April 30, 2009
The personal web site of Prof. Chris Knight where the full report is available: http://www.chrisknight.co.uk/
More info at: Chris Knight Reinstatement Solidarity Group
A professor who posted confidential documents relating to his former vice-chancellor on the internet is being sued for damages by the University of East London, which is also trying to force him to reveal who gave him the papers.
Chris Knight, a professor of anthropology, has been suspended by UEL since 26 March after making remarks about the G20 Summit protests. Managers said the comments brought the university into disrepute.
While suspended, Professor Knight posted on his website copies of evidence supplied to the disciplinary hearing of UEL's former vice-chancellor Martin Everett, including statements provided by senior managers. He removed the material from the site after the university sought a court injunction prohibiting him from displaying it.
UEL wants a court order demanding he disclose the person who supplied the documents, as well as damages for breach of contract and confidence, and a permanent injunction restraining him from disclosing any confidential information that "has come to his knowledge during his employment". The claim, filed at the High Court by UEL's solicitors on 9 April, is valued at "more than £15,000".
Professor Knight, who was chair of the University and College Union branch at UEL's Docklands campus, is defending the claim with UCU support.
As one of the leaders of the G20 Meltdown protest movement, he was suspended following interviews with newspapers in advance of the G20 Summit in London Docklands on 2 April. The Evening Standard quoted him as saying that if the police wanted "violence, they will get it ... if they press their nuclear button, I'll press mine".
At a preliminary hearing under UEL's disciplinary procedures, Professor Knight denied inciting or condoning criminal violence.
The university's investigating committee found that Professor Knight "clearly advocated damage to banking institutions and violence against the police ... and made no attempt to state that such views were personal to him and in no way those of the university". It said this constituted gross misconduct.
The professor had continued speaking to the media and had visited campus after his suspension when he was forbidden from doing so, it added, concluding that this was "serious insubordination".
By publishing documents relating to Professor Everett, Professor Knight had "wilfully and seriously breached confidentiality", the committee decided. A disciplinary panel will now be convened.
Professor Everett was suspended last June following allegations of poor leadership from senior managers and left earlier this year.
April 28, 2009
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...
Times Higher Education removed the option for posting comments on their site. We haven't.
Humanities teacher Paul Unsworth claims he was bullied and harassed by the principal and other senior staff at Werribee Secondary College over three years. Mr Unsworth told Melbourne Magistrates' Court yesterday that he became depressed and angry during a 2005 review of his role as an expert teacher.
He said Werribee principal Steve Butyn considered him to be dead wood and wanted to get rid of him.
Two other teachers also had WorkCover claims against the school over similar issues, he told the court.
Mr Unsworth said he was stopped from making email contact with the school and an investigation into his review was launched by the Education Department's western region. "I felt completely ostracised from the workplace by not being able to communicate with the school," he said.
An email from western region director Brett New that was accidentally sent to him and the two other teachers offered full support for Mr Butyn's disciplinary actions, Mr Unsworth said. "My perception was that I had no chance of getting a fair hearing," he said.
Mr Unsworth, who made several failed compensation claims against the school, said he was the victim of "a culture of punishment and retribution for speaking up".
Under cross-examination by Clyde Miles, for the Education Department, Mr Unsworth admitted he had been taking anti-depressants since 1998.
Mr Miles said Mr Unsworth had failed to comply with a request to accurately and sufficiently document the good things about his teaching.
Mr Unsworth is still employed by the school but has not worked there since June, 2007. He is seeking weekly payments from the Education Department as part of a WorkCover claim.
The hearing before magistrate Peter Lauritsen continues.
April 23, 2009
Twenty-seven employment tribunal cases have been lodged against Liverpool John Moores University in the past three years, Times Higher Education can reveal.
The disputes have raised questions about a "litigious culture" within the university and generated concerns about its management structure. Many of the claims were made by academics from the faculty of health and applied social sciences, the Liverpool Business School and the School of Engineering.
