November 29, 2008

Developments at the University of KwaZulu-Natal

I write to you to inform you of some developments at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and to ask for your support. I write to you as people who I believe share my concerns and have an interest in defending academic freedom.

Increasing numbers of UKZN staff believe that the University is close to collapse, threatened by the specific instance of disciplinary measures being taken against two staff members Associate Professor John van den Berg (Mathematics) and Associate Professor Nithaya Chetty (Physics). The process if far advanced and there is a fear that they will be dismissed when the disciplinary process begins with a 'trial' on 8 December. I am attaching Nithaya's CV here in the belief that it will establish his academic credentials. I should add that he was also a UDF activist in the days of apartheid and has been a tireless defender of democracy, non-violence and social justice.

John van den Berg has fearlessly sought to represent his constituency's interests in University processes. Almost alone, he has challenged the rights of the Vice Chancellor to do as he pleases in Senate and is now suffering the consequences. Apart from the emotional distress they have endured, both have now paid substantial sums in an attempt to defend the charges against them. The University, however, has deep pockets and a willingness to use its resources to the maximum in this matter.

I briefly describe the developments thus far.

1) A member of the university council, Professor Nithaya Chetty, and a university senator face dismissal on December 5 for discussing with the media and on a listserver their efforts to have an official Science Faculty proposal on Academic Freedom included in the Senate agenda. If you read the charges against them you will see that there was nothing inflammatory or destructive about their protests.

2) Chetty and van den Berg have agreed to submit to the recommendations of a mediating panel. The Vice Chancellor is insisting on carrying the matter to a disciplinary hearing where a team of advocates, instructing attorneys and a specially imported external judge -- all on University funds -- will decide the fate of the academics. The two professors must pay for their own defence out of their own funds. The University will spend something in the region of R500,000 prosecuting them.

3) On November 11 a group fifty academics in the Science Faculty appealed to their Dean, as stipulated in the Faculty constitution, to hold a special meeting to discuss the charges leveled against their representatives. The meeting was cancelled on the instruction of the Director of Human Resources.

4) A similar call for a special meeting of the Faculty of Humanities was also prohibited on November 12.

5) In recent correspondence between the Science academics the HR Director we have been told: "Employees are required to act in the interests of their employer at all times, and to show due respect. The matter of disciplinary action against employees is the employer's prerogative, and not that of the employee. Every employment relationship has boundaries, and perhaps if they are respected by all, it would not be necessary to have to implement disciplinary action."

Attached here are: the official charges against Chetty and van den Berg, a statement from NTESU (one of three trade unions representing staff at UKZN), a press statement by the South African National Editor's Forum and reports from the Mail and Guardian. The whole process is documented in detail on an archive at http://tux.humsci.ukzn.ac.za/pipermail/change

The issue here is really very simple: Academic freedom cannot survive at the university if the managers hold the threat of dismissal over the heads of its academic critics. Academic freedom must also include the right to discuss criticisms of the university managers, internally and with the press--UKZN is a public institution, funded publicly.

It is no exaggeration to say that this case has already done terrible reputational damage to the university -- dozens of the finest scholars have left or are making plans to do so. But the struggle is not yet lost, and I must please ask you to do what you can to help us. The destruction of this institution will be a loss felt far beyond South Africa .

Writing to the Chair of the University Council, Mr Mac Mia at macmia@saol.com may be the most direct way to influence the University executive.

I attach one example of letters already sent to the Chair of Council and the Vice Chancellor, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba (makgoba@ukzn.ac.za). Some writers have chosen to write to these individuals in an open way, including the change listserv in the list of addressees (<change@tux.humsci.ukzn.ac.za>).

The matter is urgent and anything you can do may help to stop this disaster from unfolding further.

Example of a letter already written:

Professor Malegapuru Magkoba

Vice Chancellor, UKZN

makgoba@ukzn.ac.za

Dear Vice Chancellor,

As international academics with a long history of involvement with the University of KwaZulu Natal we are most disturbed to learn that two senior members of staff at the University of KwaZulu Natal are facing a disciplinary hearing and possible dismissal for attempting to have an official Science Faculty proposal on Academic Freedom included in the Senate Agenda, and speaking to the media about it when they found their attempts blocked by the administration. From the evidence before us it would appear that neither were doing more than assert their rights to free speech and academic freedom as set out by UNESCO, and accepted in the democratic world.

Since freedom of speech is also enshrined in South Africa's constitution, these proceedings are surely extraordinary. That the administration should seek to take such action against two senior members of staff strikes at the free intellectual enquiry which is at the heart of the university and all academic work. It also seems to us a patent abuse of power and waste of public money.

There can be no doubt that the handling of this matter is already seriously damaging the reputation of the university both nationally and internationally, and it will make it increasingly difficult to recruit high calibre staff to UKZN and maintain its hitherto high standard of research in the future. We appeal to you in the hope that wiser counsels will prevail and the matter be taken to mediation, as has already suggested by the faculty and many of those with the interests of the university at heart.

Yours sincerely,
Shula Marks, Professor Emeritus, London, FBA,
Hon.D.Litt (UCT) Hon D. Soc.Sci. (Natal)
Alan Jeeves, Professor Emeritus, Queen's Univerity, Kingston, Ontario
Marcia Wright, Professor Emerita, Columbia University, New York

November 27, 2008

Stress and strain blamed on 'bullying culture'

A culture of strained working relationships is endemic in UK universities, according to a survey of almost 10,000 academics by the University and College Union (UCU).

One third of UCU members questioned agreed with the statement that "relationships at work are strained", and fewer than 3 per cent of respondents said that there was "never" any friction or anger between colleagues.

The UCU blamed a bullying culture in academe for the sense of discord, as more than half of a total of 9,700 respondents to the survey reported having been subjected to some form of bullying or personal harassment during their career.

Gill Evans, project leader for the Improving Dispute Resolution programme funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, said that the results should not come as a surprise.

"The root of the problem is the shift from the old collegial assumption that academics were all essentially equals and free to express their view to (one of) top-down line management," she said.

"With line management you get patronage and mutual mistrust. Without old-fashioned tenure people can lose their jobs, so they try not to rock the boat. But then they feel resentment that they dared not say what they thought, and that poisons the atmosphere," she said.

Professor Evans said a collegial working environment "involves lots of discussion and it can make decision-making slow", but added that "speedy decision-making is not necessarily good decision-making".

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "Good institutions are ones that are aware of the problem and (are) proactively trying to tackle it. Poor ones are those who refuse to accept there may be a problem or try to place the blame elsewhere."

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk

November 25, 2008

Bad bosses may damage your heart

Inconsiderate bosses not only make work stressful, they may also increase the risk of heart disease for their employees, experts believe.

A Swedish team found a strong link between poor leadership and the risk of serious heart disease and heart attacks among more than 3,000 employed men. And the effect may be cumulative - the risk went up the longer an employee worked for the same company.

