March 28, 2008

...

Stuart said...

Someone once said you can never overestimate the sincerity and dedication of bullies or their acolytes, and never underestimate their stupidity. This puts you in opposition with people who are totally dedicated to the bully, often irrational and incapable of seeing the injustice of their actions. You are simply disloyal and anything otherwise is like trying to reason with a group of toddlers. (Imagine if they were all aged 2-3 and you took them through the sweetie section of a supermarket - familiar?) - Stuart
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From 'Innocent Bystanders' we quote: '...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...'

From 'The Bystander Effect' we quote: 'The bystander effect is watching some evil take place, but since we are watching with others who are watching, and no one seems to be doing anything about the evil, we go on watching and doing nothing about it.'

From 'Groupthink' we quote:

'1. Illusion of invulnerability – Creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks.

2. Collective rationalization – Members discount warnings and do not reconsider their assumptions.

3. Belief in inherent morality – Members believe in the rightness of their cause and therefore ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.

4. Stereotyped views of out-groups – Negative views of “enemy” make effective responses to conflict seem unnecessary.

5. Direct pressure on dissenters – Members are under pressure not to express arguments against any of the group’s views.

6. Self-censorship – Doubts and deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed.

7. Illusion of unanimity – The majority view and judgments are assumed to be unanimous.

8. Self-appointed ‘mindguards’ – Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions.

From 'The Betrayal of the Bystanders' we quote: '...For example, if someone has known you for ten years, they see your track record of conduct for the last ten years. In other words, they have seen how you conduct yourself along this way of life we're bound upon. No, they don't see everything you've said and done. But they have seen a lot. They have seen you react to many various stimuli.

That track record of yours sketches your character in their eyes. This representation of what kind of person you are is based on your CONDUCT (your words and deeds), not on mere hearsay about you.
So no one should be able to come along and tell them JUST ANYTHING about you...

To believe these things about you they have to unknow everything they know about you. That is, they have to unknow you. They have to revise history. They have to erase that track record of yours.
And that track record is your life. They have to wipe it out. That takes your life. Which is why they call it "character assassination." Your whole life goes up in smoke. And a figment of the imagination is substituted for it...'

March 27, 2008

Staff give sector managers low marks

University staff have the worst perceptions of their managers of any employment sector, seeing them as secretive, uncaring and controlling, according to new research. The Work-Life Balance 2007 survey carried out by Coventry University asked 2,300 employees across ten sectors for their opinions on the leadership styles of senior managers in their organisations.

"The results for higher education were far from flattering and among the worst of any sector we analysed," the researchers said. "The leadership styles in higher education were perceived to be predominantly reactive, secretive, inconsistent, demotivating, controlling and indecisive."

More than half of the 300 higher education employees surveyed said that their managers were reactive (53 per cent), secretive (52 per cent) and inconsistent (51 per cent) compared with 40 per cent, 42 per cent and 40 per cent respectively in the private sector.

Only a third of university workers said their leaders were caring, compared with almost half of private-sector respondents. Fewer than a quarter of higher education staff felt that their organisation was loyal to them and that it treated them fairly, while more than 40 per cent of private sector staff felt this way.

University staff were also more likely to say they had experienced bullying by managers and colleagues and more likely to report stress than other workers, the survey found. A quarter of university respondents said they felt stressed all of the time or almost all of the time, compared with 19 per cent of staff in other parts of the public sector and 15 per cent in the private sector.

Ewart Wooldridge, chief executive of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, said the report made "disturbing reading". "It is the kind of evidence we would want to build into our leadership programmes to help participants reflect on sector-wide issues and take those messages back to their institutions," he said. "We are using research-based evidence of our own as the basis for real-life case studies on a wide range of leadership issues, as we think leaders learn best from reflecting on that reality."

Roger Kline, equalities officer for the University and College Union, said: "The report confirms the results of our own surveys, which show there is an epidemic of stress and bullying arising out of poor management.

"Stress is an institutional issue. Universities should not hide behind the idea that it is good for employees or that it is primarily caused by problems in their personal lives," he said. The UCU wants bullying to be regarded as a workplace hazard that needs risk assessment, Mr Kline said.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association said that the sector placed a "great deal of emphasis" on stress management.

A Ucea spokesman added: "Although this report is based on responses from only 300 higher education sector academic and support staff, there are considerations for all levels of staff. It is reassuring to note that many institutions have exemplary policies and procedures in place to tackle issues such as stress, bullying and harassment."

From: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk, by Melanie Newman
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Academic managers are predominantly reactive, secretive, inconsistent, demotivating, controlling and indecisive. - YEAP.

Fewer than a quarter of higher education staff felt that their organisation was loyal to them and that it treated them fairly. - YEAP.

A quarter of university respondents said they felt stressed all of the time or almost all of the time. - YEAP.

Now then, what will UCU do about it? What will the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education do about it? What will the UCEA do about it? What will HEFCE do about it? What will the Minister of State, Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, Mr Bill Rammell MP, do about it?

Quote from the web site of the 'Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills':

'Britain's higher education is a major contributor to the economic success and social well being of the country. Higher education is a national asset, whose excellence in teaching and research is world recognised. Better educated and more highly skilled people are more likely to be in work, earn more and contribute more productively to our economy and society. Knowledge and skills provide people with their surest way into work and prosperity, helping eradicate the causes of poverty and division.

About 70% of the 2020 workforce is already beyond compulsory education age. We will therefore have to raise skill levels amongst the current workforce in order for Britain to compete successfully.
The future of higher education must be one where:

* higher education institutions work to widen participation beyond young people leaving college or school with good A levels;
* put learners and employers at the heart of their provision; and
* strengthen their leading position in international education through excellent teaching and innovative research.'

Dear Mr Bill Rammell, you will achieve very little of the above when we as academics continue to suffer - very little, for nobody can be productive if they work with fear, lack of dignity and lack of protection from abusive managers. You better have a chat with UCEA to do something about it. As a politician, if you find it difficult to identify with the human suffering, perhaps you may identify with the ever-raising costs of workplace bullying.

March 26, 2008

Anonymous said... and anonymous is right!

It's not just about anger - some (most?) of the "finest" bullies in higher education wear smiles most of the time. It's a matter of manipulation and establishing stratified order with those at the bottom denied opportunities or acknowledgment. Forgive me if I am ruffling feathers, but I have found that women are most often "skilled" at this sort of "kind-faced" bullying based on their likes and dislikes, particularly if you are what has been described in this blog as a "target." There is little recourse for situations like this because if you object to the situation in a kind or direct manner, this is considered aggressive and you run the risk of being labeled a problem or a bully.

Anonymous

Dear anonymous, you will find that the finest academic bullies (or psychopaths) display the following 'qualities':

Glib and superficial charm, grandiose self-worth, need for stimulation or proneness to boredom, pathological lying, conning and manipulativeness, lack of remorse or guilt, shallow affect - emotional poverty, callousness and lack of empathy, parasitic lifestyle, poor behavioral controls, promiscuous sexual behavior, lack of realistic, long-term goals, failure to accept responsibility for own actions, and criminal versatility.

These 'qualities' are identified in both male and female academic managers, occasionally working in partnerships, often feeding from each other as they pursue their rituals of destruction, nepotism and empire-building.

The vast majority of people do not see through the manipulative smile and often consider the bully (psychopath) to be an intelligent and charming person. Academia is full of such trash.

Short stories

I had no idea this happened to others. At my previous job, as an academic radiologist in what purports itself to be the best academic radiology department in NYC, I was first set upon by my section chief, who would behind my back accuse me of not finishing my work, or leaving early–transgression she herself was guilty of, according to the many support staff who finally could not keep this fact from me. I put in a vacation request, six months ahead of time for a week no one else had asked for, and when the week actually came and I was away, an email was sent to my co-workers about how I must have scribbled my name in last over the others who took the week off, apologizing that everyone would now suffer because of my irresponsibility. When I emailed the Vice Chairman of Clinical Affairs to intervene, he completely ignored it.

I was asked to give a lecture at a major conference, the first lecture I’d given, and received virtually no guidance in the process. After I’d given it, my boss never shared the reviews with me. After another section chief told he he’s seen mine, I discovered in fact, i’d gotten better reviews than my boss did. However, when the conference came up the following year, she gave my lecture to someone else, saying that my reviews were terrible, and that someone else asked I not give it.

