November 30, 2007

Choice quotes by certain University officials...

"I just thought it was rather appropriate for the Music Department orchestration of the collective grievance...." (laughs) - Prof Peter Scott, Vice-Chancellor Kingston University.

Also available in audio format:

National teacher-bullying crisis, Australia

MORE than 90 per cent of teachers say they have been bullied by colleagues.

The teachers also claim they have been exposed to unmanageable workloads and have been ignored, frozen out or excluded from decision making.

The frightening picture of dysfunctional relationships and low morale in schools is exposed in a new national online survey - the first of its kind in Australia.

More than 80 per cent of teachers say they have had their personal integrity undermined, responsibilities removed or added without consultation and have had concerns about unfair treatment, harassment and bullying dismissed.

According to survey responses the bullies - in order - are school executive staff, colleagues, principals and parents.

One in five teachers said they had had personal property attacked, such as their car or their office, and a similar number complain about physical abuse or threats of violence.

Many teachers also claimed they had been subjected to insults about their political or religious convictions at school.

Survey boss Dan Riley of the University of New England described the results as "frightening"

"We didn't expect to find what we did - we have a problem - teachers are not happy and we believe this is very serious," he said.

Dr Riley and Professor Deirdre Duncan from the Australian Catholic University surveyed more than 800 teachers in government, Catholic and independent schools.

The most serious findings were:

 NINETY-one per cent of teachers said their mental or physical health had suffered;

 NINETY per cent said they had been forced to deal with unmanageable workloads;

 NINETY per cent said they had been frozen out, ignored or excluded from decision-making;

 EIGHTY-eight per cent said their integrity had been undermined;

 EIGHTY-seven per cent said they had lost or gained responsibilities without consultation; and

 EIGHTY-three per cent said their concerns about unfair treatment, bullying and harassment had been dismissed.

Ninety-five per cent of teachers said they were not told when their work was unsatisfactory.

They also complained about superiors who frequently questioned their decisions and judgments, set tasks with unreasonable or impossible targets and deadlines and attempted to belittle or undermine their work.

"This is the first national electronic survey to seek the experiences of support staff, teachers, executives and principals in relation to staff bullying in both government and non-government schools," Dr Riley said.

"There's an enormous amount of pressure on schools to do more and more with less and less.

"And parents, with their rising expectations, are quite often prepared to challenge how things are done in schools."

A growing number of experts believe bullying is now more common between staff in schools than it is between students.


Also on the same story worth reading: National survey aims to remedy bullying of teachers

The banana republic strikes back...

Lawyers for the University of Lethbridge Board of Governors, President, Vice-President, Chair and Vice-Chair have approached the host of the website, demanding that the web host remove material from the site. If the site goes down, Robinson will maintain the site on another server and will try to have the site up again within hours.

The University of Lethbridge has ordered Robinson to remove this website. He has refused. Now disciplinary action has been taken to suspend Robinson for two months without pay.

More info at:

November 28, 2007

Birmingham University FOI Request

Between 2003 to December 2006, Birmingham University had:

5 claims for unfair dismissal
4 claims for race discrimination
3 claims for sex discrimination, breach of contract, breach of fixed term regulations
2 claims for disability discrimination
1 claim for disability discrimination and unfair dismissal
1 claim for unfair dismissal breach of fixed term worker relations
1 claim for breach of part time worker regulations, breach of contract
1 claim for deduction of wages, sex discrimination
1 claim for constructive unfair dismissal and harassment

Of these 12 cases were settled and 1 was successfully upheld at an Employment Tribunal. That leaves 6 cases ever lost or withdrawn.

Between August 2002 and December 2006 there have been 20 complains of bullying by managers and THREE were disciplined (17 got off!!!)

During the last five years there has been 48 workshops on bullying at Birmingham University, and 49 on disability discrimination.

Risk Assessment

Risk Assessment should be undertaken as a five-stage process:

i. Identify hazards – is there an excessive workload, etc?;

ii. Decide who may be harmed and how;

iii. Evaluate the risk and take action – how likely is this to cause serious problems for the employee concerned? If so, action needs to be taken.

iv. Record findings and formulate an action plan – plan should include timescales for actions;

v. Monitor and review the plan.