The study is published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Stressful environment

Experts said that feeling undervalued and unsupported at work can cause stress, which often fosters unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking, that can lead to heart disease.

Previous work has shown that unfair bosses can drive up their employees' blood pressure, and persistent high blood pressure can increase heart disease risk.

For the latest study, researchers from the Karolinska Institute and Stockholm University tracked the heart health of the male employees, aged between 19 and 70 and working in the Stockholm area, over a period of nearly a decade.

During this time 74 cases of fatal and non-fatal heart attack or acute angina, or death from ischaemic heart disease, occurred.

All the participants were asked to rate the leadership style of their senior managers on competencies such as how clearly they set out goals for their staff and how good they were at communicating and giving feedback.

The staff who deemed their senior managers to be the least competent had a 25% higher risk of a serious heart problem. And those working for what was classed as a long time - four years or more - had a 64% higher risk.

The findings held true, regardless of educational attainment, social class, income, workload, lifestyle factors, such as smoking and exercise, and other risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

The researchers, which included experts from University College London in the UK and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, said that if a direct cause and effect was confirmed, then managers' behaviour should be targeted in a bid to stave off serious heart disease among less senior employees.

They said managers should give employees clear work objectives and sufficient power in relation to their responsibilities.

Cathy Ross, cardiac nurse for the British Heart Foundation, said: "This limited, male-only study suggests that a good, clear working relationship with your manager may help to protect against heart disease.

"Feeling undervalued and unsupported can cause stress, which often leads to unhealthy behaviours such as smoking, eating a poor diet, drinking too much alcohol and not getting enough exercise - adding to your risk of developing heart problems.

"Being fit and active can give you the double benefit of busting work stress and boosting your heart health at the same time."

From: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7745324.stm

A public enquiry into the working practices of universities

The question I would ask after my experiences in a prestigious research university is whether the public would agree that universities should continue to be autonomous bodies?

I would suggest a public enquiry... as a growing body of research and surveys (both internal and external) are raising very serious concerns about the state of affairs in our universities... with regard to working practices...

...there is a feeling that things are getting out of control...

Aphra Behn
---------------------
The only problem with this wish is that the government and bodies such as HEFCE will find out how much money is wasted... and they will have to hold some HEIs accountable... we can dream...

From the HEFCE web site - but please don't laugh (we are being sarcastic):

Our vision is that higher education institutions should have such excellent governance and management processes that they can easily demonstrate to their stakeholders, including HEFCE, proper accountability for the use of public funds... The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) distributes public money for teaching and research to universities and colleges. In doing so, it aims to promote high quality education and research, within a financially healthy sector. The Council also plays a key role in ensuring accountability and promoting good practice.

It is their 'vision'... we suspect that HEFCE is also part of the problem... after all, who runs HEFCE...

Members of the HEFCE board:

Alastair Balls, CB Chairman, Centre for Life
Rob Douglas, CBE Business Advisor, Douglas Associates Ltd.
Jackie Fisher, CBE Principal, Newcastle College
Dame Patricia Hodgson Principal, Newnham College, Cambridge
René Olivieri Former Chief Executive, Blackwell Publishing
Professor Peter Rubin Division of Therapeutics, University of Nottingham
Ed Smith Senior partner PricewaterhouseCoopers (retired)
Ann Tate Vice-Chancellor, University of Northampton
Professor Paul Wellings Vice-Chancellor, University of Lancaster
Professor Dianne Willcocks Vice-Chancellor, York St John University
Professor Tim Wilson Vice-Chancellor, University of Hertfordshire

We spoke with a friend last night... the prominent professor is having a breakdown because the prominent Uni is wasting a fortune on fighting him/her... this is after the prof. was excluded from RAE... the ritual continues... universities are not accountable to anybody... nobody... and so we fight on... it is high culture to expect anyone of these bastards to understand or comprehend the impact of workplace bullying upon the targets, to acknowledge the damage it causes...

November 24, 2008

Thank you for nothing...

Dear Mr XXXX

Thank you for your e-mail of XXXX, addressed to XXXX and copied to Bill Rammell, about the bullying of academics in Higher Education (HE). I do hope that you understand that due to the large amount of correspondence that Ministers receive they are, unfortunately, unable to answer all letters and e-mails personally. I have been asked to respond on this occasion.

I can assure you that the Government abhors any form of bullying in education and we would expect that HE institutions will have policies and procedures in place to address any allegations of this type of behaviour.

As you will be aware, universities are autonomous bodies who are responsible for determining their own administrative and academic affairs, including ensuring that their staff contracts and conditions of service comply with the law. The Department has no remit over staffing matters in HE. Staff will enjoy the protection of their contract of employment which will be drawn up in accordance with the general law and any specific provisions in the University’s Articles of Government.

As Government Ministers cannot be arbiters in staffing disputes between HE employers and their staff, I would suggest that you pursue your complaint with the University. I would also recommend that if you are a member of a HE union, you seek their advice, or legal advice on this matter if you feel that the University has not fulfilled its contractual obligations with regard to your employment.

I would hope that in your particular circumstances your difficult situation could be resolved to the satisfaction of the parties involved.

Yours sincerely

Department for Education and Skills

November 23, 2008

...They have done it again, and again, and again... and they keep doing it... bastards!


...They have done it again... they are doing it again and again... this time it was the prominent professor, the envy of his/her department... last time it was the academic who was a whistle blower... Ah... yes, the latter tried to kill herself five times after they fired her...

And so they have done it again... they did it to XX and he took them on after they fired him... the pattern is always the same, formulaic... and as Kenneth Westhues tells us, this happens to the good academics, the ones that are the pride of their department, the ones that the students love... it does not happen to the lazy ones, to the unproductive ones... no, they get away with everything, they are part of the cliques, they are part of the machine that appointed them, that approves their behaviours...

And so I found myself talking to a colleague last night... many hours... and I recognised the pattern again, the formula... it happens again, and again, and again... and the victim has to cope with the pressure, with the hostility, with the anguish, with the pain, while they take on Goliath, while they take on the crude, rough, vindictive letters of a posh, top 100 employment law company... the top lawyers that the employer has, the thousands upon thousands of pounds wasted to defend the indefensible, and so it happens again and again, and again...

Only the best are bullied, the incompetent are part of the mob... and the silent collaborators, they watch, they know, they participate... Members of the Secondary Mob have to secondary mob. It is their function. No Mob - No Job...

And some of these stories do come out, some brave souls have taken on the system... Ah, yes, we must not forget the useless and pathetic union and the union reps that fill a space, a space that goes only that far and not further for to go further for the union would be to take on the employer, now then why would a union want to do that? Also part of the formula, the part that says that unions are hopeless when it comes to workplace bullying... and so it happens again and again and again and again... and again...

