March 14, 2012

Westhues's checklist of mobbing indicators

Westhues devised the following list of mobbing indicators, with indicator number 12 probably being the most important:
  1. By standard criteria of job performance, the target is at least average, probably above average.

  2. Rumours and gossip circulate about the target’s misdeeds: “Did you hear what she did last week?”

  3. The target is not invited to meetings or voted onto committees, is excluded or excludes self.

  4. Collective focus on a critical incident that “shows what kind of man he really is”.

  5. Shared conviction that the target needs some kind of formal punishment, “to be taught a lesson”.

  6. Unusual timing of the decision to punish, e. g., apart from the annual performance review.

  7. Emotion-laden, defamatory rhetoric about the target in oral and written communications.

  8. Formal expressions of collective negative sentiment toward the target, e. g. a vote of censure, signatures on a petition, meeting to discuss what to do about the target.

  9. High value on secrecy, confidentiality, and collegial solidarity among the mobbers.

  10. Loss of diversity of argument, so that it becomes dangerous to “speak up for” or defend the target.

  11. The adding up of the target’s real or imagined venial sins to make a mortal sin that cries for action.

  12. The target is seen as personally abhorrent, with no redeeming qualities; stigmatizing, exclusionary labels are applied.

  13. Disregard of established procedures, as mobbers take matters into their own hands.

  14. Resistance to independent, outside review of sanctions imposed on the target.

  15. Outraged response to any appeals for outside help the target may make.

  16. Mobbers’ fear of violence from target, target’s fear of violence from mobbers, or both.



Anonymous said...

At the institution I used to teach at, a colleague was promoted to assistant head of our department. A year later, the department head retired and a replacement took over. That replacement soon took administrative leave and worked elsewhere in the institution for a while and the assistant head acted led the department in his absence.

After that assistant head received his promotion, certain things inexplicably began to happen to me, such as small acts of aggression on his part. He became unusually interested in how I conducted myself with my students and became increasingly critical of my performance.

After the department head went on leave, this criticism increased to the point that he was completely obsessed with what I did. One day, I asked him why this was going on and he told me that there was a problem with me, even though I had been granted permanent status. When I asked him why those matters weren't an issue before he became acting head, he bluntly told me that he "couldn't do anything about it" before.

One day, I received the results of a student evaluation I know I did not conduct. I brought it to the attention of the assistant head who claimed he knew "nothing" about it and did nothing to investigate what happened. What made matters worse was that the evaluation forms were sent to the institution's vice-president of personnel, who, fortunately, forwarded it to the department that normally processed them.

The fact that the evaluation was conducted without my knowledge made me suspicious. At that time, department heads could conduct them at their own discretion but the instructor in question had to be informed, in accordance with institution regulations. No such notification was received, leading me to believe that the assistant head was behind that evaluation.

The fact that he didn't investigate it made me even more suspicious, particularly since he claimed he knew nothing about it. The evaluation forms had an official envelope in which they were placed after being completed, after which the envelope was sealed and sent to the processing office. The address of that office was clearly marked on the envelope, so there was no possible way it should have been sent to the vice-president.

That same assistant head insisted that the results would be treated as valid and would be used as evidence against me in the upcoming performance appraisal. I brought this matter to the attention of the institution's staff association and its president warned the assistant head against such action as it was not only considered unethical, it was against regulations. In his reply, the assistant head insisted that he would proceed and, thereby, ignoring the warning. Unfortunately, the president of the staff association himself thought I had it coming but his official duties didn't allow him to act on that.

To be continued in my next comment.

Anonymous said...

The assistant head continued to harass me for the remainder of his time as acting department head and frequently sat in on my lectures. I heard from another colleague that he told students that there had been "problems" with me and even went as far as openly criticizing me during a lecture, doing so in front of everyone in attendance. After that, I filed a complaint with the then associate dean and, eventually, the matter was settled, largely in my favour, though the assistant head kept sniping at me in whatever small way he could.

The year and a half in which he was acting head were among the most stressful I experienced while I was teaching.

Due to a restructuring of the institution, we got a new dean and he was far from sympathetic to me and my circumstances, aided and abetted, no doubt, by reports from the assistant head and the department head himself, who had his own axe to grind against me. Unfortunately, the harassment didn't end and the staff association, for the most part, was completely useless.

I bided my time until my investment portfolio reached a certain level, after which I submitted my resignation. I knew that the abuse was unwarranted but I knew this was one fight that, even if I did win, would come at an enormous cost. Walking away from that mess under terms that I dictated was not only cheaper, it was honourable and I could claim victory.

Isn't it wonderful how our educational system works? So much for the pursuit of truth and knowledge.

Anonymous said...

i have been excluded from meetings, several times; project proposals of several million euros were frowned at by saying "just *that* much?"; my value as a researcher diminished by saying that i should stick to teaching. Main issue is that the chain up is rotten too, so if I appeal to the upper layers of the management i won't get any result. It's just as tough, the only way out is resigning, and they know it

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @0953:

I went through something similar 10 years ago. I knew they wanted to get rid of me but they added insult to injury by pretending that wasn't the case and, worse yet, behaved like I was too dumb to notice.

The academic environment is nowhere near as civilized as the general public is led to believe. It's mean, it's nasty, and, often, corrupt and unethical. Being well-educated does not necessarily improve the character of people.

Anonymous said...

I am at the bottom of the academia but from what I witnessed I could not explain why people are allowed to act and to rule like god in university, in another place and setting these behaviors would not be tolerated.

Please someone senior, and know the game rules, explain it to me.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that the game rules are ever changing for EACH faculty member. Thus, there are no clear cut rules.