August 01, 2021

Durham University keeps college head in post despite alleged intimidating conduct

A leading British university has been accused of turning a blind eye to bullying after a college principal was allowed to remain in post despite complaints of intimidating behaviour towards colleagues.

Prof Adekunle Adeyeye, who was responsible for helping to reform Durham University’s much-criticised approach to bullying, is alleged to have frequently reduced colleagues to tears and made sexist remarks.

The Guardian has spoken to five former members of staff who say they experienced intimidating behaviour or misogynistic comments by Adeyeye, who joined the university as head of Trevelyan College in January 2020.

In only 16 months, two people had filed formal grievances against him and three have left the college amid concerns about his manner.

Adeyeye has not responded to requests to comment but stepped down from his role on the university’s bullying policy committee on Wednesday after being approached by the Guardian.

Durham University, one of the UK’s leading academic institutions, has been under scrutiny over its approach to bullying after a damning report last year found that nearly one in five of its employees, and 30% of students, had suffered some form of bullying or harassment.

The commission said there had been a failure to tackle the issue at different levels of the university and that it was “often poorly addressed” and “sometimes even tolerated and accepted”. It emerged last week that nearly 100 Durham students and staff had reported bullying complaints between October 2019 and June 2021. Of the 76 that mentioned the gender of the complainant, three-quarters were women.

Durham University Woman’s Association said the university was failing to tackle a “certain culture” that “inspires and encourages condescension, belittlement, and mockery of women”.

A Durham University spokeswoman said everyone has the right to work and study in a safe and respectful environment, and that all staff and students are expected to follow the university’s regulations on conduct and values on behaviour.

She said Adeyeye had now stepped down from the university’s “respect oversight group”, which is responsible for reforming its bullying policies, and added: “Where behaviour falls below expected standards, we take robust and decisive action. These matters are being fully and fairly addressed in line with our published policies and procedures and have yet to be concluded. We do not comment on individual cases.”

A disciplinary investigation last month upheld several complaints against Adeyeye, including some of possible misconduct or gross misconduct...

June 17, 2021

Bullies Spread Rumors to Gain Flying Monkey Supporters...

...Cindy starts by making negative comments about the target and seeing who is supportive or indifferent to her beliefs. Its starts small but over many months others start to listen. She begins to weave a web in the truest sense of social psychological manipulation by trying to create a wedge between the target victim and potential supporters. She gets others emotional involved by highlighting differences and making up stories to encourage others to lie, snub, attack or hurt the victim...

She turns normally reasonable people into co-conspirators in the abuse. Almost none of them have the capacity to step above the rhetoric to see that perhaps it is they who are now guilty of the same behaviors. As they begin to act on the victim they also blame the victim for defending him/herself. This is where things can begin to escalate without taking direct action. The reaction of the victim now becomes a reason for more abuse because the context has been distorted...

 Rumors to Manipulate and Proxy Others: Add a word, take a word, share only part of the information, expand things, tell people "juicy" information nuggets that get them upset. Rumors and lies are designed to do damage and are a form of aggression. Bullies spread rumors to get people to "gang" up on someone and punish them for perceived wrong doings. The actual wrong doings may have nothing to do with what the bully says. The inflammatory and often delusional stories are designed to excite and anger others to get them to act. 

2. Covers Feelings of Powerlessness: Bullies feel powerless. Somewhere in their life they were left damaged and traumatized. Lying, bullying, and manipulating others seeks to create a sense of power. That power comes from influencing others through manufactured crisis. You can tell the passive-aggressive powerlessness by watching how they have made a habit talking negatively about others. There is constant comparisons. Its a pattern of feeling powerless and then trying to control others through anti-social behavior (clinical definition).

 It Lowers Feelings of Guilt: When you have friends and people agree with you, even if they were provided with lies, you don't feel as guilty. The inner turmoil the bully feels is mitigated by their support network who doesn't question the logic being offered. Most of us know from experience that people just sort of agree with us if we don't give all of the information or are not making it explicitly clear that we want "honest" feedback. Thus our friends and family members help us feel as though we are "right" thereby reducing the cognitive dissonance associated with guilt.