The wasted millions, mean nothing... the taxpayer pays... HEFCE does not give a shit... the local MP at best will write a letter of support... and so it goes... The more tenure these bastards get, the less they keep their skills up, the less employable they are elsewhere, the more likely they are to be lord to the dark side... some of them have never taught, they would have no clue how to teach, they are paper-masters, slaves to regulations and procedures which they choose when to follow...

These are the stories we do hear about, what about the ones we never know about? Where does it end? Does it end? No, it does not, it goes on and on and on ... a well-predicted ritual, a well-formulated ritual... and so we chatted with her last night for hours and hours... and so the pattern evolved, unfolded, all very predictable... the nice letters the students wrote to the managers of the posh university... No, these bastards have closed eyes, have closed ears, are beyond human emotions... there is no remorse. The victim needs to be eliminated. The terror continues, the pain continues, the anguish continues... closure never comes, closure can never come for what they take away they can never give back to you...

These are the bastards who know as much about planning, budgeting, human relations, and conflict resolution as a pit bull...

Remember those that went public, they did so at huge personal cost... visit Skorupski's Law, visit Sir Peter Scott, visit the shenanigans at Wolverhampton University, check what happened to Prof Linda Archibald... check the bad apple bullies...

Never forgive and never forget the bastards that did this to you... hate with passion... yes, hate takes a lot of energy, it is an all-consuming feeling... it gives you as much pain if not more, it pre-occupies you forever... I did meet that teacher that never recovered, he was working in his garden while the bully got promoted and moved to another job, my dear unknown teacher never went back to work, never recovered from the bullying... and the ritual continues... I did meet that man holding his bundle in the Employment Tribunal and staring at the wall, his wife abandoned him when he lost his job, when they fired him... I did meet that academic who keeps talking about genocide, his wife lost the chance of becoming a mother when they fired him... Ah, our lovely colleague down there who deserved promotion and is bullied every day, they give her tasks that they hope she will not deliver, but she does...

My soul stand up, have power, take them on, fire... fire... expose the bastards for what they are... we are ruled by ignorance and arrogance... never forgive, never forget.

Σήκω ψυχή μου δώσε ρεύμα
βάλε στα ρούχα σου φωτιά
βάλε στα όργανα φωτιά
να τιναχτεί σαν μαύρο πνεύμα
η τρομερή μας η λαλιά...

November 22, 2008

What workplace mobbing means

If you understand the four quotations below, you already have an intuitive grasp of what workplace mobbing means:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

— William B. Yeats, 1920

---

And we also pray that we may be considered candidly and aright by the living sufferers as being then under the power of a strong and general delusion, utterly unacquainted with and not experienced in matters of that nature.

— The jurors of Salem, MA, in 1697, five years after finding 150 men and women guilty of witchcraft

---

You read your history and you'll see that from time to time people in every country have seemed to lose their good sense, got hysterical, and got off the beam. . . I don't know what gets into people.

— U.S. President Harry Truman, in M. Miller, Plain Speaking (Berkley Medallion 1974, p. 447).
There are strange games played,
and careers unmade,
In the quest for wisdom's pearl;
There are tales of power,
In the ivory tower,
That can make your toenails curl.

— pace Robert Service


From: http://www.arts.uwaterloo.ca/~kwesthue/mobbing.htm

November 21, 2008

Quotes on Bullies

"Most organisations have a serial bully. It never ceases to amaze me how one person's divisive dysfunctional behaviour can permeate the entire organisation like a cancer."

"One would not expect a victim of rape to have to single-handedly identify, trace, catch, arrest, prosecute, convict and punish the person who raped her. Targets of bullying often find themselves doing all of these whilst those in positions of authority persistently abdicate and deny responsibility."

"The serial bully, who in my estimation accounts for about one person in thirty in society, is the single most important threat to the effectiveness of organisations, the profitability of industry, the performance of the economy, and the prosperity of society."

"Bullying consists of the least competent most aggressive employee projecting their incompetence on to the least aggressive most competent employee and winning."

"Nothing can prepare you for living or working with a sociopathic serial bully. It is the most devastating, draining, misunderstood, and ultimately futile experience imaginable."

"The best indicator of a sociopathic serial bully is not a clinical diagnosis but the trail of devastation and destruction of lives and livelihoods surrounding this individual throughout their life."

"I just want the bullying to stop. That is all I ever wanted. I used to love going to school. Now I hate it."

"Being bullied by a serial bully is equivalent to being stalked or being battered by a partner or being abused as a child and should be accorded the same gravity."

"The British education system is designed by and for physically strong, sports-oriented, academically-able, right-handed, heterosexual Caucasian males, supplemented recently by university-headed, academically-compliant, league-table-enhancing females. The only reason kids still get a good education is because of the many fine teachers who are unwilling to be subjugated by a procedurally-bound, Ofsted-straitjacketed, standards-limited, ticksheet-mentality education conveyor belt. Before they're half way through their career, this dedication results in the best teachers being stressed out, burnt out, or bullied out - often all three."

"Three points to remember if you're considering legal action:
1. The legal system has more in common with The National Lottery than a system of justice.
2. The legal system has more in common with The National Theatre than a system of justice.
3. In some countries, the legal system has more in common with The National Guard than a system of justice."

"Many children leave school with a hatred of an education system which breeds and sustains bullying and which isolates, ridicules, and excludes those who are in any way "different". The government's obsession with "standards" is a form of political institutionalised bullying which makes teachers as likely as their pupils to be bullied. Academic exam results devalue achievement and are one of the poorest indicators of potential [ More | More] rather than inspire individual achievement are more likely to sentence individuals to a life of middle-class mediocrity."

"Until there's a public commitment, and action to back that commitment, a policy is only words on paper."

"Recently there's been a trend to apply the term "bullying" to any kind of conflict at work, for example overwork and long hours. Although some bullying behaviours may be present in these issues, in my view this dilutes and devalues the term "workplace bullying" which should be used only for the more serious cases of conflict involving a serial bully. If there isn't a serial bully involved, it's probably not bullying you're dealing with."

"When bullying results in suicide (bullycide), the coroner usually records an open verdict. Unlike a physical injury or physical cause of death, a psychiatric injury cannot be studied and recorded after death. All the coroner has is (sometimes) the suicide letter and (always) the denial of everyone who contributed to the bullycide: the bullies, the witnesses of bullying, and those in authority who should have acted but didn’t. Invariably greater weight is attached to these denials than to the written and reported testimony of the deceased who has been tormented to death and to the deceased’s family who have lived through (and continue to live) the nightmare. An open verdict, which may be legally correct, is not going to relieve the suffering of the family or enable the perpetrators to be held accountable for their sins of commission and omission."

"The challenge of being a manager is to get the best out of everybody, not just the few who are clones of yourself."