Liverpool John Moores explained the unrest by citing the extensive restructuring it had undergone in recent years, which it admitted had caused upheaval.
A spokeswoman for the institution said: "The university is not afraid to tackle areas that need attention, and over the past three years it has reorganised the structures in four of its six faculties, as well as a number of service teams.
"As a result, staff have been redeployed or have chosen to leave, and a small number have been made redundant. A number of individuals affected ... have sought redress through the tribunal system."
Of the 27 cases, nine are still in process, ten were settled through mediation, three were privately withdrawn, which could mean they were settled out of court, two ended with judgments in favour of the claimant and three in favour of Liverpool John Moores.
As Times Higher Education reported earlier this month, Helena Lunt, senior lecturer at the university's Centre for Public Health, successfully made a claim against Liverpool John Moores for unfair dismissal.
The employment tribunal judgment was highly critical of the university and of the actions of several senior managers, including Godfrey Mazhindu, dean of the faculty of health and applied social sciences.
It said Professor Mazhindu had "unilaterally" taken the decision to remove Ms Lunt as leader of a practice nurse programme, which led to her being "marginalised out of employment".
Professor Mazhindu is married to Deborah Mazhindu, who was appointed head of research development and pedagogy at Liverpool John Moores' School of Nursing and Primary Care Practice in 2007. Professor Mazhindu was not involved in her appointment.
Academics at the university have questioned Dr Mazhindu's suitability for the role because her work was not submitted to the 2008 research assessment exercise.
In the year of her appointment, one researcher used a resignation letter to voice concerns about the potential conflict of interest raised by a married couple in senior positions working closely together.
"This close working proximity of two married senior staff does pose some serious challenges to effective and equitable personnel management," the letter says.
In response, the university said Dr Mazhindu was a "widely respected academic nursing professional with national and international standing in her field".
It added that her current title was not head of research - despite this title remaining on its website - but senior research fellow in advanced practice. It added: "In common with many universities, not all researchers were submitted to the RAE."
The author of the resignation letter, who left after being redeployed from the Centre for Public Health to the School of Nursing, said that six research staff had left the centre alone since 2006: three professors, one reader and two senior research fellows.
One of them, Annette Jinks, now professor of nursing at Edge Hill University, lodged a complaint against Professor Mazhindu for bullying and harassment, but did not pursue it and resigned.
Another academic to take action was Angela Brennan, former director of Liverpool John Moores' School of Applied Social and Community Studies.
She accused the university of unfair dismissal after being made redundant in August 2008, but later withdrew the claim. She told Times Higher Education that she had instituted a grievance procedure against Professor Mazhindu. She lost and was subsequently made redundant.
Phil Lee, who was appointed director of applied social sciences at Liverpool John Moores in 2003-04, took out a grievance procedure against Professor Mazhindu after being told that he had not satisfactorily completed his probation period. Mr Lee, who now works at the University of Lincoln as a senior lecturer in social work, left Liverpool John Moores after signing a compromise agreement.
The university spokeswoman said that four individuals had raised grievances against the dean and that "each case was resolved through the university system".
Adrian Jones, who was the Liverpool region's University and College Union representative for 18 years before his retirement in 2008, said that when Liverpool John Moores was still a polytechnic, industrial relations were good, but that subsequently an "increasingly distant" approach had emerged.
"For example, the lecturers' consultative committee was not convened for years at a time, and the management comment on that was that 'minimalism' was preferred," he said. "A litigious culture is increasingly likely to develop when managers regard structured consultation as an optional extra."
Walter Cairns was ejected from the board following a vote of no-confidence instigated by John Brooks, vice-chancellor of Manchester Met.
The move was made in the aftermath of Mr Cairns' submission to the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee inquiry into higher education standards. It concerned a course he taught in which marks were bumped up across the board following an 85 per cent failure rate.
Mr Cairns told the panel of MPs that the changes had been made without his consent and despite an initial indication from the external examiner that his marking was appropriate.