Although this is not a legal requirement, you are strongly recommended to follow these guidelines in order to meet your legal obligations and avoid tribunal claims.

From: Dignity at Work. A good practice guide for Higher Education institutions on dealing with bullying and harassment in the workplace

November 24, 2007

Negative work environment

Studies employing measures of global organisational environment have tended to find an association between a negative work environment and bullying. Bjorkqvist et al (1994) noted that previous studies by Leymann (e.g., 1986, 1992) indicate risk factors for bullying such as a strict hierarchical organisation, an authoritarian atmosphere and poor communication.

In his 1996 paper, Leymann reported that an analysis of around 800 case studies of workplace bullying suggests that ‘extremely poorly organised production and/or working methods and an almost helpless or uninterested management were found’. Hoel and Salin (2003) reported that studies by Keashly and Jagatic (2000) and Vartia (1996) suggest that communication and cooperation problems, low morale and negative social climate are associated with the presence of workplace bullying. Hoel and Cooper (2000), in their large survey of UK workplaces, found that experience of bullying was related to a negative work climate.

Around 83% of the self-referred victims of bullying in O’Moore et al’s (1998) study reported the work environment to be competitive, and 77% said their work environment was strained and stressful. In Einarsen et al’s (1998) study on assistant nurses in Norwegian hospitals, bullied nurses had a negative assessment of various aspects of their daily work.

In their recent study, Coyne et al (2003) found that self and peer nominated victims of bullying perceived the working environment to be characterised by more negative aspects (e.g., strained, stressful, regular change, authoritarian management and competitive) than other groups. However, they also found that other groups of victims (e.g., just self labelled victims) did not differ from the control group in their perceptions of the work environment. This led Coyne and colleagues to hypothesise whether organisational variables interact with personal variables (e.g., personality) to promote bullying.

‘Formal’ and ‘informal’ organisational culture

It has been hypothesised (see Hoel and Salin, 2003) that work cultures that contain close knit groups and with traditional autocratic management and leadership cultures (for example, the military) can be environments where bullying can flourish as social and organisational norms are difficult to challenge. This hypothesis is supported by results from surveys such as that of Rayner et al (2002, cited by Hoel and Salin, 2003) whereby bullies were believed to bully because they ‘could get away with it’.

However, in a paper discussing the concept of ‘incivility’ in the workplace, Andersson and Pearson (1999) hypothesised that ‘climates of informality’ – an informal and casual workplace – could actually encourage disrespectful behaviour. They suggest that in an informal setting, it is more difficult to determine what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviours, and therefore there is the potential for ‘incivility’, which may foster bullying.

From: Bullying at work: a review of the literature, authors: Johanna Beswick, Joanne Gore, David Palferman (HSE), 2006

November 13, 2007

One banana short of a republic

Why the “one banana short” website?

Over my years as a university professor, I have seen my share of puzzling administrative action. Often my view has been close up and first hand, having served as president of my faculty association, as president of the provincial confederation of faculty associations and as a member of the board of governors at my institution.

The frequent unwillingness (and sometimes almost pathological inability) of some administrators to exercise common sense and to reverse poor judgment can damage our institutions substantially. When the actions of the administration of public institutions evoke images of a Stalinist Keystone Cops episode, or a Monty Python skit, or a journey with Alice through Wonderland—or when such actions cause an institution to be but one banana short of a republic—it is time to examine the matter in a more public spotlight.

In this first issue, I am presenting matters at the University of Lethbridge, where I have taught for over twenty years. Others matters at the University of Lethbridge and other institutions will be discussed in forthcoming issues.

The purpose of this website is to challenge administrations of public institutions to perform in line with accepted standards of fair play, due process and natural justice—and to expose administrations where that does not happen.

Tom Robinson, Professor. The University of Lethbridge


November 12, 2007

Anonymous said

Eighty plus undergraduate students with learning disabilities, who have disabled students' allowances, have no formal provision for additional tuition as awarded under those allowances. Enquiries are being referred to a campus in another city, about one hour away by train. No staff in charge are on the campus.

Kingston University

On 8 November, 2007, Kingston University's barrister succesfully lodged a formal objection to the presentation of key relevant witness testimony during an Employment Tribunal hearing in a case brought by a former staff member alleging victimization.