"It is the lack of knowledge of, or the unwillingness to recognise, or the deliberate denial of the existence of the serial bully which is the most common reason for an unsatisfactory outcome for both employee and employer."

"Only the best are bullied."

"The vehemence with which a person denies the existence of the serial bully is directly proportional to the congruence of the person's behaviour with that of the serial bully."

"Bullies thrive wherever authority is weak."

"Why does the UK government ignore workplace bullying? Our system of democracy - government and law - is based on the adversarial model. To be successful in these fields, bullying behaviour is almost a prerequisite."

"The vehemence with which anyone opposes the Dignity at Work Bill is likely to be proportional to the extent to which that person's behaviour is congruent with the profile of the serial bully."

"Each Act of Parliament intended to address harassment and discrimination has faced objections on the basis of 'you'll never be able to prove...' and 'there's too much legislation already...' In no case has this line of reasoning ever been sustained."

"Today’s workplace has become heartless and soulless. Employees are seen as units of labour, automatons, functionaries, objects for achieving designated tasks, and as costs to be minimised."

"Whilst accidents and assaults injure and kill people quickly and spectacularly, bullying and consequent prolonged negative stress injure and kill people slowly and secretively. The outcome, though, is the same."

"Any anti-bullying scheme, initiative or policy which fails to mention accountability for the bullies is likely to meet with little, and often no, success."

"There is a light at the end of the tunnel but first you'll have to find the light switch and change the bulb before switching it on yourself. No problem, as targets of bullying are picked on for their competence and abilities."

"Good management and bullying have as much in common as great sex and rape."

From: http://allrelativelaw.blogspot.com/2008/11/quotes-on-bullies.html

November 19, 2008

November 17, 2008

Inevitable similarities...

Should the portrayal of certain workplace practices bear similarities with the practices of some educational institutions, then these similarities are neither intentional nor accidental, but inevitable.

November 15, 2008

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't

In a landmark article published in the esteemed Harvard Business Review, Stanford University professor Robert I. Sutton addressed a taboo topic that affects every workplace: employees who are insensitive to their colleagues... corporate bullies... bosses who just don’t get it- the kind of people who make you exclaim in exasperation, “What an asshole!”

Now in a definitive book that addresses this growing problem, Sutton shows you how you can work with unsavoury people- without becoming one of them yourself...

My two cents worth:

Please excuse my language but I’m kinda enjoying writing this review.

Let’s start with the correct definition of Asshole in this context: It’s not fair to call every person that pisses you off in the office an Asshole. A person who deserves such a grand title has to have a habit of aiming his/her venom at people who are less powerful and leaving the victim feeling oppressed, humiliated, de-energized and belittled, basically making them feel worst about him or herself. I bet you have someone in mind already right? (I do and I’ll definitely tell you about my experience later)

In The No Asshole Rule, Sutton provides recommendations on how the rule can be implemented successfully into an organization that is serious about changing its culture for the better. Allow me to state this clearly again, this book is suitable for organizations or top influential decision makers that are serious about changing its culture but if you are happy with the ‘pro Asshole’ rule in your organization then don’t bother but the book may give you some useful insights on the pro’s and con’s of keeping to this rule.

Included in the book are case studies and research on the effects of allowing Assholes to run wild in an organization. It de-motivates employees, diminishes productivity, causes low self-esteem, increases turnover and lo and behold: IT WILL AFFECT YOUR COST and in some cases PROFITS. (You don’t really need a book to tell you that do you? The increase in turnover alone is a waste of resources because you would constantly need to interview new people to come on board)

Victims of Assholism (he he... there is no such word of course just bear with me here) will also find this book useful as it provides tips on how to survive these nasty people. If you have worked in an organization, chances are you’ll be lucky enough to come across an Asshole at least once in your lifetime so the tips are quite handy. It also provides a self test to see if you yourself are a certified Asshole. (Phew! My results say that I’m not an Asshole but I do admit that I can be a ‘temporary Asshole’ at times... I’m only human)

I found this book’s content based on common sense but what makes the book insightful is the case studies and research presented on how a ‘pro Asshole’ rule can effect an organization and its employees. The No Asshole Rule is not one of those business books that can put you to sleep within minutes. It’s definitely a good read and I definitely had a trill saying the word Asshole so many times in a day. (I don’t swear a lot so I take this opportunity with open arms)

For more information visit Bob Sutton’s blog on other useful organizational tips.

My story:

I’m writing to share my experience of what working with an Asshole can do to your overall well being. I once had a boss that was so vile that I nick named my tormentor '666'. I was hired by the company because of my strategic abilities and my career achievements in the past. But when I came on board I became a runner; ‘fax this’, ‘pick this up’,’ do that’, ‘send this’ type of work scope.

Additionally, my comments were constantly ignored during meetings, when in rare occasion my opinion was sought I would be shot down for giving such a stupid idea (only for the idea to be presented again at an opportune moment for 666 to take credit). 666 constantly berated me and as if it was not enough to torture me from 9-5 Mondays to Friday’s, 666 would call me up over the weekends just to taunt me on matters that were not even under my portfolio and always made sure to point out that I was the most incompetent and dumbest person in the world before hanging up. In other words 666 was CRAZY!

I’m described by my closest friends to be a person who has a strong will, seldom do I bother to take notice of comments from idiots. But even the strongest person can fall prey to breakdown if the psychological abuse is provided in little doses consistently. Most of my other colleagues suffer the same torment but they all mentioned that I was her favourite subject of abuse.

There was little that we could do to overcome this challenge because despite being mean spirited, 666 was considered a treasure to the company. I hate to admit this but 666 produced results, was efficient and very hard working. The only flaw was that 666’s leadership qualities were based on fear. Because of 666’s leadership style, people feared making mistakes and even the nicest people were quick to point fingers to save their own skin...myself included; thus resulting in the lack of trust amongst peers.

The stresses of working with such a person can cause sleepless nights, I had nightmares related to work, I was constantly afraid of being humiliated, constantly questioning my abilities and worst I began to project the same attitude as 666. I was so stressed out that my relationship with my boyfriend and my parents were rocky. I was always snapping at them, imagine that, snapping at people I love the most. This was when I was also diagnosed with severe acid reflux and was rushed to the hospital at 5 am in the morning.

I could tell you countless stories of 666’s evil ways but what I’d rather do is concentrate on ways to keep your sanity intact while working with such a person. My suggestion for those who are suffering the same predicament; LEAVE- life is too short and you do not deserve the abuse no matter how incompetent you are. We all have our strengths that can be useful contribution to an organization and there are always ways to improve your weaknesses.

