September 29, 2007

Plans for bullying enquiry at Leeds Met University (UK)

BBC 'Look North' has two news items that cover plans for a bullying enquiry by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at Leeds Met University.

Info is available at:

a) Plans for 'bullying' inquiry

         Leeds Metropolitan University Plans for an inquiry into alleged bullying at Leeds Metropolitan University have been revealed, and

b) Bullied at Uni, your response

         Leeds Met Uni A look at your response to allegations of bullying at Leeds Metroplitan University.

To view these reports you will need Real Player.
No doubt for the situation to get so far, in this particular Higher Education Institution (HEI) bullying in the workplace must be endemic. No doubt also that there are many more HEIs with a similar problem. If you have the evidence, we suggest you contact the HSE and report all endemic occurrences of workplace bullying and how this affects staff.

September 26, 2007


Surprise, surprise...

Grievance procedures

Almost all of the claimants had taken steps to address their situation directly with their employer prior to lodging an Employment Tribunal case. Many appeared to have tried to initiate a formal grievance procedure, although some had at first simply told their manager or the personnel department of their situation in an effort to have their concerns addressed.

In such cases it seems that claimants feared the repercussions of ‘rocking the boat’ and preferred to keep their complaints as low key as possible. This usually involved informal conversations and meetings, which often later turned into procedures that are more formal when they did not yield the results hoped for by the claimant.

Some claimants reported that grievance procedures were initiated fairly quickly. This was in contrast to the generally much longer time it took for claimants to decide to lodge the cases with the ETS, particularly when the discrimination had taken the form of multiple events worsening over time.

For claimants to have eventually applied for an Employment Tribunal hearing, they had all reached a stage where they felt that the routes for resolving disputes within the organisation would not work for them, or they had tried these and they had failed, leaving them with no other options.

A good number of claimants had been through their employers’ internal grievance procedure, and had felt that they had not received a fair hearing, or that the eventual outcome was not satisfactory. However, there were a small number of claimants who initially felt that early attempts to resolve their issues with their employer had been successful. Despite this, their problems continued, so although grievance procedures had found evidence of race discrimination, this did not translate in practice to the situation being resolved in favour of the claimant.

From: The experience of claimants in race discrimination Employment Tribunal cases, EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS RESEARCH SERIES NO. 55, dti, 2006

September 25, 2007

National Ban Bullying at Work Day. 7th November 2007 (UK)

Some of us are working on our own localised actions for 7th November 2007 - National Ban Bullying at Work Day. Any action is good action. No action is a waste.

We tend to think that we should also write letters to The Editors in whatever country we live in - to coincide with 7th November 2007.

If you live in England/UK, you may wish to write letters to the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES). We are less than some weeks away from National Ban Bullying at Work Day.

The Times Higher Education Supplement
Admiral House
66-68 East Smithfield
London E1W 1BX

or, letters to be considered for publication in THES:

It is an opportunity we must use to highlight workplace bullying in Higher Education. We invite you all to write a letter and/or email to:, or post it to the above address.

More info on National Ban Bullying at Work Day.

Bad Apple Bullies investigate themselves and find themselves innocent

(Written by a Queensland teacher who has been Dealing With The Mob for the past six and a half years.)

When I was bullied in November 2000, the immediate advice of the Queensland Teachers' Union was that I should "accept the things you cannot change".

The QTU organiser told me that there was no hope of justice because the Education Queensland Grievance process did not work, and the organiser had never known a teacher's Grievance to be upheld.

Several other QTU officers later agreed that this was good advice, based on their own long experience with the department.

I could not believe that this was true. I had spent many, many hours in the local community, lobbying on behalf of the Labor party. I had always been an active member of the Queensland Teachers' Union. I believed in the Department of Education and the Queensland Government.

I simply could not believe what I was being told about the Labor Party, the Queensland Teachers' Union, the Department of Education and the Queensland Government.

I believed that I could get justice. But, six and a half years later, I realise that the QTU organiser was telling me the truth.

My hope now is that, by exposing the strategies used by Bad Apple Education Queensland administrators and Queensland public servants to bully and mob Queensland teachers, I may be able to shame the Queensland Government into taking action to deal with the problem of workplace bullying in Queensland schools.

To this date, 17 September 2007, I have seen no evidence of any change in the culture.

The documents that I have found under Freedom Of Information (FOI) demonstrate that the Education Queensland Bad Apples who attacked me have developed no insight into their bullying. They have shown no remorse. They have made no committment to change.

I have been particularly disgusted by the fact that members and supporters of my local branches of the Labor party did this to me, knowing that it would be very difficult for me, a Labor Party activist, to complain about their behaviour- because their attack on me took place during the "run up" to the February 2001 State election.

The people who bullied me are also members of my own union - the Queensland Teachers' Union. And members of other unions - mainly, I presume, the Queensland Public Sector Union (QPSU) - have either actively participated in the mobbing or passively allowed the mobbing to continue.

So these union members earn their living by (actively or passively) facilitating the abuse of their fellow union members. I have struggled for many years to believe this situation. This is not what I was expecting of the Labor party or the Union movement.

Mr Rudd, I wrote to you on 12 September 2007. I told you the details of my story and I asked you to deal with these Labor party thugs.

I have been waiting almost seven years for somebody to take responsibility for dealing with this situation.

The Queensland Government can't seem to deal with it. Can you deal with the Labor thugs, Mr Rudd?

More info at:

September 24, 2007

Corrosive Leadership (Or Bullying by Another Name): A Corollary of the Corporatised Academy?

...While the bullying phenomenon does not lend itself to ‘robust conclusions with regard to causality’, I have postulated that the reason why the incidence of bullying in universities is becoming more pronounced may be correlated with the move to corporatisation. The perception on the part of managers that they are the new elite whose role is to increase productivity and maximise limited resources through constant surveillance and auditing has contributed to the normalisation of a corrosive form of leadership.

Di Martino suggests that we tackle the causes, rather than the effects of violence at work by developing a preventive, systemic and targeted approach. This is all very well in theory, but it would require rolling back the corporatist phenomenon and reinstating principles of collegiality to allow a range of voices to be heard. I am sceptical about such a rollback, at least in the short term. Not only is it apparent that governments are expecting universities themselves to assume greater responsibility for their operating costs, the new managerialism has created a class of powerful players with a substantial investment in its retention.

Thus, while initiatives, such as the development of codes of practice by occupational health and safety bodies and unions, are contributing to the emergence of a new public discourse, such
codes are incapable of addressing the factors that have contributed to the political economy of the corporatist university. Educative and prophylactic measures are highly desirable, but they can go only so far in an unstable and uncertain climate, where students are customers and academics are productive units, whose value is assessed primarily in terms of the competitive dollars they generate. Powerful line managers, whose role it is to exhort greater productivity from these unruly units, have made themselves indispensable in the transformation of universities as producers and facilitators of the new economy. Hence, the corporatised university, with its over-zealous managerialism, competition for resources and eviscerated notion of academic freedom, is likely to represent an ongoing source of grievance about workplace aggression.