But it didn’t even stop with my section chief, because despite winning a teaching award from my students, I was given no students to mentor. Ostensibly because I was “part time,” working 4 days a week, and not doing research because I was working on outside creative projects– although I did as much or more clinical work than every person in my section. This was evidently not a role model the chairman felt should be promoted.

I finally decided to quit when my boss was promoted to be Vice Chairman of Education, in charge of the mentoring program! I endured a three month notice before my last day of work, during which I did everything I could to walk out the door without burning any bridges, but during the last week the department refused to digitize the rest of my teaching files, which I was planning to leave behind for my students. At which point I withdrew myself from a propaganda article that was being disseminated to the community about the importance of teaching to the department. From this point on, my chairman refused to make eye contact with me.

Worse yet, my boyfriend, who still worked there, was given carefully worded hints not to be seen with me at any social function, and this contributed to our breakup.

It was the most malignant job I ever had, and three weeks after I left, I looked in my bathroom mirror and saw a face that looked two years younger than the one I had on my last day of work. I am now more academically productive at a small community hospital, than I ever could be at said stalwart of academia.

Thank you.

Posted by Jennifer Martino, MD
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Yes, I was bullied at a major academic institution by my department chair and dean. I was only one in a long line of people who were abused by the chair. The dean condoned it by looking the other way and actually supporting him. Despite a substantial grievance decision against the chair, I was out and he was promoted.

Posted by catch22
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I’m an academic at a university in Georgia, and I’ve been bullied by several colleagues in my department for 12 years. I’ve been treated with disdain, given an unexpectedly bad review when I was pregnant (and told “not to use the pregnancy as an excuse.”)My achievements have been ignored, and new rules were created on the spot to rationalize not giving me promotion. At one time, rumors were spread that I was an alcoholic (I almost never drink!), and that I had been deriding colleagues by name in class. I raised the issue with the University’s affirmative action office(nothing happened, not least because the officer saw her job as one of containing complaints), and four successive deans (all of whom refused to act, and accused me of a “lack of collegiality.”) My productivity was ruined, making it impossible for me to find another job in my field.

I now have major health problems,including cancer. I hate to lose a battle with bullies, which is why I have stuck this out for such an insanely long period, but I’m not sure I can deal with this situation anymore. Meanwhile, I have several supportive and decent colleagues who have helped persuade me that it is not my fault that this has happened (for many years, I did blame myself). And my students’ respect for me has kept me going. Much of the problem is systemic, not only in academe but in this particular region: Georgia has traditionally had an authoritarian culture that values pecking orders, and a “merit” pay system has bred distrust and resentment among faculty. I urge lawmakers to treat workplace bullying as the insidious and enormous problem that it is.

Posted by Anon in GA
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As an assistant professor at a nondescript liberal arts college, I was relentlessly bullied by one of my higher ranked colleagues. She harassed me with phone calls to my home about my failings, egged students on to challenge my grading system, ranted at me in the corridors about trivial matters, and unleashed her temperamental disapproval of me in front of my pupils. I complained to an administrator, who told me to forget it. It turned out that the colleague and the supervisor were having an affair. Needless to say, I resigned as soon as I could.

Posted by Dulce
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As a survivor of workplace harrassment, I can testify that it can be a devestating personal and professional nighmare. I carry the emotional scars of the experience to this day, and am still healing even though it’s been three years since I left the position. When looking back, I marvel that I didn’t have even more serious health problems as a result of the abuse. The experience took place at a major university, and, because I enlisted the help of the union and filed a claim with the EEOC, the university offered me a settlement which I agreed to, only because of my tattered soul after having stood up for myself over the course of two years.

I learned a lot. Sadly, it was to confirm the saying, “Bad things happen when good people do nothing.” Many staff, academic collaborators and community partners recognized my bosses horrible behavior, and of all who saw what she did, only one stood by me to say she would go the course to defend my case. My union representative kept telling me how much he admired my strenght because one other woman he worked with had attempted suicide because of the stress. I also learned that I needed to learn better how to duck.

Posted by Jan Look
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I have been on the receiving end of about half of the behaviors listed... from my students at a large state university. Eye-rolling and hateful glaring is just the beginning. Foul language in class, name-calling and the spreading of gossip on the web, sabotaging of equipment in the lecture room, the refusal of students not in my class to leave the room when my class begins, and finally, vague but disturbing threats of violence (”I know where you live”) — all of these have happened to me in the last few months. This does not stop when the term is over, either: students and their parents threaten lawsuits over poor grades and bombard me with hateful e-mail and phone messages. My chair has let me know that the evaluations that really count, those from my colleagues, are great, and that all of this complaining and misbehavior from students should be ignored as so much noise: but it’s very hard to do and requires a much thicker skin than mine.

I had thought that a career in higher education would avoid the behavior problems that plague public school classrooms — but it turns out not to be so. I dread going to class so much that it has made me ill. There’s no logic to the harassment: can students really think that they can get a better grade, or somehow get “revenge” for a poor grade, by making my job difficult? All I can conclude is that deliberately hurtful and insulting behavior has become a cultural norm, a kind of knee-jerk reaction to even the smallest disappointment or fear of insufficiency.

Posted by stressed professor
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I have worked in a large, famous public university. I recently left a position where my supervisor yelled, did not listen, excluded, assigned projects but took them over without telling me, and whose manner was rude and abusive. Her supervisor, the higher administration, and ombudsman refused to take action. I found another position on campus. The monster continues her rampage, unchecked. Pathetic.

Posted by diane
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As the manager of a university-based program, I had 2 employees (both women) who were bullies. The one was an overt bully and a destructive gossip. Many other employees complained about her; this resulted is several closed-door “coaching” sessions between us. She was a master of manipulation. Usually, the talks resulted in her sobbing and claiming to be misunderstood. The power of her bullying really came to light one day when she lashed out at me (her boss) and started screaming and swearing. I calmly said, “You are addressing me in an inappropriate manner, and you owe me an apology.” Again, she started crying and begged forgiveness. Unfortunately, within the politically correct university system, I could not fire her for being repeatedly out of control. I could only add comments to her performance appraisal– which led to gossip about me being an unfair boss.

The other bully was very covert until the lid was blown off the office-wide spy ring that she controlled. I was totally fooled and thought she was a hard-working employee– until one day when one of her employees came to me to complain. He claimed that she targeted particular employees for elimination and had 2 male employees who went through trash cans and read other employees’ e-mails to gather the dirt. When it was adventageous for her, she let tid-bits of dirt slip out in gossip. (Of course bully #1 above gleefully spread the gossip around.) Sometimes one of them would bring the misinformation directly to me. “Welllll, I thought you should know….”

Eventually 7 of her employees came to me and confidentially told me about threats and other misdeeds. Part of her downfall was that she openly spoke of her plots in Spanish to one of her cronies; she didn’t realize that the initial informant (an anglo) knew Spanish.

I took all of this information to Human Resources and followed all of their advice. I gathered 500 pages of evidence against her– personal letters from the wronged employees, progressive dicipline documents, and even her job applications on which she lied about her experience. She played the system to the hilt– claiming racial and ethnic discrimination on my part. In the end, nothing came of it.

The university said I had gathered “too much information,” and they didn’t have the money to hire a lawyer to go through it all and build a case her. Since she was a classified staff employee (very protected in the university system) she moved to another university department — where they didn’t know her past. I was adjunct faculty (very vulnerable in the university system). Consequently, I became the scapegoat and was laid off. The morale of the story: bullies can pick on underlings and bosses!! Getting laid off was the best thing that could have happened to me. It was incredibly stressful dealing with these evil people.

Posted by Pamela
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I work at a college in New England, where I had a bully for a boss. She routinely humiliated her staff in meetings, ignored ideas and suggestions, and discounted her staff members’ expertise. She would not tolerate disagreement, and, with her angry responses to anything she perceived as dissent, created an atmosphere in which no one dared question any of her orders.

I finally realized that she was simply ruling through fear — her own fear, that is. She was so terrified of her superiors that she could not trust any of her staff, for fear they might do something — anything — wrong. Furthermore, she was so afraid of getting in trouble that she based her decisions on fear rather that on what was actually good for the college. What good does that do anyone?

Fear begets fear. The fearful do not make sound or proactive decisions.

Posted by Just Staff
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Bullying is regularly used in academia to attempt to remove tenured professors. The targeted professor is usually labeled as “dead wood”, given higher teaching loads, refused needed resources, denied significant assignments, refused praise for good work and denied salary increases. Gossip is spread to reinforce the “dead wood” label, turning colleagues against the targeted professor.

