April 28, 2009

Bullied Blogger: ‘I need to do something to get me out of this hole’

...I was shocked by the pre-disciplinary report sent last Friday. I feel I am a fool to have thought that the pro vice-chancellor for law and social sciences was in any way going to give a balanced and objective appraisal of my behaviour. At the time, he seemed concerned, sympathetic, empathic and highly motivated to “get this sorted out”. The report that was sent to me via email and registered post is a terrible indication of how organisations work and deal with people who – through complicated interpersonal disputes that result in severe stress – attempt to challenge in ways that may be problematic. The pre-disciplinary meeting was just another perfunctory way of building a subjective case against me. I feel utterly confounded by the psychological brutality I am experiencing.

I feel like a criminal. Criminalised. It’s hard to recall, but there was a time, not too many months ago, when I loved my job. My students so enjoyed my teaching. All that seems invisible, airbrushed, forgotten, invalidated. It seems impossible to imagine that I will ever be able to return to work for this academic institution. This option is now gone.

My emotions are changeable; I veer towards despair and depression. One good thing I have to hold on to is that Dominic is wonderfully supportive, but he now wants me to resign. He is shocked by the mechanistic and uncaring attitude of this university, that someone can give so much and be “dismissed” so easily. He thinks if my situation were a work of fiction it would be considered an unlikely scenario. I read a great deal about dysfunctional organisations, research on bullying, interpersonal conflict in organisations and how mobbing is a common occurrence. The reading is not optimistic: it paints pictures of sour, hidden malice and ruined careers.

I find the silence from staff in my division disappointing and disheartening. Do they know what is going on? Have they succumbed to the vitriolic character assassination of the individual who has been punished? Do they take the party line? Have they forgotten about me and just carry on unquestioning? Are they so conformist and worried about making contact? For some naive reason, I thought that there would be interest in what is happening to me – and in the division of law and social sciences, what else would one expect but a critical questioning about the way I have been dealt with? But also, what about Alan, my friend? He must have left by now. Where is Alan in all of this? Am I so wrapped up in all of this that I have become too focused on my own experience? There is a world out there and I am in a fog of war. I need to do something to get me out of this hole.

I read and re-read the disciplinary report. It is vindictive, selective and partisan, lacking any sense of humanity. Helen and Marcus say such lies and conjure up a view that vindicates their position. I did not realise people could be so terribly nasty. Apparently, when Marcus read the Easter email he was traumatised. Helen was “shocked and devastated” by my email. There is also a one-page response from the vice-chancellor’s office that talks about “staff seemingly acting with scant regard for official channels of communication” and human resources taking the view that I have been “offensive and unacceptable in my behaviour to staff”. But these are the people who were accused by me after a long period of difficulties THAT WERE MINE. It was I who attempted to resolve matters. They have each other, their religion and mutual association of faith. I cannot believe they have been so offended. It seems orchestrated, contrived and engineered for best effect.

I read the report time and time again. It all seems crazy and ridiculous. They have gone on a fishing expedition and cast their nets far and wide. Seen in isolation, without any context or understanding for my situation, I am guilty as charged. Totally stuffed. But it’s not like that: this has a history. I know it and they know it. I need to hold on to what led me here. I need to hold on to that. But who is believed? These are defensive reactions, and according to bullying websites, they are consistent with how these things play out...

From: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk
Times Higher Education removed the option for posting comments on their site. We haven't.


Anonymous said...

Been there, suffered for it. I know very well what was described as I went through something similar a few years ago.

Westhues had it right when he described how the system actually works:


The process is deeply ingrained in the system. Regrettably, what happens is well within the law and there's nothing one can do about it.

The best thing is to quit and do something else. This is one fight that the accused will never win. The bad guys will see to that.

El Cid

Anonymous said...

This is one fight that will be won - one day.

Speak out against workplace bullying.

You know it makes sense.

Say NO

Aphra Behn

Anonymous said...

I know what you are going through.

I am in the same place myself and have been there for years.

Go for long walks in the sunshine - think through everything very carefully before you take any action.

Remember that any words you use they will try to use against you....

Keep meticulous records.

Be very very strong.

In solidarity

Aphra Behn

Anonymous said...

Speak out against workplace bullying.

In the years that I have been speaking out there have been moves forward.

We are now in a different place.

We have friends who support us.

Friends who care about what is happening in HE.

We are no longer silenced.

Our voices are growing.

Speak out for the sake of the next generation of students.

They deserve the very best.

In solidarity

Aphra Behn

Anonymous said...

It can be a good idea to use fighting talk even when you feel like shit because they relentlessly attack you

ON and ON and ON and ON

Dig very deep

say NO to workplace bullying.

You know it makes sense.

Aphra Behn

Anonymous said...

People who use bullying and targeting are cunning, manipulative and relentless, but they are also the most insecure and least intelligent academics. I am not convinced that direct confrontation or even grievance are effective; the first fuels their aggressivity, while the institution always tries to cover up. Short of physical assault, everything is allowed. In the end, the exercise of brutish power is gaining ground in universities, and that may have something to do with their increasingly corporate style. Anyone who doesn't have a powerful 'patron' backing them (or more than one) and doesn't either ingratiate themselves or offer something to the chief bully to placate him/her, is very likely to be targeted. Especially if they do their job well, are liked by students and are remotely independent, original thinkers.

I have great sympathy, I've been suicidal, I've been depressed, I've had years of various symptoms, I've fought back in different ways, trying to preserve my dignity and myself against slander and practice stoicism. Every situation is unique. Other people find it hard to make a judgment, especially as bullies and their mignons can be deceptive; trying to 'whitewash' their reputation by great care to act well and establish themselves with key figures. I think it's important to resist falling into despair and anger or resentment, because others see you as unhappy and, paradoxically, suspect that you may be the source of 'trouble'. You have to resist any baiting, which may be continuous. Basically, you need to have a strong support network. If you don't, focus on putting one together for your well-being and so as not to give in.

If you think it's an impossible situation (and that means widespread corruption in the department and/or institution), start making plans to leave. Life is too short. And, you can't change people. If you thing there is a majority made up of psychopathic or just bad characters (one is enough), or others ('innocent fence-sitters) too cowardly to take a stance, keep trying for another job.

Be strong, your well-being and your life are more important than any job.

Anonymous said...

I was bullied for a year ten years ago.....best advice i can give...let it go...and move on...i got so tangled in trying to prove i was right i lost sight of the big picture. Leave...move on....and b a huge success....that is the best revenge...