By the first month of employment, I made my decision to leave the company but couldn’t do so immediately as I wanted to be very careful with my next employment selection. If you’d like my recommendation on how to survive the torment, here’s what I did:

  1. Avoid contact with the Asshole as much as possible. Use the email or phone rather than face to face contact.
  2. Remind yourself everyday on your positive attributes. This kept my confidence intact whenever I question if 666’s baseless accusations were true. It helps if you remind yourself of the things you’ve achieved in life.
  3. Make jokes of the horrors you have experience so that you don’t take the verbal abuse personally. For example, every time 666 said something nasty, I’d joke and tell myself that 666 was only doing this because I’m smarter or prettier or whatever that would tickle my funny bone.
  4. Try not to get emotional- Always act professionally when a nasty comment is given. Don’t show them that their comments are getting to you. Just ignore them and trust me your indifference will annoy them more. All they want from the torment is to have a sense of power and they will only be satisfied if you show them your weaknesses.
  5. If you need to talk it over, confide in a friend. Trust me, you’ll feel better once you’ve let it all out and you’ll realize that you’ve just wasted energy on a useless cause.
  6. If your achievement at work is non-existent, find other ways to have a sense of accomplishment like re-decorating your house or take part in a book challenge. Even a simple thing like re-organizing your bank statements will give you a sense of achievement.
  7. Keep yourself busy and don’t mull over the comments too much, take it with a pinch of salt but be realistic. If you’ve made a mistake, take the point constructively, learn from it then move on. One of my colleagues started going to the gym and he mentioned that running on the treadmill helped him shed all the pent up aggression he kept inside.
  8. Don’t look at the experience negatively; you actually learn a lot from Assholes as they can be a benchmark of who you DO NOT want to be in life.
  9. Finally, if you’ve done all the above and many more and still feel abused then my only advise is LEAVE. Seriously life is too short to spend it with people who generate negative energy.
From: http://ulatbukuinthecity.blogspot.com

Bullying: golden rules for employers

1. Policy

Implement a written anti-bullying and harassment policy. The policy should clearly set out what constitutes bullying and other forms of unacceptable behaviour and explain that disciplinary action will be taken against anyone found to have behaved in breach of the standards set out in the policy.

The policy should also contain guidance on what employees should do if they feel that they are being bullied. This will include formal means of resolution such as through the company grievance procedure. Also include other sources of support such as an internal helpline number, or external sources of advice such any of the bullying helplines that are available by telephone and online.

2. Training

Provide training to managers, or even to all levels of staff, about what constitutes bullying and how to deal with it. Managers in particular should be given the training and awareness to allow them to identify potential issues before they escalate into anything more serious, and tackle them in a way that is sensitive rather than inflammatory.

3. Culture

Promote a culture of dignity and respect within your organisation, where everyone is clear that bullying will not be tolerated and know what the company's approach is to complaints. One of the greatest barriers in dealing with bullying effectively is removing the culture where 'victims' are afraid to come forward, or managers are reluctant to interfere.

4. Monitoring

Use some form of monitoring tool to assess current opinions on the issue of bullying within your organisation, and allow information to be gathered on a confidential basis, e.g. staff surveys or some form of discussion forum (in person or on the company intranet).

From: http://www.out-law.com

Teachers want principal out for alleged harassment

At least 20 teachers from Pitalo Elementary School in barangay Pitalo, San Fernando town, have asked the Department of Education to transfer their school principal for allegedly harassing them.

In a letter-complaint signed by the teachers addressed to Cebu Schools Division Superintendent Serena Uy, a copy of which was furnished to The FREEMAN, the teachers asked for the transfer of Doris Singson.

Aside from Uy, the teachers also asked San Fernando Mayor Lakambini Retuya to lobby to the DepEd provincial officials for the immediate transfer of Singson.

The teachers said that they are subjected to bullying and psychological harassment by Singson due to her alleged persistent aggressive and difficult to deal with behavior, humiliating them in front of their fellow teachers.

They also accused the principal of harassing the previous teachers who are assigned in the said school.

“She used profanity, threatening us of lawsuit and dismissal, constantly changing work guidelines, assigning unreasonable duties of workload which are unfavorable to a teacher, belittling her teacher’s opinions, tampering with a teacher’s personal belongings or work equipment, boorish comments, actions and gestures, retaliatory techniques, playing favoritism,” the teachers said in their letter.

Further, they said that the bullying repeated pattern of offensive behavior and psychological harassment by Singson “lowers their self-esteem and causes their torment, annoyance, behavior, feelings of frustration and helpless, increased sense of vulnerability, loss of confidence, inability to sleep, family tension and stress, inability to concentrate and low morale and productivity”.

They cited the case of their two co-teachers named Lissa Papas and Debbie Delgado who were diagnosed by their doctors to have suffered from severe anxiety due to work-related stress and were advised to rest.

Medical certificates issued by their respected doctors to both Papas and Delgado are also attached the letter-petition of the teachers.

“Since we all are suffering from the same workplace bullying and psychological harassment, we are worried that what happened to Papas and Delgado would also happen to all of us should the bully in our workplace remains. In that case we are contemplating of taking a mass leave of absence,” they further said in their complaint.

Retuya said that the teachers came to her office seeking assistance for the transfer of Singson.

The mayor said the teachers shared to her their individual traumatic experiences and symptoms of distress that are detrimental to the well-being of the teachers are evident.

In the interest of healthy and wholesome environment, Retuya recommends the immediate transfer of Singson to other school “to give both parties a breathing spell and to cool down boiling emotions.”

From: http://beta.philstar.com

November 12, 2008

Evil at work: bad bosses

They holler, throw things, scheme, connive, lie, cheat and generally make life miserable for untold millions of workers. They’re bad bosses. And by some estimates, half of all managers fall into that category. But what exactly is it that makes this scourge of the workplace so harmful? As it turns out, it’s in their nature.

For five years, Marilyn Haight, a business consultant in Arizona, studied scores of companies to see what makes lousy bosses tick. She found that truly bad bosses are not just incompetent—they purposefully set out to harm employees. With that in mind, she classified the men and women she studied into bad-boss “types” so employees would know what to look for, and realize who they’re dealing with. Using some of the classifications from Haight’s book, Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Boss?, we took a look at what makes both fictional and real-life managers so awful.

The Bully. When most people think of bad bosses, this is what comes to mind, says Haight. They’re loud, insulting, and frequently threatening. There’s no shortage of candidates who qualify as bullies, but one stands out: Albert “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap became famous for axing tens of thousands of jobs as a corporate downsizer in the 1990s. He ruled by instilling fear in underlings, until he himself got the axe from appliance maker Sunbeam. When asked once if successful managers could be friendly, he reportedly replied, “You want a friend? Buy a dog.”

The Pilferer. Pilferer bosses, as the name implies, funnel company assets into their own pockets, and convince employees to turn a blind eye to their schemes. Dennis Kozlowski, the former CEO of Tyco, is a typical example. At one time, he was best-known for his $6,000 shower curtains and a life-sized ice statue of Michelangelo’s David that dispensed vodka at one of his parties. Now he’s serving an eight-year sentence for stealing millions from his own company. He reportedly got away with it for so long because he spread the bounty around to others in the executive suite through million-dollar “relocation perks” and “special bonuses.”