If the targeted professor stays in the job, his low status, low salary and the fact that he has to constantly endure the poor opinions that his peers are encouraged to hold about him inevitably lead to depression.

If he chooses to leave, he will have difficulty finding another job without good references from the very people who are bullying him - in other words, he will be unable to find a good position. If he has to support a family and pay a mortgage, he cannot leave and so is trapped in a position that leads to stress and depression and the resulting physical problems these factors cause. If he doesn’t quit because of the bullying, he’ll probably be forced to quit for health reasons.
It is time for academia to put a stop to this common practice.

Posted by NN
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From: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/24/have-you-been-bullied-at-work/

March 25, 2008

The university has robust quality assurance procedures in place...

An academic has won the right to sue her university for constructive dismissal - even though she signed a "compromise agreement" and agreed a £30,000 severance payment. Angela Ward had worked as a reader in law at the University of Essex for six years when her manager raised concerns about complaints from students.

In response, Dr Ward wrote a "without prejudice" letter to her employer in which she raised a number of complaints against the university but offered an "amicable withdrawal" in return for a negotiated package. A payment of £30,000 was agreed, and she signed a compromise agreement.

After signing the agreement, Dr Ward wrote another letter of complaint to the university. Matters raised included "infirmities in the examination process" in the law department. She claimed that colleagues had revealed the content of exam papers, putting her in an impossible position, that complaints against her were groundless and that university procedures had not been followed.

Dr Ward later decided to sue the university for constructive and unfair dismissal, telling an employment tribunal that the compromise agreement was invalid because she had signed it under pressure.

The university argued that Dr Ward had not followed procedures by raising a formal grievance and that her claim was therefore out of time, as she had left the university more than three months earlier. It also argued that if she had raised a grievance, it was invalidated by the compromise agreement.

The first tribunal agreed with Essex. But the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the "without prejudice" letter was a valid grievance as it detailed the substance of her complaints in writing. The fact that it contained an offer to settle did not affect this. If a grievance is started, a claimant is given an extra three months to file his or her claim.

Dr Ward's solicitor, James Tait of Shakespeare Putsman, said: "A properly drafted compromise agreement will preclude a tribunal claim. Essex did not draft the agreement properly, and neither did it deal with the grievance. It left itself wide open." If a grievance is raised by an employee and not dealt with by the employer, the compensation awarded in a successful claim may be increased by up to 50 per cent.

A spokesperson for Essex said: "The university has robust quality assurance procedures in place. However it is not our policy to comment on ongoing cases, and the Employment Appeal Tribunal has now referred this case back to the Employment Tribunal."

From: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk, by Melanie Newman

March 24, 2008

Bullying can't be seen as 'entertainment'

In a low quivering voice, Mary (name have been changed) a highly qualified teacher, sobbed as she told us the story of her distressing experience.

"I loved teaching but now I am totally shattered, and I have lost all belief in myself. I am not able to face a class of students. The awful bullying by my colleagues in the staff room got to me eventually. I couldn't take it anymore. I resigned and took a less-paid non-teaching job. But I am struggling to cope with the deep hurt and psychological pain I suffered."

John, (name has been changed) a State employee who is a victim of bullying, told us his sad story. "My job is on a rota basis but my bullying boss repeatedly changes my rota without informing me. Frequently, when I report to work, the bully's buddies inform me that my rota has been changed and that my boss wants to see me. When I report to the boss in his office he denies that he has sent for me. As I leave the office I am pained to see the sneers on the faces of the bully's buddies. I am often left with no work to do. I feel that life is not worth living. I would be better off dead".

John is not alone in experiencing suicidal tendencies resulting from workplace bullying. Research has shown that 14-20 per cent of all suicides are associated with bullying. Mary and John are among a very large number of people who experience workplace bullying. The Samaritans' recent survey has revealed that one in four workers is bullied.

Anti-bullying organisations have indicated that they are receiving a substantial increase in the number of calls for assistance from victims of workplace bullying. Clinical psychologist Marie Murray states: "Workplace bullying has been found to increase during times of social change and economic uncertainty and when people value commercial achievements over community factors. Increase in stress, in commuting time, in family pressure, in child-minding concerns and in mortgage repayments mean that a significant number of people arrive to work each day highly stressed and this gets articulated in bullying behaviour towards clients or work mates."

Those who are both younger or older or those from minority groups are more likely to be targets for bullying. The less experienced, less established employees are more likely to be intimidated by older more powerful people in an organisation or by unreasonable organisational demands. Equally those who are at the older age scale are often fearful of change, afraid of losing pension rights and because they are unlikely to obtain new employment elsewhere they are in a position of greater dependency than those in their middle years. All the these factors make it easier for bullies to operate unchallenged in the workplace.

Workplace bullying is the repeated acts of aggression that undermine the dignity of individuals at work. These acts can be direct or indirect, whether verbal, psychological, physical or otherwise. Cyber bullying by text messages or email is becoming more frequent. Bullying can cause enormous distress, often resulting in emotional damage, a lack of self-esteem, depression, a decline in physical health and loss of job satisfaction. Many victims feel trapped, desperate and emotionally crippled as a result of the horrific experience of bullying. Heinz Layman, the internationally renowned researcher, says that workplace bullying is psychological terror. Jacinta Kitt, the well- known Irish researcher, believes it is psychological torture. Bullying, which causes horrific psychological pain to victims, must never be accepted as a form of entertainment. The offensive TV scenes of bullying on the part of some celebrity chefs tend to normalise and legitimise workplace bullying.

Edmund Burke's statement: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing." is relevant to this problem. Victims of bullying and those who would like to help them can learn practical and effective strategies for confronting bullies at the National Conference on Bullying in the Workplace at the Regency Hotel Conference Centre, Swords Road, Dublin 9 on April 15 and April 22, from 7pm to 10pm.

Minister Billy Kelleher TD, Mr David Begg, Professor Patricia Casey, Governor John Longeran, Senior Counsel Anne Dunne and other professionals will address the conference. For details, phone (01) 838-8888 or (087) 918-0777 or email: info@awarenesseducation.org

Rev Dr Tony Byrne CSSp and Sr Kathleen Maguire PBVM MA founded the Awareness Education Office, which offers programmes on bullying in the workplace, home and school.

- Tony Byrne and Kathleen Maguire, from: http://www.independent.ie

March 23, 2008

Research themes

The management at Sussex are introducing interdisciplinary 'research themes' to give the university a distinctive identity and to enable researchers to make more effective bids for large interdisciplinary grants. Resources would be directed towards these themes.

One issue that has been raised in the internal debate on this is that there is a danger of gearing research themes to the current strategic priority areas of the Research Councils, at a time when these strategic priority areas are themselves increasingly dictated by the government. On the latter point see the following from Education Guardian on 19 February:

"There has definitely been a switch from responsive funding for
projects that individual academics think up to funding for projects
that match the AHRC's strategic plans," says Tom Gretton, head of
the history of art department at UCL.

"It is clear that they want research whose findings can easily be
measured. We have moved from research that is critical to research
that is manageable, and in the process academics are being turned
into civil servants, because they will inevitably only submit
proposals for study into areas they know the government think are
worthwhile."

http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/research/story/0,,2257830,00.html

Obviously the main problem here is the progressive abandonment by the Research Councils of the Haldane Principle that provides the rationale for their existence: the principle that research funding priorities should be set by the academic community rather than by politicians. This abandonment itself represents a serious erosion of the collective freedom of research of the academic community. However if universities then reinforce the Research Councils' priorities in their internal allocations of resources then arguably this erosion will be compounded.

Has anyone had experience of the 'thematisation' of research in response to govenment funding priorities at other universities? If so, please let me know, on or off list.

Andrew Chitty, University of Sussex

...The role of power, professions and ”on the job‘ training

...There also needs to be a clear system for reporting abuses of power or experience of victimisation. Where formal structures to enable this do not exist within an organisation, or if the bully is the boss, there needs to be an independent body with power to investigate and take action. Finally, the targeted person has the fundamental right to report instances, of being heard, to be believed and not to face reprisals as a result of speaking out.

