March 26, 2016

Outing University Bullies…

Many academics find it hard to believe they could be the victims of bullies at work. They allow departmental heads to walk rings round them. They do endless free over-time. They stay late  and work all weekend. Their reaction to college redundancy  news is to work even harder. Deans set new hoops and they ask “how much higher?”. The VC or College chief sets new tougher targets and the senior managers pass the misery down into the faculties. A psychologist specializing in bullying, harassment and inter-personal relationships, Dr. Pauline Rennie-Peyton, recognizes the possibility of being bullied in all stages of life, and confirms University is no exception.

This bullying expert also believes one of the main reasons bullying is not reported at places of higher and further education is because of distrust in their Uni’s services putting disciplinary procedures into action, and so there are probably a lot more cases than we even know.  She argues “People don’t report their problems because they feel it will blow over by itself or because they lack a sense of confidence in the system,” she says. “They feel nothing would be done about it. I haven’t got any statistics but I can imagine the figures [of those bullied at university] are higher [than we realise].”

It is difficult to find anyone willing to speak of their ordeal, maybe due to embarrassment or inability to self-admit…Dr Rennie-Peyton concludes “But Don’t keep it to yourself. Keep a diary of the events; when, where, who were the witnesses, what time it happened, the impact it had on you and then take it further to members of staff – and if they’re not prepared to do anything about it, take it (further)… All bullying is about impact, not about intention; if someone is upset by it, it is not a joke.”

The distinguished professor of workplace relations, Prof Cary Cooper conducted a land-mark study into bullying in the workplace, which found that it damaged people’s health, mental wellbeing, and productivity and also meant they took more sick days. He could see that people needed a place to go when they couldn’t go to their employers in case it was held against them. This led Prof Cooper to become a patron of the National Bullying Helpline but it is strong evidence of state-level contempt for anti-bullying policies that Cary subsequently resigned because of breaches of the Helpline’s confidentiality over allegations of bullying at No. 10 Downing Street.

Worryingly Cary argues the issue of bullying in the workplace is very important, particularly during times of recession and downturn, because there are fewer people doing more work, for managers who are under more stress than ever before. He argues a “robust” management style is more likely to occur in a recession than at any other time. A manager’s style changes if they feel overloaded and stressed themselves, and can sometimes border on bullying”.

Prof Cooper continues “During a recession people also feel insecure in their jobs, so if they are being bullied they are worried to death about letting anybody know about it, especially their organisation’s human resources department. They need to be able to get legal and other advice, and that’s what a helpline should provide”. When you have a lot of change, job insecurity and too few people – because you are keeping your labour costs down – you’re left with a breeding ground for a more abusive management style. Bulster Uni certainly had such a one with its HR “thug” Mr. Magoo.

 What can be done? We are happy to share with you some good news from Bulster University which has a deeply rooted culture of bullying. Despite the efforts of the unions and high sickness levels, Bulster has been a bullying black-spot even after a series of successful internal grievances and industrial tribunals. Recently staff complaints about two of Bulster’s notorious bullies, HR Director “Mad Bonnie” and former Provost Mal Blunt were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Former instructors, “the unquiet American” Jim Skally and sometime British Army intelligence operative “Dave Oberts” face similar charges.

The dossier of police evidence collated against senior Bulster managers include gross misconduct, perversion of the course of justice, abuse  of telecommunications equipment, abuse of medical protocols, deletion of phone records and inappropriate orders to subordinate staff in connection with such deletion, and related systematic bullying and harassment.

Finally, after years of misery, Bulster lecturers are beginning to fight back with  real impact. Several Bulster senior managers faced police questioning and files have gone through to the Chief Prosecutor. Bullied staff in universities and colleges across the UK should take some comfort in this measure and consider making a complaint to their local police citing harassment or misconduct in public office as grounds for criminal complaint. Even if the Bulster cases do not result in large-scale criminal prosecution, the likelihood of  civil prosecution on the foot of criminal complaints is leaving Bulster lecturers hopeful that a tide may finally be turning.

ADVISORY... This is a work of humorous parody and any similarities with persons or places real or imagined is purely a matter of coincidence. If you’ve been bullied at your F/HE institution don’t hesitate to confidentially contact the Bullied Academics forum. Victims may complain without penalty under their college procedures or consider making a complaint to their local police. Where the police are contacted bullying usually ceases immediately. The e-mail address is


Anonymous said...

I propose that everyone who has been bullied in academics: Go to that institution's library. Get on a public computer there. Create a fake email account (you'll see why)...go to an anonymous account. Then, produce a review: in the review title put something like "XYZ University English Dept = Bullying," and the go into the comments area and describe the toleration of bullying there. Encourage others to do this. Don't name specific people or Glassdoor won't publish it. When the University can't recruit great talent...they will start asked ng why. You can then snail mail administrators anonymous screenhots of glassdoor reviews. They'll get the message. And, since everyone knows who the bullies are, they will be dealt with accordingly - things always do when they impact the bottom line.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I like the enthusiasm of my colleague but I fear most bullies are so protected by the system that they represent that they will be defended in almost all cases by the very institution for whom they are doing these "dirty deeds". They will not worry about glass doors- only the long arm of the law.....BUT they will spend exorbitantly even to avoid justice.....