A formal avenue of redress will have to be devised to placate this dissonance. However, rather than relying on a traditional model of linear causality, which focuses on linking ‘victim’ and wrongdoer, a new remedial model would be better off addressing the political environment that has engendered the harm. A single-minded focus on psychopathic managers absolves corporations, including universities, from responsibility for the fear, the insecurity and the relentless pressure to be evermore productive that the market message induces

From: Corrosive Leadership (Or Bullying by Another Name): A Corollary of the Corporatised Academy? By Margaret Thornton, La Trobe University, Australia.

Not offering mediation...

Anonymous said...

My former employer encouraged my wife to accept mediation with her line manager who'd wrongly written a defamatory job reference for her, while refusing to afford me the courtesy of mediation with my line manager who had severely bullied and harrassed me to the point where I became ill with PTSD. Just goes to show the double standards that can be employed by academic institutions when it comes to trying to get employees in conflict to work out their differences.

It's good to see that Tribunals are wise to this nonsense and that they are starting to hold accountable employers who fail to take bona fide actions to bring employees together in a spirit of reconcilliation and cooperation.

My former employer is going to have some tall explaining to do about why they refused to afford mediation to me and instead sacked me

September 23, 2007

Unfairly dismissed after bullying claim

Thornett v. Scope: unfairly dismissed after bullying claim
10 January 2007 - case report

Thornett v. Scope: [2006] EWCA Civ 1600

CA: Pill, Laws and Gage LJJ: 27 November 2006

The claimant worked for the employers in a managerial capacity. Following a complaint by a colleague who alleged that the claimant had been bullying and harassing him, the employers made a finding of unsatisfactory conduct against the claimant and gave her a final written warning. The claimant, who did not accept that the finding was correct, made it clear that she thought it would be very difficult for her to continue to work with the colleague who had made the complaint. The difficulties between the claimant and her colleague were not resolved and ultimately the claimant was dismissed.

The claimant's complaint of unfair dismissal was upheld by the Employment Tribunal which found that a reasonable employer would have taken further steps to encourage the parties to work together.

In assessing the amount of the compensatory award under section 123(1) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 the tribunal considered how long the employment relationship would have lasted if the employers had encouraged the parties to work together. The tribunal acknowledged that without hearing evidence from the claimant's colleague it was a highly speculative matter but found that the best assessment it could make was that the claimant's employment would only have lasted a further six months. It accordingly held that the loss suffered by the claimant as a result of the employers' fault was limited to her earnings during that period.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal allowed the claimant's appeal against the amount of the award, finding that there had been insufficient evidence to entitle the tribunal to speculate as to the duration of the employment relationship and that it should not, therefore, have placed any limitation on her lost earnings.

The employers appealed.

The Court of Appeal held:

An Employment Tribunal's task, when deciding under section 123(1) of the 1996 Act what compensation was just and equitable for future loss of earnings, would almost inevitably involve a consideration of uncertainties and the presence of a need to speculate did not disqualify a tribunal from carrying out its duty under that section.

Although there might be cases in which evidence to the contrary was so sparse that a tribunal should approach the question on the basis that loss of earnings in the employment would have continued indefinitely, where there was evidence that it might not have been so, that evidence must be taken into account. There had been evidence before the Employment Tribunal which created a risk that the employment would not have continued indefinitely and the tribunal had been right to take that evidence into account, but the reasons for the tribunal's finding that the employment would have continued for six months had not been sufficiently stated in its determination. Accordingly, the case would be remitted to the tribunal for the compensatory award to be reassessed.

The appeal was allowed.

September 21, 2007

Stress is...

Stress is not the employee's inability to cope with excessive workload or the unwelcome attentions of bullying co-workers and managers; stress is a consequence of the employer's failure to provide a safe system of work as required by the UK Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.


September 20, 2007

The Institute of Education - University of London, is awarded 'Divestors of People' standard

The Institute of Education - University of London, is awarded 'Divestors of People' standard. For more info check the Hall of Shame.

Some of the criteria the Institute meets, are: Staff are demorilised, de-skilled or demoted. The working environment is toxic. The working environment shows high levels of work-related stress. Staff report high levels of bullying and harassment by managers. Fear prevails among the silent majority.

Do you see the problem?

The 2004 Guide for Members of Higher Education Governing Bodies, produced by the Committee of University Chairmen, states that:

The Visitor

Most pre-1992 HEIs have a Visitor. The office is usually referred to specifically in the charter and statutes, stipulating who is to hold the office, but if the charter and statutes are silent, then the Visitor is the Crown. The Crown has various legal manifestations (such as the Queen in Council, the Sovereign acting through the Lord President of the Council, or simply the Queen), and the procedures to be adopted will vary with the formulation. Other Visitors may, for example, be judicial or ecclesiastical office holders.

The role of the Visitor is now restricted largely to carrying the ultimate responsibility for determining the institution's internal legislative provisions, i.e. the charter and statutes. The jurisdiction of the Visitor is laid down by common law and by Act of Parliament. The jurisdiction no longer extends to employment matters; but where there is jurisdiction it is exclusive, that is the ordinary courts have nojurisdiction (except by way of judicial review if the Visitor acts unlawfully). The jurisdiction of the Visitor in respect of determining complaints from students and other members of the HEI (excluding those relating to employment matters) was removed formally in the Higher Education Act 2004. The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) has been granted authority to act in this respect. These arrangements also apply to the post-1992 HEIs, subject to the final approval of the governing body.
The question: OK so the Visitor is replaced by The Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) for Higher Education. However, when one visits the web page for the OIA it only describes how students can complain and not staff. Everybody knows this.

A phone call to Universities UK confirmed that post 1992 HEIs only have in place their own internal procedures and no independent external review body or mechanism such as the Visitor. Do you see the problem?

September 17, 2007

Henry Kessinger

Anonymous said...

A head of division at a less than reputable welsh university wrote the following about an Arab member of staff;

"There is not enough body armour on e-bay!" The head of division then signs as "Henry Kessinger".

An example of what one can obtain via a subject access request.

Anonymous said...

That head of division is Malcom Thomas.

September 15, 2007

Exploits of a Welsh UCU officer

Anonymous said:

Exploits of a Welsh UCU officer, whom I contacted for 'help', 'support', and 'advice'.

After submitting my resignation due to repeated violations of my rights at work, this Welsh UCU officer sent an e-mail to the head of the human resources raising doubts about the quality of the work that I was to deliver in the remaining period of my employment "Can we guarantee that the work that he will submit will be as good as...? " Note how the Welsh UCU officer refers to himself and the HR manager by "We".

In another email, he discloses confidential information about my complaint to an external organisation. He tells the head of human resources in a surprised tone, "he already contacted someone external!" and "the last thing we want is another race discrimination case in the press".

Is there a possibility of closing the Welsh UCU offices or of preventing UCU from scamming members again.

The University of London is awarded 'Divestors of People' standard

The University of London is awarded 'Divestors of People' standard. For more info check the Hall of Shame.

Information on workplace bullying at University of London is at this stage confidential due to pending action and reaction... but the award is well-deserved. Despite a stated zero tolerance policy towards workplace bullying, the latter is well-entrenched across a number of departments and is exercised by a number of senior personnel.