At an individual level, it is clear from the above analysis that in most circumstances where hierarchical workplace bullying occurs, that individual counseling and mediation sessions will not adequately address the issue. We need to recognise some people who bully do so in full knowledge of the power they exercise and the knowledge their actions enjoy immunity from scrutiny or reprisal because of their location within the system and because they understand and manipulate the system to their advantage.

There is a need for affirmative action that privileges the account of those who have been disempowered and degraded by virtue of simply doing their job. In addition, the individual who has been targeted needs to be encouraged to delink serial episodes of workplace bullying, for to see them as cumulative inevitably leads to self-blame and recrimination...

From: Mental health and workplace bullying: The role of power, professions and ”on the job‘ training, by Lyn Turney

March 18, 2008

Letter to Editor - Times Higher Education Supplement

The following is a letter to the Editor of THES in response to a request for suggestions/ comments:-

Dear Mr Kelly,

Thank you for your email. I look forward to being of assistance to Times Higher Education as a member of the Reader Panel.

At this time, I would, indeed, suggest that THES return to its prior practice of addressing one of the most pressing issues in Higher Education today, namely that of the epidemic of bullying and mobbing in our universities and further education institutions. In particular, I would draw attention to the practice of elimination rituals, whereby for various reasons, staff are eliminated from their positions through being pressurized in various ways in order to cause them to either resign on poor health grounds or to respond strongly, thereby creating circumstances by which they may then be subjected to dismissal on conduct grounds. Or else, various circumstances are created--i.e. "rules" that are targeted at selected staff members in order to place them in breach of policy, thereby justifying
dismissal.

This seems to happen disproportionately to disabled persons, to members of minority races and non-British born staff, who are vulnerable by virtue of their immigration status to being sent back to their native country without recourse to natural justice, as well as to to many individuals who are considered as whistleblowers and those who produce research that is either controversial or challenging to the power structures within their institutions, thereby breaching all semblance of protections for academic freedom. In the end, it is students who lose out when high-performing academics are destroyed by such practices.

I understand that one or more articles are/were in progress at THES on this subject, but that they were quashed by new management at THES on the basis that such articles would "offend" advertisers, namely British universities. I would hope that THES would have greater courage than to be beholden to their increasingly managerialist advertisers when it comes to reporting on important stories of wide public interest to people within the field and among the general public.

Sincerely...

Name withheld

Speak out!

No one speaks out because they fear that if they do, they will be the next target.

It takes great courage to speak out. But speak out, we must do!

And we must name names and point fingers, else speaking out will be like tossing a handful of sand into the desert.

Anonymous

March 17, 2008

We must work in solidarity

I work in academe but I was unaware of workplace bullying until my friend, an employee of the federal government, committed suicide in 2005. Since then I have been an advocate for Healthy Workplace legislation.

I formed a group http://groups.google.com/group/connecticut-bullybusters/. Many of the people in the group, or people who won't join for fear of someone finding out but who have contacted me, are state employees and work in state community colleges or universities. They are faculty, staff, and sometimes students.

We have an obligation to look directly at this problem, as colleagues, citizens and workers. Even if it hasn't happened to us, it certainly could. Reading the stories of bullied people, hearing them at meetings, is almost unbearable because lives are shattered. I came to this blog because of a post on the New York Times blog for an article on Workplace Bullying. We must work in solidarity
.

Post by anonymous

March 14, 2008

Not only in America...

The story below repeats itself in many different versions and combinations in this country too (and perhaps many others). There are many (ex) academics who have suffered and continue to do so in a very similar manner to the story described below. Sadly, these things do no happen only in America...

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After a very successful career at a major U.S. private university, I accepted some time ago an offer from another major private university to become chair of a department that had been in trouble for years, with the mandate to bring its house in order and improve its stature both within and outside the university. With the help of a supportive dean, I was successful beyond anyone’s expectations, bringing the department to national attention and recruiting a sizable number of good graduate students in competition with the some of the best schools in my discipline.

There was a widespread perception that I was one of the best department chairs in the university —one administrator described what I had done for the department and the university as a “miracle.” It wasn’t easy, since faculty in my department were often at odds with one another, and one female faculty member was antagonistic to me from the outset, trying to undermine my role behind my back by spreading false stories among the faculty. She had limited success, since, apart from one important supporter, she alienated most of the other members of the department with insults and false accusations.

Some of those who have described their mobbing experiences have characterized themselves as “outspoken,” a trait which is supposed to be protected by academic freedom, but which can unfortunately lead to the active hostility of colleagues. I was just the opposite, supporting and encouraging all faculty and staff, including my antagonist and those who were less competent or productive among the faculty, in both their professional lives and their inevitable personal difficulties. My administrative credo was based on integrity, fairness, openness, and positive support for everyone.

At one point, however, I was forced to remove one of the less competent faculty from a minor administrative role she had abused for years, not only for poor administration and repeatedly upsetting other faculty and students, but because I couldn’t believe anything she said to me. At approximately the same time, I also had to let go a part-time adjunct who, in four years, had proved herself manifestly incompetent in a vital area of the department’s activities. The latter individual was a close friend of the former, and both of them had friends in the department.

In a matter of months, this group had organized its first mobbing effort against me, and joining forces with the original antagonist and her supporter, voted that my appointment as chair not be renewed. The dean was taken aback, interviewed most of the faculty individually, and declared himself “sickened,” by their conduct. Nevertheless, he believed I had lost too much support to continue as chair, insisted on my resignation, and admitted in the process that the same group of faculty, if they got their way in this matter, would probably cause further trouble in the future. I am reminded of a story circulated at my previous university about its president admonishing a faculty member about to take a dean’s position at another institution, “Never fire anybody. No matter how bad he or she may be, everyone has friends, and those friends will be after your blood.”

That president’s attitude had seemed to me an inappropriate way to run a university (there were some rather poor officers in his administration), but both his words and those of my own dean proved prophetic, for not only did I lose my chairmanship, but for the next couple of years I was subjected to a series of public slanders from the mob that had ousted me and their male supporter, to the point of where I complained in writing to one of them—my long-term antagonist. What happened afterward was a wholly unexpected shock.

A few months later I received a letter from what was by that time a new, interim dean (who was being vetted as the permanent dean), saying that a group of women in my department had accused me of sexual harassment and other offenses, a committee had been appointed to oversee an investigation, and an outside attorney had been hired to do the investigating and report to the committee and the dean. The process was very secretive, in violation of every aspect and safeguard of the university’s own policy (which had never been published and was kept hidden from me and my attorney) as well as in violation of every safeguard for handling such matters published and recommended by the U.S. Department of Education.

Nevertheless, the investigator made it clear through numerous comments to me and to several other witnesses, that she not only found no fault with me, but also found my accusers so outrageous that at one point she blurted out, “How can you work with such people?” She also declared that she planned to recommend that the university hire a psychiatrist to assist the department. Her judgment concurred in detail with the more general assessment of the university’s highest personnel officer (also a woman), who declared the ringleaders “crazy and hysterical.”

The report of the investigator was not what the dean wanted, since he couldn’t afford a group of women complaining that he was insensitive to their grievances while he was still under consideration as the permanent dean. He has therefore kept the report under wraps ever since and refused under any circumstances to release it. Meanwhile, from friendly departmental witnesses I learned that the mobbers had been meeting secretly for several months, intimidating and threatening students and staff, and acting in general like a typical lynch mob obsessed with groupthink. I also learned that the investigator had uncovered numerous instances of outright fabrication on the part of the mobbers, in addition to false statements, radical distortion, and pettiness in all their other allegations.

Nevertheless, the two faculty committees eventually involved in the investigation were easily misled by the dean and the university’s legal office, documents were withheld from them by university officials, they did not interview witnesses themselves, nor was I given adequate opportunity to respond to either committee. At the end of the investigation, the dean tried to get me to resign my tenure in return for a couple of years’ salary and the threat of dire consequences if I didn’t. I refused, since senior positions in my field are scarce as hen’s teeth and my discipline isn’t marketable outside the academy.

Without my ever seeing the written complaint the mobbers had submitted and without a hearing, the dean then banned me from my department, my salary and benefits were cut, and I was suspended from teaching for a period of time. I do not fault the faculty committees for ill-will, or even overweening arrogance, but for naiveté in being unprepared to believe that there wasn’t anything to the hundreds of accusations the mobbers had thrown at me (their meetings had generated some truly wild stories and hysteria), and for incompetence in running a complete and fair investigation. Sometimes where there is smoke there is no fire, but only purveyors of smoke.