The university responded by suggesting that poor teaching was partly to blame for the low marks - a point Mr Cairns denied.
Speaking after being expelled from the board, which has 25 academic members and is charged with maintaining standards at Manchester Met, Mr Cairns said he had been denied the opportunity to defend himself. He said: "I raised my hand, to be met with an icy stare from the vice-chancellor, coupled with the question: 'Can I ask you to speak last?'
"I complied, taking this to mean that I would be given an opportunity to respond to all the flak - including that thrown by the vice-chancellor himself - that would be cast in my direction from other board members.
"The latter duly complied ... The vice-chancellor then said: 'These contributions fully confirm my own views on the subject. I therefore propose a vote of no-confidence in Mr Cairns which, if it succeeds, will cause him to leave this board.'
"The motion was duly seconded, they stuck up their hands and I was asked to leave ... I therefore find myself expelled, having had no opportunity to defend myself."
The select committee is believed to have contacted Manchester Met to ask it to explain its actions.
In a statement, the university said that Mr Cairns' allegations of grade inflation were "inaccurate and the source of a great deal of anxiety and concern for members of staff and students". It also insisted that its actions were not punitive, and said it had assured the MPs of this.
It said: "Mr Cairns has failed to use the normal academic board process to raise issues of quality and standards, and has ignored its decisions regarding the issues he now raises.
"In that circumstance, the members of the board considered it inappropriate for Mr Cairns to continue as a member.
"The university would like to stress that Mr Cairns' censure is in no way a disciplinary measure, and it has emphasised that point to the select committee."
Around £5million was spent over a two-and-a-half year period on everything from tickets to the Olympic Games in China to payment for a professor's parking fines, it has been revealed.
The cards were used to fund trips to Bavaria, Ethiopia, Thailand and France by Patricia Lee, wife of the £300,000 a year Leeds Metropolitan University boss - Simon Lee - who resigned in January amid allegations about his treatment of staff.
Mrs Lee, who has no official post at the university, went on some of the foreign trips without her husband and the full cost of her travel to the taxpayer has not been disclosed.
The university, which has around 30,000 staff, receives half its £160million annual budget from public funds.
Details of the high spending at public expense have emerged from the disclosure of credit card statements to the Yorkshire Post under the Freedom of Information Act. It has prompted the university's management to ask its auditors to carry out an investigation into credit card spending by staff.
But the university claimed spending using official purchasing cards - intending to cut through red tape and reduce administration costs for business purchases - was in line with other universities.
An interim report has indicated no serious problems with expenses and no evidence of fraud or misuse of funds, a university spokesman said.
Last summer Mrs Lee went with a group of staff and students to Bangkok to 'rub shoulders with champions of Indian cinema' as part of the preparations for the Bollywood awards ceremony - the equivalent of the Oscars.
The £1,324 cost of the flight appears on a PA's credit card and the cost of Mrs Lee's accommodation is not known. A week later Mrs Lee was with 24 graduate trainees and staff in Bavaria for a trip costing £8,000.
The university helps fund a centre in the foothills of the Alps which provides leadership and management training.
Leeds Metropolitan University has asked its auditors to carry out an investigation into credit card spending by staff. She wrote on the university's website that the trip to the beauty spot was 'the realisation of a teenage dream.'
The party also visited Schloss Neuschwanstein, one of the world's most famous and spectacular castles.
A month earlier in May Mrs Lee accompanied her husband to Ethiopia at the invitation of athlete Haile Gebrselassie, in connection with the university's African partnership programme.
Six months later she returned with a party of staff and students but without Mr Lee, following another invitation from the world record breaker, this time in connection with the Great Ethiopia Run.
The £1,671 cost of her accommodation at the Addis Ababa Hilton hotel was reportedly on a staff member's credit card who also went on the trip. Her remaining travel costs and who paid for them are not known.