September 14, 2007

Dealing With Bullies

...Some difficult people are merely minor irritants: Others learn to avoid them as much as possible, and the overall working environment is not badly compromised. But a person who targets others, makes threats (direct or indirect), insists on his or her own way all the time, or has such a hair-trigger temper that colleagues walk on eggshells to avoid setting it off, can paralyze a department. In the worst cases, this conduct can create massive dysfunction as the department finds itself unable to hold meetings, make hiring decisions, recruit new members, or retain valued ones. When I first got involved in helping department heads cope with such people, my colleagues and I used concepts and approaches we gleaned from studies of bullies.

The bullies I have encountered in the academic environment come in many forms, from those who present themselves as victims, all the way to classic aggressors who rely on physical intimidation. In academe and other settings populated by “knowledge workers,” one often encounters other kinds of bullies as well, including “memo bullies” (who send regular missives to a long mailing list) and “insult bullies” (destructive verbal aggressors).

Whatever their approaches, bullies are people who are willing to cross the boundaries of civilized behavior that inhibit others. They value the rewards brought by aggression and generally lack guilt, believing their victims provoked the attacks and deserve the consequences. Their behavior prompts others to avoid them, which means that, in the workplace, bullies are likely to become effectively unsupervised. I’ve seen secretaries, faculty members, and businesspeople who were so unpleasant to deal with that they were neither given the same duties as others in their environment nor held accountable for the duties they did hold.

Aggressor bullies fit the usual idea of a bully: They threaten to beat you up if you don’t give them your lunch money. Victim bullies, in contrast, demand your lunch money because of some harm they claim you’ve done to them.

While many workplaces have bullies, institutions of higher education may be especially vulnerable to them because of some of the distinctive characteristics of academe. First, bullies flourish in the decentralized structure of universities: the isolation of so many microclimates, from laboratories to small departments, creates many opportunities for a bully to run roughshod over colleagues. Then too, the bullies of academe typically manipulate the concepts of academic freedom and collegiality with flair. The propensity of bullies to misuse these central academic concepts only adds to the importance of being well grounded in those concepts yourself. If you have a firm understanding of what academic freedom is and what it is not, you’ll be better prepared to cope with those who try to distort the concept for their own ends.

Another reason people in academe are generally unprepared to deal with bullies is that bullies are relatively rare. They are what is known as “low-incidence, high-severity” problems: one in which the problems don’t arise very often, but when they do they are so serious that they can threaten the integrity of the environment.

For prevention of bullying, creating and maintaining an environment in which respectful professional interactions are expected and reinforced is the most powerful approach.

When unprofessional or uncivil conduct occurs in the work-place, it’s important to nip it in the bud. The tone of your response should be nonconfrontational: “Oh, I’m sorry, maybe we forgot to tell you that we don’t act that way here.” Dealing with the problem head-on and promptly is critical. If someone is verbally abusive to staff or threatens physical violence, the appropriate penalty must be imposed. Any other response only erodes the trust of those who work hard to do the right thing. Similarly, ignoring or tolerating inappropriate conduct in the workplace sends the message that the way to prosper is to misbehave

By C.K. Gunsalus, from:

The Peter Principle in Academe

Think about it. Many in higher education administration are failed scholars. They were once attracted to the scholarly life, went to graduate school for 10 or 12 years, eked out dissertations, and then either failed to write enough — or at all — in tenure-track jobs; or as adjunct instructors, decided to get off the migrant worker bus. In either case they got out of the scholarship business. Some landed in pleasant occupations. Others were not so lucky.

Those who leave faculty appointments to write mystery novels, travelogues, self-help books, and biographies are usually not seen again in the academy. Some make a lot of money, and some, very little. But they all own themselves, and although the work is hard, they can sleep late in the morning. They are not promoted, and when they fail, they only make their families, cashiers, and waiters miserable. Still they disappear without a trace like everyone else.

On the other hand, those who go into academic associations, government, or, as in our case, academic administration, choosing steady income and health and retirement benefits, either gather moss in middle management jobs, or rise to higher levels of the administrative ladder — directorships, deanships, vice presidencies, presidencies, etc. In all sectors of the economy, as the Peter Principle describes, administrators typically rise to their levels of incompetence, and then fail — quietly usually, but sometimes in magnificent blazes of failure.

As you read this, academic administrator, you may be rising, stagnating, or failing in your career. Whichever stage you are in, if you are an executive academic administrator, you probably are reporting to someone who is in the process of failing. (This corresponds to the existential truism that everyone alive is dying.) If your boss is in the terminal stages of failure, and s/he is after your hide, your life may seem to you to be unbearable. It should not be, for there are ways of understanding your situation and your boss’s situation that can give you a more serene and humane outlook on the pain your supervisor is inflicting on you, as well as a glimpse at your own future.

I offer words of enlightenment, which, I hope, will help you safeguard your heart and your job, no matter how temporarily.

1. Do not ever criticize an administrator in free fall — not behind his back, and not to his/her face. Criticizing a failing leader is like baiting a wounded bear. There is more viciousness and still plenty of bite in a college administrator who has risen too high in the chain of command. If you vent your frustrations, you can get seriously hurt. And don’t worry about losing a chance to dissociate yourself from her/his failure. Worse for your career and character is disloyalty. Besides, it is not nice to kick someone when s/he is down.

2. Try instead to help your boss — unobtrusively, invisibly if possible. Take on his/her tasks that are not getting done — casually, as if you were seeking a favor. Perhaps suggest to him/her that you need more to do. Tell him/her that you have for a long time been wanting to learn the college’s billing system and serve on the Web policy committee.

3. Make sure that you do not advertise your helpfulness. No amount of self-aggrandizing is allowable. Advertising one’s kindness is bad form and can lead faster to failure.

4. Be patient. Overcome your frustrations and hurt self-esteem. (A hurt ego is inevitable when working for a failing administrator.) The gratuitous insults, unfair criticisms, and damning performance reviews will not hurt you if you are long-suffering. The insults to your reputation will probably not be taken seriously by anyone with say-so about your professional future. Practicing patience and equanimity will prepare you for the time when you rise to your own level of incompetence.

5. Don’t quit your job. If you quit now, you will be missing great opportunities when the incompetent boss realizes s/he is in the wrong job. You who have toiled so unobtrusively and so loyally as assistant vice provost, you may be able to step into her/his job — God help you.

6. Help your boss limp away and reestablish her/himself in a new position to which s/he is better suited. As you know very well, university programs are, like the universe, infinitely expanding. There is always another job. Besides, helping the hurt and injured is the right thing to do. You will be rewarded in your next life.

7. Prepare those whom you supervise to be kind and understanding when you are in your own final descent. Don’t call them back to the office when they are out to lunch or on the weekends. Let them be sick when they are well. Allow for many dying relations and friends. Reflect on the circle of administration, and try to see the good in it. It is a good way to learn humility.

8. Don’t despair when you hit bottom. It is your turn.

By Margaret Gutman Klosko, from
Of some interest is also the 'Dilbert Principle', i.e. '...refers to a 1990s satirical observation stating that companies tend to systematically promote their least-competent employees to management, in order to limit the amount of damage that they're capable of doing...'

September 11, 2007

Conducting Investigations

The way in which any investigation is conducted will be a key element in the success of your dignity at work strategy – there is no point in introducing a comprehensive policy, training a network of harassment advisers and communicating widely and successfully if you do not have good, fair and transparent procedures for conducting investigations into complaints.

Such investigations are very sensitive and there should be procedures separate from your normal disciplinary and grievance procedures to investigate such complaints, using people who have had specific training in investigating bullying and harassment complaints.