Like the claimant, this witness also allegedly suffered victimization at the hands of the University, which involved, among others, the now former Personnel Director, Liz Lanchbery, and was prepared to bring forth a formal acknowledgement by the University of improper treatment.

The claimant had NO OTHER WITNESSES to be brought forward during a scheduled eight day hearing, while the University is bringing Prof Peter Scott, Liz Lanchbery, and a number of other staff members to defend against various allegations.

Do YOU think it is fair for the University to be able to parade a large number of witnesses before the Tribunal while denying the right of the claimant to bring in one single witness to read a short one page statement detailing experiences of being victimized after bringing forward a grievance?

WHY is Kingston University afraid of having this witness testify?
Could it be that they KNOW that the witness would help to PROVE that the University engaged in victimization of its staff members on a regular basis?

How many MORE times will the University try to silence this same witness when they are asked to come forward in other cases against the University, and in which their testimony would be extremely compelling?

What do YOU think?


November 11, 2007

Teachers’ helpline sees 400% increase in calls

INCREASING numbers of teachers and lecturers in Wales are seeking help for bullying, charities and unions said yesterday.

New figures also show a 400% rise in calls to national helplines. Teacher Support Network received 338 calls and emails regarding bullying and harassment by colleagues or managers across Wales and England last summer term, compared to just 83 in the summer term of 2006.

Research into the problem has now been launched by the University of Glamorgan and Teacher Support Network.

More than 130 people have taken part in the survey so far, with first results expected early next year.

Professor Duncan Lewis from Glamorgan’s Business School, who is leading the research, said it was unclear whether bullying had actually increased or whether people were more likely to recognise and report it.

He is also doing a second UK-wide study with £70,000 from the Economic and Social Research Council to look at bullying across the workforce in general.

“The Teacher Support Network and Teacher Support Cymru get increasing numbers of calls about bullying and harassment,” Professor Lewis said.

“We want to find out what people consider bullying and whether perceptions have changed. Are people who say they are being bullied really being bullied?

“We are also trying to find out where the source of bullying comes from. Quite often its reported as managers but it is just as likely that someone will be bullied by a colleague of equivalent grade or it could be school governors, parents or even pupils.”

The survey asks teachers and lecturers whether they have experienced 22 different types of “negative behaviour” at work including:

Gossip about themselves; Violence; Being denied access to leave or benefits; Being humiliated or ridiculed; Being ignored or excluded.

“None of the list mentions bullying because we don’t think there is a scientific definition for it,” Professor Lewis said. “It’s a matter of perception. One person’s bullying may be another’s banter.”

Sam, a 28-year-old primary teacher from Swansea, was bullied by two of her classroom assistants. She was so distraught that she considered going on long-term sick leave. She felt unable to talk to anyone about the situation but eventually contacted the Teacher Support Cymru helpline.

The verbal bullying took place in the classroom in front of the children and she said she also worried about the impact it was having on her pupils.

Sam said she felt unable to raise the issue because she was new at the school and “didn’t want to rock the boat”. She was also worried that she would not be believed.

“Bullying is a sensitive and difficult issue for most people. “There is usually a great reluctance among victims of bullying to speak out – they already feel isolated from other colleagues so don’t want to alienate themselves further and many have fears about lengthy disputes and tribunals – and this can often lead to time off due to stress and ill health.”

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, which is launching its own survey into bullying in the new year, believes the problem is on the increase.

Director Dr Philip Dixon said, “Bullying happens across the board. Part of the explanation is increasing pressure on senior managers to improve results.” He said there should be better training for lecturers and teachers becoming heads or principals of colleges.


November 09, 2007

University staff victims of anonymous and defamatory blogs

'We have previously reported on the growing amount of comment that appears in blogs and other postings on the internet about universities and individuals within them, usually members of academic staff or senior officers of the university. Sometimes remarks that are posted are disparaging, inaccurate and seriously defamatory of the university and individuals within it. It can be very hurtful to be on the receiving end of such libellous comments and dealing with it causes even more stress to those involved.

As the web postings are usually anonymous, it can be difficult to know what to do about them if it is not possible to resolve the matter through dialogue with the website operator. Whilst it is often possible to persuade the operator to remove the offending content, in certain circumstances it may also be necessary to pursue the authors themselves, and operators will not be willing to disclose the identity of their members voluntarily.