The report also details a trip in February 2007 to Limoges, France, which Mrs Lee went on with two members of staff. The £500 credit card costs did not include accommodation.
The university is still awaiting further information about the £20,000 spent by Mr Lee the outgoing vice-chancellor. It includes £1,000 spent on three meals at a restaurant called Brio.. Other spending by 190 university card holders between May 2006 and December last year included the payment of at least six parking fines.
Leeds Met said it spent £40,000 sending staff to the Olympics to raise the university's profile as a coaching centre of excellence (£8,000 on tickets were put on one card alone).
The university was a sponsor of the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final at Wembley and it spent £2,550 on tickets for the August event - which did not include the 400 tickets it received under the sponsorship deal.
Among the biggest single transactions were £8,500 for the purchase of a VW campervan, used as a mobile exhibition unit at music festivals and events, and £11,800 on publicity material for the crowd at the Leeds Rhinos v Melbourne World Club Challenge rugby league match it sponsored.
One faculty PA spent £671 on 42 bottles of Champagne for staff leaving the university. And £179 was spent at Debenhams on a suit for a chef.
Also: Exclusive: Leeds Met's champagne and travel spending spree exposed
April 18, 2009
The Centre for Research on Workplace Behaviours at the University of Glamorgan is delighted to announce that it will be hosting the 7th International Conference on Workplace Bullying and Harassment in June 2010.
Taking place from 2nd to 4th June at the Hilton Hotel in Cardiff, capital of Wales, the biennial conference will bring together researchers, academics, practitioners and students from around the world.
We are currently calling for abstracts/ papers, and streams include (but are not limited to):
• Bullying and Harassment
• Corporate Social Responsibility / Morality / Ethics
• Dignity at Work
• Health and Wellbeing
• Industrial Relations
• Mediation / Counselling / Conflict
• Organisational Culture
• Role of Practitioners
• Workplace bullying / Mobbing
• Workplace Cyber-bullying
For more information on submission, keynote speakers, venue and registration, please see www.bullying2010.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
When a recent report by the British Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) upheld allegations of wrongdoing by Kingston staff members in connection with the pressurizing of an External Examiner, the veracity and authenticity of the evidence was clearly and irrefutably established. Yet, despite the publication of this compelling government-sponsored report, the University and Prof Scott failed to issue a public apology and retraction of its allegedly defamatory statements concerning Dr Fredrics' evidence.
Instead, both the University and Prof Scott have, thus far, maintained complete public silence, and have instead indicated (through their solicitors) that they intend to fully contest the Court action filed by Dr Fredrics.
Isn't it a shame that Prof Scott has chosen to reserve what must surely be a rather large sum of public money in order to defend this lawsuit instead of simply issuing a public apology to Dr Fredrics?
During a time of recession, when job cuts are being contemplated in the UK university sector, does it make you angry to know that YOUR taxes are being used to fund the defence of a lawsuit that would never have been filed, had the University and/or Prof Scott simply admitted that they were wrong to have denied the authenticity of Dr Fredrics' evidence?
April 17, 2009
There are different perceptions of what happened, said the VC to justify how the educational institution ganged-up against the victim in an attempt to cover-up its own massive failures.
It was a principled outcome to fabricate allegations against the victim, including an allegation of sexual harassment against a female staff member who had departed three years before the incident was supposed to have happened.
Of course there are different perceptions of what ought to happen when the senior manager who had an affair with a lady, covered-up for her when the latter was caught stealing sandwiches from the canteen. Different perceptions means double-standards.
It was principled for one of the senior members of the university to state that if he was asked to testify in court, he would deny everything.
Principled outcomes and different perceptions...
"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."
Lecturers and students at Salford University are fighting plans by management to push through 150 job cuts.
It hopes to save £13 million over three years and says money is needed to pay for new buildings.
Yet it has emerged that the university has spent a massive £66,600 on refitting facilities and offices for senior staff.
Workers and students have set up a campaign against the cuts, called Salford University Defend Education (SUDE). Contact SUemail@example.com for more information.