You should bear in mind that many complainants and witnesses will be fearful not simply about the outcome but about any repercussions of making the complaint in the first place and they should be reassured that the institution will protect them and make every effort to deal effectively with the aftermath and minimise trauma after the investigation has taken place and the outcome is known.

Therefore you should consider:

• Providing compulsory training for investigators and panel members;

• Ensuring that the investigation is conducted by two people, to gain the maximum benefit from the interviews. If you have investigators who are relatively new, try to team them with someone who has a lot of experience.

• Dealing with complaints in a sensitive, objective manner, respecting the rights of all parties involved;

• Keeping all the participants, including the witnesses, well briefed about the process and ensure that everyone involved is aware of how the findings will be communicated. Ensure that both the accused and the complainant are aware of what information they will receive at the conclusion of the investigation.

• Maintaining confidentiality – this is particularly important in a small institution, where the parties are likely to be well known to many other employees;

• Ensuring that complainants and witnesses are fully protected from victimisation. It is not sufficient to state in your policy that those concerned will be protected – you must have robust systems in place to ensure that this actually happens in the event of an allegation of bullying or harassment.

• Using open questions to elicit the facts of the case and ensure that all questions are as neutral as possible. In particular, try to avoid questions that appear to allocate blame, which will make the respondent overly defensive and will obscure the facts.

• Concluding the proceedings within a reasonable timescale;

• Making every effort to ensure, if possible, that the investigatory team and the panel are balanced in terms of race, gender, etc (this is particularly important in cases where sexual/racial harassment are at issue). Members of the Investigatory team and panels should also include staff from all levels of the institution and represent both support and academic staff.

From: A Good Practice Guide for Higher Education Institutions on Dealing with Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

September 10, 2007

Bully for you! (But be prepared for the costs)

In the movie The Devil Wears Prada, Meryl Streep is the boss from an especially glamorous circle of hell, but while the flick is fiction, Ms. Streep’s prima donna depiction is all too often reality in the U.S. workplace.

The tolerance of workplace bullies, however, is being questioned because the costs associated with bullying could well outweigh any perceived benefits.

Tony Fasulo, a managing partner at Acclaim Ability Management, which manages worker compensation and disability cases for employers, said his company tracked the costs associated with bullying for one large employer and found it easily spent over $1 million in a two-year period to cover short-term disability costs related to bullying.

And that’s just one area where the tab can add up. There’s also the cost of high turnover and lost productivity, as well as increased health-care and recruitment expenses.

“Bullies are often seen as stars, but companies have to question other costs and whether the costs outweigh the gains that the person is bringing in,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of executive recruiter Challenger Gray & Christmas.

Few people question that bullying runs rampant in the American workplace. According to a nationwide poll by the Employment Law Alliance, 44% of American workers report they have toiled for an abusive supervisor or employer. And more than half of workers say they have been the victim of (or heard about) supervisors or employers behaving abusively. The bad behavior ranged from yelling at subordinates or rudely interrupting them to making sarcastic jokes or teasing remarks to giving them dirty looks or ignoring them as if they were invisible.

The problem is compounded by a lack of management training, said Mr. Challenger. “People who are high performers are put into management roles, but their ability to manage subordinates is questionable,” he said, “and instead of explaining why things need to be done, they tend to order and push people around with no explanation.”

While the perception of bullying may depend on an individual’s sensitivity, Gary Namie, director of a Bellingham, Wash., organization called the Workplace Bullying Institute, defines it as repeated, health-harming verbal abuse; threatening, humiliating or offensive behavior; and interference, including sabotage, that prevents work from getting done.

The most obvious cost of all this is turnover. A survey done by Challenger Gray & Christmas found that 29% of human resources executives surveyed have seen one or more employees at their companies quit as a direct result of workplace bullying. Furthermore, said Mr. Challenger, the number of employees actually leaving because of bullying is probably much higher, since many employees will not reveal it as the reason for their departure.

A rule of thumb: It costs 1.5 times salary to replace a non-supervisory position, and two times compensation to replace managers, said Mr. Namie. So, if a managerial position paying $100,000 annually is vacated twice in five years because of a workplace bully, the company had $400,000 in additional turnover costs as a direct result.

Another factor to consider is lost productivity attributable to absenteeism. “The associated costs can be outrageous,” Acclaim’s Mr. Fasulo said.

For example, said Mr. Fasulo, Acclaim looked at short-term disability claims and found that 30% were psychological claims, with 12% to 18% of those psychological claims related to bullying. Each employee absent because of psychological claims was away, on average, between 60 and 80 work days.

Tolerating bullying in the workplace may also lead to increased health-care costs. According to researchers at University College London who tracked workers for 11 years, workers who believed they were being unfairly treated at work were more likely to have serious heart disease.

Absenteeism, workers’ comp, disability claims and litigation represent the hard costs, but there are less tangible costs as well. “The bullying reputation cuts into recruitment,” said Mr. Namie. Word eventually gets out on the street that the work environment is not tolerable, he said, and recruits become unwilling to apply.

Mr. Challenger agreed. “Who wants to work for a toxic boss?

The problem we have in Higher Education is that the costs come from the taxpayer, the bullies pay nothing and almost always win - self-policing does not work. However, if a university or higher education institution becomes known as a bully nest, then good staff will not want to work there and the good name of the institution will be seriously damaged.

September 09, 2007

The serial bully

The serial bully is an adult on the outside but a child on the inside; he or she is like a child who has never grown up. One suspects that the bully is emotionally retarded and has a level of emotional development equivalent to a five-year-old, or less. The bully wants to enjoy the benefits of living in the adult world, but is unable and unwilling to accept the responsibilities that go with enjoying the benefits of the adult world. In short, the bully has never learnt to accept responsibility for their behaviour.

When called to account for the way they have chosen to behave, the bully instinctively:

a) denies everything.
- Variations include Trivialization ("This is so trivial it's not worth talking about...")
- The Fresh Start tactic ("I don't know why you're so intent on dwelling on the past"
- "Look, what's past is past, I'll overlook your behaviour and we'll start afresh")

This is an abdication of responsibility by the bully and an attempt to divert and distract attention by using false conciliation. Imagine if this line of defense were available to all criminals ("Look I know I've just murdered 12 people but that's all in the past, we can't change the past, let's put it behind us, concentrate on the future so we can all get on with our lives" - this would do wonders for prison overcrowding).

b) quickly and seamlessly follows the denial with an aggressive counter-attack of counter-criticism or counter-allegation, often based on distortion or fabrication. Lying, deception, duplicity, hypocrisy and blame are the hallmarks of this stage. The purpose is to avoid answering the question and thus avoid accepting responsibility for their behavior. Often the target is tempted - or coerced - into giving another long explanation to prove the bully's allegation false; by the time the explanation is complete, everybody has forgotten the original question.

Both a) and b) are delivered with aggression in the guise of assertiveness; in fact there is no assertiveness (which is about recognizing and respecting the rights of oneself and others) at all. Note that explanation - of the original question - is conspicuous by its absence.

In the unlikely event of denial and counter-attack being insufficient, the bully feigns victim hood or feigns persecution by manipulating people through their emotions, especially guilt. This commonly takes the form of bursting into tears, which most people cannot handle.