In reaction to what had been done to me, I attempted, at great expense, to sue the university, but without success—my suit was dismissed on a technicality. Private universities can get away with vastly more misconduct than the courts allow public universities. However, I did obtain detailed information about the dishonesty that attended this matter from beginning to end, not only on the part of the complainants, but on the part of the dean and the university’s legal office. The information, to me, was worth the price of the lawsuit. The subsequent decade has been difficult, in part because of the detailed information about injustice that I uncovered and have been unable to use to any effect. Even though I have interviewed elsewhere as a finalist for several administrative positions, the necessary disclosure of my difficulties with my present university terminated each of those possibilities. Openings for senior professors in my field have been rare, and although I’ve been a finalist for both positions I’ve applied for, in each case I lost out to younger candidates. In recent years, in response to my formal complaint about the dean to the Board of Trustees, my annual salary increases have been reduced to a pittance in relation to everyone else’s. So much for academic freeedom.

My professional life at my university is now filled with ironies. My teaching has been restricted to an introductory course for non majors that others in my field don’t want to teach, nor am I allowed to do any interdisciplinary teaching or teaching in other departments, even though in the past I had taught highly successful interdisciplinary courses and courses in two departments other than my own.

Fortunately, the students who register for my present course are mostly quite good, and I receive some of the best student evaluations in the university despite the deadening effect of teaching the same thing year in and year out. But I have no opportunity to work with majors in my field, and I am deprived of being part of the life of the university, which I always enjoyed. On the other hand, since I am not included in or asked to do anything other than teach my course, I have far more time for my own research and publications than ever before.

Outside the university I have an international reputation for my scholarship, integrity and personality, and I am treated with great friendship and respect by colleagues elsewhere. I am frequently invited to international conferences and asked to speak and give workshops on endowed series at other institutions. I’ve served on doctoral committees at other universities and on review committees for departments in my field, including the Ivy league. I’m constantly asked by younger colleagues for fellowship recommendations, and by department chairs for tenure and promotion evaluations, including some from the most prestigious departments and universities in the country. I am regularly asked to do peer reviews for the most important journals in my field.

No one either inside or outside the university who knows me believes any of the allegations of the mobbers, and the effect of my being disciplined and rusticated has been to bring disapprobation from colleagues all across the country on my university, my former department and the colleagues who mobbed me
. In the past decade the department has been mostly ruled by the mobbers and their supporters, and each in a series of chairs has ruined a specific aspect of the department. The once thriving graduate programs have either disappeared or are hanging on by a thread; no longer are there applicants from important undergraduate departments in our field. Recruiting of new faculty has also been problematic because of the widespread negative reputation of the department. These chairs have further fouled their own nest by retaliation against faculty and staff who supported me or who even insisted on remaining neutral. Firings of faculty and staff over the past decade have been legion, including non-tenured faculty who were outstanding in their subject areas. Even the university administration is fed up with a department that is the source of constant problems.

Nevertheless, the dean not only overlooks this kind of behavior, the university has refused to investigate numerous thoroughly documented grievances of serious retaliation, despite piously advertising each year that it does not permit retaliation of any sort. Many current faculty stay away from the department, only showing up for their classes and avoiding as much contact with its ruling clique as possible.

All this has happened in the decade in which I have been gone from the department and had no influence over it whatsoever, so I clearly was not the problem. Almost all faculty and all of the staff are afraid of the current chair, who was the leader of the mobbers (this appointment alone illustrates the irresponsibility and cynicism of the dean). The department is now in almost as bad shape as it was before I arrived. Recently the university has instituted a code of conduct, emphasizing professional integrity, which all faculty are required to sign, but whose standards none of the department chairs who followed me, nor the dean himself, who is widely criticized throughout the university for dishonesty, could ever meet. But of course, they will never be held to account.

How have I coped with all this over the past decade? It hasn’t been easy. On the one hand I have very few duties and still receive a full-time salary and benefits, even if somewhat reduced, and can continue to do so as long as I wish. This is comforting financial security. As an academic cousin of mine put it, “You’re in academic Heaven—you just had to go through academic Hell to get there.” When I talk to colleagues at other universities about my situation, they sometimes jokingly ask, “How can I get such a deal?” But I hardly view it as heavenly. In my innermost being I’m a teacher—at my previous university I won all the major teaching awards—and it’s very frustrating not to be able to expand my teaching into new and interesting areas or to be able to engage majors and graduate students in my field. It’s difficult not to be able to share in the life of the institution through committees and interactions with colleagues—something which I always found interesting and rewarding, even if sometimes overly time consuming. I had for decades been an active and forceful supporter of women’s role and rights in the academy, but I now find myself uncomfortably suspicious of women in a way I never was. I now wonder what someone to whom I’ve been pleasant, supportive, and helpful might be plotting behind my back.

Perhaps most difficult of all, however, has been the shattering of my belief in the societal role of universities as committed to truth and as bastions of justice and ethical conduct. I’ve seen plenty of bad behavior by both individual faculty and administrators over my long career at four different private institutions, but I had never before encountered or even heard of a systematic, sustained Orwellian environment, not only within a department, but at the central core of a university. The very foundation of why I became an academic in the first place has been dislodged, and I find myself in that otherworld of big brother who officially declares that black is white and who defines reality, not according to facts and objective judgment, but according to what is expedient for the pursuit of authoritarian power and control. I feel like an alien in my own country, a refugee with no place to flee. I’m sure that most other “mobbees” are in far worse circumstances, though probably are not any more angry, than I.

Name and institution withheld at writer’s request for fear of further retaliation.

Hourly paid lecturer wins full-time staff rights in landmark ruling

An hourly paid lecturer has won her legal fight to be recognised as an employee by her university, giving her pension and holiday rights in a case that her union said could have ramifications across the sector. Although Kaye Carl's contract with the University of Sheffield expressly stated that she was not an employee, an employment tribunal said it had been persuaded to "look at the reality not the label".

All hourly paid staff counted as self-employed by their institutions should reassess their situations in the light of her win, the University and College Union said. UCU policy officer Jane Thompson, who appeared as a witness for Ms Carl, said: "The arguments put forward by her employer are ones we've heard before. We suspect that there are a lot of people in her situation, who have been told they are self-employed but who are employees (based) on the facts."

Ms Carl started work at Sheffield in 2002 as a tutor in shorthand teaching 20 hours a week. Her contract described her as a "contractor" and included a clause stating that nothing in the document "may be interpreted to make the relationship of employer and employee between the university and the contractor".

She was told at interview that the post would be on a self-employed basis and that she would have to submit invoices to the university. However she later submitted claim forms and the university deducted national insurance, at the employee rate, at source.

In 2006, Ms Carl became aware of legislation aimed at protecting part-time workers and complained to the university that she was being treated less favourably than a full-time tutor with regard to pay, holiday entitlement and pension.

At a pre-hearing to decide employment status, the tribunal found that Ms Carl had "had the trappings of self-employment thrust upon her". There were no negotiations at her interview over rate of pay, it pointed out, as one would expect if it had really been a meeting about a business arrangement.

Ms Carl's right to use the university car park, her inclusion in the university handbook, the payment of her expenses and sick leave and her use of the grievance procedure all pointed to her being an employee rather than someone conducting her own business, the tribunal concluded. The university has now accepted that Ms Carl has pension rights and that she is entitled to holiday pay.

Ms Carl represented herself after lawyers employed by the UCU, Thompsons Solicitors, advised that she was unlikely to win. "Many universities now are in the process of regularising casual workers, and I am sure many individuals are employed in the way that I was," Ms Carl said.

A judgment on the substantive part of the case, which will decide whether or not Ms Carl was unfairly treated compared with the university's full-time employees, is expected shortly.

A spokeswoman for Sheffield said that the university is committed to all its employees and is "currently leading the way on the regularisation process of atypical workers". She said that the university strongly denies claims that Ms Carl was treated less favourably on the grounds of her part-time and fixed-term contractual status.

By Melanie Newman, Times Higher Education

March 13, 2008

The Unkindly Art of Mobbing [in academia]

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 postmodern 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 ratebuster, 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 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.”

From: http://www.arts.uwaterloo.ca/~kwesthue/unkindlyart.htm by Professor Kenneth Westhues

The Shame of the British Psychological Society - Last chapter in the Lisa Blakemore Brown saga

A year ago I devoted several postings to the disgraceful and ludicrous abuse of a clinical psychologist, Lisa Blakemore Brown (LBB), by the British Psychological Society (see collated postings including this one). The abuse lasted 10 years, and was apparently motivated by factors other than evidence, logic or concern for patients. It has in my view brought this society into serious disrepute.