Meanwhile there is a growing campaign to reverse the suspension of a lecturer at the university’s business school.
The university brought in new disciplinary procedures last November, which allow senior managers to order suspensions.
Previously, only the vice-chancellor was able to suspend academics.
April 14, 2009
The new paradigm of university administration, with its emphasis on flexibility and avoidance of committees, carries with it an increased risk of corruption and malpractice that the earlier paradigms strove so hard to eliminate. It is interesting to note that the University of Sydney, Australia’s oldest and possibly most prestigious, has felt impelled to institute a code of conduct and an anti-corruption strategy in what the Vice-Chancellor described as an attempt to ‘foster an atmosphere of honesty and fairness.’
...One aspect of corporatisation of deep concern to many is the loss from universities of the role of critic of society, a role which is compromised when universities become subordinated to market forces as a result of the reduction or elimination of tenure, casualisation, the market-orientation of research and teaching priorities...
From: William W. Bostock, AntePodium - An Antipodean electronic journal of world affairs published by The School of Political Science and International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington
The above provides some context within which executive academic decisions related to disciplinary issues of academics, as well as management bullying occurs. Academics are not treated as the citizens described by Chomsky, but rather as 'employees'... One's loyalty is not to academic independence and scholarly debate, but rather to the corporation...
After a weekend of heart palpitations, a letter from his boss arrived on Monday, outlining bullying allegations from three of his 10 team members. One of the complaints was that he had tapped his watch to indicate a report was late; another was that he had not taken a subordinate's advice.
"I was devastated and in shock," says the 55-year-old, who was sacked a week before Christmas because of the alleged bullying.
"That first weekend was the worst - I was suicidal. It's the first time in my career that anything like this has happened to me."
He is one of 24 people who have talked to Adelaide psychologist Moira Jenkins for her study "Sticks And Stones Will Break My Bones But Names...", in which she interviews those accused of workplace bullying. (Read a previous Mysmallbusiness story on Dr Jenkins' initial study here.)
Until now, research has focused on the victim's perspective, but Jenkins was keen to hear from the alleged bullies - all of them managers at middle to senior levels - as part of her PhD at the University of Adelaide on workplace conflict management.
What led to the complaint, how was it dealt with by the organisation and how did the accused feel? "Bullying is not a black-and-white issue," says Jenkins. "Some of the people I interviewed had experienced unfairness in the way the allegations were investigated; some were bullies and had got away with it lightly.
Most were crushed by what happened." Jenkins found the alleged bullies were just as affected by the experience as people she had interviewed for an earlier study on victims of workplace bullying; two of the accused were suicidal and one had post-traumatic stress disorder. "Being labelled a bully can have long-term consequences," she says.
The thread that linked all 24 stories was workplace conflict. "Bullying allegations do not come out of the blue," says Jenkins. "People say they do, but when you talk to them there's already been conflict."
In the general manager's case, conflict started after he joined the council and had discussions with two of his managers about their unsatisfactory performance. He had a mandate from the CEO to improve productivity and financial management - but that CEO resigned a few weeks after he arrived.
Within days, the two managers filed written complaints of bullying and harassment. A couple of months later, another manager added his voice to the accusations, leading to the general manager's suspension and then dismissal.
"They wrapped it all up in the suspension letter," he says. "No one came to talk to me first."
The general manager believes he is the victim of what is known as "upwards bullying", when workers undermine a manager. "I had called them on aspects of unsatisfactory performance, so I was branded different or difficult. And I was. That's why the previous CEO recruited me."
In her study, Jenkins found performance or behavioural issues with subordinates were often the precursor to a bullying complaint against managers.
For example, a public service manager told Jenkins how two occupational health and safety staff, whom she had questioned about their apparent slackness, went on sick leave, did not attend performance management meetings and then filed workers' compensation claims for stress caused by bullying.