The Suppressor. Haight says this is the most common type of bad boss. “They constantly put down the achievements of other people and don’t want others to look better than them,” she says. These bosses are often ruthless, like Miranda Priestly, the magazine editor who terrorized her employees in the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada (the character was ostensibly based on real-life Vogue editor Anna Wintour). Suppressor bosses demand reverence and subservience, says Haight, and working for one often makes you feel invisible.

The Pretender. Michael Scott, the boss played by Steve Carell on the popular TV show The Office, is clearly in over his head. In a recent episode, for example, he held a meeting with his employees to introduce a new office diet plan. He came in the room dressed in a “sumo suit” and proceeded to put up pictures of Jabba the Hutt in an effort to demonstrate the perils of overeating. But to be a truly bad boss, a pretender must also be evil. On that front, there’s no finer example than the Pointy Haired Boss from the Dilbert comic strip. Completely clueless, yet up to speed on the latest useless corporate buzzwords, he’s every employee’s worst nightmare. As Dilbert creator Scott Adams describes him, “He wasn’t born mean and unscrupulous, he worked hard at it.” It’s always a mystery how such bosses climb to their exalted posts, but Haight has a theory. “The more tenure you get, the less you keep your skills up, the less employable you are elsewhere, the more likely you are to be lord to the dark side,” she says.

The Cult Maker. Haight says this is the most insidious type of bad boss. These bosses want to be worshipped and surround themselves with fawning yes-men. Worse still, they gossip and gang up on dissenting employees to make their lives hellish. Think of the cult of personality that surrounded former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling. After Sherron Watkins, Enron’s vice-president of corporate development, wrote a scathing internal memo warning the company could implode, she was reportedly made to feel like an outcast.

Some say you can fight bad bosses by taking lots of notes and by keeping a record of everything your supervisor does. But that will likely only delay an inevitable choice: put up with your evil boss, or get out. Whatever you end up doing, it can be a deeply frustrating and lonely experience. “It’s often hard to get anyone, even your friends and family, to believe what you’re telling them about your boss because they can’t understand how someone could become a boss and do things that are bad for the organization,” says Haight. “For these people it can feel like they’re on a little island all by themselves.” But if it’s any consolation, Haight says there’s a surprising number of terrible bosses out there—so you’re definitely not alone.

From: http://blog.macleans.ca/2008/10/02/evil-at-work-bad-bosses/2/

November 11, 2008

The story begins...

...The story begins with a tenured Dr. PITA who had worked quietly for decades in a fractured department. A private sort of man, he kept to himself. He taught his classes, told jokes to passing colleagues, ran experiments in his lab, and went home to his family. He would later be described as "a dynamic teacher who appeals, particularly, to bright students who have a thirst for learning."

Dr. PITA was foreign-born and of recognizible ethnic origin. For this reason, professional jealousy, or who knows what, there was no love lost between Dr. PITA and his department chair. Mainly they stayed out of each other's way.

Then came the incident... A third accuser materialized, claiming Dr. PITA had trivialized her work and been unprofessional.

The chair, dean, vice-president and president all agreed that Dr. PITA had to be dismissed. He was suspended with pay pending an arbitrator's hearing of appeal. His research money was returned to the funder/ His lab was dismantled. Stories appeared in the press of an unidentified professor dismissed on a morals charge, but without details.

On account of the customary delays in scheduling, the arbitration did not commence until 16 months after Dr. PITA was suspended
...

From: 'Eliminating Professors. A Guide to the Dismissal Process', by Kenneth Westhues

November 10, 2008

Mob, v t, to kill by pack

May I clarify that this is no attempt at scholarly lucubration but rather a personal story of why an Argentinian emigrated to the United States by way of Venezuela; chose an academic career hoping to realize his main values through it; emigrated later to Canada (there is hardly any place farther north to go); found university life – especially in recent years – rather different from what he expected; experienced bias in his profession (mostly from being in a minority of one, as sometimes we all are); was mobbed when he interrupted his quiet research as a highly successful, tenured full professor with an international reputation in his field when he saw it as his moral duty to speak up against a major administrative blunder that hurt thousands of students; had to persist for five months with emails until the university president finally acknowledged, through clenched teeth, that a problem had existed at all; had to endure repeated tricks, attempts at humiliation, and false accusations, including secret lies in court; spent an eye-opening night in jail; saw the phoney story about his “mental instability” and his “tendency to violence” planted by the Administration on the front page of Vancouver newspapers destroy his public reputation; experienced a mixture of redress and personal compassion when the university president had to resign his position because of mental illness (most of his blunders resulted from an obsession with sexual harassment, whether real or in his mind, a crime for which he proudly announced a policy of zero tolerance, always seeing the females as victims in these juicy sex stories, even in cases where the women made false claims and the men were clearly innocent); enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing his biography included in the University of Toronto’s Canadian Who’s Who beginning in 1998 (one year after being forced to retire four years early from his university); had to spend five very stressful years and a fortune in lawyers in vain attempts to wipe out the mud and worse thrown at him by the vice-president who then sued him for defamation; developed a limp when given an overdose of medication for his court-related stress; survived quite well through spiritual resources and by immediately going into the second career that should have been his from the start; yet had to endure the ultimate humiliation of being held in contempt of court because a reporter wrote a story with recent events – which he didn’t learn from the defendant and were supposed to be kept under wraps. (Sorry, that was indeed a long sentence. Former professors of linguistics occasionally write like that.)

...The undoubtedly bright university administrators who mobbed me were not lacking in foresight; they obtained a court injunction forbidding me from making any comments about “anything mentioned in the mediation,” an illegal phrase as wide as a Mack truck which I objected to, for in the mediation a great many things, old and new, and without relevance to this particular case, had been mentioned. Any lawyer worth his or her salt would have objected strenuously to this encompassing phrase, but mine accepted it.

... Academic life can be very stressful, especially for those who think differently from the crowd. Long before my mobbing, I remember that for some time, almost every morning, as I approached my campus building from the parking lot, I suffered from nausea. (The section of the department where I did most of my teaching was controlled by four people with political and religious views very different from those of three others, including myself. The interference with the minority’s careers was such that one gave up his promising academic career to run a motel, another died young of a stroke, and I was the only one to survive till retirement age – well, almost). Life has never been fair, but if academic life were even a little fairer, only incompetent deadwood – which I never was – should have to get sick when coming to work.

...At about the same time, the Administration succeeded in having their disingenuous side of the story published on the front page of the two largest newspapers in our province, complete with the smiling face of the “miscreant,” which the adjoining text defamed as emotionally unstable and dangerous.