On 18 October, the High Court gave some guidance on when it might make an order against a website operator requiring them to disclose information about anonymous postings. The Claimants, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club and others, wanted subscriber information for a number of contributors to an unofficial supporters club relating to 14 web entries which they considered to be defamatory. The judge refused to order the information sought in relation to 9 of the 14 web entries.

There are 3 requirements for such a disclosure order to be made: 1. a wrong must have been committed or be imminent; 2. the order must be necessary for a defamation action to be brought; and 3. the party against whom the order is sought must have facilitated the wrong and be in possession of the necessary information. Requirements 2 and 3 will usually be satisfied (as they were in this case). Requirement 1 is likely to be trickier. The test is whether the web entry is "arguably defamatory". Even if the postings satisfy the requirement, the Court has discretion to refuse to grant an order and takes into account the seriousness and strength of the case. The judge found that 9 of the postings were unlikely to have been taken seriously or result in quantifiable harm and refused to order the disclosure of information about them.

The Court had to balance the website members' rights to anonymity and freedom of expression against the claimant's right to protect their reputation. The Court regarded the other 5 postings which contained allegations of greed and dishonesty as tipping the balance in favour of the claimants getting an order.

The case illustrates some of the difficulties that will need to be overcome if formal action is to be contemplated. The guidance is really interesting. It's possibly the first case of online defamation we've had in this country where the right to privacy has outweighed the right to protect a reputation simply because defamatory comments were trivial.

The judge said it was relevant "to consider whether the words complained of were, even if strictly defamatory, more than a trivial attack which would not be taken seriously...I do not think it would be right to make an order for the disclosure of the identities of users who have posted messages which are barely defamatory or little more than abusive or likely to be understood as jokes - that, it seems to me, would be disproportionate and unjustifiably intrusive.

From: Pinsent Mason Universities Legal Briefing, October 2007

November 06, 2007

7th November 2007: Anti-bullying day at work, part 2: UCU has spoken...

'I faced public humiliation' - Higher and further education are failing to tackle bullying among staff, a new survey indicates

Roger Kline, Tuesday November 6, 2007 - The Guardian

Tomorrow is Ban Bullying at Work Day; a message that doesn't appear to have got through to all parts of further and higher education.

Academics at a major northern university claim that 42% feel intimidated at work, 37% feel their work is belittled and 24% feel they have been humiliated by bullying incidents.

The University and College Union survey of members at Leeds Metropolitan University (with a 41% response rate) suggests a management culture at odds with the university's goals of challenging received wisdom, encouraging students to think and promoting collaborative inquiry. Some 96% of respondents said they felt inhibited about positively criticising policies of Leeds Met and 63% reported witnessing bullying at work.


As one respondent put it: "There is an atmosphere of fear and a feeling that decisions cannot be challenged constructively - it is tantamount to treason"...

It is clear that some institutions struggle to acknowledge that bullying is a problem. At one institution, HSE findings of bullying in the vice-chancellor's own department led to the report being shelved until the vice-chancellor left. Another university can't be named because the allegations of bullying are themselves a possible source of litigation by the university...

O'Dell, in her original grievance, had the courage to capture the experience of many who have experienced bullying. She wrote: "Several other witnesses who have given statements to me are unwilling to share them with management, for fear of their continuing employment. Unfortunately, my faith in this organisation, and in this profession, is destroyed. The thought of working in this department fills me with dread. It is not just the treatment I have received, but the way management have condoned it through doing nothing."

Read the rest of the article in The Guardian. The University and Colleges Union has spoken... at last... and our pigeon holes are full of anti-bullying posters...

7th November 2007: Anti-bullying day at work

Today we remember... everything we have experienced, the harassment and the bullying... we also remember those who suffer silently, who fear for their jobs and their positions... we remember the silent and the vocal and active collaborators... we also remember the useless and worthless procedures and policies... we remember how inadequate they were and still are... we remember the suffering, the pain and the depression... today we have so much to remember, but we remember it every day anyway... when does closure come? Today we remember...

Ban Bullying at Work Day

November 05, 2007

Make us an offer...