Groups Take Less Responsibility: We have all watched shocking videos on YouTube, News, or the Web where groups have brutalized someone; even killing victims in plain sight. Sometimes that person has done nothing wrong except try and avoid being in a conflict. If you are a police officer, or sheriff, much of their job is dealing with issues related to the inability of people to take responsibility. Even criminals that have been convicted through evidence and a court of law scream it wasn't their fault all the way to prison! The more people a bully can get involved, the more damage they cause and the less responsibility the bully takes. Sometimes groups become so destructive they openly attack people in public in front of a crowd of bystanders.

 It Hides Painful Secrets: Bullies are all about hiding their pain. Bullying is a form of aggression based on trauma. This is one of the reasons why aggression is so pathological. As the bully projects onto a target, he/she takes the spotlight off of themselves and puts it on the victim. The bully no longer needs to deal with their issues because the target is forced to take responsibility for them. This is one reason why much of what bullies say are more a reflection of the bully's issues. Targets are not chosen randomly. Usually they are people the bully envies and often are intelligent, sensitive, and caring.

 Bullies Need Validation: Bullies need validation that they are important. Somewhere in their life they were made to feel unwanted. This is the tragedy that bullying creates more bullies. Their boundaries were often violated by parents, uncles, and others. When they get people to support their behavior they feel a sense of validation that they are important. Attacking others puts them somewhere above the victim. Proxies help validate the "worthiness" of the bully and the "worthlessness" of the victim.

Academic bullying is too often ignored. Here are some targets’ stories...

 “I frequently vomit before going to the lab.”

“I wanted to become a professor, but after the treatment and behavior of my PI [principal investigator] and department, I do not want to ever be involved with academia again.”

“It was ~ 1 year before I realized that being told by my PI that I had 45 seconds to go to the toilet was inappropriate and an invasion of my privacy.”

These are just a few of the 1904 anonymous responses that poured in when Sherry Moss and Morteza Mahmoudi invited scientists to describe their experiences with academic bullying. The vast majority—71%—of respondents who experienced bullying did not report the behavior to their institution, mostly for fear of retaliation. Of those who did report, only 8% found the process to be fair and unbiased, according to a preprint posted online this week.

The findings lay bare the inadequacy of the reporting process at many institutions, says Mahmoudi, an assistant professor at Michigan State University who experienced bullying earlier in his career and co-founded an antibullying nonprofit called the Academic Parity Movement. “All of the investigations happen inside the institutions—there’s no accountability.”

He notes that institutions may want to protect top-performing academics, especially those who bring in a lot of money, and have a vested interest in preventing complaints from becoming public. One possible solution, he adds, would be to establish a national or global committee on academic behavior ethics, which could investigate allegations of abuse more impartially.

Many of the survey responses were hard to read, say Mahmoudi and Moss, a professor at Wake Forest University—especially those that described serious mental health challenges. But sharing them is an important step toward changing culture. To that end, Science Careers compiled a sample of responses from the survey, with a focus on those who reported or confronted bullying behavior—sometimes resulting in positive outcomes, but more frequently not.

The responses have been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.

I complained to our department chair. An investigation committee was created. Through their investigation they found most of my allegations valid, but they gave me two options: 1) continue working under my supervisor and report if additional bad behavior happened, or 2) leave the institution.

I first spoke up, but this made the situation worse. Then, I reported to higher level people in my department and then to the dean’s office. They destroyed my life and my scientific identity as well as my dignity. They crushed my entire career.

I complained to the university. They did not follow their own prescribed guidelines for resolving complaints and allowed my PI to remove me from the lab and take away funding.

I spoke to the dean of the graduate school and she helped me get out of the situation. But she made it really clear that if I formally reported nothing good would happen to me or my co-workers.

I complained after graduation, which was a very painful process, since this PI required 15 (!) papers in order to graduate. The university seemed to take it seriously, but 6 months later nothing has changed.

I went to HR [human resources] of the department and of the institution; I discussed it with [a] disability adviser; I discussed it with the international office adviser; I filed a formal complaint with the dean; I consulted with the ombudsperson. The outcome of all of this was zero.

It took me a long time before I reported; I had to be seriously into depression. The outcome felt that it was seen as a problem in communication between us and a cultural difference—not a genuine issue.

I talked to the ombudsman and the dean who both supported me and [took steps to ensure] my appointment wasn’t canceled. It was cut short but not as much as initially threatened. I got therapy hours from the institute to help cope (10 hours) and meetings with the ombudsman to keep contact and let me know they hadn’t forgotten about me.