Evidently the worst “sin” a professor can commit on a campus is to become a dissident against his university administration, even though that has long come under the rubric of “academic freedom.” Again, many colleagues protested for weeks the suspension of my email and other things being done to me, but gradually – as often happens with campus crises – things quieted down, I being the only one indulging in forced quietness.

...My legal ordeal – which lasted almost five years because of my determination to “clear my name” – was very expensive and a source of almost continuous stress, with negative effects on both my physical and emotional health. As for “clearing” anyone’s name, the great majority of people, including many professors, are far more likely to remember an adverse front-page story than to notice any small, neutrally worded announcement that may appear years later somewhere in the back of the same publication. One of the tragedies of mobbing is that once a reputation has been destroyed, a person can never recover it fully...

By Hector Hammerly, Late Professor of Linguistics, Simon Fraser University

From: http://arts.uwaterloo.ca/~kwesthue/hhammerly-ess.htm

Management briefing: bullying in the workplace

Workplace bullying is on the rise and the public sector is the worst offender, a report has found.

The Government estimates that bullying costs the UK economy £13.7 billion, with 100 million days in productivity lost every year.

In Bullying at Work: the Experience of Managers, 70 per cent of managers polled by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) said that they had witnessed bullying in the past three years and 42 per cent had been bullied themselves, with unfair treatment, verbal insults, unwanted sexual advances, blocked promotion opportunities and physical intimidation among examples named.

When asked about their experiences, managers said that instances of bullying were not only top down. Some 55 per cent had witnessed bullying among peers, and one in three had seen subordinates bullying their managers.

When bullying did occur, it often went unchecked. Almost half the respondents (47 per cent) said no action was taken by their organisation.

There appear to be multiple reasons for the trend. Root causes named include a lack of management skills, cited by 71 per cent of respondents, 59 per cent said that personality clashes were the problem and 44 per cent blamed authoritarian management styles.

The CMI report compared the results with the same survey conducted three years ago and found that bullying appeared to be on the rise across all organisations. On a 5-point scale, individuals gave their employer a score of 2.37 to show the extent of bullying in their workplace, up from 2.25 in 2005. The public sector received an average 2.60.

Gill Trevelyan, the head of good practice services at Acas, the arbitration service, said that high levels of stress associated with professions such as teaching or healthcare were a big factor.

“One of the main reasons for managers to adopt bullying behaviour is when they are under pressure or stress themselves,” she said. However, the figures could also owe to greater awareness of bullying in the public sector, making employees more likely to report incidents.

“In other workplaces that have a more aggressive culture, such as a financial trading floor, these practices may be seen as normal - although not necessarily right,” Ms Trevelyan said. It pays for organisations to be vigilant. Bullying contributes to ill-health, and organisations that tolerate it can be held to account under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

A ruling by the law lords in 2006 made it clear that the principle of vicarious liability under the Protection From Harassment Act 1997 applies in the workplace, so employers may be held liable even if they have not acted negligently or were unaware of the problem.

The best course of action is to have clear policies to define what constitutes bullying and to make employees aware of procedures, Ms Trevelyan said. Effective management is crucial. “Managers who take a more consultative, consensual approach rather than ‘command and control' are less likely to be seen as bullies,” she said.

From: http://business.timesonline.co.uk

November 08, 2008

Apology following Elimination

We do therefor hereby signify to all in general (and to the surviving sufferers in especial) our deep sense of and sorrow for our errors in acting on such evidence to the condemning of any person, and do hereby declare that we justly fear we were sadly deluded and mistaken, for which we are much disquieted and distressed in our minds, and do therefore humbly beg forgiveness, first of God for Christ's sake for this our error, and pray that God would not impute the guilt of it to ourselves not others. And we so pray that we may be considered candidly and aright by the living sufferers as being then under the power of a strong and general delusion, utterly unacquainted with and not experienced in matters of that nature.

From the statement of the jurors for the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts, made in 1697, five years after their conviction of 150 men and women for various forms of witchcraft
.

From: 'Eliminating Professors. A guide to the dismissal process', by Kenneth Westhues

November 06, 2008

Universities have been listed among the worst in a survey on bullying of university staff across the UK

Northern Ireland’s two universities have been listed among the worst in a survey on bullying of university staff across the UK.

The University of Ulster and Queen's University feature in the “worst” category for staff being “always” or “often” bullied.

The UU was 7th on the national list compiled by the University and College Union (UCU). The union has named and shamed the universities with the worst reported levels of bullying ahead of Friday’s national Ban Bullying at Work Day. Queen's was 19th.

Of the 143 respondents from Queen’s, 11.9% said they were always or often bullied. At the UU, just over 10% of the 148 respondents said this was the case.

The University of East London had the worst ranking with almost 17% of the staff surveyed saying they were always or often bullied. In 19 institutions at least one-in-10 respondents to the UCU survey reported being ‘always’ or ‘often’ bullied.

A University of Ulster spokesperson said: “The University of Ulster has received a copy of the UCU survey and is in the process of assessing its validity and relevance.

“The university has a comprehensive bullying and harassment procedure agreed with the local trade unions. The aim of the procedure is to provide a safe and harmonious working environment and to provide mechanisms to address any issues raised.

“All staff and students are expected to comply with the policy, and to assist in the promotion of a good working environment free from any form of bullying and harassment.”

Queen’s University said: “Queen’s University is a large employer and has an extensive range of policies to support staff in the workplace.

“The university views bullying at work as unacceptable and has procedures in place to fully investigate complaints of this nature and take appropriate and timely action.

“An analysis of the last two years indicates only three cases have been brought to the attention of senior managers for examination under the agreed procedures. The university has comprehensive consultative procedures in place with all its trade unions.”

Over 9,700 UCU members working in higher education across the UK were surveyed and the results reveal that 6.7% of members said they were always or often bullied at work and 16.7% said “sometimes”. Only half (51%) said they were fortunate enough to “never” be bullied at work.

Less than half of all respondents in higher education (only 45.1%) said they were never subjected to personal harassment at work, 7% said they were subjected to it “always” or “often” and nearly one-in-five (18.8%) said they “sometimes” suffered personal harassment.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “Bullying at work can take many forms and all of them create stress for the victim.

“Everybody has the right to expect to work in a safe environment free from bullying. We believe bullying to be a deep-seated problem in higher education and we want to know what organisations such as the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA) are doing to tackle the problem.”

From: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Also: UCU today names and shames the universities with the worst reported levels of bullying, ahead of Friday's national Ban Bullying at Work Day.