Billington v Michael Hunter and Sons Ltd

- An offer by an employer to allow an employee to resign on
favourable terms thus keeping a "clean" CV can be an important factor
in enabling the employee to resign and claim constructive dismissal
on the basis that the employer had breached the implied term of trust
and confidence implied into employment contracts

BNP Paribas v Mezzotero

- The fact that a discussion between an employee and an employer is
described by the employer as being "without prejudice" does NOT of
itself automatically mean that evidence of that discussion is barred
from being used as evidence in a subsequent case relating to the same
subject matter.

Quote: Concluding paragraphs:

"In the present case, as Mr Galbraith-Marten points out, the logical result of Mr Davies' submission is that an employer in dispute with a black employee could say during discussions aimed at settlement in a meeting expressed to be being held without prejudice, "we do not want you here because you are black" and could then seek to argue that the discussions should be excluded from consideration by a Tribunal hearing a complaint of race discrimination.

Mr Davies immediately says that such a remark would obviously fall under the umbrella of unambiguous impropriety. I agree. However, Mr Davies is then faced with the unattractive task of attaching different levels of impropriety to fact-sensitive allegations of discrimination, in order to submit that the present remarks do not fall under the same umbrella. I do not regard that as a permissible approach. I would regard the employer's conduct, as alleged in the
circumstances of the present case, as falling within that umbrella and as an exception to the "without prejudice" rule within the abuse principle, rather than it was as previously described, in terms of prejudice in the case of re Daintrey.

I do not regard this case as creating an impermissible extension to the categories of the rule, exceptions which will always fall to be considered within the particular factual context of the case and which, in the present case concerns discriminatory conduct by employers towards one of their employees. For all these reasons this appeal must be dismissed."

November 04, 2007

Innocent bystanders?

Bullying in the workplace can seriously damage staff morale, but should you intervene when you see a colleague being victimised? Karen Higginbottom investigates.

Karen Higginbottom - The Guardian - Saturday November 3 2007

'The only way that bullying would stop in that organisation is if somebody commits suicide," says 28-year-old Chloe*, reflecting on her experience of witnessing bullying in the HR department of a financial services firm in the City of London in 2005. "The woman who was being bullied was very popular and funny and worked in the same department as me. Everybody really liked her ... apart from the team leader," she recalls. "I saw everybody's bonuses and the minimum bonus was always given to this woman."

The bullying came in a subtle form, recalls Chloe. "I didn't see the team leader do anything horrible to her but she wasn't allowed to have a lunchbreak or go to the company gym and had to complete work even if that meant doing overtime."

Chloe commiserated with her beleaguered colleague but didn't intervene on her behalf. "I told her that the other woman's behaviour towards her was totally unfair. I didn't know what to do and I certainly didn't want to be labelled as a troublemaker for saying anything."

Strangely enough the woman, who was bullied over a three-year period, didn't quit the organisation. "She just shrugged it off. There was a bullying culture in the organisation, which had high expectations of performance and staying late."

Why don't people intervene when they see colleagues being bullied at work? Often it's the fear factor, says Mandy Telford, coordinator for Dignity at Work at Unite union. "People are frightened that bullying will happen to them and they will lose their job."

There is scant research on the impact of bullying on witnesses in the workplace. A project by Portsmouth Business School last year found that witnesses to bullying often suffered stress and became frightened and insecure in their job. A survey of more than 5,000 workers from 70 organisations carried out by the authors of Workplace Bullying: What We Know, Who Is to Blame and What Can We Do? (Taylor & Francis) suggests one in five witnesses of bullying leaves the company.

But some of us may not be aware that we're witnessing bullying, which comes in many forms and can be as subtle as deliberately excluding people from meetings or blatantly undermining comments about a person's appearance or performance, says Lynne Witheridge, chief executive of anti-bullying charity The Andrea Adams Trust.

"Bullying is often a brutal form of psychological torture and work is often just like the school playground, where people feel they have to join in with the bullying or they will be picked on," Witheridge says. She believes that the victim of bullying is often hurt by the lack of action by witnesses. "They might meet the target of the bully in the lift or a private place, but they don't stand up for them," she says.

She urges witnesses to intervene directly if they see bullying and to say that it is unacceptable behaviour.