Variations include indulgent self-pity, feigning indignation, pretending to be "devastated", claiming they're the one being bullied or harassed, claiming to be "deeply offended", melodrama, martyrdom ("If it wasn't for me...") and a poor-me drama ("You don't know how hard it is for me ... blah blah blah..." and "I'm the one who always has to...î "You think you're having a hard time... "I'm the one being bullied...").

Other tactics include manipulating people's perceptions to portray themselves as the injured party and the target as the villain of the piece.

Sometimes the bully will suddenly claim to be suffering "stress". Alleged ill-health can also be a useful vehicle for gaining attention and sympathy.

By using this response, the bully is able to avoid answering the question and thus avoid accepting responsibility for what they have said or done. It is a pattern of behavior learnt by about the age of 3; most children learn or are taught to grow out of this, but some are not and by adulthood, this avoidance technique has been practiced to perfection.

A further advantage of the denial/counter-attack/feigning victim hood strategy is that it acts as a provocation. The target, who may have taken months to reach this stage, sees their tormentor getting away with it and is provoked into an angry and emotional outburst after which the bully says simply "There, I told you s/he was like that". Anger is one of the mechanisms by which bullies (and all abusers) control their targets. By tapping in to and obtaining an inappropriate release of pent-up anger the bully plays their masterstroke and casts their victim as villain.

When called to account for the way they have chosen to behave, mature adults do not respond by bursting into tears. If you're dealing with a serial bully who has just exhibited this avoidance tactic, sit passively and draw attention to the pattern of behavior they've just exhibited, and then the purpose of the tactic. Then ask for an answer to the question.

Bullies also rely on the denial of others and the fact that when their target reports the abuse they will be disbelieved ("are your sure this is really going on? "I find it hard to believe - are you sure you're not imagining it?"). Frequently targets are asked why they didn't report the abuse before, and they will usually reply "because I didn't think anyone would believe me." Sadly they are often right in this assessment. Because of the Jekyll & Hyde nature, compulsive lying, and plausibility, no one can - or wants - to believe it.

Denial features in most cases of sexual assault, as in the case of Paul Hickson, the UK Olympic swimming coach who sexually assaulted and raped teenage girls in his care over a period of 20 years or more. When his victims were asked why they didn't report the abuse, most replied, "Because I didn't think anyone would believe me". Abusers confidently, indeed arrogantly, rely on this belief, often aggressively inculcating (instilling) the belief ("No-one will ever believe you") just after the sexual assault when their victim is in a distressed state. Targets of bullying in the workplace often come up against the same attitudes by management when they report a bullying colleague. In a workplace environment, the bully usually recruits one or two colleagues who will back up the bully's denial when called to account.


Serial bullies harbor a particular hatred of anyone who can articulate their behavior profile, either verbally or in writing in a manner which helps other people see through their deception and their mask of deceit.

The usual instinctive response is to launch a bitter personal attack on the person's credentials, lack of qualifications, and right to talk about personality disorders, psychopathic personality etc, whilst preserving their right to talk about anything they choose - all the while adding nothing to the debate themselves.

Serial bullies hate to see themselves and their behavior reflected as if they are looking into a mirror.


Bullies project their inadequacies, shortcomings, behaviors etc on to other people to avoid facing up to their inadequacy and doing something about it (learning about oneself can be painful), and to distract and divert attention away from themselves and their inadequacies. Projection is achieved through blame, criticism and allegation; once you realize this, every criticism, allegation etc that the bully makes about their target is actually an admission or revelation about themselves. This knowledge can be used to perceive the bully's own misdemeanors; for instance, when the allegations are of financial or sexual impropriety, it is likely that the bully has committed these acts; when the bully makes an allegation of abuse (such allegations tend to be vague and non-specific), it is likely to be the bully who has committed the abuse.

When the bully makes allegations of, say, "cowardice" or "negative attitude" it is the bully who is a coward or has a negative attitude. In these circumstances, the bully has to understand that if specious and insubstantive allegations are made, the bully will also be investigated.

When the symptoms of psychiatric injury become apparent to others, most bullies will play the Mental Health Trap, claiming their target is "mentally ill" or "mentally unstable" or has a "mental health problem". It is more likely that this allegation is a projection of the bully's own mental health problems. If this trap is being used on you, assert "projection" as a defense against disciplinary action or as part of your legal proceedings.

It is a key identifying feature of a person with a personality disorder or psychopathic personality that, when called to account, they will accuse the person who is unmasking them of being the one with the personality disorder or psychopathic personality from which they (the bully) suffer.


Of over 5000 cases of bullying reported to Bully OnLine and the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line, in at least half the cases, the bully is having an affair. The affair has little to do with friendship, and a lot to do with strategic alliance in pursuit of power, control, domination and subjugation. In a further quarter of cases, there's often a suspected affair, and in the remaining quarter, there is often a relationship with another based not so much on sexual attraction but on a mutual admiration for the way each other behaves.

If the bully is a male in a senior position, he is often sleeping with a secretary or office administrator, as this is where he gets his information and where he spreads his disinformation. Sometimes the female junior can be identified by her reward, e.g. being the only person allowed to hold the keys of the stock cupboard (everyone has to grovel to her if they want a new pen), or being put in charge of the office in the bully's absence when there are others who are senior to her who would make more appropriate deputies.

Most serial bullies have unhappy and unsatisfactory private lives that are characterized by a string of broken relationships. If you are the current target of a serial bully and taking legal action, a little digging into the bully's past, including their personal life, will usually unearth some unsavoury facts that the bully would prefer not to be made public. In some cases, serial bullies have been found to have criminal convictions for fraud, or to have been compelled to attend therapy or counseling for their habit of compulsive lying, or they might have a record of domestic violence. Under normal circumstances making these facts part of the proceedings might be considered unethical; however, if you're the target of a serial bully, the circumstances are not normal.

Validity of testimony

Because of the serial bully's Jekyll and Hyde nature, compulsive lying, charm and plausibility, the validity of this person's testimony cannot be relied on in disciplinary proceedings, appeal hearings, and under oath at tribunal and in court. Emphasize this when taking action.

Mediation with this type of individual is inappropriate. Serial bullies regard mediation (and arbitration, conciliation, negotiation etc) as appeasement, which they ruthlessly exploit; it allows them to give the impression in public that they are negotiating and being conciliatory, whilst in private they continue the bullying. The lesson of the twentieth century is that you do not appease aggressors.


Dignity at work

New research published by Equality Challenge Unit indicates that some [why not all?] higher education institutions are taking the need for dignity at work seriously and taking active steps to eliminate bullying and harassment. A high proportion of respondents to our survey (93%) had a specific policy on dignity at work, 70% had networks of harassment advisers and some institutions also offered additional services such as mediation, counselling, employee assistance programmes and training.

However, there is still a long way to go until the sector as a whole provides a culture where all staff are afforded dignity and treated with respect. There are still large variations in service provision, with some institutions lacking the basic structure of policies to tackle these issues, or lacking training programmes to support initiatives.

A particular weakness identified in the study was that the majority of institutions failed to evaluate the effectiveness of initiatives. Even where basic monitoring was being undertaken, it was rare for institutions to review regularly the impact of policies and practices. Some institutions identified that issues relating to bullying and harassment had been raised through their staff survey, but relatively few had made commitments to conduct regular surveys to monitor or evaluate progress made in tackling these problems.