They are:

  • University of East London
  • Kingston University
  • De Montfort University
  • University of Lincoln
  • University of Salford
  • University of Glamorgan
  • University of Ulster
  • Bangor University
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Birmingham City University
  • University of Greenwich
  • University of Westminster
  • Oxford Brookes University
  • University of Gloucestershire
  • University of Hertfordshire
  • University of Dundee
  • University of Portsmouth
  • University of Bradford
  • Queen's University Belfast
-----------------------------------------------
Tackling bullying - a UCU conference

UCU will be holding a national conference on tackling bullying and harassment in the tertiary education workplace on 27 November in London.

UCU conference centre, Britannia Street, London, WC1X 9JP

Britannia Street office location map

Speakers include:

Dr Iain Coyne, University of Nottingham
Hannah Essex, College and University Support Network, and
John Bamford, UCU health and safety advisor

There will also be practical workshops in the morning and afternoon, on campaigning against bullying and negotiating anti-bullying policies, and results from UCU's forthcoming survey of bullying and cyber-bullying.

7th November 2008 - Ban Bullying at Work Day

The Ban Bullying at work campaign is spearheaded by the Andrea Adams trust – the first charity in the UK dedicated to raising awareness of workplace bullying.

Last year’s Ban Bullying day was very successful, with over 300 organisations involved and an estimated 3 million of the UK’s workforce taking part in events on the day. The website was accessed by an estimated 3 million people up to and including November 7th. All campaign promotional items were completely sold out and several thousand co-branded posters were sold across Europe.

A very successful PR campaign saw us on BBC News, GMTV, Sky News, the ‘Today’ programme, 23 regional BBC radio shows and a wide range of newspapers and magazine articles which all helped get the campaign the attention it deserved.

As the UK’s leading authority on workplace bullying, the Andrea Adams Trust is committed not just to helping individuals and organisations deal with the problem, but to extending our understanding of the nature and scale of workplace bullying through extensive partnership working. For more details of the Trust’s work click here.

November 02, 2008

The Fundamental Question: Do You Side With Bullied Targets or With Perpetrators?

We are a blame-the-victim nation. Part of this is human nature. Cognitive psychology teaches us that when faced with two conflicting internal beliefs when bullying strikes a friend -- "I like my co-worker friend" and "Bad things happen only to bad people" -- there is a tendency to want to reduce the conflict, the dissonance, by changing one of those beliefs.

The result is that we individuals are more likely to abandon the bond we feel for our friends in order to support the internalized twisted worldview that if tragedy visits someone then that person must have deserved it. Sounds bizarre, right? But this distortion, called the fundamental attribution error, is our tendency to overestimate the role individuals play in their fate.

Under the artificial cover of "toughness" or "responsibility," we humans rationalize remarkable cruelty perpetrated senselessly against others. Though domestic violence is now criminalized, it is still rampant because of the insipid belief that if a spouse gets battered, the batterer must have rationally acted on the basis of something the battered one made him do. Poppycock!

When we learn that Americans now torture others in violation of all international and moral laws and against our traditions, too many of us justify the torture because we believe that innocents would not be tortured if it was not necessary. This blame-the-victim trend is becoming all too American!

Similarly when we witness a peer being bullied in the workplace, it arouses such negative emotions in us, that too often we make ourselves feel better by ostracizing the victim and ending our historical relationship with him or her. We turn our backs on our fellow human beings out of the selfish desire to not feel empathy for them when we see their pain. Empathy causes us to feel the pain ourselves. The deliberate distancing from others probably explains a growing alienation that drives epidemic levels of depression and social dysfunction in our society.

As a society, we discount or diminish workplace bullying and psychological violence with hollow, dehumanized phrases like "managerial prerogative must be ensured" "don't interfere with the ability of businesses to be competitive" or "this country was built by mean, aggressive sons of bitches ... some people may need a little appropriate bullying in order to do a good job ... they are really just wimps."

For the first decade of the U.S. movement against workplace bullying, we have applied rationality to the irrational process of destructive interpersonal bullying. We appealed to businesses with bottom-line fiscal impact. Bullies are too expensive to keep. Employers did not care. If they are in business ostensibly to make a profit or to sustain quality government services, they should care. However, our experiences on-site with employers as consultants as well as the empirical data we gathered in a series of surveys expose employer indifference to workplace bullying. Without a specific law posing a litigation threat, employers blithely carry on as if bullying never happens, even denying it when it is reported to them.

As for "personal responsibility," there is a double standard. Victims are responsible, but the bullies-perpetrators never take responsibility. Their explanations are always some form of the target "made me do it." Weak employers allow the bullying to happen with impunity, without accountability, as if helpless to stop the abuser on their payroll.

According to the 2007 WBI-Zogby poll, in 44% of cases of reported bullying, employers did nothing. (In an additional 18% of cases, they worsened the situation by turning on the victim-complainant.) Rationally, employers can afford to do this because 80% of bullying is legal.

Bullying is morally wrong.

Doing nothing is not a neutral act when an individual pleas for relief from the emotional misery bullying inflicts. Doing nothing is denying the person credibility as an adult. Doing nothing is sustaining the status quo and defending the perpetrator, however implicitly or indirectly. How dare HR, the primary agent responsible for implementing or blocking the employer's response to reported bullying, side with the bully (most often in management, 73%) against the employee who naively came to HR for "help"!

So at the beginning of our second decade, we must not be reticent about calling perpetrators and those who support them immoral. It is not our subjective morality that is violated, but the deeper sense of human dignity that is undermined when victims of bullying are not supported. We need to rekindle our compassion for those less fortunate than us whose fate was not their own making. Bully apologists have an indefensible, unconscionable position of favoring abuse.

Once we are bullied and feel the full force of a laser-focused campaign of interpersonal abuse, we drop the smug justifications for the bully. If we work long enough in enough different places and encounter enough incompetent bosses, we are likely to be bullied ourselves in our work life (37% of U.S. workers are). The only people who still doubt that bullying happens are the ones who have never suffered an unexpected, univited disaster or catastrophe. Events humble arrogant superiority known only to those lacking experience in bullying, direct or witnessed. But we should not have to wait for everyone to be personally bullied so that they understand how destructive bullying can be to personal health, careers, families, and employers.

Paraphrasing comments from a recent U.S. president: you are either with us or with the perpetrators. The fundamental question is to which side are your willing to commit?

There are not two equally compelling morally equivalent sides to the violence at work dilemma. No one targeted by bullying invited or wanted the intolerable misery. There is no "win-win" amicable mediated settlement possible in bullying situations. To tolerate a little bit of abuse, to appease perpetrators, is unacceptable. It is a moral compromise that leads to societal decline. It triggers retrospective questions such as, what have we allowed ourselves to become?

The choice is simple, actually. Do not squirm to make it complex. The ethical human choice transcends corporate or institutional needs.

Either side with the perpetrators of violence and rationalize and excuse the escalating trend toward hostility and abuse in the workplace

or

side with the targeted individuals who asked for nothing more than to be left alone to do the jobs they once loved.


From: http://bullyinginstitute.org