July 05, 2009

Open letter

An extract from an open letter to my prestigious research university – prompted by Carl’s death. I apologise to friends and family of Carl for using the space in the way that I have done. I hope you will understand. I think Carl would have done.

…these practices feel relentless and yet you claim there is no evidence of workplace bullying. As teachers we know that until you get the behaviour right it is impossible to achieve any real learning. If you can’t 'get the behaviour right', with the support of some of the governors, then I don’t believe anyone can. The power is in your hands.

We have to address the reality and speak the truth; that requires both courage and trust – a philosophical opportunity to review what is happening. Not just using the jargon without touching real life.

Cases of alleged workplace bullying such as mine (and Carl’s) are very serious. You know that.

I do not know if you are aware of the case at Solent University which is currently being debated on the Times Higher blog. There are some links to my case so you may find it useful to review what is being said.

I can assure both you and the university that I am mentally very strong so I would assure you that there is no danger that I would take my own life as Carl has done. In saying this I do not mean any disrespect to Carl - in some ways his death has helped me. It could so easily have been the other way round. However – I do believe that the university – key members of senior management - have taken completely unacceptable risks with regard to my ability to cope with this situation.

On the Times Higher blog you will see reference to Carl’s university and the kind of debates that his death has prompted in this space that new technology has created. There is also testimony from a close friend of Carl’s – both on this blog and the Times Higher blog. She describes the effects of the long-term humiliation on Carl – crying in his kitchen after yet another meeting where he had been humiliated.

In the end he could no longer cope with the pain and took his own life. We can read about the response of the university – their defence that no one had taken out a grievance against the manager of Carl’s department.

There are others – Diana Winstanly from Kingston – whose death is recorded somewhere on this blog. My pain is also recorded on this blog - over a period of years. This blog has been and continues to be my lifeline in my darkest and bleakest moments… when the bottle of pills seems so tempting.

Carl’s close friend is now under police surveillance and cannot defend herself. The state too colludes it would seem in these cases. She has been threatened 3 times with legal action by the university... 1984 is alive and well.

As you have agreed – cases of workplace bullying are very serious. As is evidenced by Carl’s case they can spiral out of control in ways that cannot be foreseen. – sometimes with a tragic loss of life.

I would agree that spaces such as blogs are not the best place to debate these issues – yet they are the only spaces available for those of us who believe that we are targets of workplace bullying.

Silence and denial is not the way forward. I would ask that the university…


I cannot include any more as that would reveal to my university who I am.

I would urge anyone who is concerned about workplace bullying to speak out in their university - find someone with the power and the courage to help you.

Write a letter to you MP.

Write to anyone who has the power to take this issue forward before we have any more deaths.

In solidarity - and thinking of you Carl - that last walk...

Aphra Behn


Anonymous said...

The never ending lists of accusations and hurdles that have to be navigated are so exhausting.

Do you know how they go on and on and on...

Can you imagine what this is like?

Does anyone care?

Say NO to workplace bullying today

Why is that so difficult to do?

Aphra Behn

Anonymous said...

Extract from Times Higher blog debate on where staff work... and other matters....

June 22nd...
Once this happens, bitterness sets in, and they are sometimes the worst for wanting to micro-manage and control the whereabouts of their colleagues. Its a sad state of affairs when this professional jealousy kicks in.

What you also see is the creation of a whole new raft of admin duties that seem to appear, and endless review meetings created. One wonders whose existence this is meant to justify.....

... these people like to be seen in the office, they like people to see them looking busy, because there is no real and tangible output in research terms that they are producing.


Micro-management...that's such a good weapon for bullies...works a treat...

Hey bullies!

Aphra Behn

Anonymous said...

June 23rd Times Higher Blog

It is my view that the biggest scandal currently in the UK is not the one currently surrounding MP expenses but rather the as yet to be exposed bombshell of the staggering amounts of taxpayers' money that is being invested throughout the British academy in the silencing of undesirables, usually the ones who have dared to speak out on issues of discrimination and public interest disclosure.


These gagging clauses should be illegal.

I wonder if the public are aware that this is how their money is spent - THEIR money spent on SILENCING academics who dare to challenge...who dare to speak out.

This is the world of academia.

Say no to workplace bullying.

You know it makes sense.

Aphra Behn

Anonymous said...


If positive consequences follow bullying, the bullies are emboldened. Promotions and rewards are positive. But it is also positive if they are not punished. Bullies who bully others with impunity become convinced they can get away with it forever. They will continue until stopped. Even reluctant bullies can be taught to be aggressive over time. We are all susceptible to changing our behavior in light of work environment conditions.

Stopping them requires nothing less than turning the workplace culture upside down. Bullies must feel pain themselves when they harm others. Punishment must replace promotions. And only executives and senior management can reverse the historical trend.

To stop bullying requires employers to change the routine ways of "doing business" that have propped up bullies for years. Bullies are too expensive to keep but convincing executives, the bully's best friends and supporters, is difficult.


They will continue until stopped.

And who is going to stop them?


Aphra Behn

Anonymous said...

Reachout - Australia au.reachout.com

No one deserves or asks to be bullied. Everyone has the right to work in an environment free from bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence. Employers and employees have duties by law (eg Occupational Health and Safety Acts) to comply with any measures in place to promote health and safety within the workplace and not to put themselves or their colleagues at risk.

It's also worth keeping in mind that bullying is not the same as conflict. Disagreement and conflict happen at most workplaces, however, it should never turn into bullying or harassment.


Workplace bullying is being debated across the world.

What are you going to DO about it?


Aphra Behn

Anonymous said...

With thanks to Tim Field whose book ‘Bully in Sight’ has been another lifeline. I wonder what Tim’s view would have been of these blogs….

I have never suffered from physical abuse so I don't know what it is like.

The psychological abuse that I believe that I suffer from feels just as bad. If I had some bruises and cuts then I could show them to people.

Psychological abuse leaves no marks.

I can only try to reveal my pain on this blog.. and hope... that somewhere...someone can do something to help me...

UCU have been useless - in fact I believe wilfully useless....

The Times Higher blog about Solent shows so clearly how some staff and the alleged bully's students leap to her defence.

Bullies have multiple personalities - Tim Field in Bully in Sight - writes about this.

He suggests that employers must take moral and legal responsibility when bullying occurs

Bullying can take the form of …

dismissing as irrelevant people's ideas, opinions, work, contributions,
minimising the value of people's contributions,
refusal to acknowledge achievements,
denial of the right of the individual to undertake tasks for which they have been recruited,
refusal to communicate,
periods of silence for weeks or months,
limiting communication to email,
encouraging staff to snitch on others,
sabotaging and impeding work,
making claims that support the bully's point of view,
behaviour whose intent is to make you feel useless,
holding meetings that are at variance with what you have been led to believe,
refusal to minute meetings,
producing minutes that are inaccurate,
being difficult with respect to requests for leave,
the use of ulterior motives/hidden agendas
gossip and innuendos
misuse of power
the appointment of chosen individuals by default to posts without due consultation,
ambiguous emails intended to bait the target

... that's what I'm going through...so I feel a bit rough at times...

I imagine it was maybe a bit like that for Carl... he sounds a great guy...

Why did people at Solent allow this to happen to him?

Was there silence and denial?

This is what happens in psychological abuse… to the outsider it can look like nothing is wrong…

How do bullies get away with it?

Again back to Tim Field... a man who knew about bullying...

Unwillingness to put one’s own job, career, promotion prospects in jeopardy

Freewheeling to retirement

Being unable to comprehend amoral behaviour

Not wishing to upset the status quo

Tacit approval by refusing to take action

Willingness by the bully to use the disciplinary procedure to eliminate their victim


How did the alleged bullies at Solent get away with it?

Tim provides a helpful analysis of the different stages in the bullying cycle... that the institution may go through:

Effective policies for workplace bullying (I added this!)

I guess Solent - like my university - got stuck at the denial stage...

The Times Higher blog contributions from many who knew Carl suggest naivety...disbelief... and of course the denial ... also courage from those individuals who knew Carl and who refuse to be silenced...

Speak out against workplace bullying

You know it makes sense

Save a life today

Even though it is to late for Carl

Aphra Behn

Anonymous said...

too late for Carl

too late for Carl

too late for Carl

but there will be others

...if you don't act and say


to workplace bullying

Aphra Behn

Anonymous said...

And hot from the 'unpaid ambassador' blog...

The responsibility for the systemic failures at Leeds Met can at the end only be laid at the door of the Governors.

It is they who have not supervised the senior management team.

They have allowed bullying to go unchecked.

The finances have not been overseen.

They have not ensured that the universities regulation has been kept up to date.

The result is a discontented workforce, financial meltdown and with the QAA about to visit the probability that the university is about to slip further down the tables into oblivion. Please resign, go now.

and in response on the blog...

I am in complete agreement about the Governors. Leeds Met is not the only University where terrible appointments at the most senior level have left the organisation in chaos.

While the staff suffer incompetent, overpaid "leaders" and their partners the Governors sit at arms length congratulating themselves.

Time to overhaul the governance of HEI's and introduce some accountability me thinks.


Oh no... not accountability...anything but that....

Oh yes we will

Oh no you won't

...screeched the bullies as they ran off to their big offices...with their big desks... and their even bigger chairs...

Aphra Behn

Anonymous said...

Re last addition re governors...

That was a post on the blog in response to the issue about governors 'I am in complete agreement about governors.... - not my response...

I just added the bully story at the end...

Can't you just see them...

busy in their offices

planning their bully games

we just need a big bad wolf

to gobble them all up

But this is no fairy story

It's hell on earth.

Say no to workplace bullying.

You know it makes sense.

Aphra Behn