The treatment of LBB started as an obvious travesty when a commercially funded patient "support" group and the BPS itself appear to have colluded to create a triggering complaint. What followed was a protracted farce. The BPS seems to have realized that its actions would not be hidden, and the farce was terminated this week. It has left LBB financially destitute, with a destroyed career and ill health.


The abuse of health professionals by professional leadership is a key threat facing the safety of medical practice. Such abuse often takes place simply because these individuals have expressed a view, or because they have raised concerns. Abuse by professional regulatory bodies is particularly troubling.


The BPS has some important questions to answer, and it is not "closed" as they suggest. There are questions about the integrity, motives and honesty of BPS procedures. There are questions about the factors motivating the entirely spurious complaints, and who arranged for their invention. There are serious concerns about the way in which the BPS attempted to abuse one of its members through the misuse of psychology itself, and the way in which the medical profession assisted.


By contrast, professional regulators have remained silent in the face of gross abuses of science, obvious lies, fraud and the deaths of patients -- where these problems involve commercial companies or a network of powerfully connected colleagues. The BPS remains completely silent on the widespread fraud which is increasingly apparent within the pharmaceutical psychiatric literature. The regulatory body governing medicine in the UK (the General Medical Council) has also remained silent, and has refused to entertain a complaint of professional misconduct from patients and families involving the medical leadership of GlaxoSmithKline.


The silence is deafening. Equally worrying is the fact that this abuse stirred scarcely a breath of protest amongst other members of the BPS. Few psychologists troubled themselves to ask the simplest of questions. Such silence is surely a badge of shame for any caring profession.


Lisa Blakemore Brown has now resigned from the BPS
.

From: Scientific Misconduct Blog

March 12, 2008

Some interesting links

Meet the Work Bully

'I believe bullying in the workplace is an issue whose time has come. It has always existed to some extent but has become critical for several reasons.

First, today’s managers are being selected for technical competence more than people skills in many industries, particularly high tech and medicine.


Second, jobs are not as secure and new jobs are more difficult to find. Outsourcing, recession, health insurance portability, and skill specialization all prevent escaping from a bully. These issues can create a vulnerability that makes someone an easy target.


Third, HR is much more focused for management’s interests than employee interests than in the past. It is much easier for HR to eliminate a bullied employee than to change the culture that allowed a bully to exist and/or become a manager. My guess the stories posted here are the tip of the iceberg, I could add several more myself
.'

— Posted by Elizabeth, New York Times Well Blog

March 10, 2008

Letter to Sir Peter Scott

Dear Sir Peter,

Bullying, Intimidation, and Human Rights in Employment Matters at Kingston University


As an ordinary citizen of Great Britain it saddens me immensely when I find examples of decent people being bullied and intimidated out of their careers. Decent citizens in UK look up to their elected members of state, leaders and academics to eventually eliminate such victimisation from our lives so we can all exist with equality and diversity, and without threat or fear. I refer to a recent case of bullying and intimidation at Kingston University, posted recently on the internet.

The example in this story involves Professor Sir Peter Scott, The university of Kingston, Mr Howard Fredrics, a Trades Union, the Investors in People Scheme and many others but mostly it involves a number of managers and colleagues of Howard Fredrics. He used to have a job and a good reputation at the university until they took it on themselves to destroy Mr Fredrics, with your assistance.

Dignity and Respect

This letter is not intended to disrespect any of the participants, but it is an appeal to Sir Peter Scott, and the university to open their eyes. Many good things have come from these offices, and the full and distinguished career which Sir Peter has enjoyed is everyone’s right. This point is made in statements on the university website and in Sir Peter’s biography – “to promote participation in education”, which Kingston regards as a democratic entitlement.

This is therefore a cause championed by Sir Peter which has the appearance of providing him with much wealth and status. One could easily argue the truth behind this if you read what happened to Howard Fredrics. All his democratic rights in this respect have been systematically ignored or removed.

The law and Government Guidelines

How then has Sir Peter Scott become party to the destruction of the career of Howard Fredrics? What laws have been broken? The university are placed in a position of trust as employers and the law is quite clear. Sir Peter, and the University are liable for the health and safety of their employees.

Howard Fredrics

This story starts with an illness caused by work and Howard Fredrics exercising his rights to a period of absence in order to get over it. Reading the evidence set out on the internet it is plain to see the cause of this illness is the lack of support Mr Fredrics received in the face of too much challenge, while doing his duty for the university. No wonder he went off with stress. (long standing TUC guidelines for Mental Health in the Workplace have clearly been breached).

The story then goes on to his line manager taking advantage of his absence and some fairly minor breaches of unclear and ambiguous policy, to install another person in his position. This forces Howard to return to work, prematurely, in order to defend his position. Clearly this action is tactical and deliberate. Challenging someone already ill with stress in this way is evil behaviour. The position is no longer defensible, due to the workplace being turned into a hostile environment and then eventually a set of trumped up charges, made by a whipped up mob sees Mr Fredrics ejected on a “disciplinary” matter.

Common Practice in UK Work Places

It should not surprise you to learn that the way Mr Fredrics was dismissed, is contrary to the employment act but common practice in many British workplaces.

Expensive

The story has significant hidden expense; for the taxpayer, the victim and for the university. Simply this is how responsible people spend tax-payers money, made possible by this government who will not legislate properly against it. This brings an element of scandal. Money is being wasted hand over fist here - fighting this escalating case. It appears this university would rather fund the antics of its line managers, training them to become ruthless academic leaders of the future, than be seen to be a fair employer, which looks after its people’s welfare and teaches it’s managers how to respect it’s employees.

Sucking Others In

This is evident because when Mr and Mrs Frederic’s do attempt to defend themselves, they are subject to further abuse by the university itself which issues more threats and intimidation. Sir Peter Scott then becomes an active participant. I refer to the threatening and intimidating letters, produced after a recent hearing at the university, which comes across in the Frederic’s account as nothing more than a Kangaroo Court. Any form of fairness is removed from the proceedings.

This “hearing” is further remarkable because it seems to be totally void of any thought for Mr Fredrics side of the story. How is he able to defend himself under these circumstances?

Evidence of the Use of Common Destructive Techniques

Everything posted so far at www.sirpeterscott.com looks to be based on evidence. This identifies Mr Fredrics treatment by his colleagues as using common techniques. These are used to persuade the employer into backing the bully(s) against anyone who they don’t like, in order to replace them with someone they do, regardless of skills and previous performance. This is a well known, prevalent and highly destructive technique which is un-contractual, against the law and against common decency, it is made possible by ambiguous, un-affordable law and government policy. It is unwanted behaviour in the extreme, which has a devastating impact on the target. Unfortunately it appears you have been sucked in to aiding and abetting the perpetrators.

If it was ever meant to protect its people, the university and it’s policies are clearly able to be twisted in order to promote this unwanted behaviour. Instead of protecting Mr Fredrics, it hosts a “court” that further contravenes Mr Fredrics right to a fair trial. If the university is party to this travesty, that makes it guilty of sharp employment practice.

This story is not over yet. Is this the outcome you want? You can aid and abet the destruction of Mr Fredrics, or you can act like a responsible authority and protect him. Either way its up to you, but the outcome will go down in history, because I am sure Mr Fredrics will ensure every step is measures against the law.

As a responsible employer it is not too late to confirm what I have said by consulting any of the other addressee’s to this letter and impartial witnesses and investigators. Then you can intervene for the common good by sorting out the line managers who have perpetrated this vile and dumb act. By doing that you will achieve a lot more, for yourself, the university and other people adversely affected by this behaviour in many walks of life and therefore avert becoming just another bullying employer, with a university staffed by fearful people.

To be sure the cost so far, and the mounting legal expense – plus the cost of a settlement even at this stage could be better spent sponsoring at least ten poor students through a decent education.

Written by S.D.

March 09, 2008

Bullying More Harmful Than Sexual Harassment On The Job, Say Researchers

Workplace bullying, such as belittling comments, persistent criticism of work and withholding resources, appears to inflict more harm on employees than sexual harassment, say researchers who presented their findings at a recent conference.