I complained to the HR representative, who raised the issue to the head of the department, who then spoke to the bully without giving my identity. The bully then emailed the entire group about it, asking the person who had complained to come forward. Nothing changed, and I resigned a few months later.

I complained to the head of the department, the head of faculty, and the university legal department. All were only concerned with protecting the university. I told them research is suffering and somebody is going to commit suicide if they don’t fix the problem. It was terrible. Nobody cared...

May 08, 2021

The “Friends” the Narcissist Assembled Around You are Part of Their Manipulation (Sorry)


 ...The narcissist often recruits a group of enablers and confederates called a “harem” to serve their needs. They sometimes install this group around a target, usually under the guise of friendship that transmutes into the harem becoming “family!” very quickly. They crowd out, undermine and eventually supplant the target’s other important relationships. The target is being manipulated, not only by the narcissist, but by members of the harem. The most important thing to remember when trying to parse through these relationships is that every member of the harem the narcissist allows access to the target is someone the narcissist is confident they can control.

If a harem member’s relationship with the narcissist pre-dates the target’s (particularly by a very long stretch), it is almost certain they are aware of the narcissist’s deficient character and help to cover it up to keep the narcissist attractive to their targets. Long-term harem members often aren’t as charming as the narcissist and need their relationship with the narcissist to have access to the benefits the narcissist’s targets provide. They also often participate in helping the narcissist love bomb, gaslight, isolate, and hoover their targets. They form a constant praise and worship circle around the target that boxes out sensible people by painting people who won’t behave that way as “haters.” They also subtly devalue the target and make them doubt their judgment, so they can take over important responsibilities in the target’s life…

The harem member who is the narcissist’s right hand nearly always shares the narcissist’s sociopathic traits — it’s why they’re in every plot and scheme with the narcissist. TAKE NOTE: Because this person usually lacks the narcissist’s charm and good looks, if they are attached to a high-functioning narcissist, they will almost always be a highly skilled manipulator whose mask rarely slips, because they won’t be forgiven as easily as someone with the narcissist’s social capital. They are less volatile than the narcissist and often present as even-keeled and reasonable…

…The titles they give themselves are often literally grandiose and pretentious. If a group of people around you are ironically demanding to be called “exemplary” or “iconoclastic” or “visionary” or something similarly nonsensical instead of just getting on with whatever it is they’re supposed to be doing, you’re probably dealing with a narcissist and their harem…

…The harem members often reveal themselves as manipulators when a target’s relationship with the narcissist seems like it will end. They fight the boundaries the target tries to set with the narcissist tooth and nail, because the target strengthening their boundaries weakens manipulators’ influence. The harem will guilt the target mercilessly, and, if that fails, they’ll often frame their concerns and delay tactics as giving the “devastated” narcissist time to adjust or save face and not be humiliated. The break-up can’t happen until it’s the “right time.” There is no right time. They’re stalling to try to figure out how to keep the con going.

…These entanglements are deliberately engineered to make getting the narcissist out of your life so tedious that you give in to the exhaustion. Businesses, charities, etc. (any group where the narcissist can set and enforce rules and demand and extract loyalty) are also a way to recruit and groom new harem members. In addition, those arrangements are how the narcissist and the harem ensure someone reinforcing their point of view is nearly always with the target and surveilling them to report back.

Narcissists poison group culture wherever they go, particularly if they are in leadership positions. That also has to be dealt with in the aftermath and is why identifying and clearing out the harem is necessary — they share the narcissist’s warped values.

…after a target leaves them, narcissists always (yes, always) run a smear campaign and use their harem and other confederates as “flying monkeys” to spread lies about how horrible the target was to the narcissist, when it’s the reverse that’s true. These flying monkeys also bully and harass former targets in other ways.

…Narcissists’ entitlement will extend to the organization’s resources, and it’s deeper and wider than money. For example, an organization’s social media and communications infrastructure are incredibly valuable to narcissists. They also like to play favorites and reward their harem members with jobs, contracts, etc. You need to look out for self-dealing, unethical self-promotion, etc.

It’s painful and overwhelming to extricate yourself from messes like this. People will think you’re overreacting when you excise the narcissist and the harem from your life completely. The narcissist and the harem will have done everything in their power to cultivate this response. That’s why it’s important to find resources and take advice and support from people who understand the dynamics, who know that you’re not crazy or ungrateful or disloyal or whatever the narcissist and the harem are gaslighting you into believing when you refuse to sacrifice yourself to them and their unreasonable demands. Every cult is an extreme expression of the narcissist/harem dynamic…


March 19, 2021

Faculty Experiences with Bullying in Higher Education

 "...When bullying/mobbing occurs, it tends to be long-standing. McKay et al. (2008) found that 21% of their sample reported bullying that had persisted for more than five years in duration. In our 2008 study, 32% of the overall sample (faculty, staff, administrators, etc.) reported bullying lasting for more than three years. This percentage increased to 49% when we focused on faculty. 

It may be that academia is a particularly vulnerable setting for such persistent aggression as a result of tenure, which has faculty and some staff in very long-term relationships with one another. Both conflict (Holton, 1998) and aggression (Jawahar, 2002) research note that the longer and more interactive the relationship, the greater the opportunity for conflict and potential for aggression. 

Further, while ensuring a “job for life,” tenure may also restrict mobility so that once a situation goes bad, there are few options for leaving. Zapf and Gross (2001) observed that the number of actors was linked to the duration of bullying. They found that the more people who joined in the situation, the longer it went on, concluding that it may become increasingly difficult for witnesses/bystanders to remain neutral as bullying proceeds and intensifies. 

Given the preceding discussion, once bullying begins, and the longer it is permitted to continue, the more likely it is that other colleagues will be drawn into the situation—possibly accounting for the higher incidence of rates of mobbing among faculty (Westhues, 2006)...

Cultures that “breed” bullying and hostility are variously characterized as competitive, adversarial, and highly politicized, with autocratic or authoritarian leadership that does not tolerate nonconformity (Hoel & Salin, 2003). These are conditions that appear contrary to the academy’s espoused notions of collegiality and civility, grounded in the “sacred” values of academic freedom and autonomy..."


March 03, 2021

Leaders who yammer “transparency”: The more we hear it, the less we see it...


...So many senior managers and executives, public officials, and non-profit directors yammer endlessly about their commitment to transparency, especially when they assume their new positions...

Often much sooner than later, a certain dissonance creeps into the rank-and-file. Hmm, our Great Leader keeps talking about transparency, but why don’t we know the details about what’s going on? The reality doesn’t seem to be matching the rhetoric.

Maybe someone has the temerity to raise this discomfort at a staff meeting, town hall forum, or coffee hour. More often than not, the response will be a defensive one, perhaps with an explanation that would make George Orwell’s head spin. I’m being transparent by telling you that I choose not to share this with you!

Eventually, the Great Leader stops using the T word. It’s passé, a term of the past (i.e., beyond a year after the Great Leader’s arrival), and at this point unnecessary. Business as usual is once again the norm, except it’s possible that there’s even less transparency than ever before. That truth will become, uh, transparent to most, but by then the options for doing anything about it will be limited.

February 23, 2021

The Psychopath in the C Suite: Redefining the SOB [Seductive Operational Bully—or psychopath]


"...What really puzzled those who had the measure of Richard was that the people caught in his web usually described their initial encounter with him as like finding a soul mate, typically claiming, “We have so much in common,” “We’re so much alike.” They seemed to delude themselves into thinking that they had initiated an instant friendship. They failed to recognize that Richard had really been engaging in an exercise in mimicry, reflecting their own persona back on the person he was talking to, a talent that is sure to be endearing—it’s nice and easy to fall in love with yourself...

...a serious concern for some people in the office was the confusion about Richard’s background. Some began to question whether he was an imposter citing impressive but fictitious credentials. Suspicion circulated about his previous activities and the opacity of his career timeline. Some whispered that there were some gaping holes. What was Richard trying to hide?

...Feelings of shame and guilt are quite alien to these people. They have no understanding of empathy; they are unable to see beyond their narrow self-interest; and they only care about what is good for number one. They also have no moral code or understanding of what is right or wrong. Expediency is all that matters. It is not conscience that enables them to control their antisocial impulses, but convenience...

The question remains, what can be viewed as developmental and what genetic in the creation of psychopathy? Given the lack of consistency about causality, most research about psychopaths has taken a genetic or neurological direction. The biological relationship between the brain and psychopathy is at the center of most of these studies. For example, many intriguing, consistent correlates of psychopathy (affective, semantic, and physiological differences) have been established in the laboratory. Usually, these tests suggest that psychopaths are prone to neurological (probably genetic) anomalies—that is, faulty wiring can be blamed for their condition (Livesley et al, 1992; Harris et al, 2001). 

According to some of these studies, biogenetic deficiencies (neurological abnormalities, mainly in the frontal lobe of the brain) prevent psychopaths from processing complex emotional experiences. The cause of the non-typical anatomy or chemical activity within this area of the brain may be abnormal growth (possibly genetic), brain disease, or injury..."

Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

Susceptible Followers and Conducive Environment: The Gateway to School Leaders Toxic Behaviour

"...Susceptible Followers

Followers are indispensable part of the leadership arrangement without which becoming leaders will be difficult. In the popular discussion ‘he who thinks leads without followers is only taking a walk’. It is argued that any good leader is in turn that he/she has been a good follower before. Toxic leaders in school setting would not have evolved without followers...


On the part of Colluders their interests in toxic leaders are: Personal Ambition, Machiavellianism, Greed and Low Impulse Control.

Personal ambition is the first characteristic of a collusive follower. Colluders tend to act in their own interests. Thus, a colluder will likely endure the toxic behaviours to progress their agenda if there is any financial, professional, or political incentives for participating in a toxic leader’s mission, (Kellerman, 2004; Lipman-Blumen, 2008; Padilla, et al., 2007). Teachers in this act in the school setting always exert all energies in order for his/her personal ambition to be materialised, on personal ambition to them, it is the issue of survival of the fittest.

Machiavellism is the second characteristic of a collusive follower. A type of social influence, Machiavellism, is characterized by harnessing power, politics and expressive behaviour to achieve desirable ends (Thoroughgood, 2013). Described by four factors, Machiavellist distrust others, partake in amoral manipulation, desire control in all things, and desire status above all else. Therefore, when the opportunity presents itself to gain power, status, and control the Machiavellist-colluder will use their persuasive prowess to grown within the hierarchy of a toxic leader. Machiavellist-teachers play dirty politics in the school system, manipulate others in order to survive, desperate for power and control and bully other teachers occasionally.

Furthermore, greediness is another characteristic of a collusive follower. It is the part of the habit of colluders to be selfish due to his/her personal ambition and the propensity to gain power by dubious acts. Colluders often greedy because of the selfish desire to have financial benefits and juicy position within the system. Greedy colluders will continue to romance with toxic leaders as long as it is beneficial to them in terms of financial gains, power, information or position. It is suffice to say that greedy teachers in the school setting are the corrupt teachers who compromise everything for their survival.

Finally, low impulse control is the last characteristic of a collusive follower. Low impulse control means that these individuals possess low levels of self-control displaying no restraint from engaging in deviant behaviours as they do not consider the long-term consequences of their behaviour (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990). This means that colluders with low impulse control are short-sighted, risk-takers that have a strong desire for immediate gratification.

Thus, they are more likely to act immorally for a toxic leader if they know they will be rewarded despite what that means for others (Beightel, 2018). School teachers with lo impulse control are always at the side of the school toxic leaders in order to gain their favours like attendance in seminars, conferences or workshops, being the chairmen of various committees in the schools and host of other goodies that come through the influence of the school leaders..."


February 21, 2021

Understanding the followers of toxic leaders...

...we suggest that an individual becomes susceptible to toxic illusio due to their increased personal uncertainty in a given domain, subject to the availability of a toxic leader and a conducive environment. Moreover, we argue that the individual’s adoption of the toxic leader’s proposed value system is an agentic choice to reduce their personal uncertainty.

In other words, individuals with high levels of personal uncertainty may find joining the toxic game and adopting the self-concept and the worldview associated with it more rewarding than the alternatives, including the status-quo. Once they join the game, however, reciprocal social identity processes initiate, and material and social ties of interest become entrenched in their toxic field. As players alter the game, they play with their decisions and actions, and players are also shaped by the toxic leader and the illusio.

...Beyond the social identity ties, toxic illusio offers other material, social, cultural, and symbolic resources as well. Toxic leaders use coercive persuasion techniques to further consolidate and homogenize their follower group and to ensure that the players stay committed to the game. Coercive persuasion methods are the ‘discursive systems of constraint that are difficult for followers to challenge and resist’...

An example of such practices is the significant use of ‘friend or foe’ rhetoric... When used effectively, this rhetoric not only introduce an existential threat by an ‘other’ to immediate the necessity of group social identity, but also consolidates the appropriate attitude and behavior expectations of the toxic illusio by drawing a clear distinction between the in-group and out-group. The perceived existential threat also legitimizes the toxic leader and the group’s emphasis on loyalty to the group identity, which in turn normalizes the associated reward and punishment systems... toxic processes normalize within the game through their institutionalization, rationalization, and socialization, players may find it even easier to continue business as usual without any experience of moral conflict...

Normalization of toxic habitus numbs the moral aspect of actions, especially when the individual believes such practices are the norm among, and perceived favorably by, the rest of the players. Institutionalized organizational behaviors (collective habitus at work) are defined as ‘stable, repetitive and enduring activities that are enacted by multiple organization members without significant thought about the propriety, utility, or nature of the behavior’...

...providing a post-hoc justification for their judgment only when specifically prompted, players of the toxic game can go through most toxic behaviors without any hint of moral dissonance...

...we suggest that a player of a toxic game would choose to leave the game only if (or when) their moral dissonance exceeds the utility they derive from being a member of the toxic illusio...

From: Understanding the followers of toxic leaders: Toxic illusio and personal uncertainty

February 14, 2021

Imperial College under investigation by OfS over bullying scandal


One of Britain’s most prestigious universities is being formally investigated by the universities watchdog as result of the controversy over bullying of staff by two leaders of the institution.
Two of Imperial College London’s most senior executives, its president, Alice Gast, and its chief financial officer, Muir Sanderson, have admitted they bullied colleagues, as the university bowed to pressure in December and published parts of a report into the scandal.
The investigation is only the second to have been launched into a university by the Office for Students (OfS), which has powers to scrutinise whether members of senior university management meet a test for being “fit and proper” to exercise their roles.
Gast and Sanderson have remained in their posts despite coming under continuing pressure from staff, students and others. A motion of no confidence in both was passed last month by members of the University and College Union (UCU), which represents academic staff.
“Those of us who think this has gone on far too long and that they should have stood down when it was the decent thing to do are very hopeful about this OfS intervention,” the Guardian was told by a source close to one of the whistleblowers whose original allegations of bullying led to a lawyer being brought in to investigate.

“It’s clearly very serous for an institution as prestigious as Imperial to have this hanging over it and we think that all aspects should now be looked at.”

A spokesperson for the OfS confirmed an investigation was ongoing. “We are looking into regulatory matters relating to Imperial College. While this work continues, it would be inappropriate to comment further,” they said.

Members of Imperial’s governing council, who are expected to meet again as early as Monday, are understood to be divided on how to proceed and have been discussing whether to issue a statement in relation to Gast and Sanderson.

The university blamed a “clerical error” after the Guardian reported in December that its longstanding policy on bullying was altered days before staff were told of a completed investigation into bullying allegations against the president and CFO.

Gast, Sanderson and other senior figures were to undergo bullying and harassment training in line with the recommendations of a review conducted last year by Jane McNeill QC, who was called in to investigate.

“I am very sorry that I bullied someone,” Gast, Imperial’s self-described “CEO”, said in December, while Sanderson said he had bullied two colleagues.

The report by McNeill – who was called in by the chair of Imperial’s governing council, the Tesco non-executive chairman, John Allan – led to a disciplinary hearing for both Gast and Sanderson. McNeill found Gast had bullied one senior colleague while Sanderson was found to have bullied two colleagues between late February and mid-March.

The OfS, which was established in 2018 and comes under the auspices of the Department for Education, has previously investigated De Montfort University. Its then vice-chancellor, Dominic Shellard, resigned in 2019 in advance of the investigation, which went on to identify “significant and systemic” failings in governance.

A spokesperson for Imperial College London said: “We fully support OfS undertaking this investigation and have provided all relevant information as requested. We are confident in our process and its outcomes and we await the OfS findings.”