In the ECU baseline survey, although 92% of respondents said that they regarded dignity at work as either a priority or an important issue,
56% also believed that cases were under-reported within their own institution.

The conclusion of Equality Challenge Unit’s Dignity at Work Project was that there are positive signs that some institutions are making real efforts to tackle bullying and harassment. This is particularly important in light of recent high profile cases which underline the importance of employers needing to be alert and proactive in tackling bullying and harassment issues...
National Ban Bullying at Work Day. 7th November 2007. This is a stand alone campaign, spear-headed by The Andrea Adams Trust.

September 08, 2007

Look at the culture of your organisation

It's important to make sure that your business, through its culture and management team, is not cultivating an environment where bullying can flourish.

Experts agree that bullying thrives where it is common behaviour across the management team. This can be particularly common in highly competitive environments, where managers may see bullying as the accepted method of motivating staff. [Or as a method/tactic to disguise their incompetence]

If you're seeing multiple cases of bullying in your business, you need to look carefully at management styles. A lack of respect and poor management skills are often a central theme in environments where bullying is common.

Look out for the following traits in management and tackle them [Tackle them? Self-policing does not work in universities]:

  • An authoritarian style of management.
  • Failure to address previous incidences of bullying.
  • Unrealistic targets or deadlines.
  • Inappropriate performance management systems.

September 06, 2007

Unkindly Art of Mobbing in Academia

Twenty years ago, Swedish psychologist Heinz Leymann gave the name “mobbing” to this terror, taking the word from Konrad Lorenz’s research on aggression in non-human species. Mobbing of alien predators and sometimes of members of the same species occurs among many birds and primates. Something about the target arouses a fierce, contagious impulse to attack and destroy. Mobbers take turns vocalizing hostility and inflicting wounds. The target usually flees. Sometimes it is killed and eaten.

Violent mobbing is endemic to our species. Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson has analyzed lynching as a cannibalistic “ritual of blood.” Teenage swarming is similar, as in the murder of Reena Virk in Victoria, B.C., in 1997. Her friends set upon her in a frenzy of bloodlust, reviled and tortured her, and eventually held her head under water until she was dead.

Leymann studied the nonviolent, polite, sophisticated kind of mobbing that happens in ostensibly rational workplaces. Universities are an archetype. If professors despise a colleague to the point of feeling a desperate need to put the colleague down, pummeling the target is a foolish move. The mobbers lose and the target gains credibility. The more clever and effective strategy is to wear the target down emotionally by shunning, gossip, ridicule, bureaucratic hassles, and withholding of deserved rewards...

Mobbers seize upon a critical incident, some real or imagined misbehaviour they claim is proof of the target’s unworthiness to continue in the normal give-and-take of academic life. A degradation ritual is arranged, often in a dean’s office, sometimes in a campus tribunal. The object is to destroy the good name that is any professor’s main resource and to expose the target as not worth listening to. Public censure by the university administration leaves the target stigmatized for life.

Formal dismissal with attendant publicity is social elimination in its most conclusive form. In its more advanced stages, mobbing is rare. Leymann estimated that fewer than five per cent of ordinary workers are mobbed during their careers. The percentage among professors may be a little higher. In his comprehensive book on academic freedom, York University historian Michiel Horn recounts some famous cases from Canada’s past of what would today be called mobbing. Biochemist George Hunter’s firing from the University of Alberta in 1949 is one example. Historian Harry Crowe’s ouster from United College in Winnipeg in 1958 is another.

My own research has been on recent mobbings in academe. About two dozen of the 100 or so cases I have analyzed are from Canadian universities. Because McGill University closed down its inquiry into her death, the 1994 case of Justine Sergent is especially noteworthy. She was a successful neuropsychologist, whose adversaries positioned her on the wrong side of the local research ethics board. Sergent received a formal reprimand and grieved it. The Montreal Gazette learned of the dispute from an anonymous letter and ran with the story. “McGill researcher disciplined for breaking rules,” the headline read. The humiliation was more than Sergent could bear. She and her husband, Yves, wrote poignant letters the next day and then committed suicide...

At a practical level, every professor should be aware of conditions that increase vulnerability to mobbing in academe. Here are five:

• Foreign birth and upbringing, especially as signaled by a foreign accent
• Being different from most colleagues in an elemental way (by sex, for instance, sexual orientation, skin color, ethnicity, class origin, or credentials)
• Belonging to a discipline with ambiguous standards and objectives, especially those (like music or literature) most affected by post-modern scholarship
• Working under a dean or other administrator in whom, as Nietzsche put it, “the impulse to punish is powerful”
• An actual or contrived financial crunch in one’s academic unit (According to an African proverb, when the watering hole gets smaller, the animals get meaner)

Other conditions that heighten the risk of being mobbed are more directly under a prospective target’s control. Five major ones are:

• Having opposed the candidate who ends up winning appointment as one’s dean or chair (thereby looking stupid, wicked, or crazy in the latter’s eyes)
• Being a rate buster—achieving so much success in teaching or research that colleagues’ envy is aroused
• Publicly dissenting from politically correct ideas (meaning those held sacred by campus elites)
• Defending a pariah in campus politics or the larger cultural arena
• Blowing the whistle on, or even having knowledge of serious wrongdoing by, locally powerful workmates The upshot of available research is that no professor needs to worry much about being mobbed, even when in a generally vulnerable condition, so long as he or she does not rock the local academic boat.

The secret is to show deference to colleagues and administrators—to be the kind of scholar they want to keep around as a way of making themselves look good. Jung said that “a man’s hatred is always concentrated on that which makes him conscious of his bad qualities.

By Ken Westhues, a professor of sociology at the University of Waterloo. His books on mobbing include Eliminating Professors (1998), The Envy of Excellence (2005), and The Remedy and Prevention of Mobbing in Higher Education (2006). For web resources on academic mobbing, either google his name, or go to

Former polytechnics spread their wings

Fifteen years after John Major turned polys into 'new universities', the diversity that grew out of that change is breeding success. Tony Tysome, who reported on the reforms at the time, takes stock.

It has been described as both the best and the worst thing to happen to British higher education. Though some still criticise the decision to allow the former polytechnics to become "new" universities 15 years ago, most now generally accept that it was the right move and that it has helped the sector respond to 21st-century challenges...

Neil Williamson is a member of the University and College Union national executive who has witnessed rapid changes at De Montfort University, where he has been a lecturer since it dropped the title of Leicester Polytechnic. He said the impact on staff has inevitably been higher workloads and more work related stress.

"This has not been helped by the fact that the new universities have tended to adopt a more managerial approach to governance than the old universities, and there have been some glaring examples of bad practice.

From: Times Higher Education Supplement

Much more can be said about the management and leadership of some of the ex-polytechnics beyond 'some glaring examples of bad practice'. In some cases, managers became 'professors' without the expertise, knowledge and will to demonstrate management and academic leadership. In some ex-polytechnics staff are managed by 'professors' too busy in promoting their ego than caring about workplace welfare.

The new playground for some of these 'professors' is indeed the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals (now Universities UK). We are all 'principals' and 'vice-chancellors' now...