Jenkins' observations are backed by employment lawyer Peter Vitale, principal of CCI Victoria Legal, who says: "Claims of bullying and harassment in the course of disciplinary procedures are almost the rule rather than the exception these days."
Are workers too quick to cry "bully"? Jenkins words her answer carefully.
"Bullying, when it does occur, is a serious problem. But some workers might be too quick to frame conflict as bullying. Human resources takes more notice when the word 'bullying' is used." She defines bullying as repeated, targeted behaviour towards somebody that is likely to humiliate them and undermine their confidence.
European research published in 2003 suggests that 10 to 20 per cent of workers will label work conflicts or negative performance reviews as bullying, when they are not.
Adding to the issue is the lack of conflict resolution guidelines in many workplaces. Sure, nearly all major companies have a policy on investigating complaints, mindful of their obligations under state occupational health and safety legislation.
But initial conflicts are often left to fester until, Jenkins says, there is an explosion - a formal internal bullying complaint, union intervention or even a workers' compensation claim for stress, depression or anxiety.
Many of those accused of bullying told Jenkins they would have liked to meet the complainant and talk it through, but the complainant refused.
Half the complainants chose not to use their organisation's bullying complaint process and others refused mediation to resolve the conflict, despite compulsory mediation being a feature of most tribunals and courts nowadays.
The result, says Jenkins, was those she interviewed felt disempowered and unfairly treated. Adding to their distress was, in some cases, a perceived lack of support from their boss.
Jenkins says managers are sometimes reluctant to ask for help in the early stages of conflict with a subordinate, as they think they should be able to cope and that to complain may be a career-defeating
Once a complaint is filed, some bosses withdraw support because they don't want to be seen as biased. Increasingly, managers who are accused of workplace bullying are hitting back through the courts.
Last July, for example, the Supreme Court of NSW found that Sydney West Area Health Service had breached Dr Lynette Downe's employment contract by continuing to suspend her after its investigation dismissed allegations of bullying against her.
The former council general manager is discussing options with his lawyer, including suing for breach of contract. After four months, he is still unemployed and has discovered other managers at the council have suffered a similar fate.
"I'm keen to get justice and I want some accountability," he says. "I used to feel secure and stable. Now I feel shattered."
If you have been accused of workplace bullying and would like to take part in Moira Jenkins' research, go to aboto.com.au or email firstname.lastname@example.org
April 13, 2009
The due process model focuses on rights of the accused. The Crime Control Model focuses on protection of the innocent.
When the bully “punishes” his target, he is using the second model. The “crime” that the victim commits is not submitting completely to the bully’s every whim and delusion.
Yet the bully is not protecting the innocent; he/she is protecting their own self interest.
In a country that honors freedom, the bully ignores the principles most of us follow and uses intimidation to achieve his/her selfish goals.
We only need the government to enforce the law and prohibit bullies from destroying innocent people.
April 11, 2009
2. Ideally, DR. PITA should be found guilty of something before he finds out what it is. The Harassment Officer may assist one or more complainants in drawing up a plausible preliminary indictment for subsequent approval by the tribunal as a whole.
3. To enlist DR. PITA’s cooperation in his own undoing, confound the roles of counsellor, prosecutor, and judge. In conversations with an official he believes is being friendly, he may make incriminating statements that can later be held against him.
4. Make sure the victim-accuser is on side. More than one case has been lost, even with many ardent complainants, because the alleged victim did not herself find DR. PITA’s behaviour objectionable.
5. Reward accusers. For lowly undergraduates, the attentions of important university officials may be reward enough. Financial compensation or revision of grades, on account of injuries sustained, may also be considered.
6. Avoid falsifiable statements in the indictment. Vagueness and innuendo are far more effective than charges that lend themselves to being disproven.
7. Once the decision is made to proceed to a formal hearing, move as quickly as possible, showing a sense of great urgency. A hearing that cannot be arranged promptly may not be able to be arranged at all.