"As sexual harassment becomes less acceptable in society, organizations may be more attuned to helping victims, who may therefore find it easier to cope," said lead author M. Sandy Hershcovis, PhD, of the University of Manitoba. "In contrast, non-violent forms of workplace aggression such as incivility and bullying are not illegal, leaving victims to fend for themselves."

Hershcovis and co-author Julian Barling, PhD, of Queen's University in Ontario, Canada, reviewed 110 studies conducted over 21 years that compared the consequences of employees' experience of sexual harassment and workplace aggression. Specifically, the authors looked at the effect on job, co-worker and supervisor satisfaction, workers' stress, anger and anxiety levels as well as workers' mental and physical health. Job turnover and emotional ties to the job were also compared.

The authors distinguished among different forms of workplace aggression. Incivility included rudeness and discourteous verbal and non-verbal behaviors. Bullying included persistently criticizing employees' work; yelling; repeatedly reminding employees of mistakes; spreading gossip or lies; ignoring or excluding workers; and insulting employees' habits, attitudes or private life. Interpersonal conflict included behaviors that involved hostility, verbal aggression and angry exchanges.

Both bullying and sexual harassment can create negative work environments and unhealthy consequences for employees, but the researchers found that workplace aggression has more severe consequences. Employees who experienced bullying, incivility or interpersonal conflict were more likely to quit their jobs, have lower well-being, be less satisfied with their jobs and have less satisfying relations with their bosses than employees who were sexually harassed, the researchers found.

Furthermore, bullied employees reported more job stress, less job commitment and higher levels of anger and anxiety. No differences were found between employees experiencing either type of mistreatment on how satisfied they were with their co-workers or with their work.

"Bullying is often more subtle, and may include behaviors that do not appear obvious to others," said Hershcovis. "For instance, how does an employee report to their boss that they have been excluded from lunch? Or that they are being ignored by a coworker? The insidious nature of these behaviors makes them difficult to deal with and sanction."

From a total of 128 samples that were used, 46 included subjects who experienced sexual harassment, 86 experienced workplace aggression and six experienced both. Sample sizes ranged from 1,491 to 53,470 people. Participants ranged from 18 to 65 years old. The work aggression samples included both men and women. The sexual harassment samples examined primarily women because, Hershcovis said, past research has shown that men interpret and respond differently to the behaviors that women perceive as sexual harassment.

This finding was presented at the Seventh International Conference on Work, Stress and Health, co-sponsored by the American Psychological Association, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the Society for Occupational Health Psychology.

Presentation: Comparing the Outcomes of Sexual Harassment and Workplace Aggression: A Meta-Analysis, M. Sandy Hershcovis, PhD, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba and Julian Barling, Queen's University, Ontario, Canada.

American Psychological Association (2008, March 9). Bullying More Harmful Than Sexual Harassment On The Job, Say Researchers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 9, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/03/080308090927.htm

You are not alone...

This is a great site, and has made me feel less alone by reading it. Thank you. - Anonymous post


Dear anonymous, you are not alone.

We can understand why and how you would feel lonely in this battle. It is in the nature of what we experience, the overwhelming sense of injustice that one finds unbearable to live with. Sadly, there are no easy ways out.

The cliche is that you ought to first look after your health, eat well, exercise, etc. But the shock is usually so big that depression settles in and motivation becomes non-existent. If you are fighting a legal battle, then things become harder to cope with. There is financial and emotional strain, plus the prospect of being out of work for some time or even forever.

The purpose of this blog is multiple: to inform, to expose, to let know that we are not alone, to support, to fight on... We can only suggest that you try to get in touch with others who have similar experiences. This may confirm what you already know but it will also provide some comfort and possibly some support to get through hard times. You are feeling alone but try not to be alone. You can always email us.

March 08, 2008

The problem is...

I believe a competent scientific analysis would show that bullying has direct and immediate benefits to the bully and the bully's employer (in the same sense that robbery and murder might also have direct and immediate benefits), but the long-term effect would be indisputably costly in lost productivity, sickness, staff turnover, de-skilling and opportunity costs (i.e. the potential activities that bullying replaced).

But each of those HR pounds was attached to a decision, and emotion and a reputation. There was no attachment to the non-decision to confront bullying. This is why bullying (or at least the possibility of bullying) must be identified, acknowledged and acted upon from the very start of
the complaints procedure. Most complaints procedures begin with denial, "both sides" of the story and "clarifying misunderstandings" that invest in supporting the bully's status.

Anonymous contribution

March 07, 2008

The Concorde Fallacy

The Concorde Fallacy: the probability of continued investment in an activity is directly proportional to the investment already made, and entirely independent of the prospects of the activity's successful outcome.

In the original Anglo-French aircraft project taxpayers managed to expend 660 million pounds to earn a total revenue of 280 million operating 16 planes for the benefit of conspicious expenditure by the rich and famous.

Likewise once an institution fails to recognise bullying in the workplace, the financial and emotional expenditure demands further efforts to prove that the allegation is unfounded
.

Contribution by Stuart

[Also known as the Concorde Effect, sunk cost fallacy, or our boys shall not have died in vain fallacy. In economics, any past investment which cannot be altered by present or future actions is considered to be sunk cost. The Concorde fallacy is the act of allowing sunk cost to affect future investment decisions. - From: http://everything2.com]

Connections...

Note the close connections between Kingston and St. George's NHS Trust, whose medical training programme Kingston validates.

Most importantly, note the case of Ian Perkin, former finance director at St. George's who was victimized for blowing the whistle on fudged cancelled operation statistics. (See: http://www.nhsexpose.co.uk)

Kingston Board Member, Colin Watts was the Personnel Director at St. George's at the time. Peter Scott is on the Board at St. George's.

Get the picture
?

Anonymous contribution

March 05, 2008

Great is Justice!

Great is Justice!

Justice is not settled by legislators and laws—it is in the Soul; It cannot be varied by statutes, any more than love, pride, the attraction of gravity, can; It is immutable—it does not depend on majorities—majorities or what not, come at last before the same passionless and exact tribunal.

For justice are the grand natural lawyers, and perfect judges—is it in their Souls; It is well assorted—they have not studied for nothing—the great includes the less. They rule on the highest grounds—they oversee all eras, states, administrations.

The perfect judge fears nothing—he could go front to front before God; Before the perfect judge all shall stand back—life and death shall stand back—heaven and hell shall stand back.

Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass, 1900

Mobbing

There's an article in the 14 April 2006 Chronicle of Higher Education, called "Mob Rule," by John Gravois, that examines a phenomenon known as mobbing, in particular workplace mobbing (and even more particularly, academic workplace mobbing), defined as "an impassioned, collective campaign by co-workers to exclude, punish, and humiliate a targeted worker." His descriptions of targets and the general pattern of action remind me of Rene Girard's and James Alison's on scapegoating.

Gravois exlores the stages and elements of mobbing, which has a usual pattern: a period of increasing social isolation, a period of petty harassment, leading to a 'critical incident' that demands swift action and adjudication.

Some comments that resonate with my experience (and that certainly correlate with Girardian thought):

  • Groupthink: "The Law of Group Polarization, formulated by Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago, says that a bunch of people who agree with each other on some point will, given the chance to get together and talk, come away agreeing more strenuously on a more extreme point. If this tendency has a curdling effect on intellectual debates, it can have a downright menacing effect when the point of agreement is that a particular colleague is a repugnant nutjob."
  • Elements of the Mobbing Process: "Calling some departmental mess a mobbing does not imply that the victim is wholly innocent, Mr. [Kenneth] Westhues [a sociologist at the University of Waterloo, Ontario] says. But it does imply that the campaign against the target has probably been based on fuzzy and unspecific charges, that it has proceeded with a degree of secrecy, that its timing has been hasty, that its rhetoric has been overheated and overwrought, and that it has been backed by an eerie unanimity."
  • Original Sin: "'I have a friend who says that there's only two kinds of people in the world,' Mr. Westhues says, 'those who believe that there's original sin and those who don't.' 'I think probably mobbing research as a whole is more on the side of the original-sin folks,' he says."
  • Traits of Mobbing Targets: "Essentially, Mr. Westhues says, anything that can be a basis for bickering can be a basis for mobbing: race, sex, political difference, cultural difference, intellectual style. Professors with foreign accents, he says, often get mobbed, as do professors who frequently file grievances and 'make noise.' But perhaps the most common single trait of mobbing targets, he says, is that they excel.