This is what Helen* did when she witnessed the sustained bullying of her manager Mary* by her overall boss Annalise* at one of the departments within the UN Mission in Kosovo in 2001. "Annalise was in her mid-40s and started undermining Mary as soon as she arrived," recalls Helen. "She would speak to her in an undermining way in front of junior staff and talk to other people outside the department about the complete mess that Mary had made. Annalise's remarks had a personal edge to them. Mary came from a prominent political family in the US and Annalise would call her a 'privileged princess'." Helen believes that Annalise's bullying stemmed from a desire to make her mark on the department. "She was power-hungry and crazed."

Helen was initially quite friendly with Annalise, as she had arrived at the same time. "It took three months before the bullying became overt and Annalise lost her temper with Mary in a team meeting in a way that was utterly unprofessional."

The incident prompted Helen to confront Annalise later that day. "I told her I couldn't support her and felt she was victimising Mary, that her behaviour was unacceptable. However, the reason I was able to confront her was because I knew she couldn't fire me, as I had been directly appointed by the Foreign Office. It made a big difference."

Mary stayed on in her job but the atmosphere became very frosty, says Helen. Both Helen and Mary saw a counsellor at work as a result of the bullying and they approached the second-in-command at the UN mission in an attempt to tackle the problem.

"I talked to him and explained that Annalise had lied and undermined Mary, but nothing happened," says Helen. "In the end Mary and I left."

Unfortunately, managers are often inadequately trained to deal with bullying, says Mandy Telford. "Managers aren't given the skills to deal with allegations of bullying. Some employers are starting to take it seriously and others are still sweeping it under the carpet, thinking it's a personality clash or political correctness gone crazy."

John* works in an environmental role for a rural local authority. He has witnessed sustained bullying from a manager to a female colleagues in his department. "The manager was a bully who used to call staff into one-to-one sessions and criticise their work," says John. "There was one particular lady called Melinda* who was singled out. He criticised the way she did her work and made unreasonable requests of her that were beyond her remit." After one of these one-to-ones, Melinda came out of the room crying. I took her aside and asked her why she let him speak to her like that."

John advised Melinda on how to deal with the bully if she felt pressurised by him. "I recommended that she ask a colleague to be present in her one-to-one meetings and make notes of those meetings."

Melinda has stayed in the job and learned to deal with her bullying manager in the best way she can, adds John. "The management style of the council comes directly from the chief executive, who bullies the directors, who in turn bully the management." Management have been ineffectual in dealing with the bullying by this particular manager, says John.

"When it comes to a tribunal, people come forward as witnesses but then back out. Staff have been moved from the team rather than deal with the problem. That is how management deals with it." The bullying manager is still in the post. "The situation has affected staff morale, work efficiency and created a climate of distrust."

*Names have been changed

What to do if you witness bullying

· Let your HR department know right now. Tomorrow may be too late and you could be next.

· Help the bullied by letting them know that they are not the only person in the office to be on the receiving end (which research shows is usually the case).

· Try to encourage others in the office who may also be recipients or witnesses of the bullying to help support the bullied person.

· Don't be afraid to take action because many organisations now know the personal, health and organisational damage that bullying can cause.

· Remember that not only are you helping the individual and the organisation but research suggests that witnesses themselves can be damaged indirectly by a bullying culture ... so you may be preventing your own ill health.

Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University


November 02, 2007

Lack of management skills main reason for workplace bullying

New research released by the Ban Bullying At Work campaign reveals that two thirds of managers believe that lack of management skills is the major factor contributing to bullying. Unrealistic targets (27%), authoritarian management styles (56%), personality (57%) and failure to address incidents (37%) are also cited as contributory factors.

Lyn Witheridge, CEO of the Ban Bullying At Work campaign, said: “It is clear that managers now acknowledge that bullying behaviour in the workplace takes many forms and creates deep repercussions.

“In fact bullying costs UK businesses £18 billion per year and one in four people has experienced bullying in the workplace. We are challenging businesses to speak out against bullying to create workplaces where employees can see clearly that bullying behaviours will not be tolerated. We want to inspire managers to speak out and instill a culture where business is not frightened to stand-up to the bullies.”

National Ban Bullying At Work Day takes place on 7th November, and more information is available at
How do we achieve inspired academic managers standing-up against workplace bullying, when the offenders are usually among their ranks?