'Higher workloads and more work related stress' are often associated with hierarchical structures that lack accountability, transparency and good staff-management relations. Some older universities may not be exempt from this criticism, but certainly some ex-polytechnics are prime examples of poor staff-management relations.

September 05, 2007

Do you have a dysfunctional workplace?

Does your boss act out and throw tantrums like a spoiled child? Does your company ship most of its product the last 24 hours of the quarter? Are you afraid to bring up certain hot-button issues in meetings for fear of being humiliated? Do you spend more time covering your ass than you do sitting on it? Is your company in a perpetual state of limbo because nobody can make a decision? Does your company's mission statement change weekly?

These are all signs of a dysfunctional workplace. But don't fret; you're not alone. In fact, an entire lexicon has grown up around dysfunctional corporate behavior. See if you can recognize some of the issues that drive you and your co-workers nuts in these definitions:

Analysis paralysis. Chronic debating that obstructs the decision making process. Often a systemic problem within a company and a symptom of dysfunctional leadership, processes, and pretty much everything else. Also see disruptive management style.

Breathing your own fumes. When executives actually start to believe and make decisions based on the spin-doctored bulls--t they consistently spew out to the media, analysts, investors, customers and employees.

Blowing smoke up someone's ass. Feeding an insincere compliment or bulls--t to someone who should know better but hasn't been around long enough to develop a healthy, cynical filter against that sort of thing. Not to be confused with having your head stuck up someone's ass.

Committing political suicide. Pissing off or going toe-to-toe with your dysfunctional boss, some other self-important executive, or someone one of those people mistakenly trusts more than they trust you. AKA a career ending move.

CYA. Means cover your ass. It's what weak, small-minded people do when they should be doing the right thing instead.

Disruptive management style. Euphemism for an executive who chronically swoops into meetings and makes wild, half-assed decisions based on limited data. Also, an executive prone to mucking with processes and projects and making everyone affected want to strangle him. Can cause strategy or roadmap du jour and analysis paralysis.

Don't s--t where you eat. I think everybody knows this one...except maybe Bill Clinton.

End of quarter panic. The last week of the quarter when everybody--especially sales--wakes up and actually does their job. Usually results in pulling an all-nighter on the last day, followed by 12 weeks of partying.

Going down a rathole
. When two or more people get into a non-productive fight or argument over a hot topic where neither side will give in. Often occurs when one pushes another's buttons and can involve emotional outbursts, acting out, cursing and name-calling. See take it offline--the only cure.

Hallway meeting. This is when managers make decisions, in the hallway or in an office or cubicle, they shouldn't be making. The manager who is supposed to be making these decisions is typically missing from hallway meetings. Often the result of passive aggressive behavior and results in strategy or roadmap du jour.

Ivory tower mentality. When senior officers cut themselves off from employees, investors, and customers, typically by adding protective layers of superfluous executives, secretaries, voice mail systems, and outer offices. Caused by a deep fear of confronting their own issues, not because they think they're better than you.

Moral flexibility. I first heard this expression in the movie Grosse Pointe Blank where John Cusack's character is an assassin possessing a certain moral flexibility. Same thing with executives that possess this quality, except the fallout leads to fraud, scandal, and shareholders losing their savings, not their lives.

Passive aggressive behavior. When somebody agrees to a plan against his wishes--typically in a meeting with everyone present--and then goes off and does what he wanted to do in the first place, usually without telling anybody. Similar to an end around, can also be related to back stabbing.

Sacred cow. A project that's immune to the company's typical processes - like operating plans, phase reviews and budgeting--because it's a self-important executive's pet project. Not to be confused with a sacred animal you're not supposed to eat or wear, although drinking its milk is apparently okay.

Silo mentality. When people focus solely on themselves, their department, their division, whatever, to the detriment of the broader organization. Similar to bunker mentality, which is defensive behavior to protect a project or organization that should have been killed long ago.

Strategy du jour. When dysfunctional executives consistently overreact to a single data point or hallway meeting and take the entire organization in a new direction instead of sticking with "the plan." A serious problem that often results in spiraling morale, efficiency and operating performance. AKA roadmap du jour. Not to be confused with a common secondary symptom--reorg du jour.

Take it offline. What you do when one or more people get completely off-track or off-topic in a meeting, sometimes going down a rathole. Also, what you tell two people who are getting into an embarrassing display of childish emotion in what's supposed to be a civilized work environment.

Title inflation. When most of a company's employees are VPs who are not qualified to sweep a normal company's floors.


September 04, 2007

Why manners matter

You might think that standards of manners and behaviour at work are on the decline, but according to a new survey, good manners are critical if you want to move up the career ladder.

In fact, an overwhelming 95 percent of senior executives and managers surveyed by NFI research feel that good manners matter when it comes to advancing a person's career, with two thirds saying good manners are extremely important.

Nine out of 10 also said that their workplaces are normally well-mannered places, with nearly four out of 10 claiming that good manners are always practiced.

"This makes it clear that people should watch their manners at work if they are looking to get ahead," NFI Research CEO Chuck Martin said.

That's even more true of smaller businesses than large ones. Seven out of 10 executives in small businesses said that good manners were important in advancing a person's career compared to just over half (55 percent) of those in large organizations.

"Good manners are essential, not only in one's personal life but professionally, as well," one survey respondent said. "It is imperative that one get along with his co-workers, and good manners are the main ingredient."

Meanwhile, academic research has found that good manners in the workplace are more than just a nice-to-have.

Dr Barbara Griffin, from the University of Western Sydney in Australia, has found that colleagues or mangers who are rude and undermining can have a demonstrable negative impact on employee engagement and productivity.

She also found that one in five employees experience a significant incident of bad manners at work once a month.

"Rude and undermining colleagues are those who question your judgement, exclude you from situations, interrupt when you are speaking, make derogatory comments, withhold information or belittle your ideas," said Dr Griffin, an organisational psychologist.

"This type of behaviour is more subtle and diffuse than outright bullying", she added, "but it still has a large impact on employee engagement, including whether you stay in an organisation, speak positively about your job or go that extra mile. It can also cause psychological distress and poor physical health.

"Even the occasional rude comment is enough to lower engagement and make you feel less committed to your job."


September 03, 2007

Leeds Metropolitan University & Robbie Williams tribute band

Failure to attend a Robbie Williams tribute band may result in disciplinary proceedings

Anonymous said:

This years staff development is more bizzare than previous ones. We have been told that attendance at a Robby Williams Tribute band concert is compulsory. Failure to attend may result in disciplinary proceedings. Torture as well as bullying.

From Leeds Metropolitan University Staff Development Festival 2007:

The Staff Development Festival 2007 will be holding the Finale at the new addition to Leeds Metropolitan University - the Headingley Carnegie Stadium. The evening will consist of a gymnast display, a Robbie Williams tribute band, a choir of 100 voices and much more

Now then, is attendance compulsory and how does one guarantee numbers?

Increasing numbers of Employment Tribunal claims - UK

The Tribunals Service annual report shows that the Employment Tribunals' workload in 2006-07 was around 137,000 cases compared to 127,000 in 2005-06. This represents an annual increase of nearly 8%

Possible reasons for the increase

A widely held view is that the statutory dispute resolution procedures introduced in 2004 are at fault. The EEF, an industry body for engineering and manufacturing employers, puts it down to, "parties becoming more familiar with the rules" and "pre-application procedures not having the desired effect of cutting down claim numbers".

Many commentators have taken the view that, owing to both the vagueness of the procedures themselves, and the complexity of the regulations governing when they will or will not apply, the legislation makes it more, not less likely that a dispute may escalate to a tribunal hearing.

This is something that has been recognised by Government and in December 2006, it launched a root and branch review of Government support for resolving disputes in the workplace. It appointed Michael Gibbons, a member of the Ministerial Challenge Panel, to review the options for simplifying and improving all aspects of employment dispute resolution.

The Gibbons Review called for a radical overhaul of the current approach to resolving workplace disputes including repealing the statutory dispute resolution procedures. The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (formerly the DTI) has stated that it is committed to piloting any new approach to dispute resolution and the recommendations made in the Gibbons Review are now the subject of a consultation paper. We, through the Employment Lawyers' Association, have given feedback on our experience of how the procedures have operated in practice.

One area, which in our experience is causing an increasing number of claims, is related to bullying and harassment.

Bullying and harassment

ACAS describe these terms as interchangeable with many definitions including bullying as a form of harassment. Further, they state that:

* harassment, in general terms is, unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of men and women in the workplace. It may be related to age, sex, race, disability, religion, nationality or any personal characteristic of the individual, and may be persistent or an isolated incident. The key is that the actions or comments are viewed as demeaning and unacceptable to the recipient; and

* bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient. Bullying does not include legitimate and constructive criticism of a worker's performance or behaviour or reasonable requests made of workers.

Clearly, everyone should be treated with dignity and respect at work, but why do employers need to take action on bullying and harassment? Not only are they unacceptable on moral grounds but, may create, poor morale and employee relations, loss of respect for managers and supervisors, lead to poor performance and productivity, high absence and damage to company reputation.

Bullying and harassment can result in tribunal and other court cases against the company with the potential for payment of unlimited compensation. It is, therefore, in every employer's interests to promote a safe, healthy and fair environment in which people can work.

It is not possible to make a direct complaint to an employment tribunal about bullying. However, employees might be able to bring complaints under laws covering discrimination and harassment on one or more of the following grounds:

* sex;
* race;
* disability;
* sexual orientation;
* religion or belief; and
* age.

Handling bullying and harassment

ACAS outline the following 5 step guide for dealing with bullying and harassment in the workplace:

1. develop and implement a formal policy;
2. set a good example;
3. maintain fair procedures for dealing promptly with complaints from employees;
4. set standards of behaviour; and
5. let employees know that complaints of bullying and/or harassment, or information from staff relating to such complaints, will be dealt with fairly and confidentially and sensitively.

It is important that any complaints raised or information received about bullying and/or harassment are taken seriously and investigated promptly. Whilst ACAS suggest that some complaints may be dealt with informally, employers need to be wary of giving out the wrong message about how seriously the complaint is being taken if this approach is taken.

Depending on the outcome of the investigations into the bullying/harassment complaint, it may be that the use of counselling will help. Counselling can be particularly useful where the investigation shows no cause for disciplinary action, or where doubt is cast on the validity of the complaint. Counselling may resolve the issue or help support the person accused as well as the complainant.

However, the employer may decide that the matter is a disciplinary issue that needs to be dealt with at the appropriate level of the organisation's disciplinary procedure. As with any disciplinary problem it is important to follow a fair procedure. In the case of a complaint of bullying or harassment there must be fairness to both the complainant and the person accused.

There may be cases where somebody makes an unfounded allegation of bullying and/or harassment for malicious reasons. These cases should also be investigated and dealt with fairly and objectively under the disciplinary procedure.

In cases which appear to involve serious misconduct, and there is reason to separate the parties, a short period of suspension with pay of the alleged bully/ harasser may need to be considered while the case is being investigated. If then, the employer is contemplating dismissing an employee, the statutory procedures must be followed.


Whilst the number of claims being handled by the employment tribunals is on the increase, the underlying reasons for this are by no means certain. However, our experience shows that issues of bullying and harassment in the workplace are one area that is on the increase.

The ACAS 5 point plan is a useful guide for employers to ensure that they have the necessary policies and systems in place for handling complaints of bullying and harassment.

The problem of course with the ACAS 5 point plan is that managers do not set a good example, they do not always maintain fair procedures for dealing promptly with complaints, they do not set standards of behaviour, and complaints are not always dealt with fairly, confidentially and sensitively.

In the context of higher education, self-policing and self-regulation have simply failed. Could this be one more reason why the victims/targets have no faith in the selective application of statutory dispute resolution procedures, and resort to Employment Tribunals? What exactly is a victim/target meant to do?

Do we have any statistics breaking it down to different industries and professions, on how many Employment Tribunals could have been avoided if the statutory dispute resolution procedures were followed properly? Who is the biggest offender? Now that would be an eye-opener!

We want to know what onus - and if necesary compulsion - the Gibbons Review will place on employers to resolve disputes in a fair and transparent process.

September 02, 2007

Fat words...

We came across a document titled 'Equality & Diversity' put together by The Association of University Administrators (AUA), the Higher Education Equal Opportunities Network (HEEON) and the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU).

We quote:

'Bullying can be defined as offensive behaviour which violates a person's dignity, or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment, or which humiliates or undermines an individual or group. Such behaviour can be vindictive, cruel or malicious.

Bullying is generally considered to be a form of harassment that is not directly related to
discrimination. For example, the law explicitly covers sexual and racial harassment but at present does not explicitly cover bullying. Bullying can cause stress and employers may fail in their duty of care to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of employees, if they do not take steps to prevent it. Most HEIs now have policies, guidelines and codes of practice covering bullying.

Bullying can take various forms, from name calling, sarcasm, teasing, and unwarranted criticism, to threats of violence or actual physical violence. The Health and Safety Executive estimates that bullying costs employers up to 80 million working days a year in lost productivity and over £2 billion a year in lost revenue, Bullying can also cause low morale and produce a high turnover of staff


'Dignity is the human quality of being worthy of esteem or respect. Dignity at work refers to a set of principles, values and practices which ensures that all individuals are able to maintain their self-esteem and work in an environment free from all types of harassment and bullying.'

Dear AUA, HEEON and ECU,

We are all aware that most HEIs now have policies, guidelines and codes of practice covering bullying. The question is what happens when management are doing the bullying and then investigate themselves? Fact: Self-regulation does not work and the only recourse for the victims/targets is to suffer, lose their jobs and if they have the energy and money to pursue their case through the courts. Is this satisfactory?

So dear Dear AUA, HEEON and ECU, thank you for your lovely definitions. Now tell us how you will hold accountable the offenders. The landscape is littered with good academics suffering. Your definitions are just that, definitions and fat words, meaningless unless there is some action. Stop killing forests with lovely booklets and prospectuses - get beyond your fat words and save the taxpayer some real money.

September 01, 2007

Inmates running the asylum?

Anonymous said:

What I want to know is how a University can be expected to be held accountable by HEFCE if the University's Vice-Chancellor was a HEFCE Board member, chair of the HEFCE Quality Assessment, Learning and Teaching Committee, and member of the HEFCE Widening Participation Committee? Is this yet another case of the inmates running the asylum?