    "'To calculate the odds of your being mobbed," Mr. Westhues writes in his most comprehensive book on mobbing, The Envy of Excellence: Administrative Mobbing of High-Achieving Professors, 'count the ways you show your workmates up: fame, publications, teaching scores, connections, eloquence, wit, writing skills, athletic ability, computer skills, salary, family money, age, class, pedigree, looks, house, clothes, spouse, children, sex appeal. Any one of these will do.'"
  • Mobbing - A Charged Term: "'Mobbing is such a colorful term that it tends to pre-empt debate," says Rich Fedder, ... the chairman of the Southern Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. 'It plays into an American love of talking about victims.'

    "... Leveling the charge of mobbing can be a quick and easy way to seize the moral high ground in a dispute. And while Mr. Westhues does, in fact, see Mr. Bean's case as a mobbing, he largely agrees with this argument. 'There's a tendency for anybody who wants some leverage in campus politics to say, You know, I'm being mobbed,' he says, 'and the whole thing becomes quite meaningless.' This is one reason why Mr. Westhues, unlike many mobbing researchers, is dead set against anti-mobbing legislation. ...
  • Institutional Justification and Complicity: "'One of the most painful experiences in my life,' Mr. Westhues says, 'has been to go to dismissal hearings where everybody is sitting around a table as if they were embodiments of pure reason.' What's really going on in many of those settings, he thinks, is just brutish behavior ratified by procedure."

"He said that universities should , that, in his opinion, simply dignify pettiness and give professors a chance to have power over one another. ... He argued that an ethics committee 'lets people play judge' and 'brings out the worst in good people.' ...

  • Creating a Mob-Neutral Environment: In his classes at Waterloo, Mr. Westhues addresses his students as Mr. and Ms. and urges them to address him in kind — not as 'Dr. Westhues' and, just as importantly, not as 'Ken.' He explains to them that he is not there to lord over them, nor to be their friend (friendship being the flip side of enmity), but to engage with them professionally as fellow citizens in the pursuit of truth.

    "This is an earnest attempt to foster the kind of atmosphere that Mr. Westhues believes is relatively safe from mobbing -- one where there is not too much authority, but also not too much familiarity."

Rectify Failures of Unison (and other unions) - Petition

Description/History:

I have been employed in the public sector for 20 years, NHS also a paid member member of Unison for 18 years. In 2005 I raised a Grievance against my employer re Bullying and Harassment in the workplace. I feel that if Unison would have allowed me Legal Advice earlier in this matter it would have been resolved much sooner.

Petition:

We, the undersigned, call on Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister to refuse any further donations from Unison to fund the Labour Party. These funds should be made available to allow victims of Workplace Bullying easier access to Legal Advice. As unlike criminals we are not allowed Legal Aid. There are many of us who have lost not only our careers, families, friends, homes but even our sanity.

Sign the petition
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Also:

UNISON CLAIM

A contact is making a claim against UNISON in an English County Court. She is trying to make a dossier to present to the court re Unison's patern of inaction. She's hoping for emails with

* Short summary
* Name
* Membership Number
* Area Unison Office

She does not need anyone to give private addresses and will treat details in the utmost confidence.

If the judge can see what is common behaviour of Unison and others it could be beneficial to her and to all trade unionists.

More info at: http://www.employees.org.uk/
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Also some stories regarding union inaction and/or wrong action:

...One sign of a union trying to divert money away from helping members is when the solicitor is provided at the very last minute - late enough to use the member's own work but too late to do any more and early enough to settle and take a success fee. The typical scam is that there is no clear contract about what's available to members, so an official has to nominate a case to the organisation's solicitor. The member's status is so low in the union hierarchy that s/he might not even meet the official: rejection might be passed via a volunteer, even in a case is strong enough for a private lawyer to win. Or, after pretended misunderstandings and difficulties getting clear answers, there is a sudden change of mind and the member is referred to a named solicitor. A rep reported to me that the union would back me if I submitted by own complaint form to the tribunal. I was given an hours' interview. I asked for my own choice of lawyer but was forced to use one on the other side of town that an ex-colleague had complained about before.

This inflexibility meant something, but I was not sure what it meant and vaguely gave the union the benefit of my doubt. The union had missed basic time limits, and during this interview the lawyer did not want the hassle of reading the disability discrimination questionnaire, the grievance letter, understanding time limits or looking at the evidence which I had in bags full. Nor of course did he tell me the the union had missed basic time limits, although I suspect that he told them when I complained about him
...

...One reason for union misbehaviour is that disgruntled members are often exhausted, sometimes sick, sometimes looking after new babies, or hoping to keep up appearances at the next employer. They are as unlikely to sue as people who buy fake viagra, and unions know this. In commercial terms, these members are often at the end or their relationship with the union and out of touch with new recruits. Unions know this too. It only takes a vague contract in an obscure rule-book that members don't even see till they are sacked and desparate and the chance of being sued for ripping-off members can be reduced to almost nil...

...A Carlisle teacher who sued the National Union of Teachers (NUT) for failing to give her legal advice when she ran into difficulties at her school has won her case. Joanne Sherry, 48, paid £3,000 over 23 years to be a member of the country’s largest teaching union, but when she sought help from its officers they failed to act on her behalf. Miss Sherry, who taught at Trinity School, asked for help from her union in 2000 when she felt she was being bullied and intimidated by former head teacher Mike Gibbons.

She successfully fought her case at Newcastle County Court yesterday in what is believed to be the first of its kind in the country.


With a mounting workload and a breakdown in communication between Miss Sherry and the school’s management, she began to suffer from work related stress. NUT officers, Mike McDonald and Bryan Griffiths, advised her to stay off work until Mr Gibbons left the school in October 2001. The school also issued Miss Sherry with a letter in December 2001 outlining six allegations against her. She was suspended from school for a year. Miss Sherry says these allegations were designed to cause her undue stress and anxiety and force her to resign. She refused to do so and continued to battle for an investigation into the allegations against her.


But, despite continuing to plead for assistance from the NUT, nothing happened. Union reps failed to accompany her to meetings, did not return her phone calls and e-mails and refused to give her proper advice. Eventually, in 2002 she reached a compromise agreement with her employers and left the school due to ill health.


District Judge Alderson said: “The NUT had Miss Sherry over a barrel. They basically told her if she didn't accept their advice then that was it. They washed their hands of her.”


After the case Miss Sherry told her local newspaper: “I feel justice has been done. The NUT refused to give me advice on the procedures of my employers and refused to accompany me to disciplinary hearings. It failed to pursue my grievances."
The NUT must now pay Miss Sherry £3,800.

Factual note 1: Joanne Sherry discovered cheap legal insurance bundled with her home contents insurance after the National Union of Teachers refused to help her, so she used that instead and won her case. Her next job was for the county court service. She sued the National Union of Teachers for her wasted subscription.

Factual note 2: NUT fought the case and threatened Joanne Sherry with extra-ordinary costs if she lost. The NUT then refused to pay without a bailiff visit.

Factual note 3: Hamilton v GMB is a case of a long-serving volunteer rep badly treated by his union because officials believed he told members of another legal deal available at Stefan Cross solicitors, who were no-win no-fee, during negotiations on equal pay. The union held that their second-rate pay negotiation was better for members in the long term than a short-term victory by a no-win no-fee lawyer about equal pay.

Other GMB cases in the appeal tribunal have been about disgruntled ex-GMB staff, rather than the GMB making case law for its members.


Factual note 4: UNISON v Jervis is another case of someone suing a union for bad service - in this case at Watford Employment Tribunal for discrimination, followed by an appeal from the union side. They paid two barresters and a city solicitor to argue their case, while their service to the member had been a volunteer who had "spoken to" a paid official before the two of them decided not to back a case. It was a case the member went-on to win with a private lawyer
...

...Reality is more like this: A thief mugs you and steals your video. You know there is a problem of thieving and track the boy down because there is no crown prosecution service or police force for employment law. You have to prosecute the thief privately, thinking "the stress is bad for my health and career, but someone has to do this". Then the judge says "what efforts have you made to watch other channels and reduce your losses caused by the thief's removal of your video?". In the judge's eyes, the video belonged to the thief all along. "Anyway, it is all a long time ago and the boy has moved-on to armed robbery and extortion. The fact that you were in hospital after being mugged can hardly excuse your late prosecution, and the fact that you managed to prosecute makes me wonder whether you were ill at all...

From: http://www.employees.org.uk/