8. Ignore DR. PITA’s lawyer, if he has one, and forbid the lawyer’s presence at the hearing. Explain that domestic tribunals of a university proceed by norms of collegiality, and that legalistic, adversarial measures are out of place.
9. If the faculty association or other bodies attempt to intervene on DR. PITA’s behalf, accuse them of trying to exert undue influence. Insist that the tribunal will not bend to the political pressure being applied.
10. Ignore claims that the tribunal is biased against him. Respond as one chair did: “I am satisfied that this committee member has no apprehension of bias.”
11. Disregard evidence in DR. PITA’s favour on substantive grounds. Describe it as irrelevant or not germane to the issues under consideration.
12. Disregard evidence in DR. PITA’s favour on procedural grounds. Say it was submitted at the wrong time, to the wrong official, or in the wrong format.
13. If there is evidence that DR. PITA has discussed the case outside the tribunal (he may admit, for instance, having talked about it with his wife, his dean, or some colleagues), charge him with breach of confidentiality.
14. If DR. PITA speaks his accusers’ names outside the tribunal, charge him with breach of confidentiality and with attempting to damage their reputations and cause them to suffer.
15. If DR. PITA (or his colleague-advisor, if the policy provides for one) objects to the tribunal’s procedures, remind him that this is not a court of law, that collegiality must be insisted upon, and that the tribunal will not entertain editorial comments.
16. Ignore the references to context that DR. PITA is almost sure to make. Explain that the tribunal’s only concern is with this particular incident, not with what may have happened before or after.
17. Find an excuse to make a confidential investigation that may yield additional complaints and is useful in any case for damaging DR. PITA’s reputation. Contact former students, for example, or advertise in the newspaper. In a case against a policeman pita, the tribunal set out to contact each of the 2,047 women he had had something to do with during his eight years on the force.
18. Try to provoke DR. PITA into losing his temper or doing something rash, then make appropriate additional charges. Like most professors, DR. PITA is so proud and vain that the hearing itself will insult and fluster him.
19. In the report at the end, find DR. PITA guilty of something, even if it is not what he was initially charged with. The important thing is to find against him. The precise nature of the finding is of secondary importance.
20. Write a long report, preferably at least ten pages single-spaced. Number sections and paragraphs. Include lots of footnotes. Be vague and repetitive. Include nothing that could be quoted out of context as being in DR. PITA’s favour.
21. Recommend multiple punishments: for example, requirements to make several different apologies, go for counselling, and attend a series of workshops, in addition to a financial penalty.
22. Do not let your animus against DR. PITA show, nor lead you to write things that are obviously untrue. Senior managers will not take kindly to a report so extreme they are obliged to reject it, and may deny you the rewards you will otherwise receive for your service to the university.
23. The report should include innuendo so damaging to DR. PITA that he will not himself release it publicly, however strong his objections. Suggestions of sexual predation or mental unbalance serve well.
24. Do not release the report publicly, lest the tribunal be revealed as a kanagaroo court. After my first ethics hearing, the provost put the report on the Internet. I understand from him that he now regrets that decision.
25. For the same reason, never release audio-tapes of the proceeding, much less a transcript. If this cannot be avoided (in connection with an appeal, for instance), DR. PITA may be allowed to listen to the tapes under administrative supervision, but under no circumstances should he be allowed to walk away with a copy.
A Sample Chapter from Kenneth Westhues, Eliminating Professors: a Guide to the Dismissal Process, Lewiston: NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1998.
April 09, 2009
Many people will not speak up, even after they recognize a bully because they lack the moral courage to stand up to one. In an environment where bullying is entrenched, it is regarded as “normal” behavior or part of the culture. Typically, there is a climate of fear and low morale throughout the organization. Those with a feeling of hopelessness will “vote with their feet” by quitting their job or retiring early.
When one does take a stand, the bully will often move into phase two of the bullying process, which is elimination. This tactic tends to keep the people in their place while the bully mounts a covert attack designed to force the victim to resign or create a paper trail that can be used to terminate the individual.
Those who refuse to support the bully are isolated, victimized, have undue constraints or workloads imposed, and are subjected to disciplinary proceedings on trumped-up charges as a prelude to termination...
The days of the "donnish dominion" are over and university administration is perhaps the key profession in higher education. This is the view of Sir Peter Scott, vice-chancellor of Kingston University.
At the annual conference of the Association of University Administrators this week, he said that despite being a "pretty mixed bunch" in terms of professional responsibilities, administrators probably had greater claim to being the crux of the university endeavour than academics, vice-chancellors or governors.
He said that he regretted the erosion of the power of the senate, and suggested that the influence wielded by senior academics was now more "executive and managerial" than "academic and collegial". "As for the donnish dominion," he said, "I'm not sure there's much of that left outside Oxford and Cambridge."
Professor Scott said that another potentially powerful group in higher education was governors. Their influence had expanded in the past 20 years, partly as a result of the "worship of the free market", he said. This development coincided with the birth of the "quangocracy", typified by government-linked bodies that viewed universities as "delivery organisations".
But none of these groups had as much claim to the title of the "key profession" in higher education as administrators did, Professor Scott said.
He compared universities to the National Health Service and said that anyone who had been in hospital would know that doctors were not the be-all and end-all of the medical profession - indeed, hospitals would not run at all without administrative staff.
Professor Scott said that a glance across the Atlantic to the US would show how important administrators could be. "In some (US universities), faculty are rather peripheral to the whole process," he said.
Maureen Skinner, chair of the AUA, said "I'm encouraged to hear that we the administrators are not powerless, and I'm particularly encouraged to hear that from a vice-chancellor."
We did not need to hear this from the horse's mouth. None of us had any illusions. Sir Peter Scott can be proud of his achievements... Now you lot, academic luben proletariats, get back to work...
April 08, 2009
However while the principles sound fair, the 'grey area' surrounding the correct procedures has certainly expanded: "It was quite prescriptive before and while it is good news for employers that they are doing away with it, the broader principles give more scope for error if you are not clear," says Rachael Heenan, employment partner at Beachcroft law firm. She believes that training for managers is key to ensuring a smooth transition between the old and new laws.
"The five main principles are things that should be dealt with promptly, and that is always an issue: in your day-to-day work, trying to deal with an internal investigation is not always top of the pile and unless HR has had training or lots of experience to deal with it, things can come unstuck," she reflects. "Although it is meant to be more flexible, the ideas in the Acas code can mean that an employer trying very hard to apply the letter of the law and comply with their obligations can find it harder because there is more flexibility; it gives more scope for arguments," says Balfour.
In addition, she believes the new code of practice, which allows employees a reasonable opportunity to present evidence, which includes bringing in witnesses at disciplinary hearings, will inevitably delay procedures: "It could turn proceedings into even more of a mini court-case," she says.
Anne-Marie Balfour, Speechly Bircham
John Ruddell, an employment law solicitor from Barlow Robbins, agrees: "The desired effect of the old statutory procedure was to get fewer claims but it has not worked – it has resulted in the exact opposite," he explains. "One of the main reasons is that it was quite prescriptive and there was a lot of argument over whether it actually applied in the first instance, which actually resulted in more Tribunal claims. But the purpose of this now is to make it more flexible and to lay down some guidelines, especially how to follow the process," he says.
However, Balfour sounds a note of caution: "Training is really important in the early stages to make sure everyone knows what the differences are this time around and also on the transitional provisions; there will be some grievances and dismissal situations that will span the two regimes, so make sure you know which one to work with," she says...
Shifting the deckchairs on the Titanic...
April 05, 2009
32 cases of academic mobbing: http://www.mobbingportal.com/casesofmobbing.html
Minding the workplace: http://newworkplace.wordpress.com/
Resources for Teachers: http://www.mobbingportal.com/teachers.html