaborative national research project into the management and protection of internal witnesses, including whistleblowers, in the Australian public sector.

The project is led by Griffith University and jointly funded by:
  • the Australian Research Council,
  • the six participating universities, and
  • 14 industry partners including some of Australia 's most important integrity and public sector management agencies.
The protection of whistleblowers and other internal witnesses to corruption, misconduct and maladministration is a great unsolved problem of public sector governance.

This first national study of internal witness management is setting out to describe and compare organisational experience under varying public interest disclosure regimes across the Australian public sector.

By identifying and promoting current best practice in workplace responses to public interest whistle-blowing, the project will use the experience and perceptions of internal witnesses and first- and second-level managers to identify more routine strategies for preventing, reducing and addressing reprisals and other whistleblowing-related conflicts.

More info at:

Bullying Christians Demand the Right to Mistreat Others On Campus...

First the letter to the editor from clerics and other religious representatives:

The Times, November 24, 2006

Student union tactics are intolerant and unlawful

Sir, Christian students at many of our universities are facing considerable opposition and discrimination in violation of their rights of freedom of expression, freedom of belief and freedom of association. In recent times, some student guilds, in Exeter, Birmingham and Edinburgh in particular, have changed their anti-discrimination provisions to discriminate against Christian students. We believe this to be intolerant and unlawful, and that the Christian unions currently suspended by the student guilds or associations should be reinstated with full rights as a student society forthwith.

Of course university student guilds and associations have a responsibility to ensure that official societies are run in a proper and lawful manner. However, this does not give them, or anyone else, the right to restrict or change the essential beliefs of those societies, or impose as leaders people who do not share those core beliefs.

Christian union meetings and events are open to all students to attend. In fact, as faith-sharing organisations, CUs specifically invite people who do not share the Christian faith to attend their meetings. Therefore, there is no restriction imposed on who can and who cannot join the CU.

However, the executive committees of CUs act rather like charity trustees, and as such, they are responsible for two things: first, that funds donated to the CU are used only to further the stated objects, and secondly, that the object of the union, the proclamation of the Christian gospel (as understood by millions of orthodox Christians around the world), is advanced.

It would therefore be inappropriate for anyone who does not agree with the aims, objectives and beliefs to be executive committee members, although it would be totally in order for them to attend CU events, Bible studies, discussion groups or missions, and put forward their views with conviction and passion. Thus the only restrictions limit the right to amend the constitution and select leaders to those who can affirm the core beliefs of the society.

THE RIGHT REV MICHAEL SCOTT-JOYNT Bishop of Winchester, THE RIGHT REV MICHAEL NAZIR-ALI Bishop of Rochester, THE RIGHT REV PETER FORSTER Bishop of Chester, THE RIGHT REV GEORGE CASSIDY Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, THE RIGHT REV JONATHAN GLEDHILL Bishop of Lichfield, THE RIGHT REV STEPHEN VENNER Bishop of Dover, THE RIGHT REV PETE BROADBENT Bishop of Willesden, THE RIGHT REV CRISPIAN HOLLIS Roman Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth and lead Bishop of Higher Education, LORD CAREY OF CLIFTON Former Archbishop of Canterbury, CANON DR CHRISTINA BAXTER Chairman of the House of Laity, Church of England General Synod, PROFESSOR NIGEL M. DE S. CAMERON Centre for Bioethics and Public Policy, London, PROFESSOR JOHN WYATT Professor of Neonatal Paediatrics, University College London, DR DON HORROCKS Head of Public Affairs Evangelical Alliance, ANDREA MINICHIELLO WILLIAMS Public Policy Officer, Lawyers Christian Fellowship, PETER SAUNDERS General Secretary, Christian Medical Fellowship, THE REV RICHARD CUNNINGHAM Chief Executive Officer Universities & Colleges Christian Fellowship, DR PETER MAY Chairman, Universities & Colleges Christian Fellowship


Then coverage by the National Secular Society:

Bullying Christians Demand the Right to Mistreat Others On Campus

Senior Bishops of the Church of England, and the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, have defended the right of several university Christian Unions to practise discrimination against non-Christians and gay people. Unions in Exeter, Birmingham and Edinburgh have been prohibited from using university faculties and in some cases from being recognised as a club because of allegations that they are discriminating.

In a letter to The Times, the clerics used the usual tactic of presenting themselves as the victims when they have been caught out discriminating against others. “[Christian students] are facing considerable opposition and discrimination in violation of their rights of freedom of expression, freedom of belief and freedom of association,” wrote the Anglican bishops of Winchester, Rochester, Chester, Southwell and Nottingham, Lichfield, Dover and Willesden, along with the Roman Catholic church’s lead Bishop on Higher Education, and with signatories from academics and representatives from national Christian organisations.

They claim that the Student Guilds/Associations, in Exeter, Birmingham and Edinburgh in particular, have changed their anti-discrimination provisions to discriminate against Christian students. In a complete reversal of the true situation, the bishops say the action by the Guilds is “intolerant and unlawful, and that the Christian Unions currently suspended should be re-instated with full student union society rights.”

Last Monday, Christian students at Exeter University served a Letter before Action upon the university’s Registrar, and on the Student Guild after it was suspended for being too exclusive. The letter stated that unless the CU was fully reinstated with full student society rights within 14 days, legal action would be taken against the University, the Guild and Guild officers personally, under the Human Rights Act, and that substantial damages would be claimed against them.

At Edinburgh University, a course looking at orthodox Biblical teaching on relationship, sex and marriage has been banned from being taught on campus because it recommended literature on how homosexuals can be “cured” by prayer. The Students’ Association claimed the “Pure” course was homophobic, and breached the S.A.’s and the universities anti-discrimination policies.

CU representatives are due to meet the vice-chancellor this week and a further legal letter is likely to be served.


The central questions are: Who is bullying whom? Who is really intolerant? Who has empathy, and who shows understanding and acceptance?

November 24, 2006

The Arch Sociopath bully, the Wannabe small time Mob Leader and 'Quality' control bodies...

The Arch Sociopath bully has his/her own mob of incompetent people. They are all scared of him/her. So the Wannabe small time Mob Leader does the dirty job, gets promotion and lives a good life... Job and pension are assured... Just pull and twist the knife when needed.

The Wannabe small time Mob Leader serves without loyalty and without respect the arch sociopath bully; knows the truth. Has his/her own smaller mob; a hierarchy of mobs. Feels empowered by the terror he/she can inflict.

The Mob gives legitimacy to the
Wannabe small time Mob Leader. There are no morals, there are no ethics... just an alliance of incompetent people who have drinks together...

Academic bureaucracy is geared towards covering up this mess. Honesty and justice are lost... Good academics suffer in silence... and the 'quality' government agencies do nothing... The wreckage is phenomenal. All hidden from the public eye...

The victims suffer. Some commit suicide. Often never recover, never work again in their chosen area.

Farlie's Law and Skorupski's Law are based on real people, on real experiences. As Tim Field said 'Those that can, do. Those that can't, bully'.

Farlie's Law: If in one's professional career one reaches a position way above what is merited, then one can only maintain this position or progress further by surrounding oneself with incompetent people.

Skorupski's Law: The more vain one's ambition, the more redundant one's grasp of morality.

The 'quality' and finance control bodies, like the Quality Assurance Agency (UK), HEFCE (UK) and Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals (UK) have responsibility and obligation to do something about all of this. Their ignorance and unwillingness to act is costing far more than they can imagine.

Who will stand up for the victims? Bullied academics have nowhere to go. We need a truly independent body to deal with all of this. The QAA and HEFCE don't have what it takes because they are too close to the system.

Don't suffer in silence - time has come to write to:

The Rt. Hon. Alan Johnson MP
Secretary of State for Education and Skills

Department for Education and Skills

Sanctuary Buildings

Great Smith Street



November 18, 2006

Too timid to make a stand for [academic] freedom

Geoffrey Alderman, Published: 17 November 2006, Times Higher Education Supplement

Fear of managers and ministers leaves the QAA reluctant to ask if academics can speak freely, argues Geoffrey Alderman.

This year, I plucked up the courage to suggest that the Quality Assurance Agency extend its code of practice to include a section on academic freedom. At present, the code is completely silent on the matter, and its inspectors are not encouraged - and are certainly under no obligation - to inquire whether an institution undergoing review even has a policy on this most fundamental principle.

So, in future, could its staff start to audit academic freedom when they do their rounds of the UK's universities, I inquired? The response was swift and dismissive.

To add another section to the code would, I was told, incur the wrath of the Better Regulation Task Force, the Quality Assurance Framework Review Group and a host of other quangos. In any case, I was informed, there is apparently a "waiting list" of allegedly more important topics to be added to the audit agenda. And, no doubt in an attempt to kill my initiative stone dead, the QAA added that if a university was indeed acting illegally, "then the remedy lies in the courts".

Academics are a disputatious people. More than that, the ability to dispute, to question and to challenge is fundamental to the purposes of the academic community.

These truths need not be laboured. But what is perhaps less self-evident is the obligation incurred by all reputable institutions of higher education to provide and maintain an infrastructure that supports the right of its academic staff to be disputatious: to challenge received wisdom and to challenge the manner in which institutions order their own affairs so as to deliver this freedom, which is basic to the mission of every reputable university.

Unless an institution guarantees its staff - and students - the right to express themselves freely within the law of the land and without fear of institutional reprisal, it cannot rightly claim to be of good quality.

Over the past few years, a number of high-profile cases have put this obligation to uphold freedom in question. Whistleblowers have been harassed, bullied and dismissed, their careers often ruined in the process.

Academics with unpopular opinions have been suspended, their "voluntary" resignations obtained through strong-arm managerialism and hushed up through the imposition of "gagging" clauses in their severance arrangements.

The QAA cannot be unaware of these pressures and of the oppressive atmospheres in which they flourish. The excuses offered to me for the agency's inaction were frankly absurd. If it really is politically impossible at the moment to add a new section to the code, why not work academic freedom into an existing section - that dealing with "Student complaints on academic matters", say? Why not simply enlarge this section so that it reads "Student and staff complaints on academic matters"?

Another way of squeezing academic freedom on to the audit agenda would be to include it as a heading in collaborative provision audits: does the collaborative partner give the same academic freedom to its staff as is given (or not) by the awarding institution?

As for the legal argument, this too lacks substance. If the QAA is going to say that where there is a law it will leave the law to get on with it, why audit student support and guidance? Students are now fee-payers, so they can have recourse to consumer protection legislation and the Trade Descriptions Act, to say nothing of the excellent work being done by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.

If the QAA is reluctant to tread any path that leads or could lead to a legal remedy, why permit auditors to inquire into such matters as equal opportunities and student disability support? Indeed, in the consumer-driven society to which UK universities must now adapt, there are very few of the QAA's famous "precepts" that cannot be tested in the courts.

The reluctance of the QAA to concern itself with academic freedom has nothing to do with the lame excuses that I have been given. It has everything to do with a congenital unwillingness to question the autonomy of university managers and the impact of government policies.

It is for this reason that British university audits do not address salary levels and that none of the QAA's critical reports on the delivery of higher education in the further education sector asks whether the quantum of government funding of this provision might not be ultimately to blame for evident shortcomings.

The truth is that the QAA is the creature of Government. A truly independent agency would feel free to add these important items to its checklist.

Geoffrey Alderman is senior vice-president of American InterContinental University, London. He writes in a personal capacity.

What do academic colleagues ever do about workplace bullying?

The Abilene Paradox - Why Team Members Won't or Can't Help

If groups (call them work teams) are powerful enough to bend individuals to their will, to get inside individuals' heads and make them doubt their own competence, to make them do things that hurt themselves, then logic would dictate that fellow workers who see a bully hurting someone would run to the rescue. Right? Wrong!

The strange tale of people acting in groups and influencing individuals now gets stranger. For many reasons, people witnessing the injustice of workplace bullying rarely act. They either will not act, by choice, or can not act, for reasons often unknown to them and to the target who could certainly use their help...

Abilene Paradox

Jerry Harvey honored his Texas roots when he named this phenomenon. The group dynamic is perhaps the most relevant to understanding why bullies can be witnessed by so many people and still get away with it.
Imagine a committee of bright people making a stupid decision. We know from talking with each person alone that each and every one of them thinks it's a stupid thing to do. When the committee votes, however, they choose to do the stupid thing!

Later, usually much later, when the decision backfires, the committee tears itself apart in its search for a culprit. The group desperately needs someone or something to blame, long after the very preventable decision was made.
This describes a group in agreement, not in conflict. They all agree privately, and individually, about the true state of affairs. They do not communicate their feelings to one another, however. Then publicly, in the presence of each other, they all deny the agreement that they don't know exists among them. That's the paradox: private vs. public versions of reality. In fact, this is the mismanagement of agreement, not disagreement. It's all made possible by a public silence regarding what each individual knows to be true. Sound like where you work?

Take the bullying example. All the co-workers of the bully's target know what is happening. If interviewed alone and free from retaliation, each would deplore the obvious pain the target is experiencing. However, in group settings, even without the bully present, they don't do the right thing. When together, they don't plan how to use their group power to overcome a lone bully. Instead, they ignore the rampant mistreatment by not communicating their positions or feelings publicly.

If the target later pursues legal action and investigators on her behalf interview the team that made up the hostile environment, the finger pointing begins.
Why does this happen?

Jerry Harvey traces it to people's overblown negative fantasies. That is, they imagine the worst possible, riskiest outcome from confronting the bully--they would lose their jobs, the bully would turn on them, they would have a heart attack, the bully would kill their children, and so on. With a mind full of negative thoughts like these, mostly about events that would never occur, the individuals act very conservatively as a group. As a group, they want to take no risk. So, they do the wrong thing, all for lack of talking about it openly. They let bad things happen to the target that they believe, as individuals, should not happen. Sick? No, simply human nature's aversion to risk thanks to an exaggerated imagination that limits thinking about possibilities.

"Abilene" is the Texas city in the Abilene paradox. It refers to the retelling by Harvey of a lousy decision by his family. On a hot summer day, the family piled into a car without airconditioning and drove too many to Abilene to try a new diner. The heat was oppressive; the food was lousy. But no one dared to speak in those terms until later that night back home. Finally, the matriarch of the family broke the silence by complaining about the food. Then everyone chimed in with their complaint--the car was hot, it was stupid to try an unknown restaurant.

It turns out that no one wanted to go in the first place, but no one said so when it mattered. Eventually, they all blamed the father for suggesting the drive.
To Harvey, whenever a group is about to do the wrong thing, despite knowing it's the wrong thing, it is a group "on the road to Abilene."

Silent, inactive witnesses to the bullying of others is a group "on the road to Abilene.

From: Workplace Bullying Institute

November 16, 2006

What did academic unions ever do about workplace bullying?

'...The behaviour of the AUT and their solicitors (Thompsons of Edinburgh) in relation to my case was abominable. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I felt considerably less stressed once I had decided to represent myself than when I had been represented by the AUT's solicitors.

The solicitor who initially handled my case failed to advise me that I could have filed my initial claim under the Public Interest Disclosures Act, 1998. This failure had significant ramifications for the way the case was subsequently brought.

The same solicitor failed to pass information from ACAS (the Arbitration and Conciliation Advisory Service) to me or from me to ACAS, thus prejudicing the possibility of a settlement without going to an employment tribunal. He also repeatedly failed to reply to my queries.

At one point (when the University submitted a large dossier of papers) the case seemed to become too much for him and he passed it on to a junior colleague. She then sent a report to the AUT which managed to get the reason for my resignation wrong and made so many other misrepresentations that I had to send a nine page list of corrections to the AUT's legal aid committee. It was to no avail. The AUT decided to go with the solicitors misrepresentations, conveniently allowing them to avoid funding a potentially lengthy hearing.

The main thing that I learned from my correspondence with AUT officials and their solicitors was that the union subscriptions I had paid since 1986 were a complete waste of money. I urge all AUT members to think very carefully about why they are subscribing to this union and to consider cancelling their membership. I will make the correspondence available to any AUT member who is interested to consult it in London.

Should either the AUT or Thompsons Solicitors wish to contest what is on this page, I am more than prepared to answer them. If necessary, correspondence can be put up here...


University staff urged to assist bullying survey

Alexandra Smith, Friday November 3, 2006 -

A Nottingham Trent academic is launching a study to help discover the extent to which university staff are being harassed, attacked and even stalked by disgruntled students.

Deborah Lee, a sociologist at the university, is urging all university staff to take part in the online survey, which will be available in the new year, to shed light on the issue.

The research follows an earlier pilot study carried out by Dr Lee that focused solely on lecturers.

In her book, University Students Behaving Badly, 22 academics from UK universities, aged between 25 and 65, revealed their experiences of being physically attacked, stalked, verbally abused, bullied, sexually harassed or maliciously accused of poor teaching by students.

Dr Lee highlighted the case of Stella, a 38-year-old senior marketing lecturer at a pre-1992 university, who was physically attacked by a student who objected to failing an assignment. Her line manager was unsupportive, declaring that Stella was "just a girl who couldn't manage students".

The sociologist said: "The problem at the moment is we don't know how bad the problem is."

The Universities Personnel Association (UPA) is funding Dr Lee's new study, the results of which universities would be able to use to help them update their human resources' policies.

The executive officer at UPA, Helen Scott, said: "This is not just about academics, but all staff across universities because we are interested in the wellbeing of all staff.

"We were very interested in funding this study because we are interested to know the extent of the problem, if there is one, because then we could work to prevent it or help staff deal with it."

The joint general secretary of the University and College Union, Sally Hunt, said: "Lecturers do an extraordinary job and the role many of them take in providing pastoral care for students, particularly those away from home for the first time, is often overlooked.

"They need to be confident they can continue to do their jobs and provide this extra care without fear of recrimination. Universities have a duty of care to protect their staff from harassment and they need to ensure that instances where students over step the mark are treated seriously."

November 12, 2006

Backfire basics - The keys to backfire

Backfire basics - The keys to backfire

• Reveal: expose the injustice, challenge cover-up

• Redeem: validate the target, challenge devaluation
• Reframe: emphasise the injustice, counter reinterpretation
• Redirect: mobilise support, be wary of official channels
• Resist: stand up to intimidation and bribery

The backfire model is about tactics to oppose injustice

Backfire: an attack can be said to backfire when it creates more support for or attention to whatever is attacked. Any injustice or norm violation can backfire on the perpetrator. Backfire can be apparent in adverse public opinion or greater activity by opponents. Even when a perpetrator seems to get away with an injustice, it can be counterproductive in the long term. Most injustices by powerful groups do not backfire, because they are able to inhibit outrage.

Five methods for inhibiting outrage over injustice

1. Cover up the action
2. Devalue the target
3. Reinterpret what happened
4. Use formal procedures to give the appearance of justice
5. Intimidate or bribe people involved

Two conditions for backfire

1. An action is perceived as unjust, unfair, excessive or disproportional.

2. Information about the action is communicated to relevant audiences.

Five approaches for increasing outrage over injustice

1. Expose the action

2. Validate the target
3. Emphasise interpretation of the action as an injustice
4. Mobilise public concern (and avoid formal procedures)
5. Resist and expose intimidation and bribery

An additional consideration: the timing of communication is vital.

Three relevant factors that affect reception of a message are

1. Receptivity: baseline sensitivity to injustice; meaning systems. If people are
already concerned about a type of abuse, their reaction to a new case will be stronger. Social movements can create or increase receptivity.

2. The information environment: visibility, salience (compared with other stories). What else is happening? If other important items are on the news, an injustice may receive little media attention.

3. Actionability: existence of social movements, opportunities for action. When
activists are prepared to act, a sudden injustice is more likely to backfire.

The five Rs of revealing, redeeming, reframing, redirecting and resisting can be
used in reaction to an injustice or as a way of preventing it.

For example, to help prevent police attacks, be prepared by having witnesses and
cameras ready, dressing and behaving in an image-enhancing fashion, etc.

From:, by Brian Martin,

November 08, 2006

The Mobs of Academe - Excerpts from an online discussion

The Chronicle of Higher Education

The guest: Kenneth Westhues is a Professor of sociology at the University of Waterloo who has written a five-volume series about mobbing in academe and who frequently visits college campuses to collect data on episodes of mobbing.

'...Academe is a perfect petri dish for the culture of mobbing, according to the sociologist Kenneth Westhues, thanks to its relatively high job security, subjective measures of performance, and frequent tension between individual professors' goals and the goals of the institution. The victims of mobbing are not always wholly innocent, he says, but the campaigns against them are often based on fuzzy charges, take place in secret, happen fast, and are full of overheated rhetoric. And yet academics tend to think they are immune from the groupthink that characterizes mobbing...'

'...Mobbing is especially tragic when the target is a young scholar who has not yet had a chance to acquire credentials to fall back on. The graduate student most at risk is an independent thinker whose scholarly record (e. g., publications) threatens the supervising professors. So yes, of course, mobbing happens at all levels. My priority has been on the mobbing of professors because if professors are not secure, graduate students working with them are even less secure. How does one heal from the humiliation of being mobbed? The general answer is, "Slowly." Support from family and friends is indispensable. Some kind of professional counselling may or may not be helpful. Healing happens above all as the mobbing target regains confidence by renewed achievements in whatever is the relevant field -- or in an altogether new field of work. It can be really, really hard for a mobbing target to "move on," but it gets easier with every day of successful negotiation of relationships at home and at work...'

First, encourage administrators and colleagues to inform themselves about the mobbing research (the website is a rich resource, so is the book, Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace, by Noa Davenport and her colleagues in Iowa, or one can simply google "mobbing"). The more aware we make ourselves of the human tendency to mob, the more able we are to control that tendency in ourselves and others.

Specific step number two is to keep campus media for discussion and debate alive and active. A vigorous campus press helps a lot. So do chat rooms for faculty. I often quote Churchill's line, "It is always better to jaw, jaw, than to war, war." Yes, it sounds better with a British accent.

Third and probably most important, stand with mobbing targets. In most healthy, productive, well-functioning departments and faculties, one can identify individuals who do not let colleagues get mobbed. Such individuals have the guts to say at crucial moments, "Cut it out." They are what researchers call "guardians" of prospective targets. They are willing to be seen with a mobbing target and to speak up for him or her when that is a risky, unpopular thing to do...'

'...The starting point for any possibly effective action to stop or turn back a mobbing has to be a careful analysis of the structure of the mob. Who, one asks, is the instigator, the "chief eliminator"? Sometimes this is the administrator who formally leads the exclusionary action, but sometimes such an administrator is only responding to the ardent wishes of some number of colleagues. The goal, generally speaking, is to "break up" the mob, to try to take some kind of action that will get the professors to behave as independent, reasoned thinkers, as they're supposed to be, instead of like a bunch of sheep...

Complete